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Ivey Collette - the Blacksmith's Niece

Barwicker No.104
Decenber 2011

Ivey Collette
This article could not have been written without the diligence of John Collett, Ivey's first cousin once removed, and the existence of the Log Book of the "Attic Abode", preserved by the late brothers Kenneth and Denis Mason Jones. John Collett obtained detail on Ivey from her nephew, Maurice Smart, who died in 2010 aged 100, who also happens to be John's uncle through marriage.

Ivey Collette was her stage name. She was born in 1888 in South Shields and called Ivey Foster. Her father, Robert H Foster was born in Stockton, Co. Durham in 1864/5 and was a blacksmith when Ivey was born. Her mother Emma Collett was born at Potterton in 1863/4. Her brother, William (Bill) became the blacksmith in Barwick and owned the smithy in Main Street next to Lime Tree Farm. This is Ivey's connection with Barwick-in-Elmet.

In 1871 Emma Collett was a domestic servant to a vicar in Stainton in Middlesbrough where Robert Foster was an apprentice blacksmith. Whether the lure of Robert being a blacksmith was the catalyst we do not know but marriage in Tynemouth in early 1885 followed. Before Ivey was born, there were two sisters, Edith (four years older) and Rosa who was born two years before Ivey.

A year after Ivey, a brother Albert was born. Apparently being fed up with a strict upbringing Ivey developed an urge to leave home and apparently did so when she was about 18.

We know that Ivey was a visitor to her uncle in Barwick for she appears in the log book kept by the Attic Abode artists who lived next door to the Smithy. It is obvious that Ivey was a very pretty girl and she would soon have become the subject of artists anxious to apply their skill. See the portrait of her drawn by George Duxbury (below). The drawing is undated. She looks as if she is in her mid-late teens. He probably never corresponded with her because he misspelt her name, using its more normal version.

Ivy by George Duxbury

In 1896 Duxbury left Leeds to work in London, he returned to Leeds for two years probably in 1907 and this would have been the time when Ivey was visiting (aged 19-20). She was well remembered by the Attic Aboders as evidenced by their notes.

We have no record of how many times Ivey visited the village or for how long. Obviously it was long enough to be acquainted with the neighbours in the soon-to-be abandoned and demolished cottage next door to her uncle's house. The cottage was abandoned in 1911 and the roof caved in shortly afterwards.

Ivey left home to join a theatre chorus as a dancer probably about the time that she visited Barwick. She married a Mr. Robson (probably George Ernest W Robson in Newcastle in 1909) and they had a daughter, named Ivy. She managed to raise their daughter and keep a flourishing theatrical career going simultaneously. She progressed from being just a dancer to being a character, classical and acrobatic dancer. She performed in many countries on the continent and in India. Whether or not this was the peak of her career we are unsure, but we do know that she continued to be in the public eye after that.

The highlight of her career came in September 1916 when she took the part of Lady Diana Camden in Theodore & Co. at the Gaiety Theatre in London. Theodore & Co. was a musical comedy composed by Ivor Novello and Jerome Kern. The show was Novello's first production and established him as a theatrical composer.

The show ran for 503 performances. In September 1921 The Tatler published a very glamorous photograph of her under a heading "Snapped at Spa. Resort rapidly regaining its former popularity. " It says Miss Ivey Collette formerly of the Gaiety Theatre, is now delighting visitors at Spa (in Belgium) with her dancing in the ballroom. In August 1921 the motor circuit had been inaugurated. Ivey was an additional attraction.

At some stage Ivey's marriage came to an end. She re-married in 1926 at St. George's Hanover Square a Swede with connections with shipping, Thure F R Reuter. Her dancing and his business kept them apart most of the time. She would not leave London and he divided his time between Sweden and Majorca. The couple had no children. Ivey died in her seventies. She had dropped asleep whilst reading and smoking in bed. The mattress ignited and smouldered causing her to die of asphyxiation. Her husband settled in Majorca and asked Ivey's daughter, who had changed her name to Cynthia, to go there to live.


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