THE GREAT LAFAYETTE and the SHEFFIELD MIDGETS - May 1911

"he set out gaily with the prospect of a congenial life before him ....."

The final section of the report from May 12th 1911 contains details of the return to Sheffield of the "midgets" from Edinburgh to Sheffield

DEPARTURE OF THE REMAINS.

The remains of the two Sheffield children—Alice Dale (15), who played the "Teddy Bear" role in Lafayette's performance; and Joseph Coats (who understudied the girl in that part) - were removed from the Edinburgh City Mortuary last night to the Caledonian Station, and entrained at 9.5 p.m. for Sheffield. The bodies were encased in oak polished coffins with silver mountings, and the names of the children, with their ages, were carved on silver plates. The coffins were removed to the station in two hearses; and a mourning coach followed which contained Mrs Dale and Mrs Coats, the mothers of the deceased children, and two lady friends. Theo procession attracted considerable attention as it passed along Princes Street. The little coffins could be seen through the glass windows of the hearses, and touching tributes of respect were paid to the youthful victims of the tragic fire. Within the precincts of the Caledonian Station there gathered a large number of persons, who were brought to the scene by the unusual spectacle of two hearses at that time of the evening . The coffins were placed in a reserved van, which was shunted out to the main line and attached to the express train. The relatives of the deceased children travelled by the same train. Some of the members of the Lafayette company were present on the platform when the train left. Later in the evening, the body oŁ James K. Baines (50), musician another of the victims of the fire and a member of the Lafayette company, was encased in an oak-polished coffin, and removed in a hearse to the Caledonian Station and. entrained for Wakefield by the 10.50 P.M. train. The deceased brother - in-!aw, Mr John Bolton , Wakefield accompanied the remains. Late last night the coffin containing the remains of John Whelan (29). musician, was taken from the City Mortuary to St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral. The funeral will take place today to Mount Vernon Cemetery, Liberton.

The next report from The Scotsman is dated Tuesday 16 May 1911 and it details the funeral that took place the day before of Alice and Jo. It is a a very moving account of Alice's and Little Joe's funerals.

THE EMPIRE DISASTER
 

FUNERAL OF THE MIDGETS
 

STRIKING SCENES AT SHEFFIELD
 

Thousands of people yesterday afternoon attended the funerals of Alice Dale and Joseph Coates, the youthful victims of the fire, the demonstrations being scarcely less striking than those accorded to Lafayette himself. Dale, who was Lafayette's "Teddy Bear," lived in the St Philips district of Sheffield a thickly-populated neighbourhood. The little midget was well-known, and her career in Lafayette's company had been watched with great interest by the people in that part of Sheffield. Prior to the hour arranged for the removal of the body, the girl's former playmates took a last look of the peaceful features of the dead child. Her one-time associates were dressed in white, and carried bunches of wild flowers, freshly gathered from the fields. Some they laid reverently upon the still form of their friend, others they carried in their hands till the graveside was reached. Half-a-dozen of the girl's closest friends were chosen for the sad honour of carrying the coffin from the house to the hearse. Every window in the neighbourhood was occupied, and when the coffin was carried out of the house by the six schoolgirl bearers, closely followed by the girl Dale's mother, there was not a dry eye in the court.


Mr Frank Poole (manager) and Mr J.- G. Hahn. (musical director) represented the Sheffield Hippodrome, and brought two two floral tributes bearing the inscription, " With deepest sympathy from the manager and staff, of the Sheffield Hippodrome," and a, wreath, " With the deepest sympathy of the directors of the Sheffield Hippodrome." There was also a. beautiful wreath inscribed " Our last tribute to dear little ALICE from the stricken members of the late Lafayette Company,' and another was given by her playmates. The streets throughout the route to the cemetery were lined with respectful onlookers, and from each side street the numbers were augmented, till long; before the city was reached, there were several thousands following the cortege. At Intake Cemetery about 10,000 people assembled,, but there was nothing unseemly. Everything passed off quietly and the scene as the little coffin was lowered into the grave was most affecting.

Equally pathetic were the ones at. the funeral of the thirteen-year-old boy, Joseph Coates. He lived at Owlerton, on the north side of the city, and was buried at Wadsley, one of the suburbs. Three weeks ago he set out gaily with the prospect of a congenial life before him to join the company of Lafayette as a midget and as an understudy to Alice Dale the "Teddy Bear." All the neighbours in. the district round about Park View Road turned out to pay their respects to the boy whoso career had been cut short. "Little Joe" was carried through the yard where he had played so often and his teachers from the Wesleyan Reform School, where he was a scholar for several years, acted as bearers. The father and mother, Mr and Mrs Alfred Coates, followed their boy's remains on the way to the hearse, and walking between them was Joseph's small fair-haired brother, dressed in a blade sailor suit, with a white collar. The crowd was a large one. The whole of the proceedings were of a most orderly and respectful description. The mounted policemen rode at the head of the procession, and after them came the hearse and the four mourning coaches. A large floral harp was sent, " with deepest sympathy, from the manager and staff of the Sheffield Hippodrome" . The teachers and scholars of the Sunday school who remember "Little Joe" with affection , contributed a wreath as a token, of their respect, and there were several wreaths from neighbours and friends. "

When I first came across the report I could not really take it in. 10,000 people assembled at City Road Cemetery and many more thousands lining the route to Cemetery, all for the funeral of a midget. It is only when I read about the career of The Great Lafayette, that I then realised why so many people turned out for the funerals of Alice and Joe. When music hall variety shows were at their height of popularity at the turn of the century, Alice and Jo were working for one of the best, if not, the best variety act in the world. It is no wonder that

"The little midget was well-known, and her career in Lafayette's company had been watched with great interest by the people in that part of Sheffield"

The same was said of Joe. Working for the Lafayette Company at such a young age would have aroused intense interest in Sheffield.

The other sad part of the story is that both Alice and Jo came from back to backs in working class areas of Sheffield. I accessed the 1901 Census and found the following entries

Dwelling 22 Court Hammond Street Census Place Netherthorpe (part of) Sheffield York, England
Public Records Office Reference RG13 Piece / Folio 4366  Page Number 35

William DALE  Head   M   Male  39  Sheffield York, England   Table Blade Grinder, Cutler
Kate DALE   Wife   M   Female  34  Sheffield York, England     
Lily DALE  Dau      Female  14  Sheffield York, England    
Alice DALE  Dau      Female 5 Sheffield York, England     

Dwelling Court1 House 2 Park View Road Census Place Hillsborough Sheffield York, England
Public Records Office Reference RG13 Piece / Folio 4335  Page Number 55

Alfred COATES  Head   M   Male  26  Sheffield York, England   -------- Striker
Lucy COATES  Wife   M   Female  23  Sheffield York, England     
Joseph COATES  Son      Female  2  Sheffield York, England    

NB There were also four visitors to the house at the time of the census.

Ten years later the 1911 Census has the following information about Alice

Personal Information
Name Alice Dale
Relationship to Head of Household Visitor
Condition Single
Gender Female
Age 17 Estimated Year of Birth 1894
Occupation Actress
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Place of Birth Sheffield Yorkshire
Enumerator Information
Address 24 West Street Brighton Parish Brighton Town Brighton
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 7 Rooms Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN5147 RG78PN227 RD79 SD2 ED27 SN23
Administrative County Sussex Registration District Brighton Registration Sub District West Brighton Enumeration District 27

and Joseph who was still living at home

Name Joseph Coates
Relationship to Head of Household Son
Gender Male
Age 12 Estimated Year of Birth 1899
Occupation School
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Place of Birth Owlerton Sheffield Yorks
Enumerator Information
Address 1 Court 1 Parkview Road Owlerton Sheffield Parish Sheffield Town Owlerton Sheffield
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 4 Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN27911 RG78PN1597 RD510 SD4 ED1 SN88
Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Sheffield Registration Sub District Hillsborough Enumeration District 1

Notes

This burial of Alice is even more tragic that what even I expected. The The Scotsman dated Friday, May 12th 1911 states that

"The coffins were removed to the station in two hearses; and a mourning coach followed which contained Mrs Dale and Mrs Coats.."

The reason why Mrs Dale was on her own is that her husband WILLIAM HENRY had died eight years earlier in 1903. The burial records show the following

DALE, William Henry (Table Blade Grinder, age 43).
Died at 27 Martin Lane; Buried on October 17, 1903 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 11699, Section W of City Road Cemetery,
Sheffield.

DALE, Wm. Henry (Child, age 3 mo).
Died at 22ct Hammond St; Buried on January 13, 1898 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 11699, Section W of City Road Cemetery, Sheffield.

DALE, Alfred (Child, age 3 m).
Died at 22ct Hammond St; Buried on May 18, 1899 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 11699, Section W of City Road Cemetery, Sheffield.

As well as losing her husband, Kate Dale also lost two sons in infancy. Alice was to hare the same grave has her father and brothers. Apart from the Dale's there are four other interments in the grave.

Sources

The Scotsman - Friday, May 12th 1911

The Scotsman - Tuesday 16th May 1911

The Original Sheffield Indexers

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