Posts Tagged ‘Agricultural Hall (Islington)’


Professor Duncan’s Marvellous Collie Dogs as the London Canine Fire Brigade, mid 1890s

March 15, 2014

Professor Duncan’s Marvellous Collie Dogs (active late 19th-mid 20th Century), latterly billed as Duncan’s Royal Scotch Collies
(photo: unknown, circa 1895)

The Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, autumn 1895
‘Of all the numerous so-called dog shows which have been brought before the music-hall public lately, none have impressed us so favourably as that given by Professor Duncan and his collie dogs. The Alhambra audiences have for weeks past literally screamed with delight at the really wonderful deeds of these canine prodigies. There is one feature in particular which recommends the performance to every lover of dogs, and lies in the fact that Professor Duncan take the dogs through the whole of their performance without the use of a whip or stick of any kind, but (and there’s his secret) there is always a morsel of dog mean and a caress for the dog who has successfully accomplished his task. The photographs given here were especially taken for The Picture Magazine… [In one] we have a representation of the ”London Canine Fire Brigade.” The story is this: An outbreak of fire is announced, and the brigade start with their engine. They arrive on the scene of the disaster and a ladder is put up to one of the windows. A child is known to be asleep in the upper room. For one of the dogs to climb the latter, fetch the baby and lay it down in safety, is the work of a minute, but, alas! The exertion has been too great, the dog is exhausted and drops dead by the side of the saved child. A stretcher is brought and the dog is placed on it, when, lo! there comes his poor widow … There is a pretty story told by Mr. Duncan regarding this part of the performance, and which actually suggested it. It appears that Mr. and Mrs. Duncan were in their sitting-room one evening, when suddenly an unusual noise was heard, and before inquiries could be made, in came Duke …, carrying the three-month-old baby, whose clothes had caught fire at a stove in the room above… .’
(The Picture Magazine, London, November 1895, pp. 291-293)

* * * * *

‘Mr Tom Prichard, who introduced Professor Duncan’s collies to the West-end variety establishments, intends astonishing the world shortly with a horse that turns a somersault. The animal walks in an upright position both on his front and hind legs.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 20 January 1894, p. 17d)

Kennel Gossip.
‘Canine Firemen. – what a strange fascination the fire brigade has for some dogs. Of course we have all heard stories of the ”The Fireman’s Dog,” [sic] yet no one has yet explained wherein the charm lies. We shall never forget how on one occasion we were passing a large fire brigade station when the bell rang to summon the firemen to their work. No call to play was ever more eagerly responded to than was the bell by the yard-dog, who, in an incredibly short time, was careering after the engine, ready to play his part in the dangerous work before his masters. The Glasgow brigade is the latest to add a new member to their staff. The dog, a collie, is a volunteer, as he attached himself to the brigade, and steadfastly refused to leave it. Wallace now invariably accompanies the men, and is always the first to enter a burning building, no matter now fiercely the flames rage. If all Professor Duncan’s collies, which are now amusing the people at the London Palace, were as eager to undertake this work as the dogs we have mentioned, the competition for the famous fire scene in which one collie mounts a fire escape and rescue a baby from the flames must have been keen.’
(The Nottinghamshire Guardian, London, Saturday, 14 July 1894, p. 7f)

South London Palace, week beginning Monday, 7 January 1895
‘The marvellous intelligence shown by Mr Duncan’s collies excites wonder and admiration, and their appearance is one of the most attractive features of the current programme.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 January 1895, p. 16b)

Collins’s music hall, Islington, week beginning ‘The Dog Show at the Agricultural Hall has brought a good many people to Islington this week, and no inconsiderable number of them have availed themselves of the opportunity of paying a visit to Mr Herbert Sprake’s music hall just across the road. For these dog fanciers the most attractive item in the programme would doubtless be Professor Duncan’s collies, which have been trained to do the most wonderful performances. The most startling proof of canine sagacity is afforded by the fire scene, where one of the collies acts as a fireman, and accomplishes a gallant rescue from a burning house, winning the unstinted applause of the delighted audience.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 15 February 1896, p. 18b)

* * * * *

Vic Duncan, Professor Duncan’s son, continued Duncan’s collies act from the late 1920s until 1958. He became chairman of the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund and died at the age of 91 on 12 September 1988


The Royal Hand Bell Ringers and Glee Singers

May 27, 2013

The Royal Hand-Bell Ringers and Glee Singers (fl. 1868-1902), English campanologists, in the costume of the time of Edward IV, circa 1470
(cabinet photo; Elliott & Fry, London, probably 1887)

The Royal Hand-Bell Ringers was the brainchild of Charles J. Havart, secretary to the Poland Street Young Men’s Teetotal Society, Soho, London, who recruited Duncan Septimus Miller (1839-1906), who since boyhood had been an enthusiastic hand-bell ringer. Under the name of the Poland Street Hand-Bell Ringers, they made their first appearance in 1866.

Miller stands at the centre of the above photograph; he is surrounded by his colleagues, J.H. Williams, A. Berridge, and two of C.J. Havart’s sons, Walter John Havart (1844-1904), a former warehouseman, and Henry Havart (1846-1905), a former woollen draper’s assistant. While Miller and the Havart brothers were permanent members of The Royal Hand-Bell Ringers, others joined and left over the years, the unusual number being five.

Osborne, Isle of Wight, Thursday, 14 April 1870
‘TEMPERANCE HAND-BELL RINGERS AT OSBORNE. Mr. Duncan S. Miller and his friend, who have, for the benefit of various philanthropic institutions, given a great number of entertainments in London and the provinces on their 50 hand-bells, attended at Osborne yesterday, in obedience to her Majesty’s command. They are to be at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Tuesday next to illustrate a lecture by Mr. Spurgeon on the subject of ”Bells,” when Mr. Thomas Hughes, M.P., is to preside.’
(The Morning Post, London, Friday, 15 April 1870, p. 5f)

‘Under the patronage of the Right Hon. the Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G., the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor, M.P., and many others.
‘The first ever held in any country, Agricultural-hall, Islington.
‘Soda water, ice making, cocoa and coffee machinery in motion, new novel beverages.
‘Floral arcade and fountains, drum and fife band, organ recitals, Royal Hand Bell Ringers, in the evening.
‘Admission 1s.; evening 6d. Open from 10 to 10.’
(The Times, London, Tuesday, 23 August 1881, p. 1b, advertisement)

‘AS BEFORE the CZAR and CZARINA, the King and Queen of DENMARK, T.R.H. the Prince and Princess of WALES, at Fresdensborg Castle last September, the ROYAL HAND BELL RINGERS and GLEE SINGERS for Garden Parties, at Homes, Receptions, &c., in brilliant Old English Costumes. Programme submitted by DUNCAN S. MILLER, Conductor, 16, The Terrace, Kennington-park, S.E.’
(The Morning Post, London, Monday, 28 May 1888, p. 4 d)

‘THE ROYAL HAND-BELL RINGERS and CONCERT PARTY, Duncan S. Miller’s original, and by far the most proficient party. The bells are manipulated to produce a melodious and charming softness for the drawing room or an effective fortzando [sic] suitable for the garden. Five performers. Costume temp. ”Queen Bess.” Write for programme of special music and Jubilee Chimes to Secretary, 17, Kennington-terrace, S.E. Accept no others.’
(The Times, London, Tuesday, 15 June 1897, p. 1c, advertisement)

‘Last evening the above clever company of hand bell ringers, consisting of Mr. Duncan S. Miller, the conductor, Mr. Havart, Mr. W.J. Havart, Mr. A. Berridge and Mr. G. Kendall opened a three nights’ visit at St. Julian’s Hall. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather the attendance was large. After a few introductory remarks from Mr. Miller the performance commenced with a number of selections on the handbells which were beautifully played. Amongst these were ”The Huntsman’s chorus, Der Freischuitz,” ”Memories of Elsinore,” and ”The village bells and chimes, introducing several hymn tunes.” These were very warmly applauded. During the first part four of the bell-ringers, accompanied on the pianoforte by the firth, sang the old Georgian glee, ”The tinker,” in capital style. Mr. George Kendall, who has a most pleasing voice, sang the humorous song ”The human hand.’
(The Star, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Tuesday, 6 February 1900, p. 2d)

For further information, see, Clifford B. Anderson, ‘The Vampire Squid: Abraham Kuyper on Public Entertainment,’ Gordon Graham, editor, The Kuyper Center Review, vol. III, ‘Calvinism and Culture,’ Michigan, 2013.