271 : Dr Guy Errington Kerr (1905-1984), doctor and musician

The American entertainer Alberta Hunter lived in London in the late 1920s, living in the large house at 17 Regents Park Road owned by singer-entrepreneur John Payne who was an unofficial US ambassador for black Americans in inter-war England. Another of the lodgers was Guy Errington Kerr, recalled in Hunter’s biography as ‘a violinist who was studying medicine’ (Frank Taylor, Alberta Hunter: A Celebration in Blues, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987, p 104). I mentioned black medical students to Josephine Harreld Love, whose father had been the tutor and admirer of musician-composer Edmund Jenkins who studied with Kemper Harreld in Atlanta before, in 1914, studying for seven years at the Royal Academy of Music in London. My biography of Jenkins was published in 1982: Mrs Love (born 1914) made contact for she had been brought up on stories of Jenkins’s musicianship. We became friends and I stayed with her in Detroit and she with me in England. One of her college friends had married a Jamaican-born doctor who lived in suburban London, and she showed me a photograph. This was Gertrude Gamlin: Mrs Errington Kerr.

Picking up the threads of the Kerrs led me to discover that Dr Kerr had died at 2 Wickham Avenue, Cheam (Surrey) on 21 March 1984 and left £132,102. His wife had died in the spring of 1981. With most of his adult life spent in England – indeed, in Cheam [south west of London] – and a substantial estate, I obtained a copy of his will. A very straightforward two-page document, signed on 16 December 1983, it appointed Frederick P W Griffiths and Miss Doris S M Griffiths of 38 Lynwood Drive in nearby Worcester Park to be executors, and left them his house (2 Wickham Avenue), contents, and car but not his violin and grand piano. Money in the bank and in the Leeds Permanent Building Society went to the Griffiths too. The violin and grand piano, and money in the Halifax Building Society, went to Mrs Jean Burham of Yorke House, Eridge Road, Crowborough.

Dr Kerr’s musical career had included radio broadcasts for the BBC in 1947 and 1950. He had been a conscientious objector during the war: he seems to have served in a medical capacity.

The task is now to trace the Griffiths and Mrs Burham.