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Sunday, March 06, 2016

J. R. C. Hamilton

The birth-date of actor and author John Richard Claude Hamilton remains a bit of a mystery. He was born 5 April 1886 according to army records created in 1918 and on 5 April 1888 according to the 1939 Register. However, he claimed he was 28 years old when the 1911 census was taken, implying he was born in 1882/83 and his short service army record of 1915 gives his age as 36 years 240 days in December 1915, meaning he must have been born in 1879.

Hamilton claimed that his family was from Ayr, Scotland—although he also claimed to have been born in Hackney, London—where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all practised medicine. This was intended to be his profession, but Hamilton ran away from home to be an actor, his ambition fired by success in a school production of Shakespeare.

He gave actor as his occupation in the 1911 census, at which time he had been reputedly married to actress Annie Perks Hamilton for six years, with whom he had two children. This is almost certainly false information. Annie Perks, born 11 October 1867, was the daughter of William George Perks and his wife Ann (née Holloway) and had married her cousin, the comedian and musician Henry William Holloway (1863-1902) in 1885. They had three children before Holloway’s death, aged 38.

Annie married Frank Brocklehurst in May 1904 and that same year had a daughter, Nellie Queenie Brocklehurst. The 1911 census implies that this was the marriage with Hamilton, although it is likely they did not meet until a couple of years later.

Hamilton and Annie Brocklehurst—legally she retained that name until her death on 26 November 1944, but probably used Annie Perks professionally—had a daughter, Viola Mimi Hamilton, in 1910.

For a time, Hamilton had played with Henry Chattle in fit-up dramas, playing every conceivable character. Afterwards, he was associated with Sir Frank Benson and Ernest Lodge—brother of Sir Oliver Lodge—who subsequently became curator of the library at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

He played twin brothers in the 1913 production of “The Scarlet Clue” at the Derby Grand Theatre, which was to become a regular venue for the actor. He continued to act during the war until he was mobilised in September 1916 and posted as a cadet with the Royal Flying Corps. at Farnborough. He was given the probationary rank of temp. 2nd Lieutenant and discharged on 22 November 1917.

Already separated from his wife when he joined up, he met Edith Rutland (b. 4 March 1894), the daughter of actress Miss Ellen Beverley. Edith had been on the stage since the age of nine and had been touring for many years since. She first met Hamilton in Oldham on the night that he bid goodbye to his company before joining up. They were married in 1917 and lived at 60 Wellington Street, Oldham, Lancs., when Hamilton was discharged from the R.F.C. In April 1918 he joined the A.R.P. and became a 2nd Lieutenant in May 1918, serving until 27 February 1919.

Hamilton was Manchester area delegate of the Actors’ Association and in 1921 gave his address as 23 Dulcie-street, Oxford-road, Manchester. Their son, John Rutland Hamilton, born 20 June 1922.

In 1923 Hamilton was a member of the Sember Stock co., appearing at the Grand Theatre, Hartlepool, who made memorable appearances in “Ignorance” and “From Mill to Mansion”.

Along with his wife, he was producer of the Graham Roberts’ Repertory Company, appearing at the Victoria Theatre, Burnley, for the summer of 1924 and starring in “A Bunch of Violets” as Sir Philip Marchant, “The Middleman”, playing the distasteful Joseph Chandler, “Walls of Jericho”, as Hanky Bannister, “Facing the Music” and taking the lead in “The Profligate”. He was stage manager an actor (as the Emperor) for “Sinbad” during winter of 1924-25 at the Grand, Derby.

In March 1925, Hamilton and “Miss Edith Rutland” were again with the Graham Roberts’ company in Burnley for a new season which began with “A Woman of No Importance”.

The pair returned to the Grand, Derby, the following summer as leads for Oswald Cray’s The Popular Players, the season beginning with “The Silver King”. Hamilton was also the producer of the various shows at the Royal, Oldham, Sunderland, Edinburgh, Halifax and Middlesbrough and two seasons of 32 and 34 weeks at the Gaiety, Douglas, Isle of Man.

Towards the end of this period he concentrated on producing and directing, although he still enjoyed the occasional appearance on stage, his favourite parts being the Counsel for the Prosecution in “The Butterfly on the Wheel” and Sykes in “Oliver Twist”.

He put on a play of his own, “The Black Moth”, on 16 August 1926, a creepy tale set in an old Yorkshire manor house, around which an eerie legend grows. That week also featured a benefit night for Miss Edith Rutland. The singer was a hit as The Fairy Queen in “Rip Van Winkle” at the Grand, Douglas, during panto season in 1927-28. Around that time, Brother Hamilton was K.O.M. of the Isle of Man Province.

Hamilton’s play “The Black Moth” was revived in August 1928 and was followed by another mystery play “The Mist” (first produced at the Grand, Grantham, 8 August 1929) and “Murder in Number Four” (1934). A novelette, The Travers Hall Mystery, was published by Gramol in their Mystery Novels series in 1936.

In 1939, Hamilton was working as a qualified optician and living at 35 Parliament Drive, Bury, Lancashire, with his wife and son. It would seem he moved to the Isle of Man after the war, and was working as an accountant there in 1952; he was subsequently a member of the clergy for Foxton parish, Isle of Man, 1964-66.

Hamilton died on the Isle of Man in 1967, reported as aged 79. It is thought that Edith predeceased him, dying in 1955, aged 50. John Rutland Hamilton died in Manchester, Lancashire, in 1969.

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