Great War Theatre

Fred Lumley and the Winter Carnival by Stuart Gibbs

The theatre community of the Great War was often involved in fundraising events. In 1917 and 1918, Edinburgh’s theatre community came together to raise large amounts of money through a series of carnivals. The first took place in the early months of 1917, and was organised by Edinburgh’s carnival impresario Fred Lumley.

Fred Lumley

Lumley was born in London in 1847 and moved to Edinburgh during the mid-1890s, where he established himself as a sporting all-rounder. He turned out for the St George Rugby Club, had a successful Athletics career, was a cricketer, and even boxed.  He operated two sports suppliers, in both Edinburgh and Glasgow and in the spring of 1903, he took over the Powderhall Grounds. During the autumn of 1905 he organised an athletic carnival at Powderhall in aid of the Tramway men’s Widows and Orphans Fund; setting the template for future events.  In 1913 Lumley took over the running of the Waverley Market Carnival, following the death of its former owner Edward Moss and this would provide a further platform for the wartime sports.

Lumley had married Elizabeth Chaplin in Hackney in 1895 and their first child Frederick William Lumley was born the following year in Edinburgh.  He spent much of his education, however, in Kent, as a boarder at the Parkside School in Tonbridge. By 1915 Frederick Jnr was recruited to the newly-formed Northumberland Fusiliers.  This army group would arrive in France during early January 1916 and in the course of the year Frederick Jnr would serve as a second Lieutenant with the Northumberland Fusiliers 4th Tyneside Irish. Fred Lumley had a very tangible link to the conflict unfolding on the continent.

A Theatrical Sports Event: The First Winter Sports Carnival

In the early days of 1917 a meeting was held to discuss a proposed theatrical sports event. The idea was to raise funds for the Waverley Station Canteen; one of the canteens which had sprung up across the rail network offering refreshments for troops as they travelled to the south coast on their way to the front line.  The meeting included the proprietors of the King’s and Empire Theatres. The date agreed for the event was 30 January 1917.

The event itself included floats, featuring cast members from the winter season performances who processed from Waverly Market. Madeline Wells, who was appearing in Cinderella was prominent during the athletics events but the bulk of the press attention centred on a women’s football match.  It pitted the pantomime cast of Red Riding Hood against Cinderella, with the boxer Tancy Lee, who had been in residence at the Waverley Carnival, acting as referee.  In the course of the match, Lee contrived to score both goals in a 1-1 draw. Theatrical stars such as Blanche Pearl, Maudie Frances and Belle Mora all took part in the match but the bulk of the press coverage centred on Marie Brayman, who appeared as ‘Blue Boy’ in Red Riding Hood.  Unfortunately, in a picture feature published by the Bulletin Brayman was confusingly named as Gladys Ford. This confusion was exacerbated when pictures from the game were published abroad, with one US paper, the Evening Public Ledger identifying Gladys Ford as Grace Ford; a former starlet of the Lubin film studios of Philadelphia.  This seems to be a case of mistaken identity but hard to prove as few of Seigmond Lubin’s films have survived and very limited records still exist.  The production notes for Red Riding Hood, refer to Mrs Brayman as a pantomime star and comedienne, who had toured South Africa during the autumn of 1911. No mention is made however, of film appearances in the States.

Spring 1917

During early spring of 1917 a new initiative was brought forward to end the stalemate on the Western Front.  As part of a joint offensive, an attack by British forces on the town of Arras was planned for Easter Monday (April 9th) 1917.  Lumley’s elder son, Frederick Lumley was with the 4th Tyneside Irish on the first day of the attack and was killed the following day April 10th 1917.  The loss would have a real impact on Fred Lumley and would focus his endeavours to help the war effort. His son would later be buried at the Arras Memorial at Nord-pas-de-Calais.

Following the success of the winter Sports Carnival a smaller event seems to have been held in the spring of 1917 at the Gymnasium, home ground of St Bernards.  A women’s football match was also part of the programme, but there are very few details of the event.  The Women’s match however, was filmed and screened on week of July 9th 1917 at the Princes Cinema as a support feature for Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street.

The 1918 Carnival

A second carnival was held at Powderhall on January 31st 1918 in aid of the Mine-Sweepers Benevolent Fund.  As part of the build-up aircraft flew over Edinburgh dropping leaflets advertising the event, and there was also a fly past on the day itself. Included among the events, was another women’s football match featuring the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk taking on Humpty Dumpty. A recent acquisition by the National Libraries of Scotland is a team photograph of one of the participating sides.  The year 1918 scribbled on the image is the only clue to identifying the side, however by comparing the team with publicity pictures of the Humpty Dumpty cast it is possible to put names to some of the faces.  Aida Mozelle, for instance one half of the Sparkling Mozelles is standing second from the left.  Her sister, Millicent Mozelle is just below her sitting second from left; they were daughters of the American born showman Theodor Reed.  Julia de Lacy, then a rising star on London’s west end, is standing third from the left holding a football, while Madge White is standing at the end of the row on the far right.  The picture in the possession of the National Libraries is of the Theatre Royal XI.

In the production publicity it was noted that Madge White regarded Edinburgh as a safe haven, having dodged Zeppelin raids in London (though Edinburgh was also bombed on April 2nd 1916).  During a Zeppelin raid over London on September 24th 1916, White had been on stage at the London Palace performing in Bric-A-Brac. Bombs were dropped on Streatham, Leyton and Brixton but of the three ships involved in the raid two were shot down by a combination of anti-aircraft fire and aircraft attacks.  For Bric-A-Brac the show would go on, and after its run at the Palace the production would tour the provinces and opened at the Kings Theatre, Glasgow on October 9th 1916.

Strangely, despite the fly pasts and the other events that took place there were no reports of the 1918 carnival.  Picture features in the Bulletin and Daily Record, are the only record of the event.

After the War

A third charity sports was set for the following January, but plans were abandoned after the signing of the armistice.  In the years following the war the Waverley Carnival could continue to be an Edinburgh institution until 1938 when Fred Lumley died.  Women’s football also continued beyond the war and in 1939, a local Edinburgh side the City Girls would compete in a World Championship, and at the Gymnasium they would beat Preston Ladies 5-2 on their way to taking the title.

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