Tuesday 9 November 2021

Vera Thomas nee Maconochie: Mezzo Soprano

Spotting the intriguing gravestone of mezzo soprano Vera Taylor (nee Vera Maconochie) in Isfield led me down an internet rabbit hole that revealed her to have been a star of stage and the burgeoning TV industry of almost a century ago. Born in 1904, Vera Elizabeth Jean Maconochie was best known for performing in a 1930s show called Old Song Pictures, in which she and Guelda Waller dressed in period costumes to sing traditional folk songs, carols and other music. The idea came to them when they were in the cast of The Beggar's Opera at Hammersmith's Lyric theatre a few years earlier. Guelda and Vera toured internationally and were among the first people to appear on television, as well as being featured on BBC radio between 1930 and 1940. One of her concerts even gets a mention in Keith Stuart's historical fiction 'The Frequency of Us'. In 1944 Vera founded the Uckfield Music Club, which still exists today. She had three siblings: 

  • Archibald, who took over his family's Maconochie Bros food manufacturing business (later it became part of HS Whiteside, then was acquired by Rowntree and finally Nestle);
  • Margi (Margaret Jean), a racing driver - the 'Miss MJ Maconochie' who won at Brooklands in 1928;
  • Jean Constance, who - Wikipedia tells me - went to RADA, although sadly I can find nothing online about her stage career.
Vera died in 1993 and is buried in the churchyard of St Margaret of Antioch in Isfield.

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