Friday, 31 July 2015

Hounslow Tipperary Rooms Opening

From the Middlesex Chronicle, 31st July 1915.


Yesterday afternoon the Tipperary Rooms designed for the recreative and mental benefit of the wives, children and other relatives of soldiers and sailors serving in the war, were formally opened at Neal's-corner by the Countess of Seafield.  The proceedings connected with the function were held for the greater part at the Alcazar Picture Palace, which is nearly opposite the Rooms, this commodious building having been placed at the disposal of the Committee by the manager, Mr. Harry Tindell.  The palace was occupied to its utmost capacity by a crowd consisting mainly of the wives and little ones of service men, and for upwards of an hour these were first entertained to a capital show of pictures.

Mrs. Clarendon Hyde, who presided, outlined the object of the Tipperary Rooms, and said that these provided for the women whose menfolk were so gallantly fighting their battles — a home from home where the hand of comradeship and sympathy would be extended to them, and where in their difficulties they would be given the best of advice and help.  They felt very grateful to those who had taken the trouble to show their practical interest in the movement by coming that afternoon, and she was sure that if they only seconded the endeavours of Mrs. Armstrong, who had been so energetic in organising the Room in Hounslow, their "Tipperary " would be one of the best in the country....
Lady Seafield then formally declared the Room open, wishing all concerned with it every success, and adding that she intended to come over to Hounslow very often in the future and visit the Tipperary Room (loud applause).

After thanks had been accorded to the Countess, and to the manager of the Alcazar, a most effective grouping of national characters was produced on the stage, taken as follows :—England, Katie Cavanna; Ireland, Ileen Bradley; Scotland, Edmond Graeme Armstrong; Wales, Margery Shuff; Russia, Dollie Rayner; France, Constance M. Armstrong; Belgium, Theresa Cavanna; Servia, Emily Woods; Cossack, Mrs. Dean; Italy, Sylvia Cavanna; Japan, Miss N. Wells; Army, Norman Bradley and Lionel Lang; Navy, George Lovett, H.M.S. Warspite.  A concert of high merit succeeded, the programme for which was sustained by several professional and amateur artistes. Among the former were Miss Irene Constance-Lee (Australian entertainer) and Miss Laura Godfree (from the Queen's Hall), with character studies at the piano, and Miss Chrystabel Smelt (vocalist).  Little Miss Mary Armstrong (daughter of the energetic secretary of the movement) delighted all with her sweet rendering of the soldier's popular ditty "Tipperary," to the tune of which Miss Ileen Bradley afterwards prettily danced.  Miss Lydia Musto also sang and Signorina Cavanna roused the audience to much fervour by her spirited singing of the Italian National Anthem.

At the conclusion of the concert the company left the Alcazar and took possession of the Room at Neal's-corner, where tea was served out to them.

[Tipperary Rooms were being opened in many parts of the country to provide a social centre for the wives and children of serving men - see below for an account of their beginnings. 

Among the performers in Hounslow, the Cavannas were a family living in Houslow - the father, Joseph, was Italian by birth,  and an ice merchant. At the time of the concert, Caterina was 22, Teresa 14 and Sylvia 16.  Mrs Armstrong was married to the secretary to the local Education Committee - her children Edmond Graeme and Constance were aged 9 and 11, while 'little Miss Mary Armstrong' was 4.]  

From the Western Daily Press, 13th November 1914.

[Taken from a letter to the editor, asking for support in setting up recreation rooms in Bristol.]

SIR.—Lately there appeared in the London ‘Times’ a letter from Mrs E. Juson Kerr, in which she said:  “When we see the increasing numbers of our poorer sisters in and out of gin palaces, we realise the immediate possibility of the degeneration of the homes our men ‘have left behind them.’ . . . To save the ‘home-fires’ for our men to find on their return, can we not take rooms in the most congested parts of our great cities, encourage our women to meet there, supply them with papers, the latest war news hung on the walls, paper, pen, and ink, free of charge; coffee, cocoa, and tea to be had at cost price? . . . The whole scheme can be carried through at very little expense—each local centre managed by a local committee.”

So thoroughly did the scheme appeal to the readers of the ‘Times’ that within a couple of days over 2,000 letters, some of them offering help towards the starting of such rooms, and others asking how they could be started, poured in from every part of the kingdom, some enthusiasts even appearing at the writer's house soon after nine o'clock in the morning of the day the letter appeared.  The pioneer recreation-room was opened at Hammersmith on Oct. 28, and it was then said that others on the same lines were going to be started at North Kensington, St. Pancras, Chelsea, Marylebone, Shepherd's Bush, in Norwich, in Birmingham, and in Ireland.

Is much being done in this way locally? .... the Lord Mayor said, on Tuesday, it was very desirable that, whilst the soldiers were fighting at the front, the wives whom they had left at home should not be spending their time and money in the public-house.  Mrs Rose, too, at a meeting of the W.T.A.U., is reported as saying that there was, just now, the additional temptation in that many of the women, by reason of the Army grants, had more money than perhaps ever before.  They should try and get the women, for the sake of the men who were going to the front, to abstain, as their share towards fighting the enemy.....

[The full article about the opening in Hounslow credits Mrs Juson Kerr as the instigator of 'Tipperary' Rooms.   The Western Daily Press letter suggests that the primary motivator was the fear that the wives of serving men would misbehave if left to their own devices - the rooms were intended to keep them out of the pub.]  

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