Thursday, February 16 – 1899
Liverpool’s mummers – representing all shades of historic art, from the grave to the gay – are masking exceedingly merry to-day. The occasion for the mirth is that annual festival of fun in the cause of charity, the Liverpool Theatrical Football Gala, which is held at the Liverpool Football Ground.
This is an annual event which results in substantial aid to our local hospitals. Hence its popularity with the public and the alacrity with which all classes of the dramatic profession lend their aid to make it a success.
The gala to-day is being held under the most favourable auspices and no doubt the outcome of it will be again a beneficent aid to the cause of philanthropy.
The weather is delightful, bright, clear, with a soft spring-like breeze blowing.
The gala is being conducted under the auspices of a strong committee, of which Councillor William Houlding is the president, and who for weeks has been engaged in making the arrangements essential for such a gathering, and which were of the most complete character.
The rendezvous of the mummers and their friends preparatory to the start for the Liverpool Football Ground was Queen’s Square.
At half-past twelve the square was packed with thousands of people of all classes, and the windows and balconies of the Bee, Star and Garter, Stork and Court Hotels, and other buildings were filled with spectators.
The first of the dramatic contingent to arrive in the square were the ladies of Wales Theatre. They drove up in an aristocratic-looking yellow-painted mail coach, drawn by four fine horses, the “ribbons” being held by a driver wearing the inevitable winte hat. In their handsome costumes and with their cheery faces, the ladies of all the theatres certainly deserve the compliment paid by a man in the street that were a “charming crowd.”
The Lyric Theatre had a very appropriate turnout for a charitable gala. There was fitted up in large lorry a scene representing a hospital ward, with patient in bed, doctor, nurse, and Sister of Mercy. This was much applauded.
The turnouts of the Court Shakespeare, and Empire Theatres were all excellently equipped and in the best of taste.
The Prince of Wales Theatre contributed to the procession a cage, in which were “wild beats,” whose antics caused much fun.
Some of the people who occupied positions in the fruit dealers’ premises in the square pelted the “animals in the cage” with oranges, nuts, and other fruit, which were welcome to the occupants of the cage, and for which there were excited scrambles also among the great crowd. But when the species of fun took the form of throwing turnips, apples, and cabbages at the well-dressed ladies in the coaches there were excited shouts of indignation among the crowd.
Mr. Stayne, of the Prince of Wales Theatre, became very indignant and shouted at those who were throwing at the ladies, “Stop that; it’s not fun; only cads would do it.” But the fusillade continued, and as a matter of fact, the ladies seemed to enjoy the fun and fruit.
While the procession was waiting there were several musical items rendered. The guard of one of the vehicles made himself purple in the face by his heroic efforts to play on the post-horn “St. Patrick’s day in the morning.”
Some of the ladies in one of the theatrical carriages gave the crowd an example of their vocal excellence by singing “Let’em all come,” “Don’t mind me,” and other amusing numbers. This amusing scene was witnessed by professional men, tradesmen, shopboys, workpeople in their dinner hours, staid city councillors, lawyers, justices of the peace, and others who no doubt were there on the principle “That a little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”
Certainly there was a good deal of nonsense, but it was of a very innocent character, and was thoroughly enjoyed.
The procession drove off from the square at about a quarter to one, and as it passed by with a brass band at its head was loudly applauded. The police arrangement for the controlling of the great crowd were of the most admirable character.
The streets along the line of route to the ground were thronged, and the spacious ground of the Liverpool Football Club, Anfield-road, was packed with spectators witnessing the amusing displays of athletics at the gala.
By the time the procession reached Anfield-road the splendid enclosure of the Liverpool Club already contained several thousand people, and the number was constantly being increased. In fact it was estimated that the attendance was greater than any previous gala, the beautiful weather no doubt inducing many people to turn out and participate in the fun.
The large stand in particular was filled in every part, and here the ladies associated with the pantomimes did very good business. They smiled their sweetest smiles and in many instances so successfully that they obtained silver and even gold for articles worth probably only as many coppers.
Everyone worked desperately hard to make things hum, and though the side shows were scarcely as numerous or as interesting as in some previous years.
There were expectations, specially in the case of the melancholy makeshift musicians, who gave a marvellous programme, and also of Professor Headon, who introduced his boxing pony with much effect. This was a department in which the gentlemen of the theatres had an opportunity of shining and of extracting coppers from the generously-inclined public.
The Police Band also played a selection of music, and altogether there was no lack of enjoyment. The proceedings started with the customary schoolboys’ football match – North v South. It turned out to be an easy victory for the South, who won by four goals to nil, three of the goals being scored by C. Sanders, of St. Mary’s, Edgehill.
Novelties had been introduced into the sports which followed, and in most cases there was a large entry of pantomime artistes.
While the 50 yards backward race was proceeding the Lord Mayor (the Right Hon. W. Oulton) arrived on the ground and was received by Councillor Wm. Houlding (chairman of the council of the gala).
The following are the results of races:
100 yards flat race handicap: – Winners of heats: Walter Aubrey, Prince of Wales; H. Lane, Shakespeare; Jack Carlo, Shakespeare; G. Brooks, Shakespeare; H. Carlo, Shakespeare; A. Carlo, Shakespeare; H. Hall, Prince of Wales; and G. French, Empire.
60 yards egg and spoon race (ladies only). – Heats: Carrie Booth, New Empire; Eva Fitzsimons, Royal Court; Louisa Moffatt, Royal Court; Annie Sheridan, Royal Court; May Smith, Royal Court; Belle Wagner, Royal Court.
50 yards backward race. – Heats: K.H. Bertram, Shakespeare; A. Carlo, Shakespeare; Chas. Laffer, Shakespeare; Jack Carlo, Shakespeare; H. Lane, Shakespeare; and J. Mann, New Empire.
Apple-gathering Contest (ladies only). – Heats: Bessie Eldorado, Shakespeare; May Cliff, Royal Court; Eva Fitzsimons, Royal Court; Miss Cowden, Royal Court; Kate Freeman, New Empire; Theresa Ryan, New Empire; Nora Reid, New Empire.
An interesting tournament was provided by the Royal Naval Reserve contingent.
(Evening Express, 16-02-1899)
Anfield ground, what it looked like in 1899.