photograph: Mr T.E. Dunville off-stageThere are so many comedians in History that were some of the founding fathers as to what the genre is today. According to the history books, the first proper stand up comedian wasn’t until the 1960’s, however there are people who performed a type of comedy that definitely helped develop it into what it is today. Over the next few weeks we are going to have a look at a handful of comedians from the 1800s that were popular at the time and were leading the way with laughter. Sadly some of them had unfortunate endings to their life but their work should still be commemorated. We start with our first music based comedian today – T E Dunville.

Thomas Edward Wallen, who went by the stage name of T.E.Dunville was onephotograph: Mr T.E. Dunville on-stage of the leading eccentric comedians on the music stage in the late 1800s.  His stage surname of Dunville came from the whisky firm of that name. Before performing in London, he was a success in the North. His first shows in the capital happened at the Middlessex Music Hall in Drury Lane, Gatti’s Charing Cross and Foresters’, Mile End.

He became an instant success in London and was known for his music, acrobatics and legmania on stage. His main song was ‘Lively on, Lively Off’ by Charles Osborne. He earned over £100 a week which was a lot in those times and even America wanted him but he was always too busy to travel. Here is the lyrics from one of the songs he performed, He Felt A Draught

There once was a hen with scraggy little legs
She’d got a mania for always laying eggs
Sundays, weekdays, she sat in the straw
All day long she’d lay ’em by the score
So Farmer Giles he tied her in the barn
The put a fiz-gig underneath her starn
Then set light to a tricky little fuse
Went round next day that chicken to peruse.

Chorus: She’d gone – sky bunked
And how the people laughed
That farmer gave a fearful yell
He kicked and cussed and swore like hell
For the hen had gone and the barn as well
And he felt a draught.

Now JIm Killcooper he was a marine
He took charge of a powder magazine
One cold night, while covered by his cloak
Jim Killcooper thought he’d have a smoke
So he got his pouch and, filling his clay
Lit that pipe, and threw the match away
The relief guard came and looked around for him
They found his nose, but they never found Jim.

Chorus: He’d gone – sky bunked
And how the people laughed
They found two ribs and one jaw bone
A pair of pants with the broad arrow shown
But he and the magazine had flown
For Jim felt a draught.

Bill Macdoodle had a pretty wife
But she led him a hurricane life
They had a lodger named Micky Donahue
Wore Mac’s clothes and never paid a sou
One day Mac came early home to tea
Saw his wife on Mr Micky’s knee
Wote a form out telling him to quit
Went home next night – nearly had a fit.

Chorus: They’d gone – sky bunked
And how the people laughed
His lodger and his wife had crossed the foam
They’d chopped up all the happy home
And all they’d left was an old tooth-comb
And he felt a draught.

Malachi Fatfoot had never had a wash
Till he went to Pong-on-the-Splosh
One fine day he thought he’d have a dip – so
Behind a big rock he began to strip
Then he popped into the water with a swish
Bathed his feet and poisoned all the fish
Went for his clothes, but couldn’t see ’em near
Said Malachi, ‘Oh, good Gordon’s Beer!’

Chorus: They’d gone – sky bunked
And how the people laughed
His clothes had guyed with the tide, you know
So he went back in a sack – that’s so
And what with the fleas and the breeze – what ho
He felt a draught.

His last appearance  was at the Grand, Clapham in 1924, the next day he disappeared and his body was found two days later in the Thames at the Caversham Lock near Reading. Apparently in 1924 the movies took over the music hall and he overheard someone call him a has been and that is why he killed himself. If you visit the Music Museum in Coventry, it pays homeage to the star as he was born there.

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