ANNE ON HER OWN (1996 – 2003)

I had known, admired and loved Anne and Webster, and had been deeply influenced by them for forty-three years, and Anne’s death was the end of an era for me. But I am left with a few sad, but many happy memories of them, some of which I have shared in this personal memoir. If they had never been able to sing a note, I would have loved them for their warm, generous and kind hearts, and as long as I live they will never be forgotten.

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Anne and her nephew, Mike Eastwood from Portsmouth (circa 1996)
1997 With Bonnie in Joan Tapper’s garden in Mold.
Anne and Maurice Buckley on the way to the RNCM for the awards concert and presentation 1997.
1997.
Anne and Bonnie 1997.

In 1997 Webster’s son Keith died at the age of 72, and in March of 1998 Anne’s dear little Yorkie Bonnie had to be put to sleep, aged 15. Anne was very lonely without her and although she vowed that she could never have another dog because she was too old, eventually she did take on Toby, another Yorkie.

With Jean Buckley on holiday in Harrogate in 1998.
Anne, Allun Davies and Joan Tapper after a lunch in 1998.
Anne and the new Yorkie, Toby in 1999. Sadly, Anne became too frail to care for him and he had to be placed in a new home a year or so later.
Anne and Joan after lunch at the Groes Inn in 1999.
Anne and Joan 2000
Anne and some fans celebrating her birthday (circa 2000)
Anne sends a birthday greeting to me (2001)
Joan and Anne (2002)

Extract from my book Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth:

I phoned Anne on 3 August 2003. By this time her carer was coming in three times a day. Anne could still joke, “Once in the morning to see I am still alive, next at lunchtime, and then at 6pm to see I’m having supper and set for the night.”

We spoke of the days in Johannesburg when I was young – and she much younger – when everything had been happy and carefree. She could not believe that I was nearly sixty as she always thought of me as a young woman. It was forty years since I had first started playing for Webster when she went away on the trip with Leslie Green.

She had not seen Babs for over a year and did not know if she was alive or dead. We decided that it was a pity that things had worked out so badly with Babs, as it could have been a very happy arrangement.

She remarked, “That’s life – or should I say – death?” I told her that she still sounded wonderful, not like an old person at all, with her beautiful speaking voice and her alert mind. I said that I would phone again in a few months. We said, “God bless you,” to one another, and her last words to me were, “Take care, darling.”

Five days after that phone call Anne had another dreadful fall. She was taken to the Llewellyn Ward at Llandudno Hospital, where Dudley Holmes found her in September. She was pleased to see Dudley, but he was deeply shocked at the change in her physical appearance. Dudley spoke to Sally Rayner, who told him that Anne could never return to the bungalow and that they were looking round to find a suitable frail care home for her. Although she would probably never be able to write to us again, we vowed that we would write to her regularly as long as she lived.

On 27 September I wrote a letter to Anne and enclosed a cutting about Kathleen Ferrier on the fiftieth anniversary of her death, and sent it care of Sally Rayner. On the morning of 13 October, there was a telephone message from Sally to tell me that Anne was unlikely to last for more than a day or two.

I phoned Sally immediately and she told me that she was going in to sit with her that morning. Later that day Sally phoned again to let me know that Anne had died peacefully. She had sat with her, and later in the morning had been joined by Anne’s great-nephew, Michael, Jinnie’s son, from Liverpool. They remained with her, holding her hand until she passed away peacefully at 1.30 pm.

Sally had taken my letter in that morning to read out bits of interest to her – about Kathleen Ferrier, the records my actor friend Bill Curry had given me, and Love’s Philosophy, the song she had sung at her Wigmore Hall recital all those years ago. Sally said that some parts of the letter made her smile, although she had not opened her eyes for a long time.

Telegraph obituary 17 October 2003.

TIMES OBITUARY FOR ANNE ZIEGLER – 17 OCTOBER 2003

During the 1930s and 1940s Anne Ziegler and her husband, Webster Booth were among the most popular acts on the British stage. A handsome, beautifully dressed couple (he in immaculate tails and she in crinolines designed by Norman Hartnell), they were often billed as the British equivalent to the Hollywood stars, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. With their signature tune Only a Rose and their wide repertoire of popular operetta and musical comedy, they were rarely out of work, and during their heyday topped the bill not only in concerts but also in variety shows. Each had had a successful singing career before they teamed up as an act.

Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool and from an early age had trained to be a classical pianist. She gave her first recital in her native city in 1928. (As a singer, not as a pianist!)

She moved to London in 1934 and joined the chorus of the operetta By Appointment at the Adelphi Theatre. In 1936 (1934!), after being chosen from 250 applicants to play the leading soprano role of Marguerita (Marguerite!) in an early film production of Faust, she met the tenor Webster Booth.

Booth, a romantic figure with a profile not unlike Ivor Novello’s (!!), had performed in numerous Gilbert and Sullivan operas with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company as well as recording classical oratorios for HMV records. He married Anne Ziegler in 1938 and two years later they decided to form a double act.

Billed as Sweethearts in Song, their act was pure romance and was hugely popular with wartime audiences. The couple made numerous broadcasts with the BBC in which they sang a variety of rousing songs and bitter-sweet ballads including We’ll Gather Lilacs, If You Were the Only Girl in the World, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life and The Bells of St Mary’s.

Radio inevitably led them to top the bills in variety and they often appeared in company with leading artists of the day including Douglas Byng, Tommy Trinder, Max Wall, and others. They appeared in summer shows in Blackpool, the revue Gangway at the London Palladium and in a revival of Rudolph Friml’s operetta, The Vagabond King at the Winter Garden Theatre, London.

One of their most famous stage successes was Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi Theatre in 1945, a “cape and sword” romance of the Napoleonic era which ran for more than 200 performances.

They were happiest on stage together just as themselves in either concert or variety. Inevitably their film career was a brief one, the most notable being The Laughing Lady (1946) and Demobbed (1946 – 1944!) a light-weight comedy in which they appeared opposite Norman Evans. They did not appear opposite Norman Evans but were guest stars in two brief episodes of the film!

With the advent of rock ‘n roll in the 1950s, the appeal of the duo towards the public began to fade and they decided to emigrate to South Africa, where they lived and worked until 1978. While there they wrote an autobiography Duet, published in 1951. They emigrated to South Africa in 1956 and the autobiography was published in the UK in 1951, 5 years before they emigrated!

On their return to Britain, they were astonished to discover that there was a boom in nostalgia and particularly with music from the 1930s and 1940s. Radio stations began playing their old hits and new albums were released including Sweethearts in Song (1979) and The Golden Age of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (1980). They made numerous television appearances including on such programmes as Looks Familiar with Dennis Norden.

Although they were no longer in their prime as singers, they continued to appear on stage well into their seventies in old-time music hall and variety shows throughout the country. The venues may not have been as glamorous or the bills as prestigious, but older audiences held an obvious warmth and affection for the couple and they were admired by their peers for their stamina and professionalism.

The impresario Aubrey Phillips, whop presented the couple in concert at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1982, remembered how romantic they appeared. “It was very touching to see them at that age, holding hands together as they left the dressing room for the stage,” he said. “They were still very much in love and audiences could sense that. That was the secret of their enduring success.”

The couple had made their home in Colwyn Bay, North Wales and occasionally appeared in concert in Llandudno, often in company with their friend Jess Yates, the organist. They sang their last duet, I’ll See You Again at a concert in the town, in June 1983. (They sang this at a concert in Bridlington!)

Webster Booth died a year later at the age of 82. Ziegler, who remained supremely elegant to the end, spent her final days in a nursing home in Colwyn Bay.

There were no children.

As there were a number of errors in the obituary, I wrote an email to The Editor of the Times.

19 October 2003 – St Andrew’s Kensington pew leaflet. I was the musical director at the Church at that time.

Anne’s funeral took place on 21 October at 2.00 pm. The organist played We’ll Gather Lilacs at the beginning and their recording of Now is the Hour was played at the end of the service as the coffin disappeared behind the curtain. One of Sally’s friends, Stanley, a member of the Rhos on Sea Savoyards, sang their signature tune, Only a Rose, during the service.

About forty people, including Webster’s grandson, Nicholas Webster Booth, and the Meals on Wheels ladies, attended the service on a rainy afternoon. Most of the people present had some firm connection with Anne, although there were a few curious “hangers-on”. Forty people did not seem a large number considering who she was and how many friends she had made over the years.

There were obituaries for Anne in papers all over the world, but I was saddened that little notice was paid to her death in South Africa, where she and Webster had lived and worked for twenty-two years. Errol sent an e-mail to the Afrikaans newspaper Die Beeld to inform them of Anne’s death but the paper made no mention of it.

A week or so later I was surprised to hear from Anne’s solicitors in Rhos on Sea that she had left me a legacy in her Will.

An abridged version of my letter was published in The Times in early November.

I contacted the actress and broadcaster, Clare Marshall at Radio Today to let her know that Anne had died. She was the only broadcaster in South Africa to pay a fitting tribute to Anne on the radio. Later I sent her copies of a number of their CDs and she continued to play them frequently on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star. Sadly, Radio Today has changed direction and Clare’s programme is no longer featured on that station.

Ironically, Anne’s friend Babs, who was two years older than her, had died two weeks before Anne, leaving all her money – nearly £1,000,000 – to various charities.

I had known, admired and loved Anne and Webster, and had been deeply influenced by them for forty-three years, and Anne’s death was the end of an era for me. But I am left with a few sad, but many happy memories of them, some of which I have shared in this personal memoir. If they had never been able to sing a note, I would have loved them for their warm, generous and kind hearts, and as long as I live they will never be forgotten.

Evergreen – Winter 2003 – note from Joan Tapper, Anne’s friend and fan from Mold.

All the written material comes from my book: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth which was published three years later in 2006.

Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth

Post updated on 26 July 2019

Jean Collen.

ANNE ZIEGLER ON HER OWN (1990 – 1995)

Before Anne left me to bathe and prepare for our evening ahead, she remarked that she could hardly believe I was there and that we were going to spend some time together at last.
“The years are drawing in so quickly now. We’ll probably never have a time together like this again,” she told me before she left me.

After I met Webster and Anne again in 1973 we kept in touch
with each other. After Webster’s death, Anne began writing to
me regularly and when I told her that I planned to visit the UK
in 1990 she asked me to visit her for a few days in Penrhyn
Bay. We spent a very happy time together and we wrote to one another and spoke on the telephone until shortly before her death.

The fifty year copyright on some of Webster’s recordings had come to an end, so a CD was soon to be issued under the Flapper label, entitled Moonlight and You.

As Anne didn’t have a CD player – and I had only bought one when this CD came out, I made a tape of the recordings to take to Wales when I visited her.
Jean Buckley and Anne in Penrhyn Bay, about to set out to attend the RNCM award concert in Manchester.
April 1990 – the productions in which Peter and Jackie Firmani were featured, including Memories of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Anne turned 80 in June but did not want a party on that day as her birthday fell on the day after the first anniversary of Webster’s death. Instead, her friend Joan Tapper arranged for a late birthday picnic in the grounds of Erddig Hall.

Jean Buckley and Anne at Erdigg.
Anne’s birthday cake at Erddig Hall – 14 August 1990.
Cutting the cake.
Champagne at Erddig. A photo appeared in the local paper.
Anne with Joan Tapper (right) and a friend (left), not to mention Bonnie, Anne’s tiny Yorkie.
The picnic at Erddig for Anne’s late birthday.

After Webster’s death, Anne and I had written to one another regularly and with increasing frequency. The rift between us which had arisen during the nineteen-sixties had been gradually healed and we never ever discussed the reasons for it. When I told Anne of my plans to visit the UK she immediately suggested that I should visit her in Penrhyn Bay. Despite my sadness at the death of my father, I looked forward to the trip. It would be wonderful to see Anne once again.

On a day in mid-October I arrived at the bungalow at the appointed time to find Anne already in the driveway waiting for me. We greeted one another with pleasure. She was as beautiful as ever, but she appeared more delicate and fragile than I remembered her from seventeen years before.

The house was small but very comfortable with some of the lovely pieces of furniture and ornaments, remnants of the ”good old days”, together with the familiar pictures, and the cherished certificate from the Victory Royal Command Performance of 1945, signed by King George VI, in pride of place on the wall above the upright piano. The Chappell grand piano had been left behind in South Africa.

Anne said, “Sit yourself down”, the way Webster used to. Bonnie was a sweet little dog who insisted on sitting on my lap, despite her bad leg, to be fed titbits of scones, fruit cake and chocolate cake provided by Anne’s friends for our first tea together.

Anne was kind and friendly. I soon felt as though I had seen her last only the week before. After tea and a preliminary chat she took me round to the hotel to introduce me to Mrs Hall, the proprietor of the Orotava, and to see my pleasant room, which was decorated with a pretty floral bedspread and matching curtains, with a view over the grey Irish Sea.

The Orotava Hotel, round the corner from Anne’s bungalow.
My bedroom at the Orotava Hotel.

Before Anne left me to bathe and prepare for our evening ahead, she remarked that she could hardly believe I was there and that we were going to spend some time together at last.

“The years are drawing in so quickly now. We’ll probably never have a time together like this again,” she told me before she left me.

The bungalow, Penrhyn Bay.
We spent a wonderful few days together. While I was there I took a few photos of Anne and she took a few photos of me. Bonnie was in all the photos! I shall write a shortened version of my visit taken from my book and post it in the blog.

On Sunday we had lunch in the Queen’s Head.

Before I had gone to the UK I had been feeling rather depressed after my father’s death. My stay with Anne had built up my self-confidence as she had encouraged me to do more with my musical and academic gifts. I asked her whether she would update the testimonials she and Webster had given me when I went to the UK in the mid-sixties. She agreed at once, and not long after I returned to South Africa I received the testimonial she had written for me. I will always treasure it, just as I will always treasure the hundreds of letters she and Webster wrote to me over the years.

In fact, the photo was taken in 1981 at the Silver wedding party of Jean and Maurice Buckley.
3 January 1991.
The awards continued for some time. Unfortunately, Esso withdrew its sponsorship in the mid-nineties and the last award in Webster’s name was made in 2002. Anne’s award continued for some time although it was no longer the lavish presentation it had been. It too was discontinued a few years ago. Read more about the awards at: WEBSTER BOOTH/ANNE ZIEGLER AWARDS
1991 birthday party at Joan Tapper’s home in Mold. Anne with Allun Davies (centre) and Joan Tapper (right) 22 June 1991
Allun Davies and Anne – birthday lunch for Anne’s 81st birthday.
Babs Wilson-Hill and Anne at Jean Buckley’s house (circa early nineties)
16 October 1991. Anne on The Seven Ages (BBC Radio 2)
Bonnie aged ten and a half. Dece,ber 1993
Photo for the Evergreen article. December 1993.
Anne kindly sent me a copy of this cassette.
Anne, Joan, Jean and her husband Maurice.

In 1994 Anne had some pleasure when a BBC team came to the bungalow to record her part of The Webster Booth Story, a radio tribute to Webster on the tenth anniversary of his death. She told me that the bookof cuttings I had presented to her in 1990 had been a great help in jogging her memory for the interview. She became friendly with the script writer, Stephen Pattinson and his father, as well as Robin Gregory, the narrator, and Tony Wills, the producer. The programme was broadcast on 26 June 1994 on Radio Two, and not long afterwards Anne sent me a recording of the programme.

This programme was presented 10 years after Webster’s death. It is an excellent programme. I was pleased to get to know the presenter, Robin Gregory and the writer, Stephen Pattinson some years later.
Circa 1995. Anne accompanied Jean when she sang at a concert in Llandudno. Anne is on the right, Jean extreme left.
Maurice, Jean and Anne – on holiday together (mid-nineties).

ANNE ZIEGLER ON HER OWN (1985 – 1989)

After her bad experience in Bromley, Anne remarked, “Theatre as I knew it doesn’t exist any longer and now that I’ve had the award, I don’t need to work.”

Anne lived on alone in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another 19 years until her own death in October of 2003. Obituary notices appeared in the Star and Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg shortly after Webster’s death – I had not included these previously, so will do so now. The Rand Daily Mail’s obituary contained a few errors, like We’ll Gather VIOLETS, and several wrong dates!

25 June 1984 Rand Daily Mail.

Anne was still teaching a few pupils and had been booked to play the Fairy Godmother in Jack and the Beanstalk in Bromley at the end of the year. She decided to have a break in South Africa before she was due to go into the pantomime. It would do her good to get away from Penrhyn Bay, which was full of reminders of Webster’s illness and death. (Extract from my book: Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth (2006) (All additional information from the same book.)

Going to South Africa – September 1985.
Visiting Doris Boulton in South Africa.

Jean Buckley, their fan and friend of forty-two years, who had been very kind and supportive during Webster’s last illness, was working to raise money for the Webster Booth Memorial Fund in order to award a scholarship to a tenor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Webster, Jean Buckley and Anne visiting the Buckleys shortly after the Booths had returned to the UK in 1978.
Anne and Bonnie 1985 (Photo by fan and friend: Pamela Davies)
This message from Jean Buckley appeared in The Stage and Opera in September 1985.

Anne went to Bromley in November to play the Fairy Godmother in Jack and the Beanstalk. Contrary to what had been agreed with her agent, she discovered that she was to play a minimal part in the show. She had been promised a solo of her own choice, but when she arrived all that was required of her was thirty-six lines of dialogue and four bars of Only a Rose with “another character”. She was hurt and annoyed. (Extract from my book)

Bromley Pantomime. December 1985.

That was Anne’s last venture on to the stage. Although she was offered a decent part in panto at Plymouth the following year to make up for the poor one in Bromley, and was asked to take the part of an elderly actress who had once been a star of Operetta in Stephen Sondheim’s West End production of Follies, she turned both offers down. ( I believe Adele Leigh took the part Anne had been offered. I wonder if Adele Leigh knew that she had not been the first choice for the role!)

In April 1986 she received an Award from the Queen for services to music. This award took the form of a pension from the Civil List. It was made in both their names and Anne was saddened that Webster had not lived long enough to enjoy the honour and see the monetary benefit of it.

After her bad experience in Bromley, Anne remarked, “Theatre as I knew it doesn’t exist any longer and now that I’ve had the award, I don’t need to work.”

On 9 June 1986 Jean Buckley was able to take a cheque for £3250.00 to the RNCM, and on 10 December Anne presented an interim award of £500 for that year. The Duchess of Kent, the President of the College, presented the Diplomas to graduating students at the same ceremony.

Alan Keith had attended Webster’s memorial service in 1984 and was a great admirer of Anne and Webster.
New Year’s party (circa 1986) with Penrhyn Bay neighbours – Les and Peggy Williams, Anne, ?, Jean and Maurice Buckley at the Buckley home.
Anne with her friend and fan, Joan Tapper (from Mold) and Jean and Maurice Buckley.

Anne with tenor, Allun Davies (1987) after one of his concerts.
Jean, Anne and Babs with their pets outside Jean’s house in Rhos on Sea. (late 1980s)
14 October 1987 It’s a Funny Business.
January 1989 – Peter Firmani doing a tour of Memories of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.
Anne, Jean and Joan Tapper at Joan Tapper’s home to celebrate Anne’s birthday (circa 1989).

Jean Collen 28 May 2019.

FANS

They attracted a legion of adoring fans. Many followed them ardently from one engagement to another and listened to all their broadcasts on the radio. One of their fans was Gladys Reed, seen below with Anne at the stage door of the London Palladium in 1942. You can see how delighted she was to have her photo taken with her idol! Anne wrote a letter to Gladys telling her to give their regards to the “gang” – probably referring to the devoted fans who followed them around from one engagement to the other.

2019-05-25_101919Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were very popular and attracted a legion of fans who followed them for a variety of reasons.

Before he began working with Anne, Webster attracted many female fans who admired him, not only for his beautiful voice, but for his smouldering good looks. He told me that he often singled out the most attractive girl in the audience and sang for her alone. Invariably she would be waiting at the stage door after the show, either to ask shyly for his autograph, hoping for a few kind words from her hero, or hoping, better still, that he would ask her out for a drink! He had attractive photos made to hand out to his fans, such as this one, signed at Shanklin in 1931, and the same photo later signed to Elaine in 1933.

2019-04-30_152223

His practised seduction technique led directly to his second marriage with soubrette, Paddy Prior. He had been singing at a Monday evening concert at the Concert Artistes Association when he noticed an attractive young woman sitting in the audience obviously enjoying his singing. When he sang One Alone he directed his attention to her alone. After the concert, he was introduced to her and they were married after his divorce from his first wife, Winifred Keey, was finalised. Sadly, his marriage to Paddy did not last very long after he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the Faust Fantasy at the end of 1934.

In July 1934, Madeleine wrote a note to her friends, Lily and Phil, from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight where Webster was appearing in the Sunshine summer show there.

1934 WBHe valued his fans and treated them with kindness and consideration.He answered fan mail himself, such as in these letters, dated September and December 1936:

1936 letters

During the 1990s Anne wrote to me and told me that her very first fan had visited her recently in Penrhyn Bay. The girl had been fifteen years of age in 1935 and saw Anne in a summer show in Ryde when Anne herself was only twenty-five years of age. She had been a fan of Anne’s ever since and kept in touch with her over the years.

Even before Webster’s divorce to Paddy Prior was finalised, he and Anne began singing together on the concert platform. They were an instant success. Both were very attractive with charming personalities. He wore an evening suit with a gardenia in his lapel; Anne was beautifully dressed. As their popularity grew, she had crinoline gowns designed for her, some by the Queen Mother’s dress-designer, Norman Hartnell.

They attracted a legion of adoring fans. Many followed them ardently from one engagement to another and listened to all their broadcasts on the radio. One of their fans was Gladys Reed, seen below with Anne at the stage door of the London Palladium in 1942. You can see how delighted she was to have her photo taken with her idol! Anne wrote a letter to Gladys telling her to give their regards to the “gang” – probably referring to the devoted fans who followed them around from one engagement to the other.

13 November 1942 bPalladium

Letter to Gladys 1943

North British Station Hotel

Imagine how Anne and Webster’s fairytale act must have lightened the lives of their fans during the difficult war years. No wonder they attracted so many people at that time.

In 1943, Jean Buckley (née Newman) was thirteen years of age, living in wartime Manchester and she and her mother spending many nights in an air raid shelter with bombs dropping around them, keeping them from sleep. She and her mother attended many of their concerts and broadcasts in the city for Jean was enchanted by their act. She and her mother always went backstage to see the couple and Jean saved her pocket money and collected coupons so that she could buy gifts to present to Anne whenever they went backstage after a show. Anne and Webster saw Jean so often that they often sent her complimentary tickets for their shows.

Jean was very upset when they decided to move to South Africa in 1956 but they kept in touch and she sent them copies of The Stage while they were living there. When they returned to the UK in 1978 they lived near Jean and her husband Maurice and spent a lot of time with them. Jean said that Webster enjoyed watching cricket on TV with Maurice.

When Webster became ill and was admitted to a nursing home, Jean visited him in the afternoon when she finished work and took him out occasionally to give him a break from the dull routine of the nursing home. After his death, Jean did a great deal for Anne in one way and another. She and Maurice raised money to inaugurate a prize in Webster’s name at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Jean was very hurt when Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson Hill condescendingly introduced her as “Anne’s greatest fan.” Jean replied, “I think I might be considered Anne’s greatest friend.” Sadly, Anne and Jean fell out over a trivial matter several years before Anne’s death and they were never reconciled. I corresponded with Jean for over ten years and I am sad that she has lost her sight and is now living in a frail care home at the age of eighty-seven.

Anne and Jean in Penrhyn Bay before going to the Royal Northern College, Manchester for prize winners’ concert for the Webster Booth prize.

Before attending  the RNCM concert (1990s)

Another fan was Pamela Davies (née James). She mentioned in her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? that she and her fellow teaching students gathered round the radio to listen to the Victory Royal Command Performance in November 1945 to hear Anne and Webster singing. She made extensive notes of all their radio appearances.

When Anne and Webster returned to the UK in 1978 she wrote to them to say how pleased she was that they had returned to the country. Thus began a regular correspondence which resulted in Pam and her husband Walter taking Anne out to lunch whenever they went to North Wales.

Anne and Webster went on an extensive concert tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948. Anne wrote in Duet: “I had an admirer in Christchurch who brought me flowers every day we were there. They were freesias, of the beautiful big New Zealand variety. Her name was Margaret Richardson, and she has since come over to England and obtained a job in New Zealand House.”

Margaret Richardson returned to New Zealand and she and Anne kept in touch over the years. Unfortunately, Margaret died shortly before Anne, so she did not receive the photos Anne had allocated to her in her will.

John Bull 1952

I wonder where these children are now and what they thought of their mother’s choice of names for them!

When they returned to the UK in 1978, aged 68 and 76, they expected to lead a quiet life in semi-retirement. They had been doing very little work in South Africa for years so it came as a surprise to them to find that they were in great demand in the UK. Many of their fans from the good old days were still alive. Soon they were travelling around the country, singing in concerts, giving talks, appearing on TV and presenting radio programmes. In 1975 they had given a farewell concert in Somerset West and they had not intended to sing again, but they gave in to public demand when they went back to the UK. Anne was still in fairly good voice but Webster’s voice had deteriorated and I thought it was very sad that he should have had to sing in public again when he was past his best. But they needed the money and their performances continued longer than they should have done. I don’t think their elderly fans were very critical – they were only too happy to see their favourites on stage once again.

On TV 1980

Joan Tapper, a piano teacher, had been a life-long fan of the couple and when they sang in Mold, North Wales, she presented them with a gift after the concert. This led to a friendship which lasted until Anne’s death in 2003.

Anne and her fan and friend, the late Joan Tapper.

Webster’s health deteriorated and after a disastrous performance in Bridlington when he forgot the words of one of their most popular duets, Anne realised that this had been their swansong and they would never be able to sing together again.

Webster died in 1984, and Anne lived alone in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another nineteen years. The bungalow was owned by Babs Wilson Hill, who had been Anne’s friend and admirer since they appeared in pantomime together in Liverpool in 1935, although by the end of their lives they were not as close as they had been in earlier times. They died within a few weeks of one another.

Happier times – Jean, Anne and Babs

Jean Collen © 22 June 2017