Tuesday, 12 March 2013

New Brighton Palais de Danse

The New Brighton Palais de Danse was the name given sometime in 1926 to the ballroom located within New Brighton Tower:

The Ballroom was one of the largest in the world, with a sprung floor and dance band stage. The orchestra had as many as 60 players. Big bands played at the Tower, including Bert Yates, Bill Gregson and Victor Sylvester. Other well known artists appeared at the Ballroom including Mae West in November 1945. Well over 1,000 couples could dance without undue crowding. It was decorated in white and gold, with the emblems of various Lancashire towns. The Ballroom had a balcony, with seats to watch the dancers below. Behind this was an open space, where couples used to learn the dance without interfering with the more proficient ones. History of Wallasey

The phrase Palais De Danse was a popular name given to many dance halls in England during the early 20th Century conjuring up images of cosmopolitan Europe.

The above photograph is one of the most famous dance halls called Palais De Dansein Berlin before the First World War and maybe the precursor to the others. Read more on Malcolm Lowry @ 19th Hole

Lowry refers to the New Brighton Palais de Danse in his novel Ultramarine when Dana recalls dancing there with his girl friend Janet Travena; "I shut my eyes and imagined that this was indeed Janet and I dancing at the New Brighton Palais De Danse. (Pg 106) and later Dana and Janet see "the two saxophonists of the Palais de Danse, Zez and Mas..." (Pg. 130). These recollections are probably drawn from Lowry's visits to the ballroom with Tess Evans in 1927. Lowry may even have originally met Tess at one of the dances at the ballroom as she lived in nearby Liscard.

S.S. Coconada (2)

S.S. Coconada (2) was built by Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow; Propulsion: steam, triple expansion, 3300 ihp, 14 knots, twin screw. Launched: Friday, 23/09/1910; Tonnage: 3958 grt; Length: 390.5 feet; Breadth: 50.2 feet.

Originally owned by the British India Steam Navigation Company, the Coconada along with her sister Chilka were built for the Coromandel Coast Rangoon service. She became an Indian Expeditionary Force Transport from August of 1914 to July of 1916 in the main trooping the Meeruts Karachi - Marseilles and Karachi - Suez. In May of 1917 she came under the Liner Requistion Scheme and served as an Expeditionary Force Transport from November 1918 until November 1919 where she spent sometime in the Pacific sailing from Vancouver to Hong Kong via Japan. She was sold on the 1st of September 1933 to the Scinda Steam Navigation Company of Bombay and renamed Jaladurga. She was requisitioned once more for war duties in February of 1941 and at War's end was transferred to the Singapore - Bangkok trades, it was whilst on these trades that she sank in Bombay. She was successfully raised and repaired and continued on her normal services before being finally called to the colours once more when she carried Indian trorops to Korea in 1953. She was finally sold for scrap in 1954 and work commenced at Bombay in the following year after an incredible 44 years of service. Merchant Navy Officers

Lowry refers to the ship in his novel Under The Volcano when the Consul reminds his brother Hugh that; "I have perhaps acted as a father: but you were only an infant then, and and seasick, upon the P. and O., the erratic Cocanada." (Pg. 83) and “When you were an infant, ' the Consul's teeth chattered. 'On the P. & O. boat coming back from India.. The old Cocanada." (Pg. 178).

 Frederick Asals suggests that Lowry may have been attracted by the canada’ in ‘Cocanada’.(The Making of Malcolm Lowry's 'Under the Volcano'. Pg. 178). British India Steam Navigation Company were part of the P&O Lines hence Lowry's reference to the company. It is possible that Lowry noted the ship on his voyage to the Far East in 1927. There is no record that the ship sailed on the India to England service as indicated by the Consul's remarks.

S.S. Leeway

The S.S. Leeway was launched on 03/03/1897 originally named SS Sahara built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow; Ship Type: Cargo Vessel, Tonnage: 4089 grt, Length: 370.1 feet (BP), Breadth: 48 feet. Propulsion: Steam, triple expansion, single screw. The ship was renamed several times; 1920 Marshal French, 1922 Leeway, 1925 Charterhurst and finally Bianca Bianchi in 1927. The ship had several owners: Glasgow Nav. Co. (Maclay & McIntyre), Glasgow, 1915 Houlder, Middleton & Co., London, 1919 Saint David's SN Co., Cardiff, 1922 St. Mary SS Co., Cardiff, 1925 Charter Shipping Co., Cardiff 1927 G.R.Bianchi, Genoa. The ship was scrapped on 17/07/1928.

Lowry refers to the ship in his novel Ultramarine; "One of those bloody St Mary Axe Boats; the Leeway is knocking around here. Only its wings aren't clipped." (Pg. 33), "Then we were standing on the wharf, looking up at the soaring stern of the S.S. Leeway from Swansea which had docked forward of the Martensen." (Pg. 101); "He spat; the spittle landed on the "Y" of Leeway and dribbled down slowly into the harbour." (Pg. 102).

Lowry's reference to the ship is probably due to members of the crew of Pyrrhus, on which Lowry sailed to the Far East, being familiar with South Wales where the Leeway had been based and the fact that the former owners St. Mary SS Co. were being investigated by the authorities for the loss of one of their ships the SS Eastway co-owned with Mr. Watkin James Williams. (See St Mary Axe Boats).

St Mary Axe Boats

Lowry uses the phrase "St Mary Axe Boats" in his novel Ultramarine; "One of those bloody St Mary Axe Boats; the Leeway is knocking around here. Only its wings aren't clipped." (Pg. 33).

Lowry's seems to be using a slang/colloquial phrase perhaps used by sailors to refer to the Baltic Exchange which was located at 30 St Mary Axe in London.

The Baltic Exchange is the world's only independent source of maritime market information for the trading and settlement of physical and derivative contracts. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry's reference may also have an ironic link in that the Leeway had been part owned by the St Mary's Steam Ship Co. Lowry's reference to the ship is probably due to members of the crew of Pyrrhus, on which Lowry sailed to the Far East, being familiar with South Wales where the Leeway had been based and the fact that the former owners St. Mary SS Co. were being investigated by the authorities for the loss of one of their ships the SS Eastway co-owned with Mr. Watkin James Williams. The case was reported in the Times and a full report can be read here.

Lowry's reference may refer to the idea that the Leeway maybe being set up to be "lost" as an insurance scam though this was not a conclusion of the inquiry into the loss of the Eastway. Lowry may have heard of  "death ships" - any boat so decrepit that it is worth more to its owners over-insured and sunk than it would be worth afloat. Lowry later would become familiar with B.Traven's novel The Death Ship, about such ships, originally published in 1926 but not translated into English until 1934 when Lowry probably read the novel as his German was poor.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

13 North Drive, New Brighton, Wirral

13, North Drive (middle house with door showing)
Lowry was born at 13, North Drive, New Brighton on 28th July 1909:

On Thursday 29th July, the births columns in the Liverpool Echo announced: ‘LOWRY – July 28th, at Warren Crest, North-drive, New Brighton, to Mr and Mrs Arthur Lowry, a son’.  (Gordon Bowker, Pursued by Furies Pg.7)

In the past, the address has been problematic for commentators and biographers for 2 reasons - the geographical location of the address and whether Lowry's former home was still standing. Both problems were resolved with the 2009 publication of the book From the Mersey to the World.

If we look at the history of Lowry’s birthplace, this confusion amongst different commentators becomes understandable. In 1909, North Drive was in New Brighton, which was part of the County Borough of Wallasey. The electoral ward of New Brighton and later Warren (New Brighton was split into several different voting wards as the town grew) was in the Parish of Liscard. In 1909, Wallasey was in the County of Cheshire; but in 1974 it was amalgamated, along with other districts – including Birkenhead – into the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Because of the nearness of Liverpool, and Lowry’s association with the city, some commentators have also incorrectly given Liverpool as Lowry’s birthplace.

Lowry’s brother, Russell, stated in the Malcolm Lowry Review in 1987 in response to a piece by Mark Thomas, entitled ‘Pilgrimage to Caldy’, in the same journal: "Warren Crest wasn’t worth looking for. It isn’t there any more. Wallasey suffered heavy bomb damage during WW2. I understand the site has been redeveloped". (Malcolm Lowry Review Numbers 21 & 22 Fall 1987 & Spring 1988 Pg. 102)

The electoral register for 1909 and 1911 had Arthur Lowry living at No. 13, with no mention of Warren Crest. 

The 1911 Gore’s Directory above confirms that Arthur Lowry was living at No. 13 and additionally that the property was called Warren Crest – which to date is the only documentary evidence of this, other than the birth record in the Liverpool Echo and Russell Lowry’s statements. 

Evidence collected from maps, electoral rolls, photographs and documentary evidence established that 13 North Drive was not damaged in the war and survived. (From the Mersey to the World Pg ).

Since the publication of From the Mersey to the World, further evidence has emerged in the form of the deeds for the house which establishes beyond a doubt that Lowy's birthplace still exists:

The deeds also show that  developer for 13 North Drive was David Benno Rapport, who also developed houses in Caldy where the Lowry family moved to in 1911 taking up residence at Inglewood.

Wardour Street, London

Wardour Street is a street in Soho, London. It is a one-way street south to north from Leicester Square, up through Chinatown, across Shaftesbury Avenue to Oxford Street. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry refers to the street in his novel Under The Volcano; "He had not played one, and Hugh could play almost any kind of guitar, for four or five years, and his numerous instruments declined with his books in basements or attics in London or Paris, in Wardour Street night-clubs or behind the bar of the Marquis of Granby or the old Astoria in Greek Street, long since become a convent and his bill still unpaid there, in pawnshops in Tithebarn Street or the Tottenham Court Road...." (Pg. 158 )

The most famous night clubs in Wardour Street in the 1920s and 1930s were Chez Victor and the Cosmopolitan - there is no documentary evidence that Lowry visited either club.

Chez Victor was a very fashionable 1920s restaurant/night-club in Grafton Street (above Grafton Galleries). It was popularised by the then Prince of Wales and is best remembered as the place where Lesley Hutchinson (Hutch) serenaded Edwina Mountbatten and other rich socialites. It was owned by Victor Perosino. The club was raided in 1929 or 1930 and Perosino was deported – there are several versions of this tale which I can go into if you want. In the 1930s Chez Victor at 45 Wardour Street opened – I presume there is a connection.This appears to have been more of a restaurant – but was equally fashionable – I think it was still there at least to the late sixties. Chez Victor appears in most reminiscences of inter-war West End society. It was one of the key venues for the “Mayfair” set. Elvira Barney