The man with the elastic face, comedian Edward McMullen Ford was born in 1870 in Prahran near Melbourne, Australia, one of twelve children born to John and Mary Ford. His parents had British roots in Birmingham and Launceston and there were the almost inevitable convict ancestors on both sides.
Edward was the only one of their children to follow a stage career but was at first apprenticed to be a bricklayer and tuck pointer where he learnt to amuse his workmates by pulling faces at the foreman.
In his early entertainment days he was a member of the Lynch Family of Bell Ringers and made his first public appearance in 1886 at the Nugget Theatre, Melbourne. Ten years later he was appearing at the Grand Opera House, Sydney.
He was first noted in Britain at the Metropolitan Music Hall, Edgware Road, London in December 1905. He was fondly known as Teddy Ford whenever in his homeland but would become more widely known in Europe and America as the Ed. E. Ford ‘The Australian Sundowner’.
In November 1908 he was initiated into Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 and he appeared in the Royal Command Performance Garden Party finale at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in 1912.
Two years later, and by now also known as ‘The Paradoxical Physiognomist’, he was back in Australia on a tour that included the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney and Perth. He was in Perth when the Great War started and he boarded the first ship back to England, but an old arm injury prevented him from enlisting.
It was suggested he might use his talents instead to entertain wounded troops which he did with great enthusiasm. He also raised money for war charities by appearing in concerts and performing and selling monologues and war poems, many of them written by George Arthur. By January 1915 he had already raised enough to send 11,000 cigarettes and 24 pipes to wounded soldiers earning a letter of thanks from Lady Ripon, the instigator and champion of many war charities.
Later in 1915 he toured in South Africa where he continued his fund raising but he was back at the Clapham Grand to appear in the 1915/16 pantomime, Aladdin. By February 1919 he had raised over £19,000 in total for war charities and prisoners of war.
In October 1919, with his ‘war duties’ completed, he embarked for America aboard the liner ‘Celtic’ to work for Bert Levy. He was so successful during this original ten week tour in vaudeville that he stayed on and spent most of the next ten years there, “a man of many wanderings” as his friend and ventriloquist A. C. Astor referred to him. He registered a musical called ‘The Dinkum Bonzer Boys from Woolloomooloo’ about the Dock area of Sydney that was home to criminal elements in the early 20th century.
In July 1921 he married Adie Everard, professionally known as Ida May, in Winnipeg, Canada. He returned to Britain in 1929 and continued his career here for a couple of years before he retired back to Australia in 1931 and he died there in a private hospital in East Malvern on October 2nd 1941.