263 : The Delroys on Stage, 1910-1916

The man and woman whose postcard image was inscribed ‘the Delroys’ were both of African descent but nothing had been traced on them when that card was used on page 184 which documented African American performer Robert Cropp. Since then a search in the pages of the London entertainment weekly the Era has uncovered some details — the act toured widely in Britain, usually in small theatres in towns, seldom the grand multi-seated theatres of cities.

The first brief report (Era, 16 April 1910, p 11) had the Delroys at the Avenue Theatre in Sunderland, billed as ‘American comedians’ and heading the bill. The Era of 10 December 1910 advised that these ‘clever singers and patterers’ were at the Panopticon in Glasgow. This was a grand entertainment centre erected in the 1850s. The Delroys like other entertainers had to travel considerable distances between jobs for the Era reported on 15 March 1913 (page 6) that this ‘miniature negro musical comedy speciality’ act was at the Electric Picturedrome in Bangor (north Wales) and on 3 May 1913 (page 9) these ‘great American artistes’ were at the Theatre Royal and Cinema in Scarborough, way across England on the North Sea coast.

They were in South Wales at the Palace theatre in Treharris (Era, 2 July 1913, page 16) and then the well-regarded Canterbury Music Hall in London saw their ‘negro musical comedy’ (Era, 16 July 1913, page 10) and a couple of weeks later they were at the south west’s Royal Jubilee Hall in Weymouth (Era, 6 August 1913, page 7). The small Palace theatre in Frome, Somerset saw the Delroys in April 1914 (Era, 15 April 1914, page 9).

The Era of 29 November 1916 (page 22) noted that the Delroys were ‘British subjects’, a response to the nationalism encourage by the Great War. Perhaps they had always been British subjects, or perhaps they had taken up British nationality, but we might have to assume their name was a stage or theatrical name and the two women (apparently sisters, born in 1881 and in 1882) who were described as ‘theatrical’ in the 1911 census provide no clues. The name is somewhat rare and appears to have a base in South Shields.