Diaries of a panto legend set to return home to Dudley

Historian Mike Dewey and Jill Hackett with the Clarkson Rose diaries that look set to return to Dudley

Historian Mike Dewey and Jill Hackett with the Clarkson Rose diaries that look set to return to Dudley

First published in Black Country News

DIARIES written by one of Dudley’s famous theatrical figures look set to return home after being uncovered in Buckinghamshire.

The volumes, written by Clarkson Rose who is regarded as one of Britain’s great pantomime dames, lay in the loft of a house in High Wycombe until they were brought to the attention of historian Mike Dewey.

Mr Dewey and Jill Hackett, the owner of the three diaries, which cover a period from March 1938 to June 1941, now intend to offer them to Dudley Archives.

Mr Dewey said: “These were given to Mrs Hackett about 40 years ago at a pub somewhere in Surrey by a lady she met whilst having lunch.

“The lady was probably Ruth Rose, who was the only daughter of Clarkson and his first wife. Clarkson left his first wife for actress Olive Fox, whom he subsequently married, and they had a very successful double-act on the stage.

“It is probable that Ruth simply wanted to get rid of the diaries after Clarkson’s death to anyone who was interested.”

Clarkson Rose was born in Dudley in 1890 to a middle class family living in Ednam Road. His later performances as a dame were inspired by observations of respectable ladies at tea parties hosted by his grandmother during his childhood.

His lifelong dream was to be on the stage and he began his career as a comedian in Dudley  after learning the arts of performance as a child by sneaking out of his home to watch shows.

He became successful and formed his own concert party, his summer show Twinkle was a hit which toured Britain for decades while his pantomime performances took him to heights of his profession.

Shows starring Clarkson Rose, including at Dudley’s Hippodrome theatre, were sold-out weeks in advance and he appeared at Royal Variety Performance at the London Coliseum in 1928.

He said his favourite role was Widow Twanky in Aladdin and his work went on to inspire later generations of stars. Comic actor John Inman described Rose’s pantomime dame characters as very posh and very grand.

The Black Country actor performed in his last pantomime in 1967, he died in April 1968.

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