Chapter One The Heroic Life of Phyllis Mary Pinnock
In the Beautiful Valley of Tamar
My paternal grandmother Phyllis Mary Pinnock grew into a remarkably beautiful young woman with dark hair and green eyes, and an exquisitely sculpted mouth.
She'd been born sometime towards the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century, possibly in the Dulwich area of South East London. And given her father had been what is known as a gentleman, which means he forswore all labour, it may have been she was a scion of that part of the upper middle class known as the lower gentry.
And according to my father's account, her first true love David was a scion of the Wilson Line of Hull which had developed into the largest privately owned shipping firm in the world in the early part of the century.
But like so many young men of that dutiful generation, immortalised in cruelly beautiful poems such as Wilfrid Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth, which speaks to us of "sad shires" decimated by an inexplicable conflict, he died young during the First World War. And she subsequently married an officer in the British army, to whom she bore two children, Peter Bevan, and Suzanne, known as Dinny.
When her children were little more than infants, she elected to join her husband as a tea planter in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. And it was on that breathtakingly beautiful island, in a tough and typically isolated environment that she met the two men, tea planters like herself, who were destined to become her second and third husbands.
They were a British engineer by the name of Christopher "Chris" Evans, and my Danish namesake, Carl Halling.
Carl had evidently once been a successful businessmen within the linoleum industry before some kind of reversal of fortune found him on the famous tea fields of Ceylon, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once described as being "as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo."
Mary's third child, my father, was born Patrick Clancy Halling in Rowella, Tasmania, in the beautiful Tamar Valley, but raised as Carl's son in the great city of Sydney.
And according to Pat, Carl and Mary eked an existence in various fields of endeavour, including fruit farming, gold prospecting and real estate. While Mary was at some point a primary school teacher, and another, a journalist for the Sydney Telegraph. But it was a hard life according to Pat, especially after Carl contracted the multiple sclerosis that would ultimately kill him.
One blessing being that all three children were exceptionally gifted musically, Patrick as violinist, Peter as cellist, and Suzanne as pianist And while little more than an infant, Pat won a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatory of Music where he studied with Gerald Walenn, soloing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on a single occasion when he was still only eight or nine or ten. And one can only imagine the effect it had on his childish nervous system. However, he reserved his true passion for the water, this love of the sea and ships and specifically sailing being a legacy from Mary, who spent much of her adult life by the sea.
Carl died around about the time of the abdication of King Edward VIII which took place in 1936, soon after which Mary and her family set off for Denmark, Carl having expressed a wish to be buried in his native land. And then all three children stayed behind for some time while their mother went valiantly on to London to look for somewhere to live on a permanent basis.
And it was in London that Pat studied both at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, under the tutelage of Rowsby Woof and Max Rostal respectively.
He joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London.
And at the same time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the Thames River Emergency Service, which, formed in 1938, lasted for three years, using converted Thames pleasure steamers as floating ambulances or first aid stations.
But some years prior to Mary settling back in her native London with her children, she'd evidently received a significant sum of money as an inheritance. And it could conceivably be said that doing so resulted in a reconciliation with her hallowed social class, although this suggests some kind of rupture, which may not actually have happened; at least in a spiritual sense.
But what is true is that she was convinced she was descended from a lost branch of an aristocratic family. For when I was a young man, my father would occasionally speak to me of it as a means of boosting my morale, as if I was born for the life of a scholar and athlete of distinction befitting blue-blooded origins.
And in this one respect, I was akin to the legendary movie star Montgomery Clift, whose extraordinary beauty and magnetism could be said to constitute the very quintessence of the aristocratic WASP Prince. For despite being born into a fairly humble middle class family, Clift was a scion of the southern aristocracy according to his mother Ethel "Sunny" Clift.
So Monty and his twin sister and elder brother Brooks were raised as if to the manor born, and educated by his mother and private tutors in both Europe and the US, learning to speak French, German and Italian in the process.
But I never fully believed Mary's story until one day in the 1980s, while my family was being paid a visit by her younger sister Joan, together with her husband, my great uncle Eric, I surreptitiously placed a cassette tape recorder close to the dining table during lunch or supper.
And I did so in the belief that one or another of my parents would quiz her as to the veracity of Mary's longstanding boast of distant blue blood.
If my memory serves me aright, among the truths she revealed about our family that day was that Joan and Mary's paternal great grandfather had been a coachman by trade who'd been left an enormous sum of money by a grateful employer. And this act of philanthropy introduced money into the family for the first time.
Another was that her maternal grandmother's maiden name had been Butler, which allegedly links the family to the Butlers of Ormond, a dynasty of Anglo-Norman nobles named after the Earldom they went on to rule in Munster, Ireland.
And the Butler saga begins in earnest with the Norman Invasions of Ireland, which took place in 1169 on the orders of one Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, one of five kingdoms of pre-Norman Ireland.
The Mystery of Ormonde
But who precisely were these Normans who went on to create one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe and whose territorial conquests would ultimately include not just Ireland, but England, Scotland, Wales, Southern Italy and the island of Sicily?
Unsurprisingly, they are largely Nordic, although believed to have been of mixed Viking, Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock, a mixture which apparently produced an instinct towards elitism and dominance.
And the Norman conquest of England was famously sealed with William the Conqueror's success at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, which introduced a new aristocracy into the country. Which means that the Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England, while becoming part of a single French-speaking culture with lands on both sides of the channel.
And this explains her fierce rivalry with mainland France, as well as the 1842 poem, Lady Clara Vere de Vere, in which Tennyson makes the valid point that "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood," which of course inspired the classic Ealing comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer in 1949.
And what the poem was alluding to was the specifically Norman nature of the English aristocracy. But back to the travails of the Emerald Isle
By the fateful year of 1169, Ireland, a land once given over to the ancient Celtic faith of Druidry and the worship of the Sidhe or Faery Folk, was profoundly Christian, despite a remnant of paganism.
But an invasion had already been authorised as early as 1155 by the first and only English Pope Adrian IV, decision which occasioned centuries of English dominance and Irish misery. While MacMurrough had been forced into exile in 1166 by a coalition of forces led by the High King of Ireland Rory O'Connor, and had fled...allegedly to Bristol first...and then to France.
There are various accounts of what happened next, but it's certain he asked Henry II, first English King of the Norman House of Plantagenet, for help in regaining his kingdom. And after Henry had pledged his aid, began recruiting allies in Wales, with Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, foremost among them. So Ireland was earmarked for invasion.
In 1167, he returned to Ireland with a small army of mercenaries, but it wasn't until '69 that a full-scale invasion by the Anglo-Normans and their Welsh and Flemish allies got under way. And while contemporary accounts refer to the invaders as English, they have also been described as Anglo-Norman, Cambro-Norman and Anglo-French. With the Flemish contingent recruited largely from those Flemings who'd arrived in Britain with William the 1st and had settled in Wales...only to be perceived by the hostile Welsh as English. And also believed to have taken part was one Theobald Walter, patriarch of the Butlers of Ormond.
Two years afterwards, Henry II set foot in Ireland, the first English King to do so, and so High Kingship was brought to an end, to be replaced by over 750 years of English rule.
Henry was an ancestor of future generations of Butlers, and a grandson of William the Conqueror, which may provide a kinship with the mysterious Merovingian dynasty of Frankish Kings.
And when his son Prince John arrived in Ireland in 1185, it was in the company of the said Theobald Walter, whose father had been Butler of England; and so he was appointed Butler of Ireland and given a portion of land in eastern Munster that would become known as Ormond. Thence the name, the Butlers of Ormond.
Around 1200, he married Maud le Vavasour, purported inspiration for Maid Marian, wife of the mythical outlaw Robin Hood, himself allegedly based on Maud's second husband, Fulk FitzWarin.
And they had one son together, Theobald le Botiller, 2cnd Baron Butler, who, by marrying Margery de Burgh, a descendant of both Dermot McMurrough and the legendary Brian Boru, brought royal Gaelic blood into the Butler bloodline. While their sole and only son...also known as Theobald, took Joan FitzJohn as his spouse; and from their union came eight sons, the second of which, Edmund Butler, married Joan FitzGerald of the ancient FitzGerald dynasty.
It was for their eldest son James that the earldom of Ormonde was created for the first time. And his appointment came in 1328, only months after his marriage to Lady Eleanor de Bohun, beautiful grand-daughter of Edward the 1st of the House of Plantagenet, known as the Angevins from their origins in Anjou, France.
Dubbed The Hammer of the Scots, Longshanks was that Anglo-Norman king who'd had Scottish noble Sir William Wallace executed in 1305 for having led a resistance during the Wars of Scottish independence.
While among James Butler's descendants was Anne Boleyn, whose father Thomas, a Butler by matrilineal descent, became Earl of Ormonde in 1528. This having occurred when Piers Ruadh Butler resigned his claim by orders of the king; only to have the earldom restored to him ten years later. Act which heralded the title's third creation.
And by this time, England had become a Protestant nation, and Anglicanism established in Ireland as the state religion, despite the vast majority of the population being Catholic.
And much to Ireland's misfortune, the Butlers became involved with some vicious feuding with their long time rivals the FitzGeralds in the late 1500s. And when the so-called Black Earl Sir Thomas Butler vanquished his own mother's family at the Battle of Affane in 1565, it helped provoke the Desmond Rebellions of 1567-73 and 1579-83, the second of which was bolstered by hundreds of papal troops.
But these were defeated by the Elizabethan Armies and their Irish allies, soon after which the first English Plantations were carried out in a devastated Munster. While the first plantations in Ulster, Ireland's most purely Gaelic region, remained yet in the future.
Of the Supposed Superiority of Nobility
In 1609 the first Ulster Plantation came into being in the wake of the Nine Years War of 1594-1603, which was largely fought between the Kingdom of England and its Irish allies and an alliance of Gaelic clans led by Hugh O'Neill and Hugh Roe O'Donnell. While the latter would ultimately include 6000 Spanish soldiers sent by Phillip II.
The routing of the Ulster Earls led to the famous Flight of the Earls to Europe, the end of the Gaelic Clan system, and the colonization of Ulster by English and Scottish Protestants.
While the next conflict to involve the Butlers of Ormond was the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which was an uprising not of the Catholic Irish, but the Old English, composed of Catholic gentry who'd become more Irish than the Irish themselves. And while the fifth Earl, James Butler, was placed in charge of English government forces based in Dublin, the Old English were led by his own cousin Richard Butler; with the Catholic rebels prevailing.
But in time it mutated into a war between the native Irish and the newly arrived Protestant settlers from Britain...which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Protestants, the precise number being a matter of much debate.
While a year later, James Butler was involved in yet another conflict in the shape of the English Civil War. And being a Royalist sympathizer, he despatched an estimated 4000 troops to England to fight for King Charles the 1st against the Calvinist Roundheads under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell...only to be made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by Royal Appointment in 1643 for his pains.
But by 1649, Ireland had become a stronghold of support for the King; with Ormonde in charge both of the Royalist forces and the Irish Confederation of Old English Catholics and native Gaels; and this had the effect of attracting the hostile attentions of Cromwell and his New Model Army.
And when Ormonde attempted to thwart the English Puritan invaders by holding a line of fortified towns across the country, Cromwell defeated them one after the other, beginning in 1649 with the Siege of Drogheda.
While in the summer of 1650, following a long series of humiliating defeats for the Irish, Ormonde, having been deserted by Protestants and Catholics alike, was urged to leave the country by the Catholic clergy, which he promptly did, seeking refuge in Paris with the exiled Charles II.
Yet, on the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in 1660, he was showered with honours by the new King of England, Scotland and Ireland; and was made Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of Ireland in the spring of '61.
But eight year later, he fell from favour as a result, allegedly, of courtly intrigue on the part of Royal favourite James Villiers, the 2cnd Duke of Buckingham. While in 1671, an attempt was made on his life by an Irish adventurer by the name of Thomas Blood; but Ormonde escaped, convinced that Buckingham had put him up to it, although nothing was ever proven.
Then in 1682, he became Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of England, dying four years later in Dorset. While soon after his death, a poem was published that celebrated an essential decency that was never compromised.
One of his sons, the 2cnd Duke of Ormonde, commanded a regiment at the Battle of the Boyne under William of Orange, and took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. While his own son was the third and final Duke of Ormonde.
However, the Earldom lasted until the end of the 20th Century, becoming dormant in October 1997 with the death of James Butler the 7th Marquess of Ormonde, who had two daughters, but no sons.
And it may be I'm a distant relative of theirs...and if so, also related to many, perhaps even all of the most blue-blooded families not just in Europe but the entire world.
In the end though, the facts of history entirely fail to attest to the natural superiority of nobility, even though the Bible upholds the authority of parents and the instruments of the state. For God has implemented these as a means of controlling Man's innate depravity, while appealing to his hierarchical instincts and deep-seated desire for order and structure.
But all hierarchies erected by Man in order that one section of society might feel superior to another, whether on the basis of class, race, skin colour or some other false distinction, are Antichrist, because all human beings are created equal in the sight of God.
And there is a theory that those blessed by nobility of birth are in fact less likely to turn to Christ than those from backgrounds of brokenness or poverty. While great beauty or wealth or intellectual distinction can fill its possessors with a sense of self-sufficiency which can lead to a refutation of God.
But my beautiful grandmother Phyllis was ever attached to the notion her family boasted blue blood in spite of a life of unending hardship...much of this attributable to sheer ill fortune. For instance, having married Chris Evans soon after the death of her second husband Carl, she lost him in '49 while they were both out sailing together, the victim of a fatal coronary.
I first met her in the early 1960s when I was still just a small child, by which time she was living on a yacht in the south of France, possibly Nice, or Cannes, a striking figure, slim and tanned, with a magnificent head of the purest white hair. But by about the middle of the decade, she'd moved into her own house, Chartley, named after her former house in Sydney. And situated near the little town of Cambrils on Catalonia's Costa Brava.
And for several years until about '68, our family vacationed with her at Chartley every summer, often with Peter's family. Which is to say, Peter himself, his Welsh- born wife Marge, and my cousins Rod, a future musician of genius himself, and Kris, known affectionately as Krispy. They resided virtually opposite us in Ramilies Road, Bedford Park, while we were in Esmond.
Photos of her from around this time reveal a weather beaten woman with wiry white hair, habitually clad in old and even patched trousers; but she could be sweet when her heart was touched.
She was a fantastic spirit, given to what could be called Celtic whimsy, which may have proceeded from Cornish origins, which her maiden name of Pinnock certainly suggested. Although the Anglo-Saxons are hardly less inclined to this quality, for after all, did they not produce such icons of nonsense as Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll?
By the early '70s, ill health forced her back to Britain, where she lived until her passing in 1973, sometimes with us, and sometimes in her own little cottage in Berkshire. While her constant companions were two mongrel dogs whom she'd rescued from the beach towards the end of her Spanish sojourn.
These were Charlot, who was sandy-coloured and looked a little like a whippet, and Phillippe, who had long pointed ears like those of an Alsatian.
She was an altogether different person in frail old age, much mellowed and desperately vulnerable, writing desolate poetry for my benefit, or watching old movies with me on TV. Such as the sentimental Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel, which she initially dismissed as "slush!"
But the famous climactic tune of You'll Never Walk Alone has a tendency to touch all but the most stoical of hearts, and Mary's was not exempt.
For my part, I'd left the room, possibly to weep softly to myself in some secluded part of my parents' house, only to return to find her in tears. I've never forgotten it.
There were times I was able to share some tender moments with her, but looking back, I wish there'd been more, and oh how she'd have welcomed them. But I was young and strong and thoughtless, with little concern for the trials of the elderly, fact which saddens me today.
For does not the Word of God say in Matthew 25:40, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me..."?
Now I'm almost the same age she was when we first met, and I've come to honour the memory of a brilliant tragic woman, and to feel for her in a way I was never capable of during the brief few years of our acquaintance.
A little before her passing, Phillippe vanished under mysterious circumstances into the English countryside. So Charlot came to live with us on his own in '73; and was subsequently renamed Charlie. He proved a gentle, faithful and loving pet, but with a strong character akin to that of his doting mistress, dying himself in 1983 following a short but valiant battle with declining health.
Chapter Two Miss Ann Watt Had Stars in Her Eyes
The Scots-Irish Sept of Watt
My father Patrick Clancy Halling joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London. And during this time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the previously mentioned Thames River Emergency Service.
Following his time with the LPO, he played with the London Symphony Orchestra with his cellist brother Peter, before going on to specialize in Chamber music.
His chamber career included eight years with the Hirsch quartet, led by Dublin- born violinist Leonard Hirsch, and the formation of his own Quartet Pro Musica in 1955, with Roger Raphael, Peter Sermon and his brother Peter, while Ernest Scott and Gwynne Edwards joined at a later date. And three years later, this resulted in an extraordinary event taking place in the Recital Room of the Royal Festival Hall.
On the 2cnd of November 1958, the Quartet convened to take part in a reading of TS Eliot's Four Quartets by four giants of the arts, including the then poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis, together with his wife, the actress Jill Balcon, fellow actress Maxine Audley, and Shakespearean scholar George Rylands. By which time, Lewis' and Balcon's son, future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, would have been a little over a year and half old. And this was interspersed with a rendition of Bela Bartok's Sixth Quartet.
He also played with the Virtuoso Ensemble, whose distinctions are believed to have included first UK performances of works by major British 20th Century composers, such as Elizabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Peter Racine Fricker and Mátyás Seiber.
And among his recordings from the late 1950s currently featured on the internet are The History of Music in Sound, Vol. VI: The Growth of Instrumental Music (1630-1750), on which, with Richard Hadeney on flute, Basil Lam on harpsichord, and Terence Weil on cello, he interprets Vitali's Trio Sonata in E Minor, Op. 2, No. 3, Legrenzi's La Cornara and Jenkins' Fancy in G Minor.
In June 1949, he wed my mother, the Canadian singer Miss Ann Watt, who through marriage became Mrs Ann Halling, thereby substituting a Scottish surname for a Danish one.
In Ireland, the Watt surname is exclusive to Ulster, home province of my grandfather James Watt, having been carried there by the Scottish and English planters of the late 1600s. It's common in the Scottish Lowlands, especially in the counties of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.
As might be expected it's affiliated with that of Watson, and both are what is known as septs of the Forbes and Buchanan clans. A sept being a family that traditionally followed a particular chief or clan leader in the Highlands or Lowlands of Scotland, either through being related by marriage or resident on his land, and so helped to make up a larger clan or family.
Kindred septs include those of MacQuat, MacQuattie, MacQuhat, MacQwat, MacRowatt, MacWalter, MacWater, MacWatson, MacWatt, MacWatters, MacWattie, Vatsoun, Vod, Vode, Void, Voud, Voude, Vould, Walter, Walterson, Wasson, Waters, Waterson, Watsone, Watsoun, Wattie, Wattson, Wod, Wode, Wodde, Woid, Woide, Wood, Woyd and Wyatt.
She'd been born Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt on the 13th of November 1915, in the city of Brandon, Manitoba, the youngest by 7 years of the six children of James and Elisabeth Watt from Ulster, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland respectively. And the only one not to be born in Britain...the others, Annie-Isabella, the eldest born ca. 1897, Robert, James, Elisabeth, who died in infancy, and Catherine having been born in Glasgow, except Cathy, who was born in Ireland.
While still an infant she moved with her family to the Grandview area of East Vancouver, whose earliest settlers tended to be shopkeepers, or tradesmen, in shipping or construction work, and largely from the British Isles. Such as James Watt himself, a builder by trade, born in the little town of Castlederg in County Tyrone, Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Grandview underwent massive change following the First World War when Italian, Chinese, and East European immigrants moved in, and still more after World War II with a second wave of Italian immigrants. Today its part of the Grandview-Woodland area of East Vancouver.
Ann's mother was from the great industrial city of Glasgow, having been born there to an Englishman from either Manchester or Liverpool; while her mother was Scottish. This means that my mother is of mixed Lowland Scottish, Ulster-Scots and English ancestry, not that any real difference exists between these three ethnicities.
As to my maternal grandfather...he was almost certainly a descendant of the Planters sent by the English to Ulster in the 1600s, many of them originally inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish border country and the Lowland region of Scotland.
According to some sources, Lowlanders are distinct from their Highland counterparts, being of Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic ancestry, although how true this is I'm not qualified to say. Certainly, the region straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, is one traditionally perceived as Sassenach, which is the Gaelic term for Saxon, or person of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Whatever the truth, the sensible view is their bloodline contains a variety of kindred strains including - as well as Anglo-Saxon - Gaelic, Pictish, Norman and so on, depending on the exact region. Moreover, all Caucasian inhabitants of the British Isles - including the independent sovereign nation of Ireland - partake of a fairly homogenous ancestry, which certain experts are claiming to be more Iberian than anything else. In the end, though, are we not all of the same single human race created by God? As a Christian, I can't believe anything else.
The Ulster Scots emigrated to the US in the 1600s, and their descendants are to be found all throughout the country. But most famously perhaps in those regions which are culturally Southern, which is to say those states situated beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Indeed most of the original European settlers of the Deep and Upland South are widely believed to have been of British and especially English and Scots-Irish origin. Today, many of them describe themselves as merely "American", while others continue to claim either English or Scots-Irish ancestry.
The Theatre Under the Stars
By the time he'd moved his family to Grandview in the autumn of 1924, my grandfather James Watt had abandoned the severe Presbyterian Calvinism of his Ulster boyhood and youth for the more open - Wesleyan - theology of the Salvation Army. Yet, in keeping with the Army of that time, his approach to Scripture was what would be described as fundamentalist today; and he was accordingly opposed to worldly pleasures such as dancing, the theatre, and movie-going. Alcohol was nothing short of the Devil's own elixir, while even the drinking of tea and coffee was frowned upon.
Some years after moving to Grandview, James Watt built his family a house in Kitsilano on the city's West Side, but a reversal of fortune in terms of his business meant that the family was forced to return to Grandview.
Then at the age of 14, Angela joined her friend Marie and Marie's mother on a car trip just beyond the US-Canadian border into the state of Washington, where she saw her very first movie, a romantic civil war picture entitled Only the Brave starring Gary Cooper and Mary Brian. Its effect on her was little short of seismic, as by her own admission it introduced worldly ideas into her psyche for the very first time.
Despite an intensively Christian upbringing, from then on, she became consumed by the glamour of the movies and show business. In other words, she'd allowed the camel's nose into her life, and it only remained for the rest of the camel to follow.
At high school, she'd been a diligent but not exceptional pupil; and her sole and only sporting distinction consisted of being part of her school track team. While her closest friend, the universally popular Margaret Stone, was an exceptional young sportswoman. However, Angela came into her own in the Glee Club, where presumably she first started using her beautiful singing voice beyond the confines of the Army.
When she was 17, her father became very seriously ill and she was forced to take time off school to do her share of looking after him. She spent long periods of time by his bedside, weeping for a man who when she was still only a little girl had a habit of affectionately flicking the back of her hair and she'd scolded him to make him stop. She was off for so long that Margaret Stone had come calling for her with another friend, concerned by her protracted absence. James Watt died after a short illness, and Angela, utterly heartbroken, wept openly at his funeral.
In her final year at high school, she learned short hand and other tools of the secretarial trade, while working part time at F.W. Woolworth's on Commercial Drive.
After leaving, she started work answering telephone enquiries on behalf of a laundry business by the name of Pioneer Laundry, where her sister Cathy ran a branch specialising in the washing and starching of men's collars.
And it was during her time at Pioneer that Angela received her first big break, when one of her co-workers, presumably after discovering Angela had ambitions to sing professionally, suggested she accompany her to a singing engagement at a gentleman's club in the city.
Angela promptly took her up on her offer, and as a result of having done so, was tendered details of a singing teacher by the name of Avis Phillips by a member of the club.
Soon after having made contact with Avis, Angela became her pupil, and ultimately also her friend, and this association brought her into contact with Avis' regular accompanist, Phyllis Dylworth, whose uncle just happened to be regional head of the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
It was through this family tie that Angela secured her first professional engagements as a soprano, indeed her entire singing career, with many of its greatest triumphs taking place at Vancouver's famous Theatre Under the Stars, which officially opened on August the 6th 1940. And where Miss Ann Watt played the lead in such classic operettas as Oscar Straus' The Chocolate Soldier, Naughty Marietta by Victor Herbert, with libretto by Rida Johnson Young, and The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg, with libretto by Dorothy Donnelly.
And for the CBC with full orchestra, she broadcast many popular classics. Such as, to the accompaniment of Percy Harvey and the Golden Strings, two songs by Victor Herbert with the baritone Greg Miller, viz., A Kiss in the Dark, from Orange Blossoms, and the lovely title song from Sweethearts.
As well as Neath the Southern Moon, another breathtakingly romantic melody by Herbert, Strange Music from The Song of Norway, adapted from Grieg by Wright and Forrest, and Cant Help Singing by Kern and Yarburg from the 1944 movie of the same name.
Such was the of her voice, to say nothing of looks so glamorous she was likened to Betty Grable, she became something of a sweetheart of the Canadian Forces. While her irresistible vivacity and charm caused both audiences and press to fall in love with her not just in Canada but parts of the northern US as well.
Among the Classical songs she broadcast during the North American phase of her career were Schumann's Dedication, Brahms' The Vain Suit, Delibes' Les Filles de Cadiz, Debussy's Mandoline, Rachmaninov's Before My Window, and Vaughan Williams' exquisite musical evocation of Rossetti's Silent Noon...with all liede rendered in English due to wartime restrictions on the German language.
After the war, she hoped to expand her career either in the US or the UK, but despite a successful audition for the San Francisco Light Opera Company, she ultimately opted for England, once a ticket to sail had become available to her.
She left for Britain laden with letters of recommendation from Avis Phillips, as well as numerous press cuttings from her brilliant Canadian career.
She'd been led to believe that once in London, she'd effectively take the singing world by storm, at Drury Lane and elsewhere. Sadly though, soon after arriving, she failed an audition for the internationally famous Glyndebourne Opera House, home of the annual festival of the same name.
However, she did land a small role in the Ivor Novello musical, Kings Rhapsody, which opened at the Palace Theatre on the 15th of September 1949, with its author, one-time matinee idol Novello, in the title role. It ran for 841 performances, surviving Novello who died in 1951.
And she broadcast for the BBC, with De Fleurs from Debussy's Proses Lyriques, Stars in my Eyes, an unutterably poignant love song by Fritz Kreisler, with lyrics by Dorothy Field, and the popular Harry Ralton standard, I Remember the Cornfields, with lyrics by Martin Mayne, among the songs she performed for them.
She also appeared in an early television show called Picture Post, of which there remains no record.
Sadly though, it wasn't long after her arrival in London that she realized her voice was deteriorating - this being especially true of her top notes - possibly as a result of sleeping difficulties; although she was a smoker.
And she had enjoyed a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle at the height of her fame in Vancouver, when she was Miss Ann Watt. And a fairly wealthy young woman at that, with a passionate love of beautiful clothes and shoes.
She went from one singing teacher to the other in the hope that her once near-perfect voice might be restored to her but little came of her efforts; although one of her tutors, who just happened to be the great German soprano Elisabeth Schumann, did offer some hope.
Schumann suggested that once her time in England was over, for she was recording her final liede 78s in London with the British pianist Gerald Moore, she accompany her back to New York City, where she'd been resident since 1918.
However, my mother turned her down, perhaps feeling she'd already spent enough money on lessons. And besides, she'd only been married to my father, the London-based musician Patrick Halling, since June 1949, and uprooting would not have been easy.
Pat and Ann spent the next seven years pursuing what I've been led to believe was a semi-Bohemian existence in a peaceful post-war London and on the continent, travelling by car or motorcycle, just happy being young and in love in that relatively innocent period between the end of the Second World War and the onset of the Youth Culture of the sixties. After which things would never be quite the same again.
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