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SYDNEY GRANVILLE
(1869 - 1950)

by Derek Oldham

Sydney Granville was known to all his fellow-artists in the theatre as "Granny". His devoted work with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company spreads over thirty-five years, from 1907 to 1942. There were little spells away, when he played in "The Beggar's Opera", and in one glamorous tour as juvenile lead playing opposite the legendary and beautiful Lily Elsie in "The Blue Train", but even in this there was still an association with the Company, for Lily Elsie's aunt was Mrs. Cotton, for years and years the D'Oyly Carte Wardrobe Mistress.

His progression from the youthful to the mature parts of Gilbert and Sullivan can be likened to the similar progress of Sir Henry Lytton. His Usher in "Trial by Jury" was his first character role, and his inventiveness of comic business in this part will always remain with those of us who were fortunate enough to see him. He was a riot! His humour was quiet, but oh so very funny; and this quiet technique developed as the years went on into brilliant Pooh-Bahs, Samuels, Shadbolts, and the rest. His baritone voice had a light charming quality, and he held a queer belief, I remember, that one's high notes were limited in number so must be conserved to last a lifetime and not wasted in practice in the dressing-room.

Granny was a Lancashire Lad from Bolton, and, as I came from Accrington, only seven miles away, we were good friends from the start. Often we shared a dressing-room; and one evening, when we were making up side by side in front of our mirrors for "Yeomen", he suddenly said, "Ee, Colonel Fairfax, Ah'm sorry to sithee like this 'ere" . . so proceeding to paraphrase our opening scene. I carried on with "Ee, lad, tha's fairly bin good ter me in this yer jail. Tha bears up gradely as a brave lad oughter" ..."Well, tha knows, theer's nowt so much wrong in 'aving the 'ead chopped off, quick and sudden like." in half-an-hour's time before two thousand people the tears were rolling down our cheeks in suppressed laughter. That taught us a lesson.

In 1938 he appeared in the film of "The Mikado" together with Martyn Green, another of the company's leading performers.

Granny was fortunate in having a dear and unselfish wife, Anna Bethell. She was a fine legitimate actress in her own right, and for three consecutive years had played, up and down the country, Fanny Hawthorn in the sensational early years of "Hindle Wakes". Her fine actress-career she gave up entirely in order to be always with Granny, for he needed her and was "lost" were she not with him. We who can remember loved her Mrs. Partlet in "The Sorcerer", and even the tiny role of Inez towards the close of "The Gondoliers" she made appear important.

Dear old Granny passed away around Christmas-time in 1950 at the age of 81.

G & S Recordings

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