John Drinkwater


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Timeline for John Drinkwater

Date Age Event
1882 Born on June 1st, in Leytonstone, London, in a house re-named by his father "Dorset Villa", now simply "No. 105" Fairlop Road, E11. His father, Albert Edward Drinkwater, was a school master, and eventually became head master of Coburn Foundation School in Bow, East London.
1884 (2) The family moves to 12 Clapton Square, Hackney, then eventually to 1 Ladbroke Crescent, Notting Hill.
1886 (4) Aged 34, his father, an admirer of Pinero and Shaw, abandons his teaching career for acting and playwriting.
1891 (9) Sent to school in Oxford, staying with his maternal grandfather, John Beck Brown, an ironmonger with a shop in Cornmarket (also known as Cornmarket Street, in central Oxford). His mother dies shortly after this. By his own admission, his accomplishments at school are primarily athletic rather than academic.
1895 (13) His grandfather dies. He goes to the Rev. H.R. Hall's boarding house on Banbury Road.
1897 (15) Leaves City of Oxford School in February, at half-term, and begins work as a junior clerk with an insurance company in Nottingham (the Northern Assurance Company, now known as Aviva). His initial salary was just twenty pounds a year, but he received a raise at Christmas, bringing his annual salary to thirtyfive pounds.
1901 (18) The insurance company moves to Birmingham. JD goes with them.
1902 (19) His friend and fellow clerk Herbert S. Milligan introduces him to Barry V. Jackson, who engages him to play the part of Fabian in Twelfth Night, which is to be given in the garden of The Grange, the Jackson family home in Moseley, a suburb of Birmingham.
1903 (21) His first book of poems, "Poems: 1903", published in Birmingham by C. Combridge, a local printer. Dedicated to "K.W." (Kathleen Walpole, stage name Cathleen Orford), an actress he met through Barry Jackson's private amateur dramatic club, later to become the Pilgrim Players.
1906 (24) JD marries Kathleen Walpole (some bios give 1911 as the date, but this is incorrect). Although the marriage is to last some eighteen years, they have no children.
1907 (25) Barry Jackson's amateur group gives a charity performance of "The Interlude of Youth" by Robert Dodsley (an early English morality play from 1744) in St. Jude's Mission Hall, Inge Street, Birmingham, in which JD takes part. Shortly afterwards they name themselves "The Pilgrim Players".
1908 (26) "Lyrical and other Poems" published by Samurai Press (Harold Monro) in London. The first published work for which he was paid, rather than paying.
1909 (27) Employed as Secretary to the Pilgrim Players. He also acts in numerous productions under the stage name John Darnley.
1910 (28) Leaves the insurance company to work with Barry Jackson and the Pilgrim Players.
1911 (29) Becomes president of the Birmingham Dramatic & Literary Club. Begins visiting Lascelles Abercrombie at The Gallows (near Dymock) following a favourable review of his poems by Abercrombie. His work begins to appear in Edward Marsh's anthology, "Georgian Poets", until 1922.
1912 (30) Meets Rupert Brooke, forms close friendship.
1913 (31) Barry Jackson builds the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Station Street, and JD becomes Manager. It breaks new ground in its simple and effective approach to staging and costumes, breaking with the fussy and detailed tradition which was then the norm. It is the first repertory theatre to be purpose-built in Britain, and the first to stage modern-dress performances of Shakespeare.
1914 (32) Writes his first full-length play, "Rebellion". Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson are by this time all living near the Gloucestershire village of Dymock, where they are visited often by JD, Edward Thomas and Rupert Brooke. New Numbers, a quarterly poetry periodical, is started up by Abercrombie and Wilson Gibson, with contributions by JD and Brooke. It ran for only four issues, but is still considered a significant literary event.
1915 (33) Robert Frost returns to America early in the year. In April Rupert Brooke dies of sepsis, caused by an infected mosquito bite, two days before the disastrous Gallipoli landing. As the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force hurries towards its sad fate, he is buried on nearby Skyros Island. The Dymock poets are devasted by this terrible blow, as he is universally loved.
1917 (35) Edward Thomas is killed on Easter Monday, April 9th, near Arras, France. This effectively leads to the disbandment of the Dymock poets as a group.
1918 (36) His historical play "Abraham Lincoln" opens at the Birmingham Rep, running from 12th October to 2nd November, a typical two-week run, which was evidently extended for an extra two weeks.
1919 (37) His first major success with "Abraham Lincoln", it runs for 466 performances at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre. Following this it goes to the New Theatre in oxford. It is the first Rep production to be performed in London.
1920 (38) John and Kathleen move to London. "Abraham Lincoln" plays in America, to considerable acclaim. He becomes relatively wealthy, enjoying his frequent tours in the USA, involving trips across the Atlantic by passenger steamer. It would appear that it was on one of these boat trips (almost certainly aboard the Adriatic, April 1921) that his wife fell for the brilliant Ukrainian pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch. In retaliation Benno's wife Daisy succeeded in starting a revenge affair with JD.
1921 (39) Claud Lovat Fraser, a young artist and set designer, begins work on JD's play 'Mary Stuart', for a production at the Lyric Hammersmith. His set for The Beggar's Opera the previous year controversially broke new ground with the simplicity and effectiveness of its look. Tragically, Lovat Fraser dies at the age of 31 later that year, after a short illness.
1923 (41) His father dies, aged 71.
1923 (41) Kathleen Walpole sues for divorce, Oct. 15.
1924 (41) Officially divorced from Kathleen Walpole, Jan. 19.
1924 (42) Marries Daisy Kennedy, the Australian violinist, Dec. 29 (or Dec. 17th, according to the New York Times).
1925 (43) His play 'Robert Burns' (also referred to as a ballad opera) is produced (venue as yet unknown), with music by Frederick Austin, who is at this point Artistic Director of The British National Opera Company.
1928 (46) Meets James Joyce and Norah Barnacle in Salzburg
1929 (47) Involved with the founding of the Malvern Festival, a two-week summer season set up by Barry Jackson, initially dedicated to the work of George Bernard Shaw, but also concerning itself with drama of quality of many different types, both new and old.
1937 (54) Completes his 63-minute film "The King's People", in which he is both author, producer and narrator, about King George VI.
1937 (54) In a car accident Mar. 11, along with his wife, who is injured, driving to a party after a concert. In some news reports it is given that the collision was with a bus, and that Daisy was driving. As this was before the era of safety glass, her face was badly cut.
1937 (54) Mar. 25, dies of a heart attack after a happy day watching the Oxford Boat Race. Some news reports attribute his death to "overexcitement" at the Boat Race. Given that Oxford had won for the first time in 14 years, after what was (and still is) the longest losing streak in the history of the contest, in "a close race with changing fortunes", this was perhaps plausible.