Healy Gill (1897-1973), English actor, as he appeared in the ‘Inspiration Dance’ for a production at the Camp Theatre of the Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp, Westphalia, Germany, probably 1918.
(postcard photo: unknown, probably 1918; an autographed copy of this postcard was sold on eBay on 10 March 2012, inscribed in ink, ‘Yours sincerely Healy-Gill’)
Healy Gill, whose real name was Edward James Gill, was the eldest child of Edward John Gill (1875-1965), a printers’ warehouseman, and his wife, Alice Minnie (née Healey [sic], 1875-1931). He was born in the Southwark area of south London on 21 November 1897. According to his World War I service record he was a private in the 23rd London Regiment and later a private in the East Surrey Regiment. He was registered at Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp on 24 March 1918, when his date of birth was recorded as 21 November 1898 rather than 1897. Gill was soon recruited for the Dülmen Camp Theatre, appearing over the next few months in a number of plays, including Caste (a favourite Victorian comedy by T.W. Robertson, first produced at the Prince of Wales’s, London, in 1867), A Fireside Flirtation (a music hall sketch first played in London by William Burr and Daphne Hope in 1916, which provided ‘serious and light-comedy songs, and racy patter’), and ‘Down on the Farm’ (which probably refers to a musical burlesque of that name making the rounds of the British music halls in 1917).
In peacetime, Healy Gill had a modest career on the stage. He is mentioned in June 1921 as appearing in a small part in a ‘bright and animated’ touring revue entitled Lizzie, starring Sara Rosebury and Ted E. Cowley. The following year, at the beginning of August 1922, Gill joined Murray King and Clark’s autumn tour of Romance, Edward Sheldon’s hugely successful play which was first performed at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre, New York, on 10 February 1913, with William Courtenay and Doris Keane in the leading roles respectively of Bishop Thomas Armstrong and Margherita Cavallini. Romance opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, on 6 October 1915 (transferring a month later to the Lyric, for a total run of 1047 performances), with Owen Nares as Armstrong and Doris Keane reprising her role as Cavallini. For the 1922 Murray King and Clark tour those parts were taken by Henry C. Hewitt and Frances Dillon; Healy Gill appeared as a minor supporting character.
Gill’s final professional engagement appears to have been in the modest role of Arthur Bellairs in the Percy Brown Company’s autumn 1924 tour of Fred C. Somerfield’s ‘powerful heart-stirring attraction,’ Geoffrey Langdon’s Wife. This well-tested play was first produced at the Rotunda, Liverpool, 22 June 1908, when Bellairs was played by Ivan Mavis.
Meanwhile, Healy Gill (Edward James Gill) was married in 1921 to Blodwen Gerrard (1900-1962), a chauffeur’s daughter. Some 36 years later the couple visited Canada when the ship’s manifest for their return journey to England (SS Empress of England of the Canadian Pacific Line form Montreal, arriving Liverpool, 29 July 1957) lists them as living at 70 Lessington Avenue, Tooting, London, SW17, and Gill’s occupation as ‘waiter.’ He outlived his wife by nearly 11 years and died in 1973.
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It is worth noting that Healy Gill’s outfit for his ‘Inspiration Dance’ bears a remarkable likeness to the Parisian courier, Paul Poiret’s ‘harem trousers,’ which he first introduced in his Spring 1911 collection.