BACK HOME AGAIN (1980 – 1984)

The early 1980s were still busy years for the Booths. They appeared in several TV talk shows. The studio audiences were made up of many of their old fans who were delighted to see their favourites still looking very glamorous indeed. Anne turned 70 in 1980, while Webster was 78. It looked as though they were as much in love then as the day they married in 1938. In late 1981 Webster’s health began to fail. He had to wait until January before he could have surgery done at the Royal Liverpool Hospital on 15 January 1982. He was not looking forward to spending his eightieth birthday in hospital.

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The early 1980s were still busy years for the Booths. They appeared in several TV talk shows. The studio audiences were made up of many of their old fans who were delighted to see their favourites still looking very glamorous indeed. Anne turned 70 in 1980, while Webster was 78. It looked as though they were as much in love then as the day they married in 1938. In late 1981 Webster’s health began to fail. He had to wait until January before he could have surgery done at the Royal Liverpool Hospital on 15 January 1982. He was not looking forward to spending his eightieth birthday in hospital.

At home. 1980.
10 February 1980 – with Jess Yates and his girlfriend, Katie Brooks.
May 1980
3 to 10 May 1980. 35th anniversary of Victory in Europe.
30 June 1980. Report by Gordon Irving in South African newspapers.
This was a popular presentation which Anne and Webster presented around the country. Each took a turn to tell their individual life story and sang a few songs together to round the evening off.
19 September 1980 – Anne and Webster had coached Peter and Jackie while they were appearing in a summer show in Llandudno.
September 1980
29 January 1981 on the Russell Harty show. Webster had just had his 78th birthday a week earlier.
Some of the elderly fans in the studio audience.
6 February 1981 – Report from Gordon Irving in South African newspapers.
8 January 1982. In a letter to me, Webster referred to the article by Gordon Irving.
5 March 1981 – another appearance on Russell Harty’s TV show.
29 May 1981. Royal Variety Performance, Blackpool.
After the performance. Webster can be seen in the far left of the photo. When they were presented to Prince Charles he asked whether they were married!
13 August 1981. The Time of Your Life.
At the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party for Jean and Maurice Buckley – 1981. I used this photo for the cover of my book, Sweethearts of Song.
Webster at the Buckley’s Silver Anniversary party, North Wales.
September 1981
1982 – review of a reissue of The Gondoliers from 1932.
1983 Border Television
Only a Rose TV interview 1983 Penrhyn Bay and Llandudno.
1983 Only a Rose TV interview
With the Firmanis – Only a Rose TV interview 1983.
Visiting the Buckleys. 1983.

Early on 22 June, Anne’s seventy-fourth birthday I received a call from Janet Swart, whom I had first encountered as Janet Goldsborough, singing in Mrs MacDonald-Rouse’s concert party. She was a regular listener to BBC World Service and knew of my association with Anne and Webster. She was thoughtful enough to let me know that it had been announced on News about Britain that morning that Webster had died in the early hours of the 21 June. I will always be grateful to Janet for making that call to me, as I would have been completely devastated to have heard such news in the media. I had been expecting him to die sooner or later, but it was still a great shock and deep sadness to me to hear the sad news of his death.

Webster had been at home for five or six weeks when he tripped on the doorstep as he was hurrying to get into the car with Anne to drive to the local park to take Bonnie for a walk. He suffered a severe blow to his head and was bleeding profusely. Anne struggled to get him into the car to take him to hospital, where he was treated in Casualty and sent home again, much to Anne’s consternation as she thought he should have been admitted to hospital after his fall.


During the night he developed pneumonia. She phoned the doctor who refused to make a night call to see him, so it was only in the morning that he was indeed admitted into hospital, as he should have been on the previous day. Anne stayed with him throughout the day. When she left in the evening she asked the staff to let her know at once if he was deteriorating so that she could return to the hospital right away. Sadly nobody phoned her when his condition deteriorated. She had spent a sleepless night, and phoned the hospital herself in the early hours of the morning, only to be told that his condition had worsened and he would probably not last until she reached the hospital.

Webster Booth, one of Britain’s finest tenors, died alone in his hospital bed in the early hours of 21 June 1984. Anne was devastated at his death, and furious at the poor medical treatment he had received during his last illness. The only thing that kept her going in the dark days after his death was Bonnie, the beloved Yorkshire terrier who had to be fed and walked each day.

22 June 1984.
25 June 1984. Obituary. Times
25 June 1984 – Rand Daily Mail.
28 June 1984 The Stage.
Write-up in the North Wales Weekly news – 28 June 1984, mentioning Jean Buckley who, at that time was a close friend and had done a great deal to help Anne during Webster’s final illness.

Babs Wilson-Hill was abroad at the time of Webster’s death so Anne delayed the cremation service until she arrived home. This placed an extra strain on Anne as she waited for the funeral to take place. Obituaries appeared in the national newspapers and once again there were mountains of post, this time with letters of condolence from friends and fans who remembered Webster with affection. There were far too many letters to answer personally so Anne had a letter of thanks printed to be sent to everyone who had written and it was Jean and Maurice who helped her to address all these letters

Peter Firmani, a tenor from Rotherham whom they had coached, sang I’ll Walk Beside You at the cremation service. Webster’s son Keith was heartbroken at his father’s death and found the service very harrowing. Jean and Maurice Buckley held a reception at their home for those who had attended the funeral.

The Star – 29 June 1984 – Gordon Irving, the UK correspondent for the Star Tonight wrote the obituary. He had it wrong about Webster being divorced by his first wife. In fact, he was divorced by his second wife with the stage name of Paddy Prior, whose name was indeed Dorothy Annie Alice Prior. He had divorced his first wife, mother of his son, Keith, Winifred Keey, in 1931 due to her adultery.
21 July 1984 – Only a Rose repeated.
Memorial Service. St Paul’s Covent Garden.
30 October 1984 – Memorial Service, St Paul’s -Anne and Evelyn Laye.
30 October 1984 – Memorial Service, St Paul’s -Anne and Evelyn Laye.

A memorial service was arranged for Webster at noon on 20 October 1984 at St Paul’s Church, the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. Evelyn Laye read the lesson; David Welsby a BBC producer from Pebble Mill, Birmingham, with whom they had worked, did the Appreciation; Peter Firmani sang I’ll Walk Beside You once again. Despite Jean and Maurice’s kindness to Anne and Webster, they were not invited to this service.

The Reverend John Arrowsmith officiated at the service, assisted by the Precentor of Lincoln Cathedral, Canon David Rutter, who represented the choir school where Webster had spent his youth as a chorister. Webster’s ashes were buried in the ground of the Garden of Remembrance at St Paul’s. Keith, who had been so upset at the cremation service, decided not to attend the Memorial Service as he could not bear to go through another harrowing farewell to his father. Pictures of Anne and Evelyn Laye appeared in several national newspapers. Anne said that it was only when Webster’s ashes were buried in the grounds of the Churchyard that she finally realised that he was indeed dead and would never return.

Anne and Webster’s names had been linked for nearly fifty years. They had been married for forty-five years and, unlike most married couples who worked in different places, they had hardly spent any time apart. There were no children from the marriage. Anne was to live on her own in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay for another nineteen years.

Jean Collen 27 May 2019.

All extracts in this post are taken from my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Updated by Jean Collen on 26 July 2019.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES: MAY 1963

He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.

1 May – I wallow in “advanced depression” today. How will I manage after these two halcyon weeks are over? Have lunch with mum and then go to the studio and sing in that hallowed atmosphere. Go to Mrs S, chat to Elaine and teach Corrie Bakker.

2 May – Go to the studio, have lunch there and go to the lunch hour concert. I meet Webster in town and he asks me to put money in the meter for him which I do while he panics and goes to the AA to renew his subscription. He tells me he really enjoyed himself on Tuesday night. I’m so pleased. Colleen sings well but the next two are not so good. He sings duets with the last pupil. He is going to Lord Lurgan’s for dinner tonight and tells me all about him. He makes a right carry on about getting himself “tarted up” for the occasion. Tomorrow is probably my last accompanying day. I am sad.

3 May – Webster phones in the morning to tell me that Lucille isn’t coming this afternoon – I am glad! I go into the studio and entertain Mr Knowles-Lewis (who won the hymn competition last year) until Webster arrives. We have Norma and Selwyn. Anne phones to say that she is home safely and quite exhausted. . The others come and go and then all the heaven of two lovely weeks is finished. Webster thanks me and says he loved having me play for him and if Anne doesn’t feel up to coming in tomorrow he’ll phone me. He takes me home in his car for the very last time. He says quite pensively that, “I’ll miss my Sylvia Pass next week.” We part until Tuesday when I will return to being an ordinary pupil once again.

4 May – I feel sad that my two wonderful weeks are over. I go into Mrs S and have a theory lesson. The choir arrives and we are stooges for two people endeavouring to pass the class teachers’ exam. I have a chat with the TCL secretary and see dear old Uncle Mac for the last time.

I phone Ruth in the afternoon and she says Webster raved and raved about me during her lesson this morning, saying how good I was at accompanying and how the experience has boosted my ego and how he loved having dinner with me and my parents. She says Anne regarded him very coldly when he spoke so fulsomely about me! I phone Anne in the afternoon and we talk for a whole hour about everything under the sun. She tells me that they would have loved to retire to a smallholding in Devon but there wasn’t enough money to do so. I don’t have the impression that she is annoyed with me in any way. I listen to Webster at night.

7 May – Webster phones to remind me to fill in my form for the Trinity diploma exam which I have already done. Go to singing and Anne is looking a little tired. She says she didn’t like all the self-centred South African people she met on her trip around the country with Leslie Green. She says she will be a step-grandmother soon as Webster’s son’s wife is going to have a baby in December. We work at the unaccompanied folk song. Webster tells me that Uncle Mac is going to be doing the exams in September. They had him to dinner on Sunday.

8 May – Work at harmony and go to town and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to SS studios and have a harmony lesson. Mummy phones in the middle of it to say that Webster phoned and wants me to audition at the Brooke on Saturday morning. There is a picture of them in the paper. Phone Anne at night and she says that BB is interested in hearing me but as this is a private audition I mustn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. She says she felt she had to do something for me after our chat on Saturday.

10 May – Go to dentist and have lunch with Mum and then a gruelling harmony lesson. Go to singing and Webster gives me tea. Anne and I go over Gypsy Moon for the audition. Anne says, “You’re a beautiful girl and if you were my daughter I’d be very proud of you.” Go over Father of Heav’n and Webster says he’s playing Kath’s record of it tomorrow night. Anne wishes me a lot of luck and is pleased to hear that I enjoyed their autobiography. She tells me to phone tomorrow night.

11 May – Go for audition at the Brooke Theatre and give Colleen a lift there. We go in and feel nervous. Colleen sings well and should get a part. I sing fairly well and Brian Brooke says I could have a small part which will give me some experience. I go to Mrs S afterwards and sing in ensemble. We see A Touch of Mink. I phone Anne at night and she is pleased and thinks I should take up his offer. I listen to Webster’s Great Voices – he plays Kath and Harry Lauder and talks about Bel Canto.

13 May – Work hard and go to SABC at night. See John Steenkamp and Mrs S. Ruth is there and we work hard with Chris Lamprecht.

Great Voices 13 May 1963

14 May – Work hard. Go to singing in the afternoon. Little boy is having a lesson before me. Anne comes into the kitchen on the verge of tears to moan to me about the child. Webster is more tolerant. She tells me to watch out for Brian Brooke as he’s a wolf – the younger, the better! Sing Massenet and go through the unaccompanied song with Webster which goes well. Norma comes after me looking heavenly and theatrical.

15 May – Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and we meet Mrs McDonald-Rouse and Mrs Moody. Former tells me to give her love to Webster and Anne. Go to Mrs S and have a long lesson. I chat to Elaine (newly recovered from mumps).

16 May – Lunch with Mum and then go to hear Adelaide Newman and Hans Mommer. Anne arrives rather late and first gives an audition to girl, Heather. I go through all my songs and when Webster arrives he records Father of Heav’n. I feel miserable about it. He makes tea and I wash up afterwards.

18 May – Go to Brooke theatre in the morning and he and Bill Walker audition a few more people. In the end there are 8 of us trying for 4 parts as nuns. Bill Walker’s wife is my rival so I can only hope for the best. BB is quite sweet and calls me darling. Go back to Mrs S afterwards and chat to Suzanne Bilski. I get Betty home on the bus. We see Days of Wine and Roses in the afternoon. I meet Ila Silanski there.

21 May – Work. Go to singing in the afternoon. We go through Love’s Sickness and Webster makes tea. Evidently Colleen didn’t get any part at all for BB was disappointed with her speaking voice and advised her to take speech lessons. They are not pleased about it. I tell them of my experience with Bill Walker’s wife! More or less at the last minute, Webster is going to take the part of Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard for JODS as they do not think the man currently doing the role is up to it. Should be fun. I do the French song well and am there for ages.

22 May – Work and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. I go to Mrs S for harmony lesson and chat with Gill. I do ear tests with Edith Sanders and we decide to go to the studio regularly in the mornings to do ear tests in preparation for the forthcoming diploma exams. Edith has perfect pitch!

24 May – Go to singing. Anne is there by herself as Webster is rehearsing madly for The Yeomen so I make tea for us all – Lucille is there too, having had a lesson before me. Anne tells me that she and Webster had indigestion after eating a sheep’s heart casserole! We decide to do some Landon Ronald songs for a change – she sings them for me in her heavenly voice. They are too gorgeous for words.

25 May – Go to Mrs S and then to Brooke theatre where some of the people don’t turn up. BB tells me to come back again next week but I’m not sure if I shall. We see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Webster plays duets by Dennis Noble and himself and a song by Bennie Veenemans, the boy soprano. He played that record to me in the studio when I was playing for him.

26 May – Go to church and copy and transpose Anne’s Landon Ronald songs.

27 May – Work. Go to SABC and we have Mr Tyler once more. We work at English folk and traditional songs.

28 May – Go to dentist, lunch hour concert and library. I see Michael Newell. Go to singing and Webster is back again. Norma arrives too early and upsets things. We do the Landon Ronald songs and he is delighted with the transposition. They are disgusted about Brian Brooke.

29 May – Go into SS studio early and Elaine and I do some theory together. Mrs S comes in and tells us that Stan’s mother has died. I lunch with Mum in Ansteys.

30 May – Go to SS studios again and work hard. Lunch with Mum and come home on the bus with Margaret. She tells me that Peter Lynsky (Jack Point in the Yeomen) is a lecturer at Teachers’ Training College.

31 May – Republic Day. We see To Kill a Mocking Bird with Gregory Peck. It is very good indeed.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – OCTOBER 1962

We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

1 October – Go up to the studio for report cards and Webster answers looking quite well. He greets me with, “I don’t know what Ruth is going to say when she hears but you’ve beaten her.” I say, “But she sang nicely – much better than I did.” “The examiner didn’t seem to think so!” he says with a hollow laugh. Anne brings in the cards. I have 76% and Ruth has 72%. We have exactly the same for our exercises which I think is rather unfair considering how well Ruth sang them.

Go to SABC and when Ruth arrives I give her the report and she is thankful to have passed. Iris and Ila Silansky talk to us at interval and I get rather carried away defending Webster (whom Ila and Iris don’t like for some unknown reason).

There is a rumour that Johan is leaving the SABC. I see the Ormonds’ new black Rover.

2 October – I work hard in the morning and then Mum and I go to Ansteys for lunch. I’m at the studio first. Webster and Anne arrive, looking very smart. I tell them of my desire to do Higher Local and skip Senior. Webster says, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t.” I add that I want to do it in April and they are still quite complacent and pleased about the idea.

They look out all the Bach and Handel arias and try to decide which one to do. We swither over Father of Heav’n but they decide it is too long. “When I played the record Kathleen made of it, I had to cut it,” Webster tells me. We decide on an aria from the Christmas Oratorio by Bach called Prepare Thyself Zion. It is very nice and he sings it for me very softly and sweetly. There is another aria in the work that is beautiful and I must look at it at home when I’m copying out the Zion one – Slumber Beloved. The book belonged to Mabel Fenney (who taught at our school. Webster says he’d like me to do the same aria as she did for my final exam.

They tell me to get The Swan by Grieg. “I can tell you before we start that any song by Granville Bantock would be difficult, so we won’t do that one,” says he flatly.

They tell me that another of their pupils has just started on the exam I have finished and is doing Polly Oliver. He told her that he had another pupil who would probably be delighted to throw the old music at her!

We talk about Mrs Fenney and Anne tells me that she worked very hard indeed and used to come into the studio before they arrived and practised like mad. She adds that the tragedy of it was that she fell madly in love with Webster and showered him with so much attention that the poor darling was very embarrassed. I roar with laughter and look at him and he looks rather uncomfortable and says he must confess he felt rather flattered. Anne says that towards the end it was rather awful – not that she blamed her for she had such an awful husband! Everyone falls for Webster. “She was a bit mad,” says Anne. I think I’m a bit mad myself to be doing this exam. We have a good laugh and I depart feeling quite elated.

3 October – Work hard in the morning copying from the Christmas Oratorio. After lunch, I say goodbye to Mum and toddle into town to purchase The Swan and the new vocal studies.

Go up to studio and Gill is there in the midst of practising for a last minute accordion duet she is to play at the SA Championships. Miss Margaret Cameron comes up and takes a fancy to me and shows me her book of kitchen tea verses with illustrations by Heather McDonald-Rouse. Apparently she has known her for years. Shealso did the script for Mrs McD-R’s concert on Saturday night in Malvern.

Gill departs to practise with her partner – a chap called Lynn from Durban – “Who would just suit you,” she says. She tells me that Johan has been given the sack. I am so sorry.

I am left alone in the studio and Arnold Fulton phones to inquire about speech exams – he seems to haunt me and I’m sure I’m haunting him.

I come home and try over songs and studies – all most complicated and heaven knows why I have decided to torture myself once more.

4 October – Go to SABC at night. Ruth doesn’t come. Johan works us hard and plays the organ beautifully – I’m so sorry he’s leaving. I really can’t understand that he would have been “given the sack”!

5 October – Work. Dad takes Mum and me for a run to Pretoria which is fun despite the rain.

I listen to recorded version of G and S from last night. Patience is very good. I think Dennis (the boy whose mother made apple tart for Anne, Webster and me) sings Danny Boy on Stars of Tomorrow.

6 October – Go to town and music library. I get three very dry, highly scientific music books. I have to take one back on Monday as it is a work of reference.

Meet Gill who is delighted to have come second in the accordion duet competition. Lynn bought her a brooch to say thank you for playing with him.

Have lunch in Capinero with Mum and Dad and then we see Black Tights, a ballet affair with Cyd Charisse and Moira Shearer. Meet Iris there with her family.

8 October – Go into town with Mum. We have lunch in Ansteys and then go to hear organ recital given by Harry Stanton in the city hall. Very few attend but he plays wonderfully all the same and we enjoy it.

Webster, Petrina Fry and Anne at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford.

At night go to SABC – we work madly on Ninth Symphony and Messiah. Talk to Ruth who is feeling very miserable because she has broken up with Alan as he was getting a bit too serious. She had a lesson on Saturday and is going to do the next exam – Senior. We discuss picture of Anne and Webster which appeared in the Star and she says she thought Webster looked “mouldy”! Anne looks too gorgeous for words. It was taken at the wedding of Margaret Inglis and Robert Langford in Brian Brooke’s garden. We have a good laugh about Mabel Fenney’s fascination with Webster, although we understand her feelings about him!

9 October – I manage to get the diploma syllabus from Mannings. The contents frighten me to death but I’m determined to see it through.

Go up to studio and Webster is there by himself. He tells me that Anne has gone shopping and should have been back hours ago – he is quite worried about her.

He is in the middle of mending a plug which has lost its screw and he seems to find this a most complicated procedure. He curses it in no dignified terms. I ask him how he enjoyed Margaret Inglis’ wedding and he says, “Oh, it was jolly! We had such a delightful time. It was a very small affair.”

He makes me a cup of tea and we take it over to the piano. He starts to get very agitated about Anne and says, “I always worry about her when she doesn’t get back in time. She could easily have been run down by a car.” Knowing Anne, I doubt whether that would be at all likely.

We start on the HL studies and exercises with him playing the piano with sausage fingers. They go quite well, but he says I must learn to cut out the intrusive ‘h’ – it’s bad. Remember what the examiner said in the report.

The studies are fairly complicated and he says that he thinks I should turn the acciacatura into an appoggiatura seeing the note is dotted – I hope he’s right. He suddenly turns round to me and asks whether I read music better with my eyes or my fingers. I say, “My fingers!” He says “I can’t read music with my fingers – they’re too stiff now and I don’t practise much on the piano, but I don’t find it at all difficult to sing at sight!”

He goes to phone the garage because their car is there. Anne arrives in in the middle of the call and tells me she has had to spend forty minutes in Kelly’s – they’re so stupid.

We go through studies and The Swan and he says I must sing it in German. He asks about solo parts in Ninth Symphony. I say that I think Gé Korsten and Graham Burns are going to sing the tenor and bass roles – he looks quite crestfallen at this.

A woman they both detest arrives and Webster gives her a cup of tea. Anne talks to me about the heat and I say that there will probably be a storm later. There always seems to be a storm on the evening of her programme. I tell her that we all enjoy it very much. She is pleased and tells me that although it is a great success the SABC is taking it off at Christmas. I say that it’s about the most enjoyable programme on the radio and it’s a shame to have it taken off so quickly. Needless to say, we part on very friendly terms.

Listen to Anne at night and she is quite wonderful – conjures up London Palladium memories with Tommy Trinder, and them singing So Deep is the Night.

Plays Lock Up Your Daughters – a mistake – and My Fair Lady. She tells us about Rex Harrison almost becoming her brother-in-law. He worked in the Liverpool Repertory company, lived near them and took a fancy to her sister Phyllis. Perhaps it’s just as well that he didn’t marry her sister, judging by his amorous adventures.

I felt sorry for Webster today. He looked so old and tired and acted in a doddery manner, merely a skeleton of the former man. He has to go to Bloemfontein to direct The Pirates of Penzance soon so perhaps that will put some life into him.

11 October – Go to Mrs S in the afternoon. She had bad weather when she was away in Cape Town. We go through the piles of theory I have completed while she was away. I have to go on Saturday for ear tests.

Listen to Webster on G and S at night – he repeats about half of last week’s programme but still manages to get through the first act of Patience after three weeks at it, after much twisting of the tongue over “The Dragoon guards.”

13 October – Go to SS studio in morning. Margaret is there so I go through some of her ear tests with her.

We lunch in Capinero and Mum brings me a letter from Suzanne Pitchford my old Winchester Castle pal whom I haven’t heard from for almost three years. She’s working in Barclays Bank and seems very happy in Brighton and has a steady boyfriend with whom she intends to “rest her case”.

We see Sergeants Three which I enjoy and hear Only a Rose at night sung by my two pals.

14 October – Go to Sunday School and practise for anniversary.

We go to Diamonds in afternoon and pass Anne’s car outside the SABC. Webster is going to Bloemfontein soon so perhaps he is recording his G and S programme today.

15 October – Go to SABC at night and Ruth tells me that Webster went to Bloemfontein to produce Pirates of Penzance on Friday. He might have said goodbye! We pretend to mope about it and Gill asks why I’m sad. Ruth says, “Because her lover is away!” Have a laugh.

At interval, Ruth says she much prefers Webster to Anne. She has a laugh when I imitate him talking about Margaret Inglis’ wedding.

16 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there in a crimson dress looking hot and flustered. We have tea and moan about the heat. She says it is so hot and dry that she could cry at the slightest provocation.

We start on scales and I sing them to “mee” – I tell her I sound like a sheep. I manage to reach top C. I do exercises and studies and decide that they are quite nauseating. She tells me that Mabel Fenney got her diploma in Berlin and is now going to London to carry on studying either with Keith Faulkner or at the Royal Academy. Her husband is still here, stuck outside of PE managing a cheap hotel. She has been away for over two years and the only way he manages to support her is by gambling on the stock exchange. She flew over here last year and the first thing she did was to drive straight to their house and sat with Webster (who had ‘flu at the time) for practically the whole day. She says it was really very painful for everyone and the more Webster snubbed her, the more she made up to him. He practically ignored her in the end but nothing put her off.

She says that Ruth is having a swimming pool – have I seen it yet? That is the first I’ve heard of it. We discuss the Rover and she says that they’re being quite sensible with their money and not buying another house.

17 October – I work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. We buy a gorgeous hat afterwards.

Go to SS studio where Gill tells me that Tufty is thinking of following Johan when he goes overseas. I have a good lesson and then have tea with Miss Cameron and Mrs S.

18 October Go to SABC at night and possibly due to the horrors of Latin or a compelling desire to listen to G and S, Ruth doesn’t come.

Roger O’Hogan (choirmaster at St Mary’s, Yeoville) takes us, and is excellent. He was one of the judges in the recent hymn competition. I talk to Tufty and Gill but they’re not as much fun as Ruth.

19 October – I listen to a recorded version of G and S. Webster finishes Patience at last and says that next week he has something interesting for the listeners but he imagines some eyebrows will be raised at it. If he’s going to start playing jazzed up G and S I shall die.

Have lunch with Mum and then go to Piccadilly to see Raising the Wind, a British comedy about music students with James R. Justice, Kenneth Williams and Liz Fraser. It is a wonderful film. How I’d adore to go to a London music college.

20 October – Go to SS studios and work with Margaret and then sing in ensemble. Margaret tells us corny jokes just as she used to do at school.

Go to see Roman Holiday in the afternoon.

22 October – Go to SABC. Pieter de Vaal takes us. Ruth tells me that her singing is growing harsh owing to her mother forcing her to sing high notes. She was talking to Anne and saying how depressed she felt and Anne said, “Well, never mind. You’re not the only one. I get depressed with all these pupils. I can’t stand any of them. There’s only four I like and that’s you, Jean, Lucille and someone else.” (she couldn’t remember the name). Ruth told her that she was only including our names to be polite and Anne replied, “No, darling. I really mean it.” Well, that is something!

23 October – Go to the studio in the afternoon and Anne is there by herself in a shocking pink hat. She makes tea and phones about the car – they’ve bought a new Anglia and it’s giving them a lot of trouble. It has to be ready for next Wednesday because she’s driving down to Bloemfontein to fetch Webster.

We have tea and she is very depressed. “I’ve never felt so unhappy in all my life. I hate this city and the whole country. The people are so inconsiderate and rude here and I loathe it. I’ve hated it from the very first but now here, by myself, I hate it more than ever. If I had a family it might be all right but for a woman all by herself, it’s awful.” I feel very sorry for her.

We start on Ein Schwan and it goes fairly well. We go through it a few times and it improves. She says that Ruth’s voice is tending on the harsh side, probably owing to the Ninth symphony (Probably owing to her mother more likely!) She’s terribly depressed with the weather and Alan. I say – at Ruth’s bidding from last night – that she was much cheerier now. Anne says, “Oh, how sweet. I’m very fond of her indeed.”

She tells me that a shop in Edinburgh sent her a parcel of white heather and she had to pay 20 cents on it because the intimation from the post office never arrived. She says heather tends to get very messy.

We work on the Bach aria and take down Mabel’s breath marks. She tells me that Mabel had wonderful breath control. They had a letter from her the other day and it was quite sensible. “Whether it’s because she’s found a new boyfriend or not, I don’t know, but it was a normal letter, like you or I would write!”

We work at the aria and Anne says, “Mum’ll have to work at the accompaniment of that soon!” We do study and she says that it is really excellent and I have memorised it well for it is very difficult indeed.

There is a picture of Anne in the paper in connection with Music for Romance, and Webster sings Love, Could I Only Tell Thee on the radio. Her programme is wonderful. She plays Blossom Time with recordings by Richard Tauber and says she went to see the film with the “young man of the moment after a lovers’ quarrel”.

Plays Annie, Get Your Gun and talks of attending the London first night. Goes on to Merrie England and tells of the production which took place in the grounds of Luton Hoo with a chorus of 600 including the Luton Girls’ Choir and a seating capacity for thousands. She plays his recording of The English Rose, and The Night Was Made for Love, which he made in 1935 with George Melachrino in the orchestra playing the clarinet. He had a cold when he made it.

I’ll bet they will go back to England the moment he gets his post-war credits, and good luck to them!

24 October – In the morning Mum and I go to get registered as aliens which, as someone remarked, is rather like going to prison. We have lunch in Ansteys to cheer us up and this is nice.

Go to SS studio and talk to Gill who runs down Mrs S and raves about Gerrit Bonn, whom she calls by his Christian name now. She does some ear tests with me. I have a good lesson but I have a cold coming on – my third this year. I ask Gill to excuse me from choir tomorrow night if I don’t manage to get there.

25 October – Stay in bed in the morning with ghastly cold – feel stiff, cold, achy and miserable. In the afternoon I phone Ruth to tell her that I can’t go tonight and we talk for half an hour.

She says Anne is going to Bloemfontein so she’s going to miss a lesson as there are 5 weeks in the month. We talk of her picture being in the paper and she tells me about the scrapbook she has full of press-cuttings. I relate a story of my own scrapbooks. She says that some girls at her school don’t like them and one said she heard them sing at the Wanderers and though they were dreadful. Ruth says she was so cross that she nearly slapped the girl in question. We decide that they are lucky to have at least two people who’ll stick up for them, come hell or high water. She tells me jokingly that with Webster being away my resistance is low and that explains my cold. Her mother met Diane Todd (who starred in My Fair Lady and thought she was common.

Listen to Webster at night and he does give us a surprise by playing a version of Mikado recorded for American TV and produced by Martyn Green, with Stan Holloway as Pooh-Bah and Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko. Next week he’s playing Pirates of Penzance as he is “having the pleasure of producing it in the charming new Bloemfontein Civic Theatre.”

27 October – Go to SS studio. Elaine and I spend time doing technical exercises and after tea, I play ear tests for everyone.

28 October – Go to Sunday school and we have our last practice before the anniversary. One little girl tells me that she knows I take singing lessons because they heard me singing when I played the piano and heard how beautifully I could sing!

David Cross tells me that I’ve been nominated to stand for literary CCD minute secretary. I don’t commit myself to anything.

In the paper, Gary A says that G and S is finishing at the end of the year and will be replaced with Webster presenting a programme called Great Voices. Gary A thinks it will run even longer than G and S.

Lord Oom Piet!
Lord Oom Piet

29 October Go to SABC. We rehearse with Pieter de V. At interval I am introduced by Ruth to Hester, the new girl who sits next to her. She informs us that she pays £1-10-0 a month for singing lessons with a Mrs du Preez in Roodepoort. Ruth remarks patronisingly that when she improves she can always go into town and learn with someone great!

30 October – Anne phones early in the morning and tells me that “something has come up” and she can’t possibly go into the studio at all today, but could I come next Monday at 3.30 to make up for it. I could. She says that Ruth told her I wasn’t keeping very well. I say, no, I’m not – next Monday will be better. She says she hopes I’ll be better. Degenerate into a state of illness and nausea. Mum has to come home. Spend day in sheer torture.

31 October – Ruth phones me at night to worry me further. The Performing Arts Council is holding auditions on Monday evening for singers. She’d like to audition – would I? I don’t commit myself. Evidently she had a grand lesson this afternoon and got in at 3.50. Anne had already phoned her mother to see what the matter was. Anyway she had a charming time having a little tea party with Anne and singing intermittently. Evidently Anne is missing Webster in the worst way and says she loathes teaching without him and if he goes away again she feels like refusing to teach. His first night is on Saturday and they are coming back on Sunday. She told Anne to send Webster all her love!

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – OCTOBER 1961

2 October – Start working in Barclays Bank, Simmonds Street. It is not as bad as I had expected. Am put in cables department where I do a little typing. Girl, Marty teaches me what I have to do. My boss is an elderly silent type, Mr Peddie, and his underling is an elderly jovial type, Mr Ford.

At night I get mummy to phone Webster about a reference. He answers and mummy explains that she hopes he will be a referee for me. He says he knows all about it – he had a form to fill in a few weeks ago – how long he had known me etc. He hasn’t a clue where he sent the form back to but he did send it. Mummy thanks him very much and he says, “She needn’t worry: I said she didn’t back horses or gamble!” He says he’ll give me a written reference if necessary. It’s funny that he didn’t mention it to me.

Mr Russell also filled in a form and gave them all the low-down about me, and will give me a reference on Thursday.

3 October – Work and make a half-hearted attempt to practise both morning and evening.

4 October – Work a half day and go to music in afternoon. Mrs S works me hard but she is very sweet and I like her. Go and play table tennis at night.

5 October – Work. We talk about singing and Martie says she loves to sing.

After work I go to the studio. Webster answers the door. I listen to Nellie (who is about 40) singing the Liddle setting of Abide With Me. Her voice isn’t bad but she’ll never be an opera star. Webster goes to put money in the meter and I go in and pay Anne. I tell her that I appreciate Webster filling in that form for the bank and she says that it was a pleasure. I say that they need a written testimonial as well and she says he will also give me one. He’ll type it out at home and post it to me tomorrow. Anne says she knows somebody in Kensington – Heather McDonald-Rouse’s mother. Do I know her? Yes, I know her well. She is delighted!

We do some scales after tea which don’t go very well at first but improve as I go higher. She says my range is developing beautifully, especially my high notes.

We start on the Noel Coward medley and Anne says that I must cover my ee vowels and sing forward. She says that of course it’s very pop and common, then she stops and says reflectively, “I shouldn’t call it that when we made so much money on that type of music.” I say that I like it very much and I love listening to their recordings of it. She says, “Oh, sweet!” and turns red.

They sing Dearest Love together and I just keep quiet. They sing so beautifully that I want to cry. I clench my teeth together so that I don’t cry! On Let’s Say Goodbye they find the music (and words) rather nauseating. Anne says Noel Coward probably wrote it after a hectic night out in the Bahamas. She says he is described by Eric Blum in the Actors’ Who’s Who? As an actor, playwright and AMATEUR musician!

Webster discovers that the sink in the kitchenette is blocked and the water is seeping through to the seventh floor. He phones up about it and when nothing is done he gets into a rage and says if they don’t do something soon the water will seep through and the people on the seventh floor have just had their walls redecorated. He says violently, “Bloody fools!” First time I’ve heard him that violent. After this interlude we pass on to Hark, Hark which Anne says we must concentrate on very hard next week.

Depart, leaving them fussing over the blocked sink.

Go to choir at night.

Listen and record Webster’ programme. He starts with a sacred record by himself which is beautiful, then more from The Dream, Pagliacci and then two duets from Lilac Time by themselves.

6 October – Work, but not terribly hard. Martie and I talk for hours and I manage to transpose I’ll Follow My Secret Heart – it goes well.

7 October – Work harder today. Webster’s reference is there. It is very nice.

It was sweet of him to write it and it touched me to read it! He is such a famous and busy man and yet he took time to write me a reference. Mr Russell gave me a very long eloquent reference but somehow I shall always treasure Webster’s halting one which he typed himself and signed with a flourish.

9 October– Back to work. Quite a pleasant day.

10 October – Public holiday. In the afternoon Dad and I go to see Hand in Hand at the Monte Carlo. See the Booths’ green Zephyr when we come home.

11 October – Work hard and go to music in the afternoon. Mrs S says I am doing good work. I go to ordination service at night – very impressive.

12 October – Work hard and have lunch with Mum. Go to Webster and Anne in the afternoon. Webster answers the door and says, “Isn’t the heat dreadful?” I agree wholeheartedly. Nellie is singing quite nicely today and she gives me a big grin when she leaves. Anne comes in and we complain about the rather ghastly hot weather and then the very cold winter. She says that when she first moved into the house in Craighall Park she needed 4 blankets, a hot water bottle and an electric blanket and thinks the winters here are worse than they are in the UK.

We start with scales and they go well. When Webster comes in I thank him for my reference and he says, “Oh, was it all right? I told some fine lies, didn’t I?” We all have a good laugh.

Anne tells him to make some tea because “Jean is dead.” Says Webster, “That makes two of us.” He goes in and upsets the kettle on the table. Anne turns white and rushes in to see what is wrong. She comes back and says, “What frights that man gives me!”

We go on to the Noel Coward medley and she is delighted with the transposition of I’ll Follow My Secret Heart. It all goes quite well. She tells me that she sang the song in panto after she’d fought the dragon, and won the lady in Puss in Boots in East London. She sings Dearest Love by herself and it sounds really gorgeous. She explains that I must push the time forward and then pull it back in songs of this kind. We go through them and she marks the pauses. She says that good songs sing themselves but Noel Coward’s songs need showmanship and selling otherwise they would sound corny.

Webster says that my voice sounds beautiful and in a few years it’ll be really gorgeous. He says that my “e” vowels have improved tremendously, and I say that I’ve been practising hard! He says, “Yes, I can tell that!”

Anne asks when I get time to practise and I tell her of piano practice in the morning and singing in the evening. She says that if you are tired, the voice is the first thing to go because it is so much part of you.

When we finish – miles over time – she tells me that she has to appear in court tomorrow at 9.00 am. Evidently she bought a sewing machine from someone in Forsdsburg and traded in her old one. The man ran off with her old one and she refused to pay the full price so she now has a court order against her. She says she’ll probably be there all day so “Maestro” will have to hold the fort in the studio. I say goodbye and wish her luck in tomorrow’s case.

Webster’s programme is gorgeous as usual. He plays the prelude to Missa Solemnis by Beethoven and a Jewish chant. Then he plays his own recording of Just For Today, with Gerald Moore accompanying.

His opera is Turandot and then two duets from The New Moon “sung by Anne and myself,” Wanting You and Lover, Come Back to Me.

13 October (Friday!) Have damnably gruelling day at work and then go to guild where I play in front of about 300 people for hymns at the Youth Rally where they have a Methodist cavalcade play which is very good. Dr Webb comes to the event and receives a wonderful ovation.

14 October – Practise and at night we go to Spargos. Ann Stratton is there too, so Joan, Ann and I go to see a group of one-act plays at the boys’ school. Cecil Williams (the communistically-inclined producer) adjudicates and talks for an hour – brilliant and witty. Kudu House wins on a play held last night. We come home with Peter Spargo. It is about 1 in the morning now!

19 October – Go to Webster and Anne after work. Nellie is singing O Love, From Thy Power badly. When she gets to the high note Anne says that she changed it on “Jean’s copy” so they change it on her copy too.

I go in and we talk about the horrible weather and she asks if I’ve seen any good plays lately. For want of something to say I talk about the plays at the boys’ school and Cecil Williams. She is not at all keen on him. She makes tea and tells me that her brother was ten years older than her, and her sister twelve and a half years older so she was almost like an only child in another generation.

We start on scales and she says I must control my breath more and not move my “bos”. We toddle over to the mirror and she demonstrates her fantastic breathing once more. Webster comes in and says, “If you don’t smile I won’t give you a cup of tea!” I smile!

I say I hate singing in front of my father because he criticises me so much. Anne says it’s fatal to sing in front of someone – she won’t even sing in front of Webster. She says Roselle’s father has a down on her voice and made her give up singing to concentrate on the piano for a year. Webster says, “I think he’s Afrikaans though, isn’t he?” That dismisses him!

We do Rest in the Lord and it doesn’t go too badly. Anne says I must watch diction and not sing in my throat. I must keep my voice forward in the mask and always feel it in the head – easier said than done.

Webster says I must sing everything to “mee” until I get proper resonance. He says that he’ll be playing the aria in the third week of November on his programme, sung by Norma Procter. I ask whether his programme is on tonight and he says, “No. These damned election results have put a stop to it. If only it had been Wednesday for the results and not today.”

20 October Work is fairly quiet today. I don’t practise singing today and feel a little down-hearted.

21 October – Work till 11.30 this morning. I practise in the afternoon and singing improves a bit. We’re going to convert the second bedroom into a studio so that I can have peace to practise.

22 October – Piano is now in its new position in the second bedroom.

Little Sunday School boys are better today. Molly Reinhardt says in her column that Webster is going to Durban with The Amorous Prawn. I hope Anne stays at home. What would I do if I didn’t see either of them for months on end?

Inge Alexander visits in the afternoon so we have rather an unmusical time.

25 October – Work very hard. Go to music in the afternoon and Mrs S works me hard too. She is, nevertheless, very sweet, but I will have to work very hard for the forthcoming piano exam.

Go to anniversary practice at night.

26 October – Work very hard – it’s like a sweat-shop! I do get my first wages though. I have lunch with mum and buy square-toed shoes.

At night I go to singing. Webster answers the door dressed in a short-sleeved shirt. I say hello and sigh and he says, “Yes, it’s that kind of day, isn’t it?”

Nellie is singing “my” Delilah aria very badly indeed. She complains that sometimes she feels she can’t sing at all – That’s just how I feel sometimes too! When she goes, Anne says, “Well, the next victim can come into the hothouse!”

Webster goes down with Nellie to put money in the meter and I go in and unburden my worries and grievances to Anne. She is the ideally sympathetic audience.

We start on scales and they go very well today. Webster says I must sing the high ones twice as quickly as I’m doing at the moment. He goes off to make tea and comes back looking rather aggrieved telling her that his finger has burst again. Evidently he had a very bad burn and now has a big blister.

She marks my vowels in Rest in the Lord – not as good as I did them last night at the anniversary practice. I sing the song and he says it’s very good apart from the “ee” vowels. We do one particular part with all ee vowels and it goes a little better. We do He Shall Feed His Flock and they are thrilled with the improvement – thank goodness, as that was what I sang as a solo in church. We do O Love From Thy Power to fill in time as the next chap doesn’t arrive. Anne says she doesn’t like to talk about other pupils to me but Nellie drags this aria out too much and will never sing it properly. She’s Afrikaans of course and rather slow. Anne says she herself trained in her teens as a mezzo in her teens .

When I ask her whether she’s going to Durban for a month she says, ”God, no! I’m just going for one Thursday because there are five Thursdays in November.”

Webster adds, “Someone has to earn the money, Jean!”

` I say goodbye and depart feeling remarkable invigorated by the lesson. When I went up I was exhausted but when I left I was a new being.

Listen to Webster at night. There was a storm so the reception was grim. He plays the Alto Rhapsody sung by Kathleen Ferrier, Where E’er You Walk (by himself) He also plays the duet from Barber of Seville sung by himself and Dennis Noble. He finishes with Eldorado.

27 October – Work – not quite as busy today but bad enough. Practise in a mediocre fashion at night.

28 October – Work in the morning and thank God to say goodbye to the bank for a day and a half. I meet Mum and we have a shopping spree – 3 dresses and a petticoat. We have lunch then meet Dad and see The Hustlers – a rather revolting picture with Paul Newman as the star.

29 October – It’s pouring this morning. Hope it stops for the anniversary. It does. Sing for about 3 hours in all. It goes very well. Have tea at Betty’s in the afternoon and tea at the manse at night.

31 October – Work hard. I get a lovely surprise in the paper at night – Anne posing as Mrs Siddons from the original Gainsborough painting. It is the most gorgeous photo I have ever seen of her.

Anne as Mrs Siddons