Irene May Osmond 1916-2005

. . irene-1937. . . . .

. Irene , aged 19, 1935

1916. Irene May Osmond was born 1/7/1916 at Rosebank, Waterside, Alexandria to Henry Lewis Osmond & Ethel Sarah Beard . Alexandria ~30k NW of Glasgow. Her father given as Theatre manager, present at the birth, her mother given as Ethel Glyde Osmond . Certificate states they married 2/6/1907 in Cardiff!!- a lie! Registered by the father on 21/7/1916


She was their 2nd child, her sister Doris Ethel Osmond 1912 was brought up by a boarding house keeper in Pontyfridd. She must have visited there with her father, and by 1928 was in a dancing act with Doris, as the Osmond Sisters

irene-ethel .

Irene with her mother Ethel in 1916. Photo maybe sent to Doris in Pontypridd- as its says 'from Mama & Irene'

1918. Her mother, Ethel, died during an abortion in Lancashire on 25/10/1918 - her death was explained as being due to Spanish flu, but d.c does state Abortion, 2 months .

1917-1925. Irene lived with her paternal grandmother in Bipsham, attached to the north of Blackpool. Her father owned 2 large cottages: Gran lived in one and the other was rented by the Clegg family, very poor & never paid the rent. Likely the address was 6 Church Road- father there in 1918 when Ethel died and in 1922 when her grandfather, Henry Hopwood Ormrod, died . Her half sister Agda was also living there and used to catch the bus to Blackpool, where she was a Tiller Girl at the Winter Gardens.


1921C . Irene May Ormrod, 4, b. Alexandria, is living with her father & his, of the moment ,leading lady, May Wood Brownlee, to whom he is not married, her half sister Agnes, her grandparents & her father´s wardrobe manager at 12 Church Road Bipsham. .


Aged only about 5 she went to a Catholic convent, a boarding school, in Layton for a couple of years. Then disaster hit and the Old town hall that her father had bought for £1000 burnt down with all his scenery & wardrobes. Henry was in Plymouth at the time- he was indeed there February 1922, but she says she was 9, so rather 1924? - and received a telegram . At this point she seemed to have been withdrawn from the Convent, and sent to a terrible school- see below - in Liverpool . Eventually went back to her gran - so she still alive ~1924 - and attended Red Bank Council School


  Message on the front of the card says "To my darling sister from Irene".  And on the reverse side in her handwriting, verbatim:-

"From Rene to Doris with love this is my school cloths I have on.  Love from Irene to Doris your loving sister".  No date, but with a stamp mark from a Durham photography shop. Her step mother was running a pub in Middlesborough- 25 miles away- 1922-1927, so guess this photo taken ~1925, she being ~9

Aged about 11/12- probably spring 1927 when her father left May Wood Brownlee, she went on tour with her father, Agda also touring with him, & attended a different school each week, then performed with Gertie Girtana until she became too tall & then joined her father in Haverford West. in late 1928

 She used to say her grandmother was of the Catholic Faith 
  She always spoke of her dad with great affection, most of her stories were  about the shows she had been in. 
 She remembered that he had written  musical revues, she would sing the song from "Miss Plaster of Paris".
She lived  in Haverford West with HLO in a caravan on a farm and spent most  of her days peeling potatoes for the fish shop.
  Agda had taught her and Doris dancing and my mum became (I have been  told)an exceptionally good tap dancer.
Mum would have been 13/14 when she was a dainty maid- thus ~1929 , but Henry seemingly not on tour  1929-1931  
   When Henry got back on tour he found Irene her first engagement as a  dancer with "Gertie Girtana and her 
eight dainty maids".  Gertie was only 5ft tall so when Mum became 5ft 1" she had to leave the  troupe: this I think when 
Irene was ~11/12, so ~ 1927-1928- difficult to determine when exactly she performed with Gertie. 
  Above from Wendy
Doris, Agda 1924, Charlotte Pitchford, Henry & Irene- 19/6/1928

When she was old enough she pursued her own career. Danced as a sister act, probably just the once, - in Babes in the Wood? - with Doris [ their father put on a production of this in 1927, but no reference to them on the bill] , went on to become, ~1933, a Sherman Fisher Girl at The London Palladium. She made two films whilst with them, "Stars on Parade", 1936, one can see the Sherman Fisher Girls in it on YouTube, and Ship Mates O' Mine- can hear the song on YouTube : cannot find the year a film was made .

Interestingly, her Memoirs do not talk about her sister Doris 1912, with whom she apparently performed as the Osmond Sisters, one known time being at Burnley May 1928. But Wendy says that Agda taught both Doris & Irene dancing , so the two true sisters must have known each other well before 1928. But likely never spent very long together

Irene adored her father, she did not know of his ladies and all the children- just, presumably of Marjory & Agda, and of Doris . But obviously also came across Luna 1923, and presumably Patreesia 1927 too - from photo above. So likely only half brother Leslie 1909 who she knew nothing about

~1933. Irene became a Sherman Fisher dancer at the London Palladium:


1933 photo of the Sherman Fisher girls rehearsing their Bunny act

1936. Her father died Pontypridd on 4/1/1936. She was still in touch with him, as her name, along with those of Madge (Marjorie) & Aggie are on an obituary in "The Stage"

She met, at the Palladium, Kenneth Walter Watson, a professional & gifted pianist. They married.

1936 . in Lambeth Register office on 15/6/1936 . An M. Osmond a witness - I am dubious that this could be Madge, as she had been Madge Balmer since 1916, and christian names of ladies are normally given . So, who was M.Osmond ??- maybe Agda 1901 who was registered as May? She living 26, Brighton Terrace, Brixton, he St Oswalds Avenue, Pontefract


Irene married just 4 days after her sister Doris married on 11/6/1936 Lambeth- I think they had already lost touch with each other by then

1939 Register. 89 Dragon Parade, Harrogate

Irene M Watson 01 Jul 1916 Female Unpaid Domestic Duties Married 194 2
Kenneth W Watson 01 Mar 1913 Male Pianist & Musical Director Married

Irene & Ken had 2 children: Wendy 1940 , Ted [ George E] 1943 . Wendy married Charles Chapman and Ted became a classical musician[clarinet] and prolific composer- Some facts from Wendy

1967. Kenneth W Watson died - from cancer

1976. Irene was reunited with her half sister, Agda 1901, with whom she had seemingly lost touch soon after the war. The two then lived together in Irene's house in Pontefract . Agda's husband, Reginald Tulloh Hatchett, had died in 1973- but they may have been separated by then

2005. Irene May Watson, dancer, retired, aged 89, died 24/11/2005 Pontefract. Interesting and unusual that she is described as dancer-retired on the d.c. - she would not have danced professionally for 69 years!


irene-1960 .irene-1964 .irene-1980

After she died Wendy discovered an account Irene had written on her childhood, covering the years 1920-~1928- memoirs