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Abaht them 'ere monologues

by Marriott Edgar, Stanley Holloway and others

Ma, Pa and Albert

Between the two World Wars several British poets wrote comical monologues to lift the spirits of their fellow citizens and servicemen.

Almost one hundred years later, humour is very different today and yet these monologues still manage to raise a chuckle. And the chuckle is raised whether it's the first time you've heard it, or you've heard it so many times that you can recite it off by heart.

And that is a mark of very special wit.

On this page, we introduce some of the best known authors, with links to their monologues.

Marriott Edgar

George Marriot Edgar (1880-1951) was born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, just north of the English border.

He penned his name "Marriott Edgar" to his monologues but to his friends he was known as "George".

He became part of his family's theatre troupe from an early age and went on to build a successful writing career as a journalist and author of several novels. He also wrote plays for the stage and screen. He is best remembered for writing many of the monologues performed by stand-up comedians and other entertainers, particularly in the dark days when Britain was at war.

Stanley Holloway

Stanley Holloway OBE (1890-1982), a fellow Briton, was one such performer. Holloway became famous for his comic character roles on both stage and the big screen, such as his role as Alfred Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady'. He began his recording career using 'The Ramsbottoms' monologues written by Marriott Edgar. It was a successful partnership of writer and performer.

Although he lived in London (Hampstead) he had served with a Yorkshire Regiment in World War I and acquired a close and detailed knowledge of the Yorkshire dialect.

Other writers

Other writers of the same genre include:

  • Archie de Bear (1888-1970), who staged plays at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End
  • Ashley Sterne, reputedly an anagram of Ernest Halsey, a comic journalist of the London Opinion
  • Bert Lee (1880-1946), a prolific comedy songwriter for music hall and stage
  • Greatrex Newman (1892-1984), an author and screenwriter
  • Mabel Constanduros (1880-1957), an actress and author who created the first radio family, the Buggins, where she played the role of Grandma Buggins
  • Michael Hogan, actor and leading film-script writer
  • Robert Patrick Weston (1878-1936), real name Robert Harris, wrote songs, monologues, musicals and films

Delivery

Normans, Saxons and such

Delivery of these monologues is best with an accent somewhere between the Scottish dialect of Edgar and the Southern English of Holloway; i.e., a Northern accent. (An' if thaz stuck on 'ow to pronunciate owt, wear tha' flat cap. It'll 'elp.)

These poems were not only entertaining, but also educational for those in the early 20th century who were unable to complete a full education at school. The poems became light-hearted potted history lessons, which no doubt encouraged and enthused many to expand their knowledge.

Printed and re-printed in several formats, the poem title may vary, according to the whim of the publisher. To complicate things further, aficionados may refer to a poem by its first line or 'punchline'.

Typical collection of volumes being:

Albert Ramsbottom, Joe and Others
 First line
The Lion and Albert
(Albert and the Lion)
There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool
The Return of Albert
(Albert Comes Back / Albert's Return)
You've 'eard 'ow young Albert Ramsbottom
Albert's ReunionYou've heard of Albert Ramsbottom
Albert Down UnderAlbert were what you'd call 'thwarted'
The Jubilee Sov'rinOn Jubilee Day the Ramsbottoms
The Recumbent PostureThe day after Christmas, Young Albert
The Runcorn Ferry
(Tuppence per person per trip)
On the banks of the Mersey, over on Cheshire side
Albert and the 'EadsmanOn young Albert Ramsbottom's birthday
Albert and His SavingsOne day, little Albert Ramsbottom
Albert EvacuatedHave you heard how young Albert Ramsbottom
AsparagusMr Ramsbottom went to the races
Joe RamsbottomJoe Ramsbottom rented a bit of a farm
Goalkeeper JoeJoe Dunn were a bobby for football
Gunner JoeI'll tell you a seafaring story

Samuel Small and Others
Marksman SamWhen Sam Small joined the regiment
Old Sam's Christmas Pudding
(Sam's Christmas Pudding)
It was Christmas Day in the trenches
Sam Goes To ItSam Small had retired from the Army
Sam's RacehorseWhen Sam Small retired from the Army
Old Sam
(Sam, Pick Oop Tha' Musket)
It occurred on the evening before Waterloo
One Each Apiece All RoundNo. 2468
Alt! Who Goes There?Old Sam first came to London
Beat the Retreat On Thy Drum
(Sam, Sam, Beat the Retreat)
I'm hundred and two today' bagoom!
Sam's medalYou've 'eard of Samuel Small, per'aps
Old Sam's PartySam Small, though approaching his eightieth year
Sam Drummed OutWhen a lad's been drummed out or the Army
Sam's SturgeonSam Small were fishing in canal

Normans and Saxons and such: some ancient history
Canute the GreatI'll tell of Canute, King of England
The Fair Rosamond
(The Fair Rosamund)
I'll tell of King 'Enry the Second
Henry the SeventhHenry the Seventh of England
The Magna CharterI'll tell of the Magna Charter
Queen MatildaHenry the first, surnamed 'Beauclare'
Richard Coeur-de-LionRichard the fiirst, Coeur-de-Lion
The Battle of Hastings
(1066)
I'll tell of the Battle of Hastings
The Burghers of CalaisIt were after the Battle of Crecy
William RufusThe reign of King William the Second
With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her ArmIn the Tower of London, large as life

Others
Balbus
(The Great Wall of China)
I'll tell you the story of Balbus
Jonah and the Grampus
(Jonah and the Whale)
I'll tell you the story of Jonah
Little Aggie
(An Elephant Never Forgets)
When Joe Dove took his elephants out on the road
The Channel SwimmerWould you hear a wild tale of adventure
The 'Ole in the ArkOne evening at dusk as Noah stood on his Ark
Three Ha'pence a FootI'll tell you an old-fashioned story
Up'ards
(Lancashire version of Longfellow's 'Excelsior')
Twere getting dusk
George and the DragonI'll tell you the tale of an old country pub
St. George and the DragonSome folks'll boast about their family trees
The BeefeaterOh dear, starting another day I suppose
Brahn BootsOur Aunt Hannah's passed away
Yorkshire PuddenHi waitress, excuse me a minute, now listen
Sweeney Todd, the BarberIn Fleet Street that's in London Town
Many Happy ReturnsDown at the school house at Runcorn
The Parson of PuddleIn the clean little, green little

The most popular of all these monologues is without doubt The Lion and Albert.

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