Leo Sterling – Freemason Entertainer

Leonard Alexander Kite was born in Portsmouth in 1873. He followed his father into the Royal Marine Artillery and in 1891 he was based at the RMA Barracks at Eastney, Portsmouth, as a drummer. Using the professional name of Leo Sterling he was first noted as a music hall performer in 1897 when he appeared as a comedian, dancer, and strolling musician and he toured with Graham Falcon’s pantomime company in their 1897/98 production of Dick Whittington. He also secured several long engagements at the prestigious Royal Aquarium in Westminster. Having mastered the post-horn, cornet, trombone, and bugle, as well as the drums, he developed an instrumental speciality act that also included music, dance and comedy.

In 1899 he was on his second tour with the ventriloquist ‘Lieut Walter Cole’ alongside a young contralto vocalist called Adeline Yohlo. Adeline’s real name was Mary Adelaide Love and she also appeared professionally as Addie Love. She was first noted playing the ‘Queen of the Fairies’ in an amateur production of Iolanthe in her home town of Hastings, where her parents Harry and Mary ran the Pilot Inn Public House on Queens Road. Her early act as a professional was singing impersonations of female celebrities of the day.

Leo and Addie married in West Ham, East London, in 1900 and performed together as the sketch artistes ‘Sterling and Love’. Leo was a member of the Beneficent Order of Terriers and became a Freemason when he was initiated into Liverpool Dramatic Lodge No.1609 in May 1902.

Leo and Addie’s sketches were often built around Leo’s playing of wind instruments; sketches like ‘Fox Hunting’ in which his post-horn was to the fore and a military one called ‘The Bugler and the Nurse’. Others included the nautical sketch called ‘Music Afloat’ and ‘Discord and Harmony’ set in domesticity.

They were very busy between the turn of the century and the Great War and included a tour of South Africa. They also went to Australia where they found even greater success. They were in Australia constantly during the Great War and into the 1920s, and in much the same way as Arthur Hemsley and Elsa Brull, they made Australia their base and eventually their home.

In Australia Leo would need little persuasion to appear at charity events, especially for children, and would make much fun while encouraging youngsters to come up on stage and attempt to play his instruments. In 1949, at the age of 76, he embarked on a tour of New South Wales in support of the ‘Far West Children’s Health Scheme’ and he continued working with his musical novelties acts into his eighties, both on stage and on radio, and became known as ‘The Grand Old Man of Variety’. In September 1954 a Sydney based newspaper, the ‘Cumberland Argus’ wrote “Leo Sterling is a unique artist, probably the oldest active ‘trouper’ in Australia today. His act is an unusual one for he performs with a set of original post-horns that have long been museum pieces. He plays the hunting and coaching melodies with which he made his name on the playbills of London theatres in days gone by”.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748

Henry Barnard – Freemason Entertainer

The first in our series on Freemasons in the entertainment business of yesteryear.

Henry Barnard, theatre proprietor, variety agent, fishmonger and Freemason.

Henry Barnard, theatre proprietor, variety agent, fishmonger and Freemason was born in South London in 1867. He was a fishmonger by trade and despite his various other sources of income, and theatrical activities with more grandiose names, he was always content to list himself as such. He lived his adult life in 43 Marsham Street, Pimlico. It was from these premises that he conducted his fishmonger business and, in the early 1900s, from where he operated as a variety agent successfully sending packages of variety artistes’ on tours to Cape Town, South Africa.

Harry was also a director of the Camberwell Palace of Varieties, a venue that was often used for meetings of the Music Hall Home Fund and their charity matinees. He was associated with the Music Hall Home Fund for almost twenty years and at different times held the positions of chairman, secretary, vice president and treasurer. It was during his involvement with the Fund that the very first Music Hall Home was founded for performers, even before the more successful Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund & Institution (VABF&I), which survives to this day, was established at Brinsworth House, TwickenhamThe Music Hall Home Fund’s first residential premises were in York Road, Waterloo. They later moved to a larger house in Camberwell and finally to Gypsy Hill near the Crystal Palace.

After the VABF&I Home in Twickenham was founded by Joe Elvin the two establishments ran in parallel but the first Music Hall Home struggled financially and the notion of amalgamation was muted, and was probably inevitable. 1913 was not to be a happy year for Harry. On April 25th 1913, there was an especial general meeting at Three Stags Hotel to pass the resolution to amalgamate the Music Hall Home with the Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund and Institution Home at Brinsworth House. There was much disappointment and concern for the future among those attendees who had worked so hard to see the Gypsy Hill home established but as the current treasurer, Harry, who had himself contributed £2/10/00 to the ‘rival’ VABF&I fund was tasked with the liquidation and transferring of all assets and funds from the Gypsy Hill Home to the VABF&I at Twickenham.

Harry was also one-time president of the Terriers Association, a fraternity which had been founded in 1890 by a group of performers who had not been able to join The Grand Order of Water Rats because of their numerically restrictive membership rules at the time. At the time of their transition to the ’Benevolent Order of Terriers’ in 1913 the new rules excluded him as an active member. This was another disappointment so soon after the liquidation of the Music Hall Home, but sweetened perhaps at the last Terriers Association banquet when he was presented with an illuminated address and a Terriers’ Jewel as a mark of appreciation for all that he had done.

Harry was introduced to Freemasonry by friends in Pimlico Lodge No.1772 which had been consecrated in 1878 and had initially met, at the Morpeth Arms Tavern just along the road from his fishmonger’s premises. By the time Harry was initiated in October 1904 the Lodge met at the Victoria Mansions Restaurant in Victoria Street, a leisurely ten minute stroll in the other direction. Harry embraced Freemasonry and in November 1906 he was listed as a founder member of Lord Desborough Lodge No.3200. He happily paid the qualifying fees to become a life governor of the Royal Masonic Institute for Boys and the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls (since amalgamated) and he was also vice president of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institute.

He and his wife Esther, née Phillips, were married in 1890 and had four children. Their only son Henry Phillips Barnard, or Harry Jnr. traded as a fishmonger, initially from 43 Marsham Street and then moved along the road to larger premises at No. 58 from where he traded as a ‘high class’ fishmonger. Harry Jnr. not only followed in his father’s fishmonger footsteps but also followed him into Freemasonry when he was initiated into Lord Desborough Lodge in February 1921. He was also a member of Grenfell Chapter No.3077 at Taplow. Harry Snr. died at his home on July 31st 1922 aged 55.

© Hungerford Lodge 4748