Doris Ethel Osmond 1912-2003

1912. Doris Ethel Osmond was born 3/12/1912 at 4 Saint David Street, Gelly, Pontyfridd to Henry Lewis Osmond and Ethel Beard. . Henry was producing Goody Two Shoes in the Opera House in Derry that Christmas. The informant, not until 9/4/1913, was given as Louisa A Bird, same address- she was the wife of William Owen Bird, eldest son of Catherine Bird , who lived very close by at 1 Cooperative Street, run a theatrical boarding house and brought Doris up . Gelly is ~12 k NW of Pontypridd - map



4 St David Street has now been knocked down, but 6-11 are still standing

As her mother was a star attraction in her father's theatre company, Doris was left in "Pontypridd" under the care of the boarding house landlady, Catherine Bird, who also had a younger lady Lizzie as a companion/servant(actually her adopted daughter) . Doris regarded Lizzie as her Mum, but was disillusioned one day when she told her friends that her Auntie Ethel was coming to stay- "that's not your Auntie, she's your Mum"![ this likely before July 1916] . She never called Lizzie Mum again, but still always regarded her as her mother. And the fact that her birth mother, Ethel, died in 1918 from a botched abortion only reinforced that feeling.

" Doris had a lovely childhood, well loved and spoilt.    Despite being the rascal he was Henry did always provide for her.    Doris always called Catherine, Nain (pronounced nine), which is Welsh for grandmother.   Lizzie had been a Doctor Bernardo's girl, adopted by Catherine Bird to help run the boarding house.   Lizzie did marry, a Frederick Owen (who had a son Phillip).    My mum always considered Lizzie to be her 'real' mother and loved her deeply all her life.   She nursed her down in Wales when she had cancer of the stomach.   And she helped her buy her house in Port Talbot.  When Lizzie died she left the house to my mum with Fred having the right of occupancy for his lifetime.  That actually came as a big shock to him, as you can imagine"- Dolly did maintain a relationship with some of Nain's grandchildren and she always called them her cousins.- Gaynor


doris3 .doris1 .doris2

. .doris-welsh .doris-words

Photos in Doris' belongings of her childhood- the little Welsh girl photo sent to her father, HLO

1916. A sister was born in Alexandria, Scotland: Irene May Osmond. She was brought up in Bipsham, Blackpool by her paternal grandparents. A photo of her 'mama' with baby Irene was sent to Pontypridd - this on Irene's page

Family myth had it that Doris was left in the boarding house because she screamed so much when her parents were about to take her away: she may well have done, but they would still have taken her had they truly wanted to- leaving her in care was advantageous for Henry as he could then have Ethel performing full time for him. But he always supported the upbringing of Doris financially. The story told to both Doris and Irene was that their mother had died of Spanish flu - but they later learnt the truth

1921C. Doris Osmond Bird, 8 yrs 7mths, Adopted daughter, born Glamorgan, Ysfrad, school, is living with Catherine Bird, 61, Elizabeth Bird(Lizzie), 26, and Thomas Bird, 27 yrs 6mths. underground miner.1 Cooper Street, Ton Pentre, Rhondda -less than a km from Gelli, where t she was born and where the Birds were living in 1911


I doubt if there had been a legal adoption

Apparently Doris & Irene performed in 'Babes in the Wood" with the company - seemingly either Christmas 1920 or Christmas 1926, both Burnley: Doris then 8/14, Irene 4/10.


Doris with her father- Date on the card 30th March 1928.  Message "From Doris to Gwennie"   Gwennie was mummy's childhood friend, with whom she stayed a close friend all her life.

1928. Doris danced on the stage with the company. "Doris and Irene later formed a sister act, they were both dancers". Have found just one reference to their act as the "Osmond Sisters"- this in 1928


Doris as a teenager- likely ~ 1928-30. Written on the back of this is: 'To Mam , with best love from Doris' - & Mam must have been Lizzie

Apparently, when Doris left school, maybe 1926/7, she said she wanted to be a servant, as she liked the uniforms they wore. So her father purchased the required uniform for her, but she soon discovered she did not like the work involved, and toured with her father instead: but around the time, after Oct 1928, he was selling Fish & Chips in Havverford West - so maybe she was employed by another theatrical company that needed dancers. Look her up on FMP newspapers

Her father took another 'wife' and there were 2 more children:


Doris, Lena?. ?. HLO & Irene - cerca 1928?

1930. Doris E Osmond, aged 17, married William George Williams, a solicitor, Pontypridd Mar 1930 . She never danced after this time. What age was he -roughly? - maybe 45??. I wonder if her father attended her wedding??

She lived in Cardiff with WGW and had her own car.  Think of it- the just 17 with her own car.   She tells the story she wanted a baby (she really was a silly young girl and she admits to that, having been so very badly spoilt by Nain and Lizzie- she always regretted that and later vowed that if she did ever have children they'd never be spoilt - and believe you me Pat and I never were).  Anyway, George categorically refused to have any children.   Apparently he had a trunk full of the bills his father had paid for his education which had cost a fortune and he wasn't going down that road.    So Mummy said that if she couldn't have a baby she'd have a car.   Good compromise really and much more sensible.   And so she got her car.   Ironically in her '50's when we lived in Brighton she had to take a driving test.   She'd never had a lesson before in her life.  But she did pass first time and when she and Daddy went to Canada she had to take another test. She told the examiner there that she'd been driving for 53 years.   However that didn't cut any ice with him,  she still had to take the test, but he did pass her first time.   She continued to drive until she was nearly 90.   Always loved her car.

This marriage was a disaster and they soon separated, but George, as he was called, would not give her a divorce.

Around this time the sisters Doris & Irene lost touch- Irene thought Doris had gone to America - I wonder why? They had lost touch by the time her father died as Doris did not attemd his funeral in January 1936

1931-1933. Doris met John Rigg Owen who worked in Barclays Bank, Barry. He had married in 1925, but was divorced when he met Doris. The Bank Manager found out that he was seeing a married lady and told him it must stop: John Rigg Owen told him where to stuff his job and he and Doris moved down to London.

1933. Patricia Owen was born Hounslow Dec 1933. Doris thought it better to register her as Patricia Williams but John Rigg refused and insisted on Patricia carrying his name of Owen.

1936. W George Williams died of a hernia- could he have been 51?? - and within 3 months, on 11/6/1936 Doris and John Rigg Owen were married in Brentford Register Office.


John Rigg Owen, 32, journalist, divorced husband of Pamela Gertrude Owen, formerly Luen (Owen?) Spender[ likely this word is Spinster!] , married Doris Ethel Williams, 23, widow. Both living at 75 Clifford Road, Hounslow. Fathers given as John Owen, quarry proprietor, retired, and Henry Lewis Osmond, deceased, theatrical producer - he had just died on 4/1/1936

Doris married just 4 days before her sister Irene married on 15/6/1936 Lambeth- I think they had already lost touch with each other by then

W George Williams left his money to his housekeeper, - seemingly no probate - but Doris contested the Will, and an agreement was settled out of court, she receiving a considerable sum of money . Any idea how much?

1939 Register. Doris E Owen is living 43 Lampton Road, Heston & Isleworth with her husband. & the 1 Officially Closed record will be that of daughter Patricia.

Doris E Owen 03 Dec 1912 Female Unpaid Domestic Duties Married 67 2
John R Owen 14 Mar 1904 Male Scientific Instrument Making ??? Married

1947. Gaynor Owen was born 23/2/1947

1982 Doris & John Rigg Owen moved to Canada

1985. John Rigg Owen, almost 81, died 1/2/1985 Victoria, Vancouver Island

2003. Doris Ethel Owen died 11/5/2003 Napanee, Ontario, Canada

Their eldest daughter, Pat, died in 2017

I am sure that Doris would have known[ her half sisters]  Agda, 1901, and Marjory (Madge), 1894- Wendy . 



I did know of Ethel's abortion, she died in Leigh but lived in Bispham at  the time with Henry and his parents. 
  My mum always told us she died during the 1918 flu epidemic, 
 I suppose the family did not want her to know the truth  at such a young age.  However she did find out later and told us.

 From daughter Pat: 
 One story Dolly told was of an occasion when his Comedian did't show up (drunk in a pub) so Father donned the   costume-
-magician in Alladin- had the script pasted up around the stage, and strutted around cleverly reading off acting in role".
Have not found a press cutting for  him performing in Aladdin! 

 Pat also recalled Dolly saying that Henry didn't believe that the   movies would ever take over from Vaudeville, which of
 course was   somewhat of his undoing, as they did.  For such an entrepreneur being   'stuck' in a concept seems so unlike
 him, as running any kind of   business one constantly has one's eye on the future and change.    I suppose fundamentally he
 was always a theatrical, it was his life, how could it all possibly ever change?