Friday, 6 October 2017

Uncle Mac and Broadstairs Information Hunt, fairly high tide at Ramsgate photos, Ramsgate Society back in the Clockhouse

Mick Glover who wrote the book “St Peters and the Forgotten Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens” here is the link http://michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/st_peters_and_the_forgotten_ranelagh_pleasure_gardens.htm is aiming to do a book about Uncle Mac’s Troupe.

These were the Broadstairs entertainers that operated mainly on the beach from 1895 to 1948, lead by Uncle Mac whose real name was James Henry Summerson.

Mainly identified by black makeup (faces but not hands), mortarboard (teachers) hats, and pretty much always with banjos, any information about them would be useful.


Costume wise they mostly seem to be photographed wearing something close to a clown suit dressed with lace, the 1937 guide http://michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/sunny_broadstairs.htm says. “Uncle Mack and his Merry Minstrels will present the their usual Popular entertainment” but what the entertainment consisted of I don’t know.

So anyone who remembers the performing? Any surviving relatives?

As far as I can see this troupe would completely predate the controversy related to blacking up with its racialist connotations which I think dates from 1967 although if there was an controversy related to this that extends back to 1948 it would be interesting.


I think that in Victorian times there were some genuinely black mistrals performing in Ramsgate and white “blacked up” musician competition, this is covered in the Gossiping Guide of 1882 http://michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/1882_a_gossiping_guide_.htm and would need a reread, which I will do when I get the time. So whether the blacking up here in Thanet was originally supposed to be derogatory towards black minstrels or is founded on admiration for black minstrels or comes from the American blacking up that started in the early 1800s I just don’t know.

I found a few more photos online and am concluding this was predominantly a musical performance.



Some pictures of today's fairly high tide, it went about a metre higher than this about 10 years ago, the worry is always that we get a high tide associated with the equinox, combined with a tidal surge associated with low barometric pressure and a storm all at the same time.














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