On 8 November 2010, the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America erected a commemorative blue plaque at No 17 Palmerston Road, Wimbledon.

It was the last home of old time singer and actress Hetty King (1883-1972) who lived there from the 1950s with her sister Olive Edwards.

Hetty, whose 129th birthday fell this Wednesday, was one of Britain’s most successful male impersonators, starting her career in music hall in 1897.

She topped bills all over the world dressed in various male costumes including top hat and tails and military uniforms, the last especially during the two world wars.

Known particularly for her renditions and recordings of All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor, Tell Me the Old, Old Story, and Piccadilly, she was a favourite for principal boy roles in pantomimes but continued working in variety and summer shows right into very old age in a career that lasted for more than 70 years.

Born Winifred Emms King in New Brighton, Cheshire, she was the daughter of William Emms (1856–1954), a well known music hall comedian who had adopted the stage name King.

Always known professionally as Hetty King, she first appeared on stage with him when only six years old and performed at seaside shows alongside minstrels.

She adopted the debonair man-about-town role for the first time in 1905, quickly achieving fame and star bookings.

During the First World War she would perform Songs the Soldiers Sing, a sanitized version of those from the trenches, and was back with similar renditions in the Second World War.

In 1954 she appeared in the film Lilacs In The Spring with Errol Flynn and Anna Neagle.

In later life she toured with the show Thanks for the Memory and finally appeared in a film entitled Hetty King – Performer aged 87.

She married actor and writer Ernie Lotinga (1876–1951), another music hall comedian, singer and theatre proprietor who also appeared in films in the 1920s and 30s, often as the comic character PC Jimmy Josser.

However her real married name was Winifred Lamond. Her sister and fellow Wimbledonian, Olive, was also an actress and her brother Harold wrote many of her songs with his wife.

Hetty died on 28 September 1972 aged 89 and was cremated at Golders Green.

The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America is a theatre charity which presents music hall and theatre productions and also identifies and restores memorials.

Among other activities it cares for the final resting places of many music hall, variety, and pantomime artistes including Lupino Lane, Will Hay and others.

In 2009 it restored the former Variety Artists Benevolent Fund memorial stone at Streatham Park Cemetery which commemorates over 200 music hall and variety performers buried there.

The Wimbledon Society is working with the Wimbledon Guardian to ensure that you, the readers, can share the fascinating discoveries that continue to emerge about our local heritage.

For more information, visit wimbledonsociety.org.uk and www.wimbledonmuseum.org.uk.

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