William Parker born 9th December 1887 learned to play the piano and often accompanied his eldest sibling, Thomas, who was a comedian/singer/dancer on the music hall stages throughout the country. Happy Tom Parker has become an enigma in the family, everybody knew of him but nobody actually knew him. He died on the 13th May 1944, in Lambeth, London.
SHOEMAKERS WIDOW MEETS ITINERANT MUSICIAN
Thomas Parker married Bridget Perry in 1797 In Bury St Edmonds. Their son also Thomas Parker was born in Bury St Edmunds in 1802.Their second child Susanna followed in around 1812 Somewhere between 1812 and 1845 the family moved to Maidstone in Kent and what happened to the elder Thomas Parker we do not know at present. Between 1842 and 1845 young Thomas met his wife to be, Susanna Elizabeth Hodges(Maiden name Ackworth), who had previously been married to Thomas Hodges, a shoemaker of Maidstone, Hodges died in 1842. Thomas and Susanna had twins Thomas and Susan born in 1845 and although Thomas and Susanna were still unmarried the twins were registered in the name of Parker, father Thomas Parker, musician, address, Under-the Cliffe, Maidstone. Still unmarried in 1851 the census shows the twins as Thomas and Susan Hodges, for proprieties sake. Thomas's mother died in 1857 and at last the apparent bar to the marriage was removed and the couple married in 1858.
In 1871 young Thomas, his father now deceased, is on the census as a gunsmith, his mother is the head of the house. In 1873 he marries Adelia Jane Scoons and their first child is born in 1875, Thomas Henry, the future Happy Tom Parker.
"Whether Happy Tom moved with them is not known as he may have had his eyes on the floodlights by that time."
Happy Tom Parker was born on 17th April, 1875 in Maidstone Kent and was twelve years older than his youngest brother born in 1887. The family are in the 1881 census at 4 Arundel Street, Maidstone and it is believed that the Henry in that census is actually Happy Tom as his full name was Thomas Henry Parker and Henry was possibly used to differentiate him from his father, Thomas Ackworth Parker. The 1891 census is the first one to show the whole family and Thomas Henry, aged 16, is entered as a clerk. He had 4 siblings, Albert, Adela, Emily, William George. William George was a twin but one twin had died young. Adela married someone named Moody.
Thomas Ackworth died in 1891 in London where the family was now living in Camberwell. After the death of Thomas Ackworth the family moved back to Maidstone, whether Happy Tom moved with them is not known as he may have had his eyes on the floodlights by that time and also he did have a job. Adelia Jane died in 1896 leaving a will giving everything to her children to be spent on their education. A letter from Tom Moody exists advising of what is thought happened to the younger children after their mother died in 1896. It says that a family named Davies took them in
TOM MEETS JULIA
Tom Parker married Julie Emma Feaviour on the 19th March, 1898 at Birmingham Registry Office. His occupation is comedian and his father was given as Thomas Ackworth Parker (Deceased), Gunsmith. Julia was named as a spinster and her father was, Harry Feaviour, Comedian.
Julia Emma Feaviour was born in 1877 and her mothers name was Emma Huggett. The child was registered under the name Feaviour but we now believe her fathers name was Henry Feaviour-Giles. It appears that Henry was a bit of a lad. He had been married previously but was in a relationship with Emma Huggett and Emmas children (3 of them, Julia Emma, Frederick and a third one who died at birth around 1881). Henry Feaviour-Giles then went off and married someone 20 years younger, leaving Emma to bring up the other two.
By this time Henry had given up the stage and became a theatre manager instead. To his legitimate children he gave the name Feaviour-Giles while the others only Feaviour.
By the time of the 1891 census when Julia was 12 her family were boarding in Liverpool and the census return shows Julia Emma, 12, Musical Wonder. Julia Emma and her brother Frederick were the Babes in the Wood at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Liverpool, in that year. Their mother also appeared in the same production.
The birth certificate of Tom Parkers' eldest son, Henry Thomas, shows he was living in Sheffield in 1899, mothers maiden name on Birth Certificate says Huggett. His wife Julia Huggett(real name Feaviour) came from Sheffield and as can be seen in the 1901 census, she was also on the halls. It seems safe to assume that he met Julia while both were on tour and married her. The 1901 census shows them boarding in Canterbury Street, Liverpool along with their eldest son and new baby, Albert, actually born in Liverpool and five weeks old, when registered, mothers maiden name given as Feaviour, this could suggest that in the 18 months between the first and second child Julia found out her fathers name. Both Tom and his wife, Julia, were entered on the census as professional singers.
Happy Tom Parker was a comedian/singer/dancer, and despite searching, no records have been found of any recordings made by him but if any can be found I am sure they will be.
In 1902 Happy Tom Parker appeared at the Bradford Empire on a bill which also included Alice Lloyd, who is the younger sister of the better remembered Marie Lloyd although Alice was as equally talented as her elder sister. This adds credence to one of the family legends that Happy Tom taught Marie Lloyd to dance, perhaps not Marie but Alice. Marie Lloyd, though, was five years older than Happy Tom so it may have been the other way round. Another legend is that he used to give cigarettes to the young Charlie Chaplin when Chaplin worked as a young stage hand.
"I DON'T KNOW IF I'M STANDING ON MY HEAD" TO "NOSEY PARKER"
The first record of a song written for Happy Tom Parker came in 1908 from the Bodleian Library "I don't Know whether I'm standing on my head" composed by Will Hyde with lyrics by J P Long. Published by Francis Day and Hunter in 1908.
"The day I married Eliza it was just a year ago
The parson came and he did the job in less than half a mo.
He said do you with your worldly goods Your darling wife endow
I looked at him in blank surprise and said go easy now
I don't know whether I'm standing on me head or on me feet
I don't mind giving Eliza half the blanket and a sheet
but as for giving her half me cash and half me grub to eat
I don't know whether I'm standing on me head or on me feet"
In 1907 Happy Tom and Family are living in York Terrace in Clapham, this is from information given by one of Tom's society membership forms.
In 1910 Happy Tom Parker was touring Australia with Harry Rickards "Vaudeville Troupe" and was receiving rave reviews such as "The man who made the World Laugh" The Advertiser, Adelaide 16th April 1910, "Happy Tom Parker, Comedian and Dancer made his first appearance in Australia at the Opera House on Saturday Night.... His songs were well sung. Recalled with great gusto by the audience, Parker showed some clever clog-dancing.", this in the Melbourne Argus 28th February 1910.
Also with Rickards troupe was the infamous mistress of King Edward VII, Lillie Langtry. Also on the tour was the famous illusionist, Harry Houdini.
The 1911 Census finds Tom and Julia in Cowley Road, Brixton and it is with great surprise that it is found that Henry Thomas is not the eldest child but that Florence was born in 1898 in Yarmouth while Henry Thomas was born in Sheffield in 1899. This has since been verified by obtaining the number and quarter of Florences' birth. It appears that they had one child per year from the year of their marriage until 1905.
In 1913 he also appeared again on the same bill as the internationally known escapologist Harry Houdini and received rather prominent billing on that show.
Also in 1913 there is a report in "The Stage" of a meeting of the Chelsea Lodge of the Freemasons, Happy Tom Parker was named as an attendee. The Chelsea Lodge was specifically set up in 1905 as a Lodge for Music Hall and other theatre artistes. It is still active today and like all other Freemasonry Lodges does a lot of good works for charity.
He did have a signature tune written for him by songwriters Will Hyde composer and John L. St John lyricist, the song was entitled "Nosey Parker" (1913). The words and music are available also from the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The first verse of Nosey Parker shows his style as being comedy:-
"I am a funny fellow and I've got a lot of cheek,
but one thing I've got more of,
I've got a decent beak
They call me Nosey Parker
and when I go strolling out.
The kids they all run after me
throw bricks at me and shout
Nosey Parker good old Nosey Parker
What a frontispiece you've got
get it trimmed off while it's hot
Nosey Parker good old Nosey Parker
You've got a nose like an elephants trunk
Daa daady da da daa daa daa Good old Nosey Parker"
When the music hall era ended for the variety theatre to take over in the mid 1920's, it is believed that Tom Parker became an impressario.
Despite, apparently, being a well known performer (prominent billing on the show with Houdini in 1913), not much is now known of Happy Tom Parker.
Happy Tom lost his wife Julia Emma in November 1943. She died in Tooting Bec Hospital and her death certificate registered and signed by Thomas Henry Parker states his occupation as "LCC Depot Caretaker (Comedian)". It was believed in the family that Julia had been made upset and nervous after the blitz and it is thought that this contibuted to her death 3 years later. Tom followed Julia six months later.
Upon his death, on 13th May, 1944, in Dulwich Hospital, there was a large funeral.. Tom and Julia are both buried at Streatham Park Cemetery, long associated with the Variety Artists Benevolent Fund.
A story is told of how the younger brother, William, upon going to the funeral was accompanied home, to Maidstone, by a regular entourage of vehicles and Quarry Road, Maidstone had never seen such a cavalcade. The party that night must have been something to behold. How come so little is known of this accomplished comedian, dancer and singer? Can anyone shed any light?
During Summer 2008 I visited the street where Happy Tom and Julia Lived in Lambeth. Holmewood Road comes off Brixton Hill about a half to three quarters of a mile from Brixton. The houses are probably the same as they were when they lived there and I discovered that it was a preservation area but there were no blue plaques for Happy Tom Parker or Julia Emma Feaviour. However I could close my eyes and look at the front door steps and see Happy Tom and Julia stood side by side on the step with Tom holding the dog (This latter is a reference to a family photo showing Tom and Julia on the doorstep with Tom holding a small dog.).
Although some of the old houses of Cowley Road still exist, they are all the low numbers. Tom and Julia lived in the high numbers which are now demolished. The remaining old properties have a distinct latin touch about them with wrought iron balconies jutting from the upstairs windows.
OTHER DETAILS AND NOTES
*Copies of songs "Nosey Parker" and "I don't know whether I'm standing on my head" are from the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Both published by Francis, Day and Hunter.
I have now sung both songs, just once, at my local folk club, in Frodsham, it seemed to bring Happy Tom back to life for a few minutes. I was accompanied by a friend on Piano Accordian and I explained the story of my great-uncle Tom and his Music-Hall experiences.
**Happy Toms youngest brother, William, died in 1970 at his daughters home in Maidstone, at the age of 83.
*** Tom Moody is the son of Adela, Happy Toms sister.