A Family Of Ventriloquists
Francis Bacon once said that he would have liked to have painted a
smile, but could not. It always ended up as a grimace. I like this
ambivalence, of an innocent smile that transforms into something
ominous. These grotesque, grinning, laughing heads and chimeras form
part of a Bestiary and are a family portraits. Johnny Green and the
‘little girl doll’ annie were my Grandmother’s ventriloquist dummies.
Tommy was my Mother’s dummy.
Grandmother, Annie Howarth, stage name Josephine Langley (Madame
Langley, Lady Ventriloquist), toured the music hall stage for 12 years,
playing at the London Coliseum and the Moss Empire theatre circuit as
second on the bill from 1911. Her husband Ned became her manager and
ventriloquism was to provide the family with a livelihood away from
the toil of the foundry and mill. Annie Howarth learnt ventriloquism
from her elder brother Jimmy, Professor Langley (Professor is the
traditional title of the Punch and Judy man). When on tour, the
Howarths home base, was Great Uncle Jimmy’s pub in Burnley, the
Trafalgar Hotel. My Mother, Helen, known as Little Nellie accompanied
her Ma from the age of two. Helen, an amateur ventriloquist, continued
to perform in her later years, doing her last ‘turn’ in 1987 for the
children at Knott End Working Men’s Club. Maurice Howarth, Helen’s
brother and junior by 14 years also became a ventriloquist and
magician. Maurice (Mo) Howarth is a member of the Magic Circle and the
last in the line of family of ventriloquists.
JY, January 2012.
2 Johnny Green
5 Madame Langley
6 Great Uncle Jimmy
7 Mum with Johnny
8 Mum with Tommy and Annie
9 Uncle Mo and Johnny
This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 at 1:11 pm
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