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Douglas Coy Byng

posted 21 Jun 2014, 15:37 by Sarah Ashley   [ updated 21 Jun 2014, 15:46 ]
As expected, we lost to Uruguay 2-1.  Didn't deserve to win, despite all of the possession and of all the attempts at goal, just too many cock ups.  So that's my interest in football finished for another couple of years.  So pleased it's nearly Wimbledon time.

I realised that in amongst the excitement of finding out my 2nd cousin 4x removed had a bus named after him, I had never done a full post.  So here we go.

Douglas Coy Byng (1893 - 1987)
is your 2nd cousin 4x removed
Joseph Tussaud Byng (1842 - 1926)
father of Douglas Coy Byng
Louisa Shelley (1809 - 1866)
mother of Joseph Tussaud Byng
William Shelley (1782 - 1872)
father of Louisa Shelley
John Shelley (1818 - 1875)
son of William Shelley
Mary Shelley (1846 - 1924)
daughter of John Shelley
William Alfred Snelling (1873 - 1912)
son of Mary Shelley
Frederick Alfred John Snelling (1893 - 1927)
son of William Alfred Snelling
Joan Snelling (1922 - 1983)
daughter of Frederick Alfred John Snelling

Douglas was born on the 17th March 1893 in Basford, Nottinghamshire.  He was the oldest of two boys, his younger brother was a bank clerk called Noel.  Noel travelled to South America extensively, presumably for his bank.  Their parents were Joseph Tussaud Byng and Mary Coy.  Mary Coy was Joseph's second wife.  Joseph also had 9 children with his previous wife, Louisa Ann Palanque. 

His parents "...did not encourage his early theatrical leanings, and when he was ten, they sent him to live in Germany with his elder brother, who owned a lace factory there. Byng studied music and German, but following the trade of his brother he concentrated on fashion. After his return to England, he worked for the costume designer Charles Alias in London."

Between 1901 and 1911, the Byng family moved to London.  In 1911, Joseph and Mary were living in Lewisham and Douglas is living with his cousins, the Mallets, in Fulham.  His occupation is a 'designer'. 

In 1914, he had his first stage job as a light comedian at a seaside concert party.  He was an openly gay performer.

"He continued his theatre work throughout the war, playing character parts in touring comedies and eventually achieving a juvenile lead in 1920. In the 1920s he took to pantomime, playing the Grand Vizier in Aladdin at the London Palladium in 1921, and in 1924 creating the first of his many pantomime dames as Eliza in Dick Whittington and His Cat at the New Theatre Oxford."

The Classic Songs of Douglas Byng including 'Sex Appeal Sarah'

In 1918 he lived at 18 Mid Kent Villas in Lewisham. In 1930 he was at 105 Mids, Wandsworth.  In 1931, he left Southampton on the Leviathan, arriving in New York on the 9th October 1931.  This is the first time a document gives the occupation of Douglas as 'actor'.  He went to New York to appear in cabaret at the Club Lido.  On his return to England he continues his career in revue, cabaret and pantomime.  He was the first cabaret artiste to have his name in neon lights in the West End. 

"In 1925 Byng appeared at the London Pavilion in C. B. Cochran's revue On with the Dance, written by Noël Coward. Byng remained with Cochran for five years in a succession of revues. During this period he opened his own nightclub in central London, where he first performed the cabaret drag songs for which he is best remembered, described by the critic Sheridan Morley as "a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre." "

"In 1938 he played his favourite role in a musical, Prince Zorpan, in an adaptation of Emmerich Kálmán's Maritza. Byng wrote all his own words for the piece and also some extra music. In one scene he impersonated a lady violinist, singing "I'm the pest of Budapest that turned the Danube so blue" in which The Times said he shone intensely."

He lived at Wastlands, Mayes Green, Reigate in 1939. 

During the war he carried on in cabaret but also entertained the troops.

Douglas Byng in Flying Colours at the Lyric Theatre Aug 1943

He was back in America again as he left New York on the Media and arrived in Liverpool on the 15th May 1948.  On the 20th March 1954, he set off again, this time on the Chusan and to Bombay.  He travelled first class.  On both of these manifests his occupation is actor as well. 

In 1956 he appeared in Georges Fevdeau's Hotel Paradison with Alec Guinness at the Winter Garden Theatre in London.  He also appeared in the 1966 film of the same name.  He carried on working well into his eighties and appeared on Parkinson in 1977.

Douglas moved to Denville Hall, the Actors' Charitable Trust Home in Northwood, Middlesex where he died on the 24th August 1987.  His death notice was published in The Times two days later.

"He composed his own epitaph:

So here you are, old Douglas, a derelict at last.
Before your eyes what visions rise of your vermilion past.
Mad revelry beneath the stars, hot clasping by the lake.
You need not sigh, you can't deny, you've had your bit of cake.
His ashes were scattered outside his former home in Arundel Terrace, Brighton"

All quotes and career references from