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.

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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.

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.

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.

BACK HOME AGAIN (1978 – 1979)

1978 and 1979 were good years for the Booths just after they returned to the UK. Many of their fans from the pinnacle of their careers were still alive and only too happy to attend concerts presented by the couple. After a number of quiet years in Knysna and Somerset West they were now in great demand once again.

1978 and 1979 were good years for the Booths just after they returned to the UK. Many of their fans from the pinnacle of their careers were still alive and only too happy to attend concerts presented by the couple. After a number of quiet years in Knysna and Somerset West they were now in great demand once again.

1978
Portraits for the “third” career – as Anne termed their return to the UK.
15 August 1978 – In North Wales with Penny.
15 August 1978 – with Penny.
Visiting Jean and Maurice Buckley at their home in Rhos on Sea.
Visiting the Buckleys.
1978 – On TV with Jess Yates.
On TV with Jess Yates 1978 It’s a Grand Night for Singing.
Anne and Webster, Pennrhyn Bay (1978)
In the dressing room preparing for a TV appearance 1978.
Afternoon 7 December 1978 – Interview on Thames TV
21 December 1978 Looks Familiar on Thames TV with Denis Norden and Arthur Askey.
1 March 1979 Musical Memories of the Theatre (Thursdays) Arcadia Theatre, Llandudno.
23 May 1979 Radio BBC Radio 4
June 1979
Llandudno June 1979
Llandudno Lunch.
29 August 1979 – Jess Yates with BBC Wales’ It’s a Grand Night for Singing.
16 August 1979 New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion
11 November 1979 Tameside Theatre, Ashton
Odeon Twickenham
December 1979 Lovers Come Back.
At the BBC for a broadcast of “Lovers Come Back” – December 1979.
21 December 1979

SWEETHEARTS OF SONG

Front cover small-01Four years ago, I received a lovely letter about the book from a gentleman in Ireland. I share it with you  on the fourteenth anniversary of Anne’s death.He had recently read my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. He attached various photos of Penrhyn Bay, North Wales which he had taken during his trip. Ashampoo_Snap_2015.10.07_16h06m30s_002

    • Part of his note reads as follows:

  • “All thanks to you, I spent a really moving day rambling the highways and byways of Penrhyn Bay. To be standing outside Anne and Webster’s house was an extraordinary feeling and for me a real privilege. Looking at the house, and then walking on the beach, all the time internally hearing their wonderful music, and feeling a real sense of gratitude to them both for all the joy they brought to countless millions over the years with their unique gifts, their unique talents. And yes, as I looked out on Penrhyn Bay, and then further East to Rhos on Sea, Colwyn Bay, Llanddulas and Abergele, I would see in my mind’s eye, the beautiful Anne in her youth, as well as her undoubted beauty in her later years. It is, as you well know, a spectacular landscape: Snowdonia to the South, the Ormes to the West, and to the North the Irish Sea stretching as far as the eye can see—–all quite something, and a beautiful and moving backdrop to remember both Anne and Webster. 
So once again, many thanks, not only for your wonderful book but also for a memorable windswept day in Penrhyn Bay.”

It was good to know that my book had given him pleasure and had motivated him to pay a visit to Webster and Anne’s final home.
Jean Collen 13 October 2017.
  •