As your attorney…

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.

All of the dramas

Marie-Lloyd-001

This is the famous English music hall singer, Marie Lloyd. She has nothing to do with this story, but I quite like the picture.

Dramatis personae

Priscilla Verne: serio-comic singer, with a lusty singing voice, sparkling personality, golden hair and a shapely form

Gus McBride: civil servant, variety show patron, front row seat occupier

Alice Chalmers: Miss Verne’s nom de guerre

George A. Jones: co-manager of the Olde Englishe Fayre, co-conspirator with Miss Verne

George B. Lawrence: co-manager of the Fayre, co-conspirator

Mrs Jones: lady with no first name, wife of George A., co-conspirator

Madge Stackpole: mezzo-soprano singer, apparently talented, co-conspirator

A Malacca cane: pliable weapon, first concealed in a parasol, subsequently in Miss Verne’s dress

PC Bailey: witness to the assault, apparently sympathised with Miss Verne

Chorus: 200 to 300 onlookers, none of whom apparently wished to assist Mr McBride Continue reading →

Miss Verne knows how to be interviewed

As your attorney, I advise you…

Miss Priscilla Verne readily consented to be interviewed.

“Let me tell you how the trouble originated,” said the artiste to our reporter. “On Tuesday night I was singing a song called ‘He Sits in the Front Row,’ and, as I usually do, pointed to a person in the front row. Mr. M’Bride was there, and, looking at him, I sang—

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.

“To this,” resumed Miss Verne, “I distinctly heard a reply that made my blood boil, and I determined to do something. I consulted a solicitor, and he advised me to horsewhip the man.

“Very reluctantly I did so, but I considered that I had been grossly insulted, and only wanted to revenge myself.

“Accordingly, on Wednesday I penned a letter to Mr. M’Bride, and signed it ‘Alice Chalmers.’ I wrote that I was enraptured by his charms, and asked him to meet me at 1.45 p.m. on Thursday at the Town Hall corner. I added that he, perhaps, would not remember my name, but, doubtless, when he saw me he would remember me.

“I ascertained that he had received the letter, and, accompanied by several other Fayre artistes, I lay in wait for him at the appointed place. He arrived with a punctuality that did him credit, and forthwith I proceeded to interview him.

“I had a neat little, though strong, cane concealed in the folds of my dress, and as he saw me I called out, ‘Come here; I want to speak to you.’

“He began to run, and I followed, and lashed him as frequently as I could. I said ‘You cad; I’ll teach you not to insult another woman as you did me.’

“He broke away from me, and hastily proceeded across the street. I followed, and with each stroke I took good care to let him know what it was for.

“Soon a crowd collected, and I heard him appeal to a policeman. Messrs. Jones and Lawrence, however, put matters right.”

“Have you ever had any such experience before?” queried our reporter.

“Never,” replied Miss Verne. “It is entirely new for me, and I can assure you I was nervous for the time being. In all my years in the business I have always got on remarkably well with gentlemen. The remark, however, was as venom to me, and I plucked up courage and did it.”

Caned by Miss Priscilla Verne

strictnurse

The ladies of the company then met and decided that the man should be chastised.

If you’ve been following the posts here over the last few days, I am prepared to bet that you didn’t guess the direction in which this story would veer:

PERTH, Friday.—An extraordinary scene was witnessed in Howick Street, this afternoon, when Miss Priscilla Verne, the serio-comio singer, who is performing at the Olde Englishe Fayre, publicly chastised a well-known man about town.

It appears that while Miss Verne was singing a song, the man ejaculated an improper remark. Miss Verne took umbrage at this, and called him a “contemptible little cad.”

The ladies of the company then met and decided that the man should be chastised, and a plan to entrap him was arranged.

Miss Verne wrote a notice, signing herself as ‘Alice Chambers,’ saying that she had fallen in love with him, and asking him to meet her at an appointed hour.

He swallowed the bait, and strolled to the meeting place, where Miss Verne met him, and producing the cane, began to publicly chastise him.

A crowd quickly gathered, and hemmed the two in, and before he could escape the man was severely drubbed.

It is probable that the affair will be further ventilated in the police Court.