Agda M Osmond 1924 - still alive 2015- became known as Mame Pitchford
1924. Born Aston Sep 1924- mother also given as Osmond - illegitimately to Agnes May Osmond . Aston is Warwickshire and includes Birmingham. The father was widely assumed to be a married actor, Claude Lester
"My mum once said her ears were the shape of a key hole! She was often sent out of the room when adults were talking - but of course listened to the conversation. through the keyhole. One time when she was performing (was in a dancing troupe that travelled all over England) Mrs Pitchford turned up and accompanied Mame everywhere -she even sat on a chair in the wings and it was because Claude Lester was on the bill. Mame saw 2 girls on the other side of the stage and asked a stage hand "who are they?" He said 'Claude Lester's daughters'. I did put an enquiry on the net years ago about him and his grandson emailled me some photos. Told me about his mother and Aunt. Claude did approach Mame years later at the end of one of her shows and said to her "You don't know who I am" and Mame said she knew who he was and slammed the dressing room door in his face.: she never forgave the fact that she was the result of a fling Agda had with a married man"- Linda, daughter of Agda 1924 .
She was cared for from a baby, then adopted, legally ,1930, becoming known as Mame Pitchford, by Thomas & Charlotte Pitchford, whose eldest daughter Nellie had married John Brownlee in 1924, sister of HLO's then 'wife' & maybe wardrobe mistress May Wood Brownlee . Thomas was ~49 and Charlotte ~47 in 1924.- their youngest child James, b.1915, was then ~9, the other 3 children were 17-22. When this 1924 arrangement was reached, Henry Lewis Osmond was still living with May Brownlee- so it maybe suited all sides . When Henry run into financial difficulties around 1927, he left May Brownwood and presumably the Brownlees and the Pitchfords felt miffed! , and the formal adoption followed
"Charlotte Pitchford ran a theatrical boarding house (what time period this was I will have to ask Margaret and see if she knows). It was definitely whilst mum my was young as she had many stories about the people who stayed there: one day she went into a room (to clear the fireplace as that was her daily chore) and there was a performing little monkey sitting at the dressing table powdering its nose and it gave mum such a fright that her screams brought the neighbours in!!! So my mum was exposed to the theatrical world from early childhood."-Linda
There are two versions as to how the Pitchford family came to care for mum.
Version 1) which my mum told me, as was told to her by Charlotte Pitchford: she found Agda in the bottom drawer in a dressing room at the local theatre. One would presume Charlotte was there looking for any folk wanting digs, and that her mother Agda May was rehearsing or performing there.
Version 2) I think Margaret told me (from her mother Nellie) was that Agda was in the bottom drawer in a back room at the pub Gosford/Gosforth Arms. That Agda 1901 had brought the baby back to Middlesbrough ( Agda having been born in Birmingham).
Irene, Agda, Charlotte, HLO and Doris - June 1928.
This photo found in the possesions of Pat Owen, 1934, after she died in Canada in 2017
Thomas, Charlotte, Bert (Herbert Thomas, the eldest Pitchford child) and Agda taken in Middlesbrough c1933
What Agda has told me is that she wanted to learn to tap dance, she would watch through the window of a local dancing school and then practice the steps by herself. She badgered Charlotte to pay for lessons for her and at that stage (depression years and Thomas was out of work (had been at the steel works that built the Sydney Harbour Bridge) )so money was short. There was a family friend or relative that had a dancing school but taught Ballet, anyway some sort of deal was done and Agda went off to ballet school lessons for a couple of weeks. When the teacher arrived one day to visit Charlotte , Agda listened at the door and apparently she (with her comic sense of timing etc) had been doing all the steps in a funny way and disrupting the whole Ballet class and the teacher/friend was begging Charlotte to put Agda into the other dancing school that did Tap dancing and she would pay for Agda's lessons herself!!
So Agda learnt very early in life - If you are a big enough nuisance people will give you what you want!"- Linda
1939 Register. 185 Grange Road, Middlesborough . Agda is likely the first closed record, only being 15.
|Charlotte||Pitchford||30 Nov 1877||Female||Unpaid Domestic Duties||Married||218||2|
|Thomas||Pitchford||30 May 1874||Male||1st Hand Mixer Steel Furnace Heavy Worker||Married||218||1|
|James||Pitchford||25 Oct 1915||Male||Electric Welder Shipyard||Married||218||3|
|Sorry, this record is officially closed. Check if you can open a closed record.|
|Nellie||Brownlee||25 Jan 1904||Female||Unpaid Domestic Duties||Married||218||5|
|Sorry, this record is officially closed. Check if you can open a closed record.|
|Edna M||Atkinson (Pitchford)||01 May 1920||Female||Unpaid Domestic Duties||Married||218||4|
She remembers as a young girl going to the birthday parties, of her half aunts, Luna & Patressia Ormrod, but she thought it was because they were Nellie's nieces that she was allowed to go- no idea that her grandfather, HLO, was their father
She used the stage names Agda May Osborne, Mame Pitchford, Mame Ford, Valette Ford - have not found any newspaper articles about her
Majory Ristori was the mother of my mums partner in the duo "June and Valette" (the blonde and Brunette). The Ristori family (Harry and Majory were both from generations of theatrical families but their daughter June really didn't want to be in show business and they pushed her into a duo with mum which was very successful till Mum married Dad and left England. June and Valette appeared for a week from 1/10/1945 in Royal Hippodrome Preston- this 2 weeks after her marriage - FMP newspapers . This act performed all over England & Scotland from Aug 1943 to Sep 1946, so I thought Agda must have followed her husband out to Australia late 1946-1947 . But actually she was out in Australia by early 1946, as her first son was born there May 1946 . So the June & Vallette Act must have used a substitute for Vallette!!!
Think the above must be the 'June & Valette' act
Photo of Mame/Agda that her mother, Agda 1901, had in her possession when she died- this photo had never been seen before by Agda's children in Australia . It is thought that this photo might have been taken ~1941 when Mame joined ENSA-Enternainments National Service Association
She married Neville R B Gray Middlesborough Sep 18/9/1945 as Agda M Pitchford
1950s-1980 .On Aus Electoral Roll, Neville Richard Gray, carpenter, and Agda May Gray, home duties,are living 13 Campbell Street, Randwick, NSW
In 2014 A lady, Babs Nicholls contacted me about Henry, she is related to the Brownlee family, one of them adopted my Aunty Agda's illegitimate daughter born in 1924. My mum had told me of this event but obviously did not know of detail) she never mentioned May Brownlee and Henry's two other daughters to her, I do not think she ever met them or was told of this event in the family, Mum would have been with her grandmother aged 6 or 7 at this time. -Wendy If Agda M Osmond 1924 appeared on stage with her mother - as suggested by Wendy- this must have been in the late 1930s/1940s surely, after HLO was dead- I have not found a newspaper revue of them together .
16/9/2015. Have made contact with Linda Mcintosh, daughter of Agda & Neville Gray
"Agda/Mame never wanted to know about her birth parents - she did have physical contact twice (when she was very young) with her birth mother and shunned her and at least once with her birth father (shut the dressing room door in his face!). Her adopted family were marvellous and I think she felt any contact with the others would have been a betrayal to the Pitchfords. She had a few stage names and of course a completely different name once she married and arrived in Australia in 1946 as a war bride. Family connection has always been between Nellie and John's daughter, Margaret, who has faithfully written to my mum (her aunt) since my mum left England. I am very close to this lovely side of the family and it is Margaret's Daughter, Barbara/Babs , who gets my requests for more on this side of the family and does the extensive research. My mother is now 91 years of age and my Dad will be 93 on the 29th September. This week on the 18th will be their 70th wedding anniversary. Sadly I have had to place them into a nursing home only 8 weeks ago as their physical health as well as their dementia made it impossible for me to care for them in their own home".
Agda became known as Val/Valerie in Australia, She and Neville had 3 children: a boy, a girl & Linda Gray/McIntosh
Agda & Neville Gray 18/9/2015- 70 years married
Many thanks to Linda Gray/McIntosh for much of this information.
Also to her Pitchford 'cousin' Babs Nicholls, a grandaughter of Nellie Pitchford & an Ace researcher
Agda May Osmond- her mother
As well as the Australian family, I have a son married and living in Canada and my brother a daughter married and living in Italy!-Linda
This page gives Neville Gray's Air Force Record
This gives the full list of appearances on Electoral Rolls in Australia