Freddy Mayer of Joseph Poole’s Myriorama
U 18.1292-4: He was always on for flirtyfying too when I sang Maritana with him at Freddy Mayers private opera.
The Mayer to whom Joyce refers is undoubtedly Frederick Mayer, the manager of Joseph Poole’s Myriorama, who visited Dublin regularly at the end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth with Poole’s company. It seems that there was no other Frederick Mayer on the Dublin opera scene.
Freddy Mayer was born in Rushton Spencer, north-west of Leek in Staffordshire, on 11 January 1863, the son of Henry James Mayer and his wife Sarah Ann née Slack. Henry was recorded as a schoolmaster and victualler in Leek according to the English census of 1851, a schoolmaster and parish clerk in 1861, and a “Town Hall Keeper” in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1871. The couple had at least three children: Susannah, Robert, and Frederick.
Freddy was an “Agent” for Joseph Poole, “Diorama Proprietor”, in the 1881 England census, when he and Joseph Poole’s family were in digs in Cheltenham, with their show. Several years earlier Joseph Poole had married Freddy’s elder sister Susannah (herself a “professional vocalist”), so this was truly a family company.
The OED defines “myriorama” (sense 2) as “a form of public entertainment in which a large number of different panoramic scenes or images are shown in succession, supported by lighting and other special effects, often including a commentary”, finding its earliest reference in this sense before the time of the Pooles in 1856.
The companies regularly changed their shows, presenting popular “tours” of exotic countries and historic events in their myrioramas. Joseph Poole’s company was in Dublin in July and early August 1890 (Irish Times 7 July, etc.), and this may well have been Freddy Mayer’s first trip to the country. In 1891 Joseph Poole’s company played the Round Room at the Rotunda in Dublin, by which time Freddy was married and soon expecting his first child.
After this the various Pooles presented their entertainments regularly in Dublin, but Freddy seems not to be mentioned in the newspapers (which as ever appear to print whatever publicity material the entertainment managers gave them).
though he was apparently general manager, with his old Myriorama colleague Felix Somers, once a ventriloquist or “facial king”, of “Poole’s Picture Palace, otherwise known as Poole’s Electric Pictures”, of which his son Bernard was the first projectionist.1
The 1911 England census still finds Fred as an “Entertainment Manager”, on the south coast in Chichester, with his wife of twenty-five years, his daughter Elsie (“Variety Artist”), and his son Bernard, espousing the new technology as “Cinematograph Operator”. Fred died on 29 January 1919, in Chichester, at the young age of 56. At his death his occupation is given as “Picture Palace Proprietor”.
1 Hudson John Powell Poole’s Myriorama! A story of Travelling Panorama Showmen (ELSP, Bradford on Avon: 2002), p. 140. Powell is a descendant of the Pooles, and his book presents a wealth of information on the family business.
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