We are not related to a long line of playwrights, artists, politicians and murderers. Most of our lot were opticians. But we’re quietly proud to have in our family tree a famous pair of music hall entertainers from the period between the end of the 19th century and WW1.
‘Beatie & Babs’ was the stage name of two sisters, Bertha Beatrice and Hilda Diana Samuels. Their mother was Emily (or Emelia), the daughter of Victor and Mathilde.
Bertha was born in Dublin (we don’t know what they were doing in Ireland, Emily having been born in Liverpool) in 1893 and her sister Hilda came along in 1897 after the family had moved to Rhyl in north Wales.
The girls started young. They entertained at school shows, charity events and private functions where they were spotted by an impresario. In 1908 they appeared at the Tivoli in Manchester performing a review written by their Uncle Arthur. The piece became the subject of later litigation over royalties. Following their success at the Tivoli, the girls were engaged to perform their song, dance and comedy routines at music halls throughout the UK.
Next they undertook a 3 months’ engagement at the Folies Bergeres in Paris, as well as making appearances in Brussels, Munich, Vienna and various other European cities.
By 1911, the family had decamped to the bright lights of London. Beatie & Babs featured at the Pavilion (8th May 1911), and went on to Dublin, Glasgow and many provincial theatres. In 1912 they were in the USA where they performed at the Colonial Theatre in New York (unfortunately to polite yet tepid reviews). But they were back again in 1912 at Broadway’s Hammerstein Victoria Theatre, so they couldn’t have been too bad.
On 1st July 1912, the girls performed at the first ever Royal Command Performance in front of King George V. Others on the bill included Vesta Tilley, Pavlova, George Robey and Harry Lauder – an illustrious line-up.
They continued performing throughout the First World War and into the aftermath. In 1921, for example, they were appearing at the Argyll Theatre in Birkenhead and in 1922 they were ‘twice daily’ at the Coliseum, Charing Cross Road, London.
They appear to have abandoned the greasepaint for wedded bliss. In 1922, Hilda (Babs) married Herbert Henley, founder of the motorcar dynasty. The same year, Bertha (Beatie) married William Tickler, a member of the famous Tickler Jams family. However, in 1923 a report in The Times suggested the duo were planning to make a comeback appearance at the Coliseum in London. That’s the last report we have of their stage career.
The British Film Institute has archived a newsreel produced by Topical Budget Company of Bertha and William’s marriage ceremony. However, access is forbidden on conservation grounds and the BFI refuses to allow us to view it. No doubt the directors of the institute can explain the point of keeping the clip then, especially in this digital age.
In 1939, Bertha applied for a patent for a new style of manicure and pedicure equipment. Bertha died in Bournemouth in 1952. Hilda died in 1990.
We have more on Beatie & Babs, but most of our information has been uncovered by stumbling over news reports or articles on line. If you have something, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.