Tag Archives: Frank Russell

Shakespearean’s Final Curtain

As soon as the train from Carlisle pulled into Newcastle Central Station, concerned travelling companions carried one of their number to a horse drawn cab which sped to his temporary accommodation less than a mile and a half away in Heaton.

Actor

The unfortunate man was George ‘Osmond’ Tearle, a very well known actor of the time.  George was born in Plymouth on 8 March 1852, the son of Susan Tearle (née Treneman) and her husband, George, a Royal Marine. But he grew up in Liverpool, to where his father had retired and where, from childhood, young George developed an interest in the theatre and, particularly, Shakespeare.

Tearle’s professional debut was in 1869 at the Adelphi Theatre in his home city.  He soon established himself on the London stage and in March 1878, made an acclaimed debut at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre as Hamlet, a role he is said to have played an incredible 800 times.

In September 1880, now under the name ‘Osmond Tearle’, he  performed in New York for the first time, as Jacques in ‘As You Like It’. He went on to tour America to critical acclaim. 

Osmond Tearle as King John

Tearle’s return to Newcastle in 1885 was billed ‘first appearance in England, after his great American success, of the eminent tragedian’ and he was ‘supported by Miss Minnie Conway from the Union Square Theatre, New York’. ‘Minnie’, whose real name was Marianne Levy, was, by now, Tearle’s second wife. She was from a well-known American theatrical family, whose Shakespearian connections went back at least as far as her grandfather, Englishman, William Augustus Conway (1789-1828), who travelled to the United States in 1823 and appeared as Hamlet and in other tragic roles in New York and other American cities. Back in Britain, there were more rave reviews for Osmond on Tyneside.

Tearle further endeared himself to north easterners with his generosity. For example, he made a donation to a fund for the restoration of Blyth’s theatre after it had been destroyed by fire,  along with an offer of his theatre company’s services to perform at the reopening at which he would forego his share of the receipts. And when touring, he often captained a company cricket team in charity matches including in Hebburn and Whitley Bay.

In 1888, Tearle established his own Shakespearean touring company and, in 1890 and 1891,  he was honoured by being selected to direct the annual festival performances at Stratford-upon-Avon, producing in his first year Julius Caesar and Henry VI part 1 and in the second year King John and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In between these two events, he played Newcastle’s Theatre Royal with productions of Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, King John, Macbeth and Merchant of Venice. In Hamlet, Minnie played Gertrude and Osmond, of course,  Hamlet.

Tearle’s connections with the area were strengthened in August 1896 when Minnie died and was interred in St Paul’s churchyard, Whitley Bay to be with her sister who was already buried there. When he returned to the Tyne Theatre in July 1898 after an absence of two years, it was noted that he had been seriously ill that spring. Audiences flocked back to see him and the reviews were more glowing than ever. He appeared ‘reinvigorated’. Nevertheless, a few months later, it was reported that he had been ordered to rest by his doctors and that he would sail to South Africa to aid his recovery.

Although he had appeared on stage in Carlisle the week before, this was the context in which, on Sunday 1 September 1901, aged 49, Osmond Tearle arrived in Newcastle.

Lodgings

The cab took the sick actor to number 93,  the end property on South View West. The house, like all the others on the street, faced the railway line. It stood at South View West’s junction with Newington Road but, along with all of the properties west of Stratford Road, has since been demolished.

Location of theatrical boarding house at 93 South View West (2021)

Today there are trees where its front door would have been and its back yard would have been in what is now a corner of Hotspur Primary School’s playing fields. The boarding house was just a few hundred metres away via a still well used pedestrian tunnel under the railway, from Byker’s Grand Theatre, where Osmond Tearle’s company had been booked to perform the following week. The Grand had been opened just five years earlier with a Shakespeare festival.

Living at 93 South View West in 1901 were 39 year old Robert Bell, a wood carver, his wife, Bella, and their four children Herbert, Frederick, Robert and Harry. The Bells took in boarders, specifically those from the theatre. We are sure of this because, apart from Osmond, we know the identity of three actors who were there on census night earlier that year: Clifford Mohan, Walter Cranch and Hubert Clarke. And by 1911, the family had moved to the west end, where they lived even closer to the Tyne Theatre. On the night of that year’s census, they were hosting well known opera singers: Graham Marr, ‘America’s foremost operatic baritone’ whose house on Staten Island has been designated a New York City LGBT Historic Site, and Henry Brindle, a successful English performer.

On Call

The newspapers tell us that soon after Tearle’s  arrival at 93 South View West, Dr Russell of Heaton was summoned to attend to him.

Dr Frank Russell, aged 28, ran a medical practice and lived with his wife, Annie, and young children William and Jessie at 41 Heaton Road. Even on foot, it would have taken under ten minutes to reach a patient on South View West. It was reported that Tearle insisted that he would be well enough to go on stage at the Grand that week, as billed, but Dr Russell insisted that he rest.

By Friday, a further doctor’s visit was deemed necessary. This time Dr Oliver (presumably Thomas Oliver of 7 Ellison Place) attended but could do no more. Osmond Tearle died at his lodgings the following morning. In keeping with theatrical tradition, the show went on. The company  performed ‘Richard III’ at the Grand ‘ but it was obvious that the men and women on stage were labouring under the shadow of an irreparable loss, the influence of which also extended to the audience, as was evidenced by its sympathetic demeanour’. It was noted that ‘two members of Mr Tearle’s family are connected with the company and his youngest son, a youth of very tender years, after having spent the holidays with his father, returned to school at Bournemouth so recently as last Wednesday’.

News of Tearle’s death and extensive obituaries were carried not only by all the national and local papers in the UK but in many across the world, including the USA.

Burial

The following Wednesday, after a brief service at the Bells’ home, conducted by the Vicar of St Silas, Rev J H Ison, Tearle’s funeral cortège travelled to Whitley Bay. Along with family and friends and members of the company, Robert and Bella Bell, in whose home he died, travelled in one of the ‘mourning coaches’. At St Paul’s churchyard they were met by representatives of theatres from throughout the north east and further afield, including Weldon Watts of Newcastle’s Grand Theatre, where the company had been playing the previous week, F Sutcliffe of the Tyne Theatre and T D Rowe of the Palace Theatre.

On Osmond’s memorial stone there is an appropriate line from Shakespeare that the actor must have spoken many times: ‘After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well’ (‘Macbeth‘, Act 3 Scene 2).

And on Minnie’s ‘Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’ (‘Hamlet’, Act 5 Scene 2).

Brick Shakespeare mural on gable end of 47 South View West

It is fitting too that on the gable end of the final house on South View West in Heaton, a huge, brick mural of William Shakespeare now looks down on the spot, just a few metres away, where George Osmond Tearle breathed his last.

Legacy

Out out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. ‘

Macbeth’, Act 5 Scene 5

But Osmond Tearle’s short life has not been forgotten. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography states ‘As a Shakespearean actor, Tearle combined the incisive elocution of the old school and the naturalness of the new. A man of commanding physique and dignified presence, he was well equipped for heroic parts. In later life, he subdued his declamatory vigour and played Othello and King Lear with power and restraint’.

Tearle’s most important legacy was that all three of his sons became actors, the most well-known being Godfrey, 16 year old ‘youth of very tender years’ at the time of his father’s death. He too was predominantly a Shakespearean but he also appeared in some prominent screen roles including that of Professor Jordan in Hitchcock’s ’39 Steps’. Godfrey Tearle was knighted for services to drama in 1951.

And Osmond Tearle now takes his place in our growing Shakespeare Hall of Fame, which also includes:

George Stanley and ‘A Road by Any Other Name’

Colin Veitch and the People’s Theatre

Frank Benson and the Grand Theatre

Acknowledgements 

Researched and written by Chris Jackson, Heaton History Group. Thank you to Arthur Andrews for the photographs taken in St Paul’s churchyard.

Sources 

Ancestry

British Newspaper Archive

Dictionary of British Biography

Wikipedia

Can You Help?

If you know more about anyone mentioned in this article or have photographs to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@oldheaton

Postscript

Denise Waxman wrote from Brooklyn, New York with the following interesting extra piece of information:


I found your interesting article about Osmond Tearle today and was happily surprised to find a detailed article like this.I was Googling him because his name appears in James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I have been reading and delving into for several years.  I just wanted to know who he was, in an effort to understand why he was an “exemplar” to Leopold Bloom. 


The reference is in the Ithaca episode of Ulysses, line 794 in the Gabler edition. This is a link to the page in a wikibooks version where anyone can annotate the book:https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Annotations_to_James_Joyce%27s_Ulysses/Ithaca/642?veaction=edit&section=1


I don’t know whether this is the sort of detail you would be interested in adding to your post, and you may already be aware of it…I just thought you would be interested, and also wanted to thank you for the article and the site, which is a great exemplar of what the positive side of the internet.


Best to your whole group from Brooklyn, New York…

Heaton’s ‘Harley Street’

Heading up the left side of Heaton Road from its junction with Shields Road, you’ll soon come to Heaton Road Surgery, a health centre in modern premises at number 15-19. Continuing north, you may remember the doctor’s that until quite recently stood at number 39, now an extension to the dental practice next door. And people with long memories may remember many more surgeries not to mention associated businesses, such as pharmacies, on the stretch of Heaton Road between Shields Road and the railway line: you could call it Heaton’s answer to Harley Street.

We wondered why there was such a concentration in this area and whether we could find out more about some of the surgeons and physicians who practised from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through to the 1920s and beyond. Our research revealed a fascinating array of characters, whose stories stretch far beyond Heaton.

Pioneer

The first doctor to set up on Heaton Road appears to have been Samuel Aaron Welch, who was born in Kiniver, Staffordshire in c1855, the son of a ‘chemist and master druggist’. Samuel trained at Queen’s College, Birmingham, qualifying in 1879 and coming to Heaton after a stint at West Bromwich District Hospital. Like many doctors of his time, his surgery was in his home ‘Lawn Villa’ at 35 Heaton Road, which, at the time of writing, is Bear Natural, a restaurant.

Doctors35HeatonRoad

35 Heaton Road (Lawn Villa)

Dr Welch served the people of Heaton for over 30 years until his early death in 1913, aged 58.

Dynasties

 Another early Heaton doctor was Scot, Frank Russell. By 1891, aged 28, he was living with his wife, Annie, and young children William Kerr and Jessie at 41 Heaton Road, just a few doors down from Dr Welch. By 1901, the family had a lodger, fellow Scot, Dr Archibald Livingston, the son of a Govan grocer. Dr Livingston and his wife had four children, Duncan Cameron and James Campbell, Jean Elizabeth and Alistair. The older brothers eventually followed their father into medicine and into the practice, by now at 2 Rothbury Terrace. Duncan died, aged only 32, in 1938, his father, Archibald, by now living in retirement in Jesmond, three years later.

Frank Russell practised at 41 Heaton Road, also known as ‘Stannington House’, until the mid 1920s and by the time he retired his son, William, and William’s wife, Eleanor, had inherited the practice.

Doctors41HeatonRoadres

41 Heaton Road (Stannington House)

Both William and Eleanor qualified from the University of Durham Medical School, William with First Class Honours, and alongside the Heaton Road surgery, they also worked as actinotherapists (treating patients using ultraviolet light) and electrotherapists (using electrical energy in medical treatment) at 50 Jesmond Road. They both wrote extensively on the use of ultra violet light, which was at that time a new therapy, thought to be beneficial for many skin conditions, as well as rickets. Their book ‘Ultra-Violet Radiation and Actinotherapy’, first published in 1926 went into several editions. In 1926, Eleanor also wrote an article ‘The planning and equipment of an ultra-violet clinic’ and, in 1928, William ‘Outline of the use of ultraviolet in dermatology’ for an American journal.

At this time both Eleanor and William were involved with The Sun Ray Clinic on Brinkburn Street in Byker, opened by Lady Parsons on 2 December 1926, with additional foundation stones laid by the wives of local retailers, Herbert Pledger, James Parrish and Fredric Beavan, along with Mrs James Howard. (Can anyone tell us who James Howard or his wife was?)

DoctorsSunRay

Plate from ‘Ultra-Violet Radiation and Actinotherapy’ by the Russells; 2nd ed, 1927

The clinic was among the first of a network of Sun Ray Clinics established all over the country which, until as late as the 1960s, treated children in the belief that exposure to ultraviolet rays would cure all manner of diseases and conditions and generally make weak children stronger. Eleanor was Honorary Physician of the Byker clinic and William Honorary Consultant Actinotherapist.

DoctorsSunRaydetailres

Detail from East End Sun Ray Clinic, Brinkburn Street, Byker

Byker’s Sun-Ray Clinic building still stands on Brinkburn Street. Although sun lamp treatment had ceased long before, the clinic itself didn’t close until 1991, with a party for some of those who had been treated there. We’d love to hear from anyone with memories of it.

The couple’s expertise in this growing area of medicine served them well because the couple didn’t stay in Heaton long. They soon operated a practice on Harley Street in London. In 1930, William became a Freeman of London in the Company of Apothecaries. He died in 1941. Eleanor died in 1984 in Victoria, Australia.

Canadian MP

Another of Heaton Road’s doctors, Michael Clark, was born in 1861 in Belford, Northumberland, the son of a grocer. In 1882, while a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, he visited Canada to marry Elizabeth Smith, whom he had known before her family emigrated from Northumberland.

By 1895 he was living and working in Heaton. The 1901 census shows the couple living at 52 Heaton Road, also known as ‘Hawthorn House’, now demolished, with their four sons aged between 18 and three. Michael was also a member of the local School Board. However, the following year, apparently both for health reasons and to access better opportunities for their sons, the couple joined Elizabeth’s family in Canada.

Because his medical qualifications weren’t fully recognised in Canada, Clark turned his hand to farming, buying land in Alberta. Soon afterwards, he sought election to the Canadian parliament as a Liberal candidate. Initially, he was unsuccessful but in 1908, he was elected member for Red Deer, Alberta and he was soon acclaimed as the ‘finest public speaker in Western Canada’.

Clark was a supporter of women’s suffrage and a supporter of free trade. But after the outbreak of WW1, his politics were deemed to have shifted dramatically as he placed loyalty to Britain above all else and, in 1917, he became one of the first Western Canadian Liberals to support conscription. In 1919, Clark notably defended the tradition of hereditary titles and the ‘splendid place’ of the British nobility in the war. In 1921, after disagreements in his local party, Clark stood as a Liberal in the Saskatchewan riding of Mackenzie, but was defeated by a Progressive. He subsequently retired from politics. Predeceased by his wife and two sons, he died at his Belford Glen Ranch in 1926 and was buried in Olds, Alberta. Surprisingly, although he has a Wikipedia page, we haven’t yet tracked down a photograph of him.

Big Game Hunter

John George Ogilby Hugh Lane was born in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire on 16 January 1872 and educated at Haverfordwest Grammar School before following many members of his family into medicine. His maternal grandfather was a doctor; his paternal grandfather, Alexander Lane, a surgeon in the Royal Navy; his brother also went into medicine and his first cousin was the celebrated surgeon, Sir William Arbuthnot Lane. Another noteworthy aspect of John’s background is that his parents were first cousins, as were his maternal grandparents.

DoctorsLane

John completed his medical training Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital and the University of Durham. He then spent four years in India ‘shooting big game and travelling’ according to a 1905 publication ‘Northumberland at the Opening of the XX Century: contemporary Biographies’  There he apparently ‘came into contact with some of the principal Indian chiefs, including the Maharajas of Patiala and Faridkot’. He married the Ranee of Sarkarpur, Oudh, daughter of the late Rajah of Sarkarpur.

In British census records, John’s wife’s name is given as Eva Collins. She is recorded as having been born in India in 1869 and the couple married in 1894. Their first daughter, Leila Patricia Sarkan , was born the following year in Kasauli, India, followed in 1896 by Vida Beryl Sarker.

DoctorsLanefamily

John Lane with eldest daughter, Leila Patricia, his father Dr John William Lane and paternal grandmother Dorothea ‘Stanley’ Lane

By 1901 the family were living at 43 Heaton Road, next door to Scots, Drs Russell and Livingstone.

Doctors43HeatonRoad

43 Heaton Road

In 1899, a third daughter, Eva Millicent was born in the north east, in Hetton le Hole in 1899 followed by a son, John Stanley Sarker in 1904 and another daughter, Eva W, in 1906. Lane continued to practise in the north east until about 1906. But on 15 July 1907, aged only 35 years old, he died in Sarkarpur, Lucknow Division, India. All we know from his death certificate is that a well collapsed on him. Eva died in 1937 in Kent.

Service

The above were some of the more colourful medics to have graced Heaton Road but many others gave years of service to their Heaton patients, including in the early years:

Joseph James French at 2 Heaton Road before WW1;

John J Bennetts (1862-1922) at 45 Heaton Road (Neshan House) and Park View House. In 1890, he contributed a paper on influenza to ‘The Lancet’;

Robert William Nevin (1878-1945) at 31 Heaton Road;

Frederick Robert Henry Laverick (1882–?) of 41 Heaton Road and Woodbine Villa;

Harry Hyman Goodman (Hawthorne House);

William Thompson Hall ( 1869-1934) of 12 Heaton Road and later 276 (Craigielea);

George Smith Sowden (1883-1929) born in Madras; author of ‘A case of veronal poisoning’ in the British Medical Journal, 1910. Veronal was the brand name of a barbiturate, at first considered safe. Dr Sowden’s was one of the earliest reports indicating its dangers;

Robert Younger

Alfred Herbert Peters (1878-1924) at 44 Heaton Road;

Harry Rochester Smith (1887-1936) at 38 Heaton Road;

James Matthews at 36 Heaton Road

David Grieve at 17 Heaton Road

Colin McCulloch at Woodbine Villa;

Jabez Percival Iredale (1868-1957)

The only reason we can find for so many medical practices being located at the bottom of Heaton Road is that originally Heaton’s largest houses, those which could accommodate both living quarters and surgery space, were situated there. Nowadays general practitioners usually operated in groups from modern purpose-built premises. Heaton Road Surgery is no different but it’s still a reminder of ‘Heaton’s Harley Street’ and its fascinating array of medical practitioner.

Can You Help?

If you know any more about any of the people or places mentioned in this article, or have photographs you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group. Thank you to Ted Lane for photos and additional information about John and family. And to Arthur Andrews for finding ‘Northumberland at the Opening of the XX Century: contemporary Biographies’ .