Morpeth Rotary Club
GUEST speaker Peter Tracey talked to members about the poetry of Mariott Edgar.
Mr Tracey was a teacher at Bedlington High School and had very good links with the Czech Republic, where he has taught and arranged exchange visits.
All children there learn English from the age of seven. He was surprised at how polite the students were – they all stand up when the teacher comes in.
He worked there full-time for five years after he retired, following on from a past link between the Northumberland Education Department and Northern Bohemia. He still has links and is working with a team of eight using conversation, role play, song and poetry to help 150 Czech teachers improve their English in August.
In trying to make learning English more fun, he asked the Czechs for their local hero. They chose Jara Zimmerman, a fictional anti-hero who allegedly was the first to discover and achieve things just before the internationally-known people did, except he didn’t get the publicity.
For example, he was, apparently, the first at the South Pole, the first to discover dynamite and the first to discover the source of the Nile.
In turn, Mr Tracey chose the poet Mariott Edgar as his English hero.
To make sure everyone knew who he was talking about, he explained that the poet wrote monologues used by Stanley Holloway such as the Lion and Albert.
He was born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1880, although the family moved to London soon after he was born. His father was a theatre impresario and his mother was in the theatre. He had a number of brothers and sisters that he never met and was on the stage himself when he was eight or nine.
His father left and later his mother, but aged 12 he was an independent music hall artist. Mr Edgar wrote some scripts for the theatre and by the time he was 15, had a good income.
At 20, he moved to America. He was a dashing character with a great voice and wrote good scripts.
He met a man at a function at Los Angeles Zoo who he discovered was his half-brother Edgar Wallace, the writer, but they did not get on.
He did well in Hollywood with scripts and entertaining, then back in the UK began to write amusing monologues and worked with Stanley Holloway.
One of them he set in a zoo with a lion called Wallace. Edgar Wallace never forgave him afterwards. It was based on a true story from London Zoo.
Other famous poems and monologues included one about the signing of the Magna Carta, one about Noah and an excellent one about the Battle of Hastings with a refrain of ‘On ’is ’orse with ’is ’awk in ’is ’and’.
Between 1936 and 1944, Mr Edgar worked for Gainsborough Pictures as a scriptwriter for a number of British films, almost all of which were comedies. He died in 1951.
Mr Tracey is on the main Rotary district charity committee and is to be President of Newcastle Rotary in 2015.