verne-priscilla-slv
Don’t ever cross Priscilla

Ye Olde Englishe Fayre was a fairground which included a freak show where you could see the monkey boy and a two-headed pig. It also had a variety show with the top acts of the day, in between local performers of varying quality.

By 1896 the Fayre had relocated to the site now occupied by His Majesty’s Theatre where you could see renowned singer Priscilla Verne do her best known routine, a song called ‘He Sits in the Front Row’:

He sits in the front row; he is blushing like a maid,
I love you, darling; be my hub; now, don’t be afraid.
Don’t turn away in anger, dear; I always will be true,
Accept this kiss, and give me one; for I love you.

At this point she would lean forwards and beckon to a male patron in the front row to act out the final line. This particular Friday, she turned to Gus McBride, who fancied himself a bit of a ladies’ man. Priscilla invited him on stage to kiss her.

For reasons which are not clear, Gussie declined this generous offer and retorted with an insult which made Priscilla’s blood boil. “You contemptible little cad,” she snarled from the stage. The next day she consulted a lawyer, who advised her she should have her abuser horsewhipped in public.

So Priscilla sent a letter, signed ‘Alice Chambers’, claiming she had fallen in love with Gus and would like to meet him outside the Town Hall on Barrack Street that very afternoon. Together with other members of the show, she lay in wait with a cane hidden in her dress.

When Gussie arrived to meet with ‘Alice’ he was shocked to be greeted by the assembled Fayre employees. “Come here! I want to speak to you!” said Priscilla. Gus began to run along Barrack Street, followed by Priscilla who kept lashing out at him with the cane.

“You cad,” she shouted, “I’ll teach you not to insult another woman as you did me.”

By this time a large crowd was enjoying every moment of the scene, and Gus had to plead with two burly police officers to defend him. Soon afterwards he left Perth and we never heard from him again.

There’s probably a moral in all this, but we have no idea what it is.