Thursday's Child Has Far To Go...

Beatrix Potter was only on her fourth book release in 1904 with "The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny" while J M Barrie released the second of his "Oz" books the same year and "Peter Pan" appeared for the first time on the London stage at the Duke Of Yorks Theatre at the end of the year while Henri Matisse created his oil on canvas "Luxe, Calme et Volupte" which was seen for the first time in Paris the following year.

As far as Rita Webb's character was concerned that sounds just about right! 

T

Jupiter symbolizes expansion, happiness, optimism, good humour and perspective, which means that Thursday's child will be jovial, generous, but also have the tendency for self-deception. This is a planet of teaching and a child born on a Thursday will always have a special philosophy to share with the world 

Rita Webb's mother, Rose Jeannette Webb had not long celebrated

London headlines and adverts from the day Rita Webb was born

hursday’s Child has far to go” or so the old familiar rhyme will have us believe and Rita Webb certainly proved it correct! A recent astrology post says this about being born on a Thursday. ...

her 28th birthday when she gave birth to her daughter at 87 Hartland Road,  Willesden, on Thursday 25th February 1904 it had proved to be a mild month, but by the end of February it had turned decidedly colder with snow falling in parts of London. Rita's Father Henry Augusutus Webb had also celebrated his 24th birthday the previous month the couple who had married seven months earlier decided to call their daughter Olive as it was a favourite name of her father's (It was also the 30th most popular name for girls of that year, the name Rita didn't even make the top 100!)

Including the day she was born Rita’s birthday fell on a Thursday eleven times in 77 years! We take a brief look at some of the happenings around Rita's world for those years.

Queen Victoria had been dead for over three years and her son Edward VII was King when

Rita's half brothers (from her mothers previous marriage) twin boys Gordon Louis & Leslie Joseph were eight years old and had just started going to St Augustine's School after previously being taught at a private school and 87 Hartland Road became home for a short period of time as newly born Olive Webb drew her first breath around the cold air of the leafy street in Willesden.

Rita Webb was born, years later when Rita became an actress she longed to play Victoria lke Anna Neagle had done but the nearest she got to playing her was in an episode of the Spike Milligan comedy "Oh In Colour" Back In 1904 having £10 in your pocket was the equivalent of well over one thousand pounds in today's money!  "The Daily News" was a popular read at 0ne half penny and the UK had a coalition government with Prime Minister Arthur Balfour.

Edward VII was still King and Herbert Henry Asquith became prime minister the previous year  with a liberal goverment. Kewpie dolls, Beatrix potter books and 78 records were all extremely popular around this time so it would be fair to assume something of this sort entertained young Rita & Henry as they adjusted to living in the world without their Mother.

Heavy rain had fallen just days before Rita's eleventh birthday and although the sun had come out two days previous by the time it reached the 25th of February it had turned decidedly chilly again.

Rita's father had remarried in 1911 and had two more children with his new wife  with another child due in August 1915.It was a difficult time for Rita and her brother Henry as their stepmother treated them poorly and both children would leave home at a young age. On top of this their Father had become a heavy drinker and as a result his second marriage would eventually fall apart and he ended up having more children with another  woman around the same time

It had been a considerably cold month but by the time Thursday 25 February rolled around on what would be Rita’s 22nd birthday the weather had become considerably milder for that time of year, it’s unclear what she did on that day, but it is clear that two days later she married Lionel Stanley Thompson at Brixton Registry office while living at 218 Brixton road and although the couple would not stay together for very long it seems to have been a happy time in her life, She called him "Thommie" he worked at a local chemist and for a short time in their young lives they seemed relatively happy, and although they separated and would never see each other again they hadn't divorced and so Rita would remain Mrs Thompson for the rest of her life. Six months after Rita married Thommie her darling dada died of heart failure on 21st august 1926 at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington he was only 46 years old, for Rita he was always her darling dada, but her brother Henry never forgave his Father for the way he treated him as a child.

‚Äč

George V was still King in 1926 and Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister with a conservative government and in May there was a nine day general strike, A A Milne's famous Winnie The Pooh book had it's first publishing, John Logie Baird gave the first demonstration of a television system that could broadcast live moving images with tone graduation a development that unknowing to Rita at the time would create most of her working output for the last thirty years of her life! the silent screen heartthrob Rudolph Valentino died two days after Rita's father on 23rd August an actor Rita Webb adored, she told a reporter many years later “I loved his dark looks, his dashing romantic actions: he was just what I needed as a girl. And because his films were silent, I had to imagine what Valentino’s voice was like. He probably sounded really sissy, so I’m glad I never had my illusions smashed by hearing him” As the world created and mourned a screen idol Rita Webb continued on with her life.

The day before Rita's 28th birthday the rain had fallen in London although it had been reported as the driest February since records began in 1910 it seemed Thursday’s child still had far to go by 1932 when another “Thursday” birthday came knocking. Rita had a shock a few years earlier when she found her brother unconscious in his flat, poor Henry was in a bad way and lost his left arm he ended up in hospital for four years! They were such close siblings it must have been a testing time for both of them. Henry had been a builder by trade and work was hard to come by in those days, it would be many years before Rita's dream of having a comfortable home and fascinating career became a reality.

 

The BBC aired it's first radio broadcast from it's newly opened building "Broadcasting House" a building which would become a familiar home to Rita when years later she would become "The best known unknown in the business" The BBC also did it's first experimental television broadcast this year and again it would be something that would benefit Rita Webb's outlook greatly in the coming years.Silent films were a thing of the past by now and the talkies were all the rage, Woman's own magazine was published for the first time, the popular singer Alma Cogan, another "Thursday's Child" was born on 19th May (Rita appeared on "The Ted Ray Show" that featured Alma in 1958) the Noel Coward penned "Mad About The Boy" was heard for the first time in the revue "Words and Music" (The character actress Doris Hare who would later become famous as Reg Varney's Mum in the sitcom "On The Buses"" was one of the original actresses s  who sang the song in that show. 

 

Ramsey Macdonald was Prime Minister with a coalition government and George V was still King(He delivered the first royal Christmas message that year)., the archbishop of Canterbury forbade remarriage in church of divorcees and a man called Adolf Hitler had just acquired German citizenship...

1915

1909

Seventy years after her fifth birthday Rita Webb poses in this 1979 photograph with a collection of toys, some of which were from her own childhood. NB: the teddy she is holding was given to her by Jeffie when they first met in 1940.

1926

1932

1937

1904

It was a cold end to February with Flurries of snow occurring in London when Rita’s first “Thursday” birthday fell in 1909 when she was five years old, it was the first birthday without her Mother, as poor Rose Webb died the previous year from cancer. It’s hard to gage how her birthday went at such a solemn time or if she herself fully understood what had happened, one thing seems clear it must have been a difficult time for all concerned.

 

After her mother died Rita's twin brothers Gordon & Leslie were separated from her life and she never saw them again. she did however have a brother who had been born in 1906 whom the couple had named Henry Richard Webb (After Rita's Father's father who died in 1900) Rita and her younger brother Henry were extremely close for their entire lives. It's possible they were living with their Father's Mother, Grandma Rosa Webb in 1909 thankfully both of these poor children were way too young to understand the enormous impact the death of their mother would have on their young lives in the years that followed.

In 1915 Herbert Henry Asquith was still prime minister when the first world war had begun the previous July (Rita would have been blissfully unaware that her 19 year old twin brothers had both signed up for the war the same year as her eleventh birthday, both boys got through the war but sadly Leslie died of pneumonia in 1919) However Rita was aware of her cousin Leonard Keysor who won the Victoria Cross after continuingly risking his life at Lone Pine by throwing grenades back at the enemy over a fifty hour period!. At home George V became King in 1910 on the death of his Father Edward VII. and at the end of May the first bombs were dropped on North London by air which must have been a terrifying experience for the eleven year old Rita and her nine year old brother Henry, although it was a bleak time for all concerned the movies bought a welcome release to many especially with the newly crowned king of comedy Charlie Chaplin who made millions laugh around the globe and hopefully put a cheer in the hearts of Rita and Henry

LEONARD KEYSOR

RITA'S TWIN BROTHERS

THOMMIE

RITA IN 1935

RITA IN 1939

The weather in London for February 1937 was as unsettled as the people who lived there, heavy rain fell just days before Rita's 33rd birthday and days after sleet and snow fell, so far it had been a grim month and little job prospects were on the horizon for Rita with the world edging towards the Second World War it must have been a tough time to celebrate so whether Rita did anything special on Thursday 25th February 1937 is unknown. On a brighter note her brother Henry had made a full recovery and managed incredibly well with one arm and it wouldn't be long before Rita met the love of her life and begin a career path that would change her life forever.. Britain had a coalition goverment with Stanley Baldwin as prime minister until 28th May when Neville Chamberlain took over. George VI was the new King after his brother Edward abdicated due to wanting to marry Wallis Simpson a twice divorced American woman whom he eventually married and spent the last 35 years of his life with. The hit musical "Me And My Gal" had it's first production that year and one of the songs featured in the show "The Lambeth Walk" was i'm sure a tune Rita and her friends must have sang along too many a time back then! Rita's aunt Ethel (her Father's sister) had been a gaiety girl and male impersonator and her Uncle Richard's wife Lyddie was an understudy for Marie Lloyd at one point, so it's not surprising that Rita Webb loved a good old fashioned sing song (Rita appeared in the 1955 BBC play "Our Marie" the story of Marie Lloyd starring Pat Kirkwood and in 1969 appeared in the tv series Music Hall) Back to 1937 and Rita Webb like the rest of Britain was bracing herself for WWII.

PART TWO COMING SOON