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  • Bessie Bellwood

    Its getting a bit Sickerty over on Casebook.

    Has the Sickert/Bessie Bellwood connection ever been discussed? Bessie was a popular music hall turn in the LVP, famed for her witty, if somewhat blue, patter. Her real name was Catherine Mahoney, but I've seen it quoted as Catherine Elizabeth Mary Ann and she sang a couple of songs featuring a Mary Ann as well as one entitled 'Good Old Boss'.

    These are some sketches Sickert made of Bessie. The button arrangement on the main sketch has always reminded me of Eddowes post-mortem injuries and the featureless faces and the addition of the policeman have something of a Ripperish feel about them. Its title is 'Bessie All Over', and it seems to have been dedicated to Max Beerbohm.

    (Just for the record, although I've added this to the Sickert sub-forum, it's really a Bessie Bellwood thread, not a Sickert one. In particular, the fact that she was belting out 'Good Old Boss' in early 1888 gives the lie to the idea that boss was an Americanism that was not in use in Britain at that time.)


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  • #2
    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=55009804

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    • #3
      http://monologues.co.uk/musichall/Bessie-Bellwood.htm

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      • #4
        Bessie was belting these out at the Cambridge in early 1888:

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        • #5
          We also had the Ocar Barrett pantomimes with the 'Black ey'd Susan; song that contains the words " Good old boss" mentioned here if you're interested, Gary

          http://www.jtrforums.com/showthread.php?t=17896&page=4

          The use of 'Boss' seems to be a very much a working class, East End coster, music hall reference that people in 88 would have been used to hearing, and probably using themselves?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
            We also had the Ocar Barrett pantomimes with the 'Black ey'd Susan; song that contains the words " Good old boss" mentioned here if you're interested, Gary

            http://www.jtrforums.com/showthread.php?t=17896&page=4

            The use of 'Boss' seems to be a very much a working class, East End coster, music hall reference that people in 88 would have been used to hearing, and probably using themselves?
            This is from 1886, so it had reached the ears of the educated by then.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
              We also had the Ocar Barrett pantomimes with the 'Black ey'd Susan; song that contains the words " Good old boss" mentioned here if you're interested, Gary

              http://www.jtrforums.com/showthread.php?t=17896&page=4

              The use of 'Boss' seems to be a very much a working class, East End coster, music hall reference that people in 88 would have been used to hearing, and probably using themselves?
              Thanks for that debs. I was reading something the other day about the origin of Cockney greeting 'wotcher'. It was said that it came from 'What Cheer' and cited Bessie's ' What Cheer, Ria' as a possible source.

              I'd always thought it came from 'what're you (what yer) doing'.

              Black Eyed Susan has both 'Boss' and ' what cher.'

              I found (and lost) a press report which gave Bessie's name as something like Catherine Elizabeth Ann Mary Ann Mahoney, which seemed a bit spooky.

              If anyone's looking for a new suspect, they could do worse than look for someone obsessed with the lady from Bermondsey.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                Thanks for that debs. I was reading something the other day about the origin of Cockney greeting 'wotcher'. It was said that it came from 'What Cheer' and cited Bessie's ' What Cheer, Ria' as a possible source.

                I'd always thought it came from 'what're you (what yer) doing'.

                Black Eyed Susan has both 'Boss' and ' what cher.'

                I found (and lost) a press report which gave Bessie's name as something like Catherine Elizabeth Ann Mary Ann Mahoney, which seemed a bit spooky.

                If anyone's looking for a new suspect, they could do worse than look for someone obsessed with the lady from Bermondsey.
                Thanks, Gary. Yeah, I always thought it probably came from something like 'what're you (what yer) doing'-similar to Gertcha- 'get away with yer' k kind of thing.

                That's a long name! Ann twice? Did she ever appear as Annie Bellwood? I've come across Annie in reports and wondered if she was related.. or her.

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                • #9
                  Nowadays it can be used as a form of address to a stranger, e.g. 'hey boss/gov/mate, got a spare fag?'

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
                    Thanks, Gary. Yeah, I always thought it probably came from something like 'what're you (what yer) doing'-similar to Gertcha- 'get away with yer' k kind of thing.

                    That's a long name! Ann twice? Did she ever appear as Annie Bellwood? I've come across Annie in reports and wondered if she was related.. or her.
                    Yes, Anne and Ann from memory and the Ann came after Mary. I wish I could find it again. I'm sure it was part of an obituary.

                    I'm not sure about Annie. I'll keep an eye out for her.

                    I should've known the boss topic had already been covered. But you still hear people suggesting the Dear Boss author, and by extension JTR, was either an American or had spent some time in America because he used the word boss.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                      Nowadays it can be used as a form of address to a stranger, e.g. 'hey boss/gov/mate, got a spare fag?'
                      Yes, Rob, that usage surfaced in the 90s for some reason. I always felt offended when I was addressed in that way.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                        Yes, Anne and Ann from memory and the Ann came after Mary. I wish I could find it again. I'm sure it was part of an obituary.

                        I'm not sure about Annie. I'll keep an eye out for her.

                        I should've known the boss topic had already been covered. But you still hear people suggesting the Dear Boss author, and by extension JTR, was either an American or had spent some time in America because he used the word boss.
                        I think it's good to keep re-visiting and exploring these examples though because, as you say, some still promote the idea of it being associated with American use only.The music halls were so popular for the working classes that I'm sure they would be very familiar with it and used it themselves.

                        One of Oscar Barrett's pantomime scores also featured a song called 'The Polish Jew' but I have never been able to find much more about it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                          This is from 1886, so it had reached the ears of the educated by then.

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                          That might possibly be so, but maybe their might be some sarcasm there, as in the bishop preaching to a virtually empty cathedral, except for a few minor dignitaries there and bosses in the other meaning of the word boss, raised ornaments put in the intersection of ribs in a vaulted roof.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Curryong View Post
                            That might possibly be so, but maybe their might be some sarcasm there, as in the bishop preaching to a virtually empty cathedral, except for a few minor dignitaries there and bosses in the other meaning of the word boss, raised ornaments put in the intersection of ribs in a vaulted roof.
                            Hi Curryong,

                            The actual origin of the word is not particularly significant. The point is that in 1886 Andrew Lang thought its usage was worth writing about. He was a significant literary figure, so it would appear that the educated were familiar with the word at that time.

                            Gary

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                            • #15
                              Gary, the Daily News Sept 26th 1896 - "Elizabeth Anne Catherine Ann."

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