Monday, 6 October 2008

Master Tom Cruwys the boy soprano

I bought this lovely old postcard (below) on E-bay. The Master Tom Cruwys in the picture is my great uncle. Tom was born on 18th February 1890 at 169 Ashmore Road, Kilburn, London, the fourth son of Frederick Augustus Cruwys and Emma Gough. This picture was taken in commemoration of the occasion when Tom had the honour of singing at the Alhambra Palace, Leicester Square, London, on Monday 21st November 1904 before H.M. Queen Alexandra, H.R.H. Princess Victoria, and Prince and Princess Louise of Battenburg. At that time the Alhambra was the largest theatre in the world. Tom went on to perform a tour of the north, appearing on stage with Fred Karno and Charlie Chaplin. He subsequently sang at the Queen's Hall in London and St George's Hall in Liverpool. He also played the part of the babe in the ''Babes in the Wood'' pantomime at Crystal Palace.We have an old letter card which I think belonged to my great-grandparents which has a selection of press reviews from the various local newspapers. I have transcribed the reviews below.
Press Opinions

MORNING LEADER, Nov. 19th 1904 – The newest boy singer, Master Tom Cruwys, who appeared this week at the Alhambra in a soprano part, is a remarkably confident and dignified addition to the list of musical boy prodigies of the past season, has a well formed and particular musical range, and reaches his high notes with expression and ease. For so small a performer his voice carries well to the back of the huge hall, and but for his stage personality a listener might easily suppose the vocalist to be an accomplished lady soprano.

THE STAR, Nov. 19th 1904, - The chief event of the week has been the appearance of a new boy singer at the Alhambra, Master Tom Cruwys. He possesses the ordinary range of a soprano, with the same richness and fulness of tone.

LLOYDS NEWS, Nov. 19th 1904, - A charming boy Soprano, Master Tom Cruwys, is an acquisition to this entertainment.

THE ERA, 20th Nov., 1904 – A boy singer, Master Tom Cruwys …..this week at the Alhambra. He has … of sweet quality and remarkable range … his high notes are particularly clear.

LICENSED VICTUALLERS MIRROR, 2nd Dec., 1904 – Master Tom Cruwys has an astonishingly strong, sweet and clear voice of soprano calibre. He gives a really clever rendering of "Il Bacio", and for an encore renders "The Swallows" delightfully.

SOUTHPORT GAZETTE, Feb 11th, 1905 – Master Tom Cruwys, the boy soprano possesses a voice of singular purity and fulness, his upper notes having a splendid roundness of tone. His songs are delivered in cultured style, and the way he surmounted the difficulty of "Sing Sweet Bird" was a triumph of expressive singing, which was renewed in "Mary of Argyle".

SOUTHPORT GRAPHIC February 11th 1905
Master Tom Cruwys, whose picture we give, has made quite a triumph at the Palace this week. This clever little boy has just finished a most successful pantomime engagement at the Crystal Palace this Christmas. His first hit, however, was made at the Alhambra, London, where he had the honour of singing before Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria, and Prince and Princess Louise of Battenberg.
Tom's singing career sadly ended when he was shot through the nose at Thiepval in World War I. Tom served firstly with the Honourable Artillery Company and then, after receiving officer training, joined the Worcestershire Regiment at Vimy Ridge where he was made Captain. He ended up at Passchendaele where he was again severely wounded by gunshot on 31st July.

Tom was also a talented artist and before the war he had studied at the Hammersmith School of Art. After the war Tom became a civil servant at H.M. Office of Works, where he worked on the architectural side. In 1926 he joined Messrs. Trollope and Son, the West End firm of interior decorators, as senior artist. He remained there for five years and then began working for himself. Tom's designs include the ballroom at the Dorchester Hotel, and the staterooms of the Aquitania and Mauritania. Tom struggled to make a career as an artist during the Depression and in 1939 he joined his brother Herbert (my grandfather) in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where he found employment at Dowty Rotol. In his spare time Tom enjoyed drawing the local Cotswold scenery and churches, and I have a large collection of postcards produced from his wonderfully detailed black and white sketches.

Tom married twice and had two daughters by his first wife Clara Mascord. His younger daughter Mary married Derek Robbins, the World War II veteran. Tom died on 24th October 1963 at 82 Station Road, Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham.


Heather Smith said...

My family and I have some original drawing by tom cruwys don't know a lot of history except he did live in bishops cleave he worked with my mother in the planning office at Brockport working on plans of the Hurricane I only knew him married to Wendy so could be barking up the wrong tree

Debbie Kennett said...

Hi Heather

Thanks for getting in touch. This was indeed the Tom Cruwys that you knew. Wendy was his second wife.

Tom was an architectural draughtsman. He did work for a while at Dowty Rotol where he was the publicity officer. I didn't know that he'd worked on plans for the Hurricane. What was the planning office at Brockport? Perhaps you can get in touch with me by e-mail.