Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, stumbled upon the headstone of JJ Dallas, a versatile actor who toured with the D’Oly Carte Opera Company .
When setting out to try to locate the family headstone of the actor J.J. Dallas I did not envisage that of the many such cemetery forays aimed at finding the final resting places of some of the many half forgotten luminaries buried here, this search would provide such a frisson of anticipation.
The family grave lies close to the Ivy Road pathway in Ladywell cemetery and inscribed in remarkably clear lapidary splendour is the name of J.J. Dallas on a headstone which I sighted when it was fortuitously caught in a sunlit moment amid overhanging branches.
So just who was J.J. Dallas ?
John Joseph Dallas (real name John Joseph Allan) was born in the Soho district of London in April 1847, the son of John James Allan, jeweller, and his wife Cordelia née Beaumont.
After gaining his thespian experiences as a vocalist and filling in with jobbing roles on the variety stage as an actor he made his London debut in 1878 in Franz Von Suppe’s opera Fantinitza at the Alhambra Theatre.
His subsequent stage history is set out in the D’Oly Carte Opera Company website.
In 1880, he was engaged by John Hollingshead, a theatrical impresario who managed the Gaiety Theatre.
Dallas appeared in many Gaiety productions during the next several years, notably The Forty Thieves (1880-81), Aladdin (1881-82), and F. C. Burnand’s Bluebeard (1883), all of which were huge money-spinners.
Dallas also performed in productions at the Avenue and the Prince of Wales’s from 1885 to 1888, before returning to the Gaiety with August Van Biene’s Company in Faust Up-to-Date in 1889.
More details of Dallas’ career can be found in my post for the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries here.
Dallas appeared in a Cinderella pantomime in Manchester for Christmas 1889, and then toured with his own company in Little Jack Sheppard in 1890.
He later joined D’Oly Carte’s touring “D” Company where he played the title role in a newly revised version of The Vicar of Bray.
He travelled to America with Carte’s American Utopia Limited Company, playing in New York and Boston, returning to the London Stage in 1896, appearing at the Avenue and the Shaftesbury.
A versatile entertainer, Dallas continued to perform in music hall sketches until his death in 1915.
He also wrote a musical comedy, One of the Girls (Grand Theatre, Birmingham, 1896), and a Christmas pantomime, Jack and Jill and the Fairy Rill (Palace Theatre of Varieties, Manchester, 1897).
He also played in a whole series of Savoy Theatre comedy roles. J.J.Dallas died at Eveline Road, Forest Hill, on August 24 1915.
J. J. Dallas (whose stage persona is somewhat at variance with the ruthless oil baron character of J.R. in the popular American TV series Dallas ) enjoyed a fine acting career, had six children, an invalid wife, and went bankrupt — maybe a typical 19th century actor’s story?
He was interred in Ladywell cemetery four days later where he now lies undisturbed alongside other family members under a shady canopy, one might even say ‘ His Final Curtain’!
Following the discovery of his headstone – the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America “who were delighted with the discovery of his grave” have indicated that in time they may consider a restoration.