I’ve just finished cataloguing the family papers of David Tilley of Cowbridge (ref.: DX666) where I came across some interesting correspondence relating to a concert given to wounded soldiers on 24 February 1917. The concert, as well as featuring music recitals, also included a performance by ‘Wales’s Greatest Conjuror’ (South Wales Graphic, 12 October 1906), Mr Charles Oswald.
A copy of his repertoire lists such feats of magic as ‘The Fairy Thimbles’, ‘The Haunted Parasol’ and ‘The Invisible Hen and Eggs’, among many others! He was also an accomplished ventriloquist, working alongside ‘Sammy-The Famous Automatic Figure, whose sayings and doings create roars of laughter.’ Intrigued, I decided to find out more!
Charles Oswald, full name Charles Oswald Williams, was born in Llanelli in 1864, but by 1891 was living in Cardiff. He was a member of the Inner Magic Circle in London and in 1904 he appeared on the cover of ‘The Sphinx’ magazine as ‘Magician of the Month’. He was also a dealer in watches and musical instruments in Cardiff.
The concert was reported in the Glamorgan Gazette at the time, which also mentions an address and presentation given to a Lieut. F. J. Evans. It seems this refers to the awarding of the Military Cross for gallantry to 2nd Lieutenant John Frederick Gwyn Evans (1893-1960) of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Lieut. Evans was born in St Mary Church, Cowbridge to Lieut. Frederick and Mrs Catherine Evans. The newspaper reports:
“The despatch said of him: When the attack was held up, he found a block, and by his great courage and fine example to the men under him, although very short of bombs, he checked an enemy counter attack. Bravo, Lieut. Evans; we wish we had a dozen sons like you. That’s the stuff to give ‘em”.
During the First World War, David Tilley was the Food Control Officer for Cowbridge. Consequently, the Borough of Cowbridge Food Control Committee Records can be found among his papers.
Corinne Evans, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer