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Footlight Notes Collection Picture Archive - request for use of images

no. 407

Saturday, 9 July 2005

The Barrel Organ Menace,
Berkshire, Summer 1895

a barrel organ

Late Victorian barrel organ operatives.

(photo: unknown, probably England, dated August 1894)

'As I sit writing in the verandah of a house a long way from London, a horrid music-hall tune breaks upon my musings, and I wonder vengefully how long we must continue to suffer the barrel-organ? In town and suburbia it is bad enough, but what right has it to spoil the evening is a delightful, far-off Berkshire village? And those tunes! There is the happily defunct "Maggie Murphy's Home" [first sung in London by Jenny Hill, 1890] that Minnie Mario used to sing, there is "Dysey," and - yes, surely enough, the instrument of torture is profaning Il Trovatore. What have be done to suffer this thing? Other nations say we are neither musical nor artistic; but, after all, we are human, and this din is not. The Country Council has interfered in many things, and, in numerous cases, with good results; why will it not license organ-grinders, and select the music for the gutter? A small committee of musicians could give the people proper tunes, and inspectors with an ear for music might be appointed to seize any organ that is out of tune or any grinder who does not appreciate time. This is no Utopian scheme involving the regeneration of men, it is a simple, feasible plan whereby we shall all benefit. I am a reputable citizen, I owe rates and taxes; I feel I have a right to demand freedom from unmusical oppression.'
(The Sketch, London, Wednesday, 21 August 1895, p.194b)

Minnie Mario

Minnie Mario (fl.1870s/1890s), English actress

(photo: unknown, circa 1885)

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