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wes williams

McCann, Macann, or Maccann?

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I think the caption reads 'The World's Greatest Accordion Roller Skate Dancer' !!

 

The fourth word is more likely Comedian Wes, The Citizen advertises J. H. McCann, Comedian and Roller-Skate Dancer, as appearing at The Palace of Varieties, Glo'ster in its edition of 5th September 1907. :blink:

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And according to the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 11th and 18th July 1914 "J. H. McCann, world’s greatest acrobatic roller skate dancer" was appearing at The Palais Deluxe,Whitstable, Kent.

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Whilst as early as 7th, 8th and 10th August 1905 "J. H. McCANN. World's Champion Roller-Skate Dancer" was reported, in the Lancashire Evening Post, as appearing at Preston Royal Hippodrome.

 

There's something very familiar sounding about that "World's Champion" claim... :huh:

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Thank you for the kind words of encouragement above, work has rather interfered with further research, but I hope to post some more 'local' Liverpool information later this week.

 

Dan Worral wrote: 'And come to think of it, Myrtle's Cook, have you seen any sign of those working class concertina bands in your area that we keep hearing about?'

 

Yes, quite a lot as it happens - I have got to know a number of their members through our shared concertina interests. To pre-empt any 'thread drift', I would preface the following by observing that both JHM's Winter Street and Dunkeld addresses are on the south eastern edge of what would have been considered the traditional heartland of the 'Orange' community in Liverpool which is centred around Breck Road. The Provincial Head Quarters was then located on Everton Road (which is a couple of minutes walk from both addresses), it is now located in a newer building on the same road. In South Liverpool there were (and are) further communities, around Mill Street in Toxteth, South Liverpool, with further districts in Wavertree, Garston and Bootle. In JHM's day the Orange lodge membership would have numbered in the low 10,000s and included a large number of marching bands. There are five concertina bands still 'on the road' and three that are based on Everton Road. Of the Everton Road bands none are likely to have been around in JHM's day. The Royal Arch Purple Heroes (exclusively Maccann duets + drums) was established in the 1980s (the original pre War warrant was for a flute band), Colonel Saunderson's Band (Maccanns and a few Anglos) - I understand this was established after WW2, and Old Swan Concertina Band (Maccanns and Anglos) was originally based in Old Swan (about a mile from Everton Road) and I think may have been around in JHM's day. Note that with the exception of the Royal Arch the other bands contain a few accordions and melodeons in addition to the standard drum corp. The balance of bands is accounted for by Star of Toxteth (South Liverpool based) and Bootle Concertina Band - both traditionally based some miles from JHM's addresses. Both play primarily Maccann Duets with a few Anglos (I think I have seen a Crane duet in one of these bands too).

 

A longer term project of mine is to do some further research into these bands, building on the Free Reed Magazine piece from the 1970s on these bands.

 

In terms of possible interaction between JHM and the Orange Lodge concertina bands of his day (which there certainly were) it is highly likely that he was well aware of the bands as they frequently paraded (and indeed do so today - youtube has many clips of this) around this area and into the city centre. A peculiarity of the Liverpool Orange Province is that to play in a lodge band you must first be a lodge member (this is not so in Northern Ireland, Scotland and other parts of England). The Orange community was traditionally quite conservative with a strong Christian ethos and the lodge tended to recruit from within its own community. Whilst members would probably have been very interested and welcoming of JHM the musician and performer, they might have been a little more cautious in terms of considering him for their ranks if he were interested (one of those dubious music hall types with their wayward morals etc!).

 

I have often been struck by the very high density of Maccann concertinas amongst these bands, when there were Anglos available (cheaper?) or Cranes (as per Salvation army). I would suggest English boxes were not favoured as they do not led themselves to marching (the Salvation Army were largely static whilst playing). There may be a link here to JHM (beyond the design of the system) or pure coincidence (e.g. more recent prices for Maccans, their volume, availability v. Crane system). There are various minute books of bands, wider records surviving which, as I mentioned above, provide further material for research - the only tricky ingredient is the time in which to do it!

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Brilliant! I'm sure if we pool what we know, between us we can close in on what actually happened. I've looked again at Minnie Maccann's death certificate and I now think it probably is the Prof's second 'wife', since Myrtle's Cook confirms she was at 16 Dunkeld Street in 1905. She doesn't seem to have been an inmate at the workhouse - her home address is given as 180 Boaler Street, which is near Dunkeld and Winter Streets. She just seems to have gone into the Union infirmary at the end. I found this map on the Liverpool History Project website, based on maps from about 1900. For reasons best known to themselves, the map has East at the top, not North. I've highlighted Dunkeld Street, Winter Street and Boaler Street - you can also see Hengler's Circus at the bottom, near Winter Street, and the Union Infirmary on the left hand edge just north of Dunkeld St.

 

post-1375-0-76295000-1432720891_thumb.jpg

 

I'm guessing the Prof and Minnie had split some time before she died, leaving her in Boaler St while he went off with Sarah to Minshull Street (not on the map but not far away).

 

Timewise, we're getting close to the first war. I'm sure once the war started, there would be more important things to record than the death of a worn-out old music hall performer, however big he may have been. I still suspect he died around then, probably in the same Union infirmary. Almost certainly not abducted by aliens!

 

Andrew

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Crane Driver wrote: 'I still suspect he died around then, probably in the same Union infirmary.'

 

I am slowly ploughing through the work house and infirmary records for further information on JHM and Minnie. I have also ploughed through the local records for deaths and can say that JHM is not recorded as dying locally in either 1911 or 1917.

 

 

Out of interested what age is Minnie said to be on the death certificate? I have come across two local references that put her (i.e. the Minnie dying in 1908 who we suspect to be Mrs JHM) at 47 - when based on her previous mentions in census returns (quoted above in this thread) she would have been 41 or 42 in 1908. It is conceivable she may have 'reduced' her age to appeal to either JHM's inclinations or the stage's obsession with youth, but this seems a bit unlikely (a birth certificate might be helpful here?). Whilst I can see she may have stressed her single status to gain admission for palliative care (to avoid the time consuming process of authorities chasing absent husband to contribute to the care) I can't see that age would have made any difference.

 

I can't help but reflect 'Poor Minnie' (whoever she is) dying a deeply unpleasant death apparently with no family around her - and the sad irony that we are now taking such an interest in her. She was likely interred at the 'Necropolis' indicated on the Bartholemew's map most helpfully posted by Crane Driver. This is now a 'green space' with plentiful wild flowers growing across it - one hopes she rests in a peace she may not have known in life.

Edited by Myrtle's cook

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The only review of his act that I've found is in the Gloucestershire Echo for Tuesday 23rd January 1906, and of his performance at the Victoria Rooms, Cheltenham - "... nothing cleverer has been seen in Cheltenham for a long time than the combination of step-dancing, roller skating, and acrobatic performance given by Mr. J . McCann, who is described as " the champion roller skate dancer of Great Britain,” and " a marvel of dexterity,” though the latter phrase is but moderate praise for such an astounding exhibition as that he gave on Monday evening."

 

He was seemingly appearing there as a member of Mr. Paul Vandy's "renowned company of variety artistes".

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I'm sorry my posts are rather disorganised and "bitty" at the moment, but I've just moved home and I only have very limited internet access, for short periods, so I'm posting fresh research as I'm doing it (on a library computer at the moment).

 

It's only in the last couple of days that I've discovered that "Maccann" started to spell his name "McCann" in his latter years (just to confuse matters/everybody :rolleyes: and show that J. A. Travers was not wrong about the spelling of his name!) and I've started working on that spelling. I thought I was going to be posting about "McCann the comedian" or "McCann and his performing Irish terriers" next - but the latest snippet I've found is about him playing the concertina in 1921!!! :)

 

It's in the Western Morning News for 15th November 1921 and in relation to a charity performance for that newspaper's Unemployment Relief Fund - "At the concert to be given at the Welcome on Thursday evening by Devonport Conservative Club on behalf of The Western Morning News and Mercury Unemployment Fund the following ladies and gentlemen have promised to give their services:- ... Professor McCann, English concertina ..."

 

Which makes me now wonder if he may have moved back to Plymouth, or somewhere nearby...

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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But maybe this Professor Maccann at Plymouth was J H's brother?

 

Professor McCann you mean Wes? ;)

 

Usurping his brother's famous stage name? :huh:

 

My gut feeling is that it's more likely the man himself, using his old stage name and making a little bit of a comeback on the concertina, after years of performing comic/roller-skating/dog acts. ;) It's a possibility worth considering anyway...

 

It's a great pity J. A. Travers (1890?-1952) didn't leave us more information - there's a good chance he might have heard McCann play in his latter years, and/or met him.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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"Professor McCann, English concertina ..."

"English concertina"?

 

Yes, a common enough description, rather than those German or Anglo ones... ;)

 

In fact "English concertina" is used in both the Crane and Maccann duet patents, Maccann describing his instrument in the latter as "the Improved Chromatic Duet English Concertina." and in his advertisements/announcements he called himself "MACCANN, the Acknowledged Greatest Performer on the English Concertina in existence", "Prof. Maccann, English Concertina Soloist", "MACCANN, the Greatest Exponent of the English Concertina on Earth" etc., etc.

 

In fact it sounds very right to me in the context of this 1921 announcement.

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1921! Reading this fascinating thread, I was beginning to fantasize that he might have stowed away on the Titanic.

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Before we get too carried away by 1921, consider this advert from the Prof's 1902 booklet 'How to play the concertina' - available at the concertina library -

 

post-1375-0-60489900-1432814497_thumb.jpg

 

William Hillham Hill Maccann was born in 1865 in Plymouth and seems to have lived there all his life. He died in 1936. He doesn't seem to have been a professional musician, at least not for long - in the 1911 census he is a chargehand at the naval dockyard. Newspaper accounts show he was heavily involved in the local masonic lodge.

 

Unless there is any evidence to the contrary, I would guess this is the gentleman referred to in the 1921 report.

 

Andrew

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A report on a benefit concert in Plymouth, 1893 -

 

Mr W H MacCann played a selection from the "Bohemian Girl" on his duet English concertina.

 

'Exeter Flying Post 11 November'

 

Andrew

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1921! Reading this fascinating thread, I was beginning to fantasize that he might have stowed away on the Titanic.

 

I've already checked the Lusitania victims/survivors lists, just in case (including stowaways!). :-)

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I gladly concede it could be William, and I'm stating nothing as "absolute" - this is raw research being presented as it comes up (as I've already intimated), and thinking aloud about possibilities before my allotted hour on a library computer runs out. But is there any other evidence for William calling himself "Professor Maccann/McCann"?

 

I'll keep an open mind on it.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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1921! Reading this fascinating thread, I was beginning to fantasize that he might have stowed away on the Titanic.

I've already checked the Lusitania victims/survivors lists, just in case (including stowaways!). :)

 

Back to the old "abducted by aliens" theory for now then Malcolm! ;)

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