Sunday, 27 January 2019

John Rumbelow, "Little Gulliver" 14/1/1876-12/1/1906.


Sub-Lessees: Messrs Williamson and Musgrove. 


And for a Season of SEVEN NIGHTS ONLY. 

Williamson and Musgrove's "MATSA" VAUDEVILLE COMPANY. 

MANAGERIAL CARD. We beg to draw attention to the fact that, through a variety of circumstances, we have been enabled to secure a wonderful combination of artistic excellence, and beg to assure our patrons that they will find, in the above organisation, the most amusing, moat talented, most entertaining, and absolutely the most expensire coterie of artists that has ever visited New Zealand under our management. 


The Famous English Burlesque Artiste, 

The Celebrated Comedian, Dancer, and Humorist, 

The famous Grotesque Artists and Pantomimists 

Our Own Pocket Comedian, the Funniest Man of his Inches in the World, 

The Popular Australian Baritone, 

The Clever Dancers and Mandolinists, 

The Renowned Whistling Comedian, 

The Celebrated "Cat King," 


The Box Plan will be opened at Messrs Wildman and Lyell's TO-MORROW (Wednesday), at 10 o'clock. 

Prices : 5s, 3s, and Is. HAROLD ASHTON. Touring Manager.   

-Auckland Star, 1/6/1897.

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NZ Mail, 31/1/1906.

A considerable time has elapsed since Messrs Williamson and Musgrove have sent anything in the way of musical and specialty companies to New Zealand, so that the visit of the "Matsa" Company, whose performances are on these lines, will be welcomed with especial pleasure. The "firm," whose statements are invariably accepted in good faith by the public of this city, announce that patrons will find in the Company "the most amusing, most talented, most entertaining and absolutely the most expensive coterie of artists" that has ever visited New Zealand under their management. Judging from the names published, these remarks appear to be amply justified. Heading the list of a great number of "stars" is Miss Alice Leamar, the clever and winsome little lady who was such a drawing card when here some years ago with the famous London Gaiety Company. Then there is Mr John Coleman, a celebrated comedian, dancer and humorist, whose "scarecrow" dancing has been so popular in the neighbouring colonies; the three Delevines, remarkably clever grotesque artists; Mr Frank Lawton, whose whistling solos whilst with the Chinatown Company caused quite a furore; little Gulliver, a miniature vocalist and comedian, who is slightly over three feet high; the Winterton Sisters, mandolinists; Mr Ernest Fitts, a very popular Australian baritone; and Mr Leoni Clarke, the "Cat King," who has nearly 200 trained cats, rats, mice, canaries, cockatoos, hares, monkeys, and other animals, which go through a variety of clever and amusing tricks. It may be mentioned that with the exception of Miss Learner it will be the first appearance of these artists in this country.  -Auckland Star, 2/6/1897.

Little Gulliver, "our own pocket comedian," is described on the bill as "the funniest man of his inches in the world," and he is certainly the funniest dwarf we have ever seen. His performance is that of a first-class comedian, and irresistibly laughable. The audience cheered the little man, and he had a most enthusiastic recall.   -Auckland Star, 8/6/1897.

Williamson and Musgrove's "Matsa" Vaudeville Co."  (excerpt)
One of the funniest items on the list is the appearance of Little Gulliver described as the "Funniest man of his inches in the world." He is only about 26 inches in height, and is 53 years of age. He is a born comedian, sings an excellent comic song, is most original in his business, and is one of the quaintest dancers it is possible to see.   -Thames Star, 12/6/1897.

The "Matsa" Company's New Zealand tour of 1897 was an unqualified success, if judged by the papers of the day. All performers drew unstinting praise, and "Little Gulliver" himself drew such phrases as "convulsed the house," "a prime favourite," "an excellent comedian and dancer," "took the house by storm," "receives more encores than he can satisfy."

To begin with small things, the Firm's "pocket comedian" Little Gulliver is one of the funniest specimens of his kind imaginable — a most comical little man, as nimble as a cork at the end of a string, and with an art of face-making which he has cultivated with success. He sang first about an Irish shindy, suiting action to the words, and replied to the encore with a parody on " Home, Sweet Home."   -Evening Post, 29/6/1897.

Dear Pasquin, — The season of the Auckland Comic Opera Company last week proved very successful. Messrs Williamson and Musgrove's specialty company opened at the Opera House on Monday night before a crowded audience. The curtainraiser is "Fun in the Kitchen," a musical comedy in which songs and dances, etc., are introduced by the members of the company. The Three Delevines and the Winterton sisters in an instrumental act follow, and next come Mr Ernest Fitts, a baritone singer with a fairly good voice, and Mr Frank Lawton ("Whiskery Alf's" brother) in his whistling specialties, which did not strike me as being particularly marvellous. His solo on the bones, however, is good. Little Gulliver (with a chest like a flat fish, and standing about 3ft high with his coat off) sings his parody on '"Ome, sweet 'ome." Gulliver has a rather childish voice. They say he was born in Dunedin. The favourite serio-comic, Miss Leamar, received a great reception, singing in capital style, " American millionaire," " Looking for a coon  like me," and "All through sticking to a soldier."  The last-named song was her best item.  -Otago Witness, 17/6/1897.

Miss Leamar and "Little Gulliver" were next engaged for a season at the Cremorne Gardens, Perth, that September, while "L G" himself spawned an imitator:

The Child Mimic.
The Perriers, who open in the Foresters' Hall on to night and to-morrow nights, have enjoyed phenomenal success everywhere. They have now toured Australia for three and a half years, finishing through Tasmania and New Zealand, and almost without exception to crowded houses, certainly the Exchange Hall in Wellington recently was crowded out for eight nights in succession. Little Phyllis' clever mimicry shows a new departure in stage business. It is said that though a mere child she performs the feats that it takes the greatest of the present day actors and actresses to do. Her "take off" of Little Gulliver in the great Matsa company singing " Home, Sweet Home," used to bring down the house nightly in Wellington.   -Feilding Star, 30/11/1897.

"Little Gulliver" next appears on the cast list of 1898's Christmas panto "The Babes in the Wood," in Sydney and went on with the cast to present it on Melbourne's Easter season.  He stayed on in that city to join the cast of "The American Girl," which played a season there and went on tour.

"La Poupee" will be repeated to-night and to-morrow night. To-morrow afternoon there will be a matinee performance of this popular work. The doors will be opened at half-past one, the curtain rising at two o'clock. Special prices will be charged, adults — circle 2s, stalls 1s; children — circle 1s, stalls 6d.
Mr Pollard received a cable message yesterday from Melbourne informing him that Mr Albert Whelan, the celebrated comedian, who has lately been playing the leading comedy character in the "Belle of New York," had left for New Zealand in the s.s. Oonah. He is bringing with him the entire scenery, wardrobe and effects of this much-advertised piece, and it will be produced in Dunedin early in next month. Mr Whelan was understudy for the late Mr Oscar Girard, and during the illness of this artist, he played the principal comedy part in the "Belle of New York" in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. He is engaged to play the part in New Zealand. In two weeks' time the members of "The Forty Thieves" Pantomime Company will also leave Melbourne to co-operate with "the Pollards" in the staging of this piece. Twenty-four persons are coming over, including Mr William Hassan, the celebrated animal impersonator; "Little Gulliver," the eccentric comedian, and sixteen of the Royal ballerinas.  -Star, 11/8/1899.

Pocket-edition "Little Gulliver" is "filling in" until next panto season with the Nance O'Neil Company. His call-boy act — "Beginners, please," shows him to be a very useful member of the co. "Little Gulliver" prefers being a call-boy in the off-season to touring with an absent-minded company — absentminded on "treasury."   -Otago Witness, 9/8/1900.

Cycling (excerpt)
The Auckland Cycling Club authorities talk of holding a snorts meeting about the time of the Duke and Duchess of York celebrations, provided there is any prospect of some of the crack riders of Australia taking part. Negotiations have been going on between the League of New Zealand Wheelmen and Martin, Chapman, Lawson, and Forbes, but the prospects of either of the riders mentioned visiting New Zealand at present seems remote, the pecuniary inducement held out by the league being insufficient to cause them to leave the big attractions in Australia. 
The Canterbury amateur, H. Amos, is said to be in first-class form just now, and should give a good account of himself at the championships. He will be about the hardest nut Reynolds and Cucksey will have to crack among their New Zealand opponents. 
Little Gulliver, the popular dwarf in Messrs. Williamson and Musgrove's Comic Opera Company, is an ardent cyclist. He is 3ft 6in in height, and scales 4st 81b. He tells the "A.C." that he is not frightened of Martin in a quarter-mile sprint.  -NZ Herald, 30/3/1901.

I smole a big smile the other day when I saw Little Gulliver, the pocket comedian, now with Rickards, nearly run down a big, fat policeman, when the little one was riding down the hill from the Opera House on his miniature "bike." It was as good as a play to see Gulliver's face, and then to look at the policeman's. However, he did no harm, and no court proceedings were instituted.   -Otago Witness, 1/1/1902.

"Little Gulliver's" next engagement was as "the Dormouse" in that summer's "Alice" at the Theatre Royal in Sydney.  Another "small" panto part at the end of that years was in "Dick Whittington," as "the cat."

JOHN F. SHERIDAN COMPANY. "The Lady Slavey" with which Mr. Sheridan commences his season, at the Opera House on Saturday night is described as "a comical operatic comedy" which should prove highly amusing. The music of "The Slavey" is particularly good, and is said to rise at times to the level of grand opera. The midget comedian, "Little Gulliver" has been engaged by Mr. Sheridan for his tour, and will be seen during the season in amusing roles.   -Evening Post, 4/8/1903.

MIMES AND MUSIC. [By Ortheus.]
COMING EVENTS.   (excerpt)
 Little Gulliver, who makes his first appearance this season with the Sheridan Company to-night in "Fun on the Bristol," weighs four stone, and smokes like a chimney-pot. He is very muscular. His parents are of average stature, but a brother tops six feet.  -Evening Post, 15/8/1903.

The Sheridan Comedy Company put on an extravaganza at the Opera House last night in the form of a version of that hunt-the-slipper story concerning Cinderella, the kitchenmaid who became a princess. The Taranaki and Wellington football teams, which had met in contest during the afternoon, were present and swelled the audience to fair dimensions. It is never safe to expect too much from extravaganza, and taken on these terms those who view the present production will probably not  be disappointed. Shorn of its scenery and ballets "Cinderella" is poor stuff, having to depend for its humour almost exclusively upon males in skirts impersonating Cinderella's ugly sisters and stepmother. Little Gulliver relieved some of the scenes, chiefly as a physical oddity, but even Mr. Sheridan was hard put to evolve much that was laughable out of the character of the Baron Bounder, parent of the embryo princess. Yet there were many who laughed and were apparently satisfied with what was given them. Miss Mavis worked hard in the name part, and achieved success in several songs, and a bicycle interlude by the Delavales worked into the interior of the abode of the demon of the story exhibited some clever trick work. The spectacular effects were wholly admirable, and included a glimpse of Cinderella's fairy coach, electrically lighted to represent the sparkle of gems. Some half-a-dozen ballets permeate the piece, and form a particular feature of it, for they are well arranged, charmingly dressed, and excellently danced by the troupe of ballerinas attached to the company. The piece is to run until further notice. There will be a matinee performance on Saturday. In the evening another change of programme will take place, "When, the Lamps are Lighted" being underlined for production.  -Evening Post, 20/8/1903.

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Horrified Cleric: You little rascal, how dare a boy of your age smoke? What's your name ? I'll tell your pa. Little Gulliver : Oh, run away and play. Can't a little boy of 35 have a whiff before he "goes on?"  -The Free Lance, 29/8/1903.

The Sheridan Company toured New Zealand through 1903, presenting a number of productions.  "Little Gulliver" appears to have been noticeable as an oddity but acclaimed as an artist, literally "stopping the show" and being demanded of the occasional encore.  "Mrs Dooley's Little Joke" contained an extra novelty to it, in the form of a "biograph" - a "moving picture" - portraying a race which made up part of the plot.

A brief glimpse into his private life came at this time...

Little Gulliver, "the Sheridan Atom," creates as much interest in private life as on the stage. His parents are natives of Melbourne, and of ordinary stature. A brother, 21 years of age, stands 6ft; another brother, aged 14, is 5ft 6in; while a 16 year-old sister can walk under Gulliver's arm. Gulliver is very muscular, and can carry a man weighing 14st round on his shoulders. -NZ Herald, 3/10/1903.

Personal.— Little Gulliver, Sheridan's nugget of comedy, is an inveterate smoker, an enthusiastic cyclist, and an earnest disciple of Izak Walton. Jack is a thorough ladies' man, and altogether takes life as a matter of course.  -The Colonist, 13/11/1903.

"Little Gulliver" seems to have shown talent which took him further in the affections of the audience - and the reviewers - than his mere stature could have.  Reviewers used phrases to describe his performance such as: "astonishingly clever interlude,"  "showed great talent," "brought down the house, and also broke it up," "bursts through the gossamer plot like a bumblebee through a spider's web.'

At the end of 1903, "L G" and the company played their "Cinderella" to a standing-room only crowd in Dunedin's Princess Theatre.  It was evidently Dunedin's first taste of pantomime and, according to the Otago Daily Times, "went off particularly well."  They continued their Dunedin season into the new year of 1904, running through their toured productions at the Princess.

The second performance of 'Mrs Dooley's Little Joke' was given at the Princess's Theatre last evening with success equal to that of the first production. We should mention that "Little Gulliver" is responsible for much of the fun, and does his work with characteristic humor. 'Mrs Dooley's Little Joke' will be staged to-night for the last time.  -Evening Star, 12/1/1904.

"Mrs Dooley's Little Joke" was followed by "Naughty Nancy," in which "L G" was reported as "being in his element" as a Police Sergeant.  The Sheridan Company then left for Hobart, Tasmania, being refused landing due to quarantine regulations and having to continue to Melbourne.  At about this time, "Little Gulliver" is reported as "looking for a wife," reported as being 28 years old and "3ft 8in in his socks."
The Sheridan Company's next engagement was a six month season in South Africa, reported in June 1904 and expected to continue to the end of the year.

Dramatic and Musical. By Footlight.
Little Gulliver who is nearly three feet high, is back from Africa, and persistently smokes a Boer pipe with a capacity of half-a-pound of tobacco. The pipe has been seen in the streets of Melbourne, pulling a pair of legs after it.  -NZ Free Lance, 31/12/1904.

Little Gulliver, the pocket comedian, is said to be full of war stories since he returned from South Africa. One Australian writer says he talks fight like a six-foot Grenadier.  -Observer, 7/1/1905.

News Items
One of the sights of Australia is Little Gulliver (Sheridan Company), back from Africa, smoking a big Boer pipe which holds about 1/2cwt of tobacco (says Sydney Newsletter). The pipe caused a block in Pitt street the other day and a wood carter attempted to throw it into his dray, not knowing there was a great actor attached.   -Poverty Bay Herald, 14/2/1905.

"Little Gulliver's" next season was again with the Sheridan Company in Sydney, in "the American play 'King Dodo.'"  He played "The Baby Elephant," and then "Tiger" in the next Sheridan production, "The Earl and the Girl." "Bright and breezy, and has more than a semblance of a plot" reported the Otago Witness, from Sydney, of the latter.  They all did good business and began a New Zealand tour at the end of the year.

The Sheridan Comedy Company
The return of such a popular comedian as Mr John F. Sheridan, supported as he is by a strong company, could not fail to be acceptable to the play-going public of Invercargill, and the presence of a very large audience at the opening performance could only be taken as matter of course. Mr Sheridan has no reason to complain of the reception accorded him and his company. "The Earl and the Girl," which was staged for the first time in Invercargjll, is described as a musical comedy and is a happy combination of the sparkling and bright in music, with wit and crispness in dialogue. The p1ot, while it follows the general rule in such comedies, of being fairly slender, is sufficiently well defined to be easily followed. The real heir to the earldom of Stole is, in company with his intended bride, paying a visit to her aunt, Miss Virginia Bliss, at whose house a gathering of notables is being held. The heir, Dick Wargrave, who is unaware of his aristocratic origin, is very desirous of avoiding an appearance at the party except under a nom de plume, as he learns that his bride's uncle is swearing vengeance against him and that he is being pursued by various solicitors, presumably with writs. In his dilemma he stumbles against Jim Cheese, a dog trainer, who with his sweetheart and dogs, is "broke" at the Fallowfield Inn. For a princely consideration Jim consents to change names with Wargrave, and the pair are introduced to the party under their assumed names. Cheese had previously been informed by a bustling solicitor that, as Dick Wargrave, he was really the Earl of Stole, and at the party he appears as his lordship, with coronet and robes, grotesquely set off by his professional show costume. His unconventional conduct vastly entertains the guests, and he enjoys himself thoroughly until the arrival of the fire-eating uncle of Elphin Haye, who is followed by a Mrs Shimmering Black, a strong woman bringing a charge that the Earl had jilted her daughter. The pseudo Earl found that his troubles were likely to press too severely on him, and he is only too glad when the real Wargrave declares himself and he is allowed to retire to a humbler sphere of usefulness. Many supremely entertaining situations are worked into the dialogue, and they were presented with a spontaneity and crispness which was hugely appreciated by the audience. Mr Sheridan, as Jim Cheese, was inimitable, and while he occupied the boards the audience were kept in almost continuous roars of laughter. As the despairing dog trainer he was extremely good, but he was even better after his promotion to the ranks of the aristocracy. His presentation of the scenes at the party; where he masquerades as the Earl, was a performance of the very highest class. The efforts of an uncouth dog-trainer to play the part of an earl could not have been more humorously presented, and Mr Sheridan's success was undoubtedly shown by the unstinted applause which was accorded his acting. Mr Avallon Collard, as Dick Wargrave, also gave an exceptionally pleasing interpretation of a capital role. He was an excellent second to the leader and assisted very materially in the making of the comedy. He is a vocalist of considerable ability, his song "The Mediterranean," being one of the hits of the evening. Mr Rupert Julian, as the Hon. Crew-Boodle, the supposed heir, also played his part in a very pleasing style. One of the most entertaining characters was that of Downham (an American solicitor) as presented by Mr Frank Crossly, who made a great success of it, reeling off the catchy dialogue at top speed, and thoroughly amusing the audience. His song "I've never a moment to spare," which introduced some local hits, was fairly typical of the role. Mr Jean Delacy was good as the irate uncle and his make-up was decidedly on the sensational side. Other parts were taken by Mr T. Curran, Mr R. Noble, Mr G. Burnett, Mr H. Lingard, Mr G. Fahy. Mr Frank Willing, Mr R. Courtney, Mr C. Haven and Mr Egbert George. Mr Curran deserves a word of praise for his song "The Grenadiers," a tuneful military composition, which he sang capitally. Among the ladies, Miss Heba Barlow as Liza Shodham, Jim's sweetheart, had perhaps the most exacting part, and to say that she did it justice is awarding no small praise. Miss Barlow was the show girl, from the huge feathers in her hat to her shoes, and her delineation was a meritorious one throughout. Miss Amy Conroy, as Elphin Haye, had a much more attractive part, which she played with much acceptation. Her principal song, "The Blush Rose," was nicely sung and was followed by a picturesque tableau and chorus. Miss Florence Fanning, as Mrs Shimmering Black, was sufficiently violent and awe-inspiring for a Boadicea. Miss Elsie Wilton, as Virginia Bliss, and Miss Waldon Taylor, as Daisy Fallowfield, both played very nicely, and were capably supported by the other ladies. No report of' the play could be complete without reference to Little Gulliver, a diminutive comedian, who took the house by storm. His song "Sally's acomin'" a parody on a well known Scottish song was received with uproarious applause, and an encore, was demanded. Little Gulliver responded with a dance in which he displayed such extraordinary agility that the audience demanded it again. Later he appeared dressed as a little girl, and indulged in some comedy with Mr Sheridan, quite a number in the audience being unaware that the assistant was not what the clothes proclaimed until Gulliver pulled off his hood and wig. Praise can be liberally meted out to the choruses and dances — the former were, tuneful, catchy, and above the average, and the latter were pretty and graceful. The whole production was entirely successful, and was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. 
"The Earl and the Girl" will be repeated this evening.  -Southland Times, 15/12/1905.

ZEALANDIA HALL. Lessee .. Mr Allan Hamilton
A Large and Enthusiastic Audience last night proclaimed this Brilliant Musical production A MARVEL OF PERFECTION.
To-night. To-night. 
Last opportunity to witness 
 MR SHERIDAN scored an unqualified success as the Coster Dog Trainer, 
8 Kangaroo Dancing Girls 8 
Will witness the first performance of the Great Musical Success. 
MR SHERIDAN in three distinct characters-The Bailiff, the Flunkey, the Millionaire. 
Full Operatic Chorus and Orchestra. 
Box Plan and Day Sales at the " DRESDEN," 
No Early Doors. No Booking Fee.
Manager for Mr Hamilton — Mr George Buller. 
Treasurer for Mr Hamilton — Mr Fred. Duncan. 
Manager for Mr John F. Sheridan — Mr Stanley Grant
-Southland Times, 15/12/1905.

By Pasquin.
The well-known comedian, John F. Sheridan will commence his New Zealand tour at the Princess on Boxing Night, presenting for the holiday season a real Christmas pantomime, '"Dick Whittington and His Cat." Miss Heba Barlow has been engaged for the important role of Dick, while Little Gulliver, the midget comedian, will impersonate Dick's cat. Miss Ray Jones, a Victorian soprano, and Mr Avalon Collard, an English tenor, are also in the cast. The inimitable Johnny Sheridan appears as a circus acrobat, who afterwards becomes the Mikado of Japan. The company engaged for the production will be a large one. The pantomime will be presented on a scale of much magnificence. During the season several new musical comedies, including "The Earl and the Girl," and "King Dodo," will be presented.  -Otago Witness, 20/12/1905.

MATINEE on BOXING DAY, Tuesday, 26th December.
The Most Popular Comedian in the Southern Hemisphere, will produce the 
Miss HEBA BARLOW will be "Dick." 
And will Demonstrate to the Rat Family 
Will be there with Mrs Demon Rat and all their Family. They have decided to 
There will be Bite-em, Chaw-em, Gnaw-em, and Eat-em. 
There will be Ladies, Gentlemen, Children, Fairies, Angels, Singing, Dancing, Marching, Tumbling, Horses and Brass Bands in the Circus Parade. Feasts of Lanterns, Ballets, and - well, Mother, have you booked our seats?
The Booking Office is at the Dresden, Day Sales at Jacobs's. Admission: 3s, 2s, and One Shilling. Booking Fee and Early doors, 6d extra. But NO EXTRA CHARGES AT THE MATINEE,  and children half-price to Front and Second Seats.
-Otago Daily Times, 22/12/1905

DICK WHITTINGTON. Dick Whittington, his cat, and sundry other people interested again walked the stage at the Princess Theatre last evening. There was a large and appreciative house. Mr John F. Sheridan is producing this pantomime on a very complete scale. The scenery is good — at times splendid; the people engaged in the production enter thoroughly into the spirit of the extravaganza; and all the music is catchy, while some of it is original as well. Miss Heba Barlow makes a charming Dick, acting and singing her part with spirit. Little Gulliver as the cat kept the house in a simmer of amusement by his clever and original feline methods. Mr John F. Sheridan himself appeared in an Irish part — Larry Brannigan, who afterwards becomes the Mikado of Japan. All who are familiar with the Sheridan comedy methods will understand what a lot the "widow" can make out of such parts. All the other ladies and gentlemen engaged in the cast were eminently satisfactory, and a special word is due to the children. Mr F. W. Weierter handles a strong orchestra well. The Fairy opening is of his composition. 'Dick Whittington and His Cat' may be recommended as being clean, wholesome, and sufficiently amusing. On Monday next (New Year's Day) another matinee will be given.   -Evening Star, 28/12/1905.

Local and General
There died in the Dunedin Hospital last evening, of a complication of pleurisy and pneumonia, John Rumbelow, better known as "Little Gulliver," a member of the Sheridan Company. He was a natural midget, 29 years of age. His height was 3ft 4in., and his weight 4st 31b. His parents reside in Melbourne, and though informed of his illness, they will be told of his death by cable in the morning.  -Wanganui Herald, 12/1/1906.

The death occurred in Dunedin Hospital last evening (says a Press Association message), as the result of a complication of pleurisy and pneumonia, of John Rumblelow, better known as “Little Gulliver,” a member of the Sheridan Company. He was a natural midget, twenty-nine years of age. His height was 3ft 4ln, &ad his weight 4st 31b. "Little Gulliver” was a familiar figure in the streets of Melbourne, where his parents reside. The other members of the family are of normal stature. “Gulliver” was extremely fond of cycling, and, of course, rode a diminutive machine, which attracted much notice. He appeared in several pantomimes in Australia, and was with Mr Sheridan’s company in the pantomime “Cinderella” during the last visit to Wellington. Gulliver was a clever comedian.  -NZ Times, 12/1/1906.

And "the show must go on..."

PRINCESS THEATRE. "The Lady Slavey."
"The Lady Slavey" made her appearance on the boards at the Princess Theatre last night for the first time this season, and immensely pleased the audience. Mr Sheridan has produced many plays in Dunedin, among them by no means the least meritorious is that which was introduced by him and his clever company last night, and which holds good till Saturday. The loss of "Little Gulliver," who died in the Dunedin Hospital of pneumonia early in the evening, will be severely felt by the company, and over their performance the sad death of their colleague hung like a pall; but, notwithstanding, their work was marked by vivaciousness and vim, which met with its due reward in appreciative applause from the patrons. Indeed there would have been no performance at all but for the fact that the death of Gulliver was not known until the public had commenced to take their seals in the theatre. "The Lady Slavey" is a musical comedy, full of life, and possessing many of those qualities which go to make a successful bill of fare for patrons of the stage. The singing is bright and tuneful, and is accompanied by witty dialogue and clever and attractive dancing. The play revolves around the fortunes of an Irish land-owner, Major O'Neill, who has become impecunious, and transforms one of his daughters into a maid of all sorts. An American millionaire in search of a wife comes upon the scene, and fixes upon the lady slavey, otherwise the Major's daughter, as the object of his affections. A music hall artist who has a moneyless English lord in tow sets herself to captivate the millionaire, as do also the Major's other two daughters. Things get ridiculously mixed, greatly to the delight of the onlookers — the audience, — but, of course, in the end the knot is unravelled, and all is right as right should be. Mr Sheridan plays a man's or men's parts throughout, and as Roberts (a bailiff), Jeems (a footman), or Pier Point Morgan is responsible for a great deal of fun and laughter. He was ably seconded by Miss Heba Barlow, who took the part of Phyllis, the lady slavey, and who well earned the hearty plaudits that greeted her efforts. Mr Avalon Collard is deserving of praise for his consistent work as the American millionaire, and Mr Rupert Julian played right up to the part of the Irish landlord, as Major O'Neill. Miss Muriel Williams had a congenial, if difficult, part as Flo Honeydew, the music hall artist, and was at all times graceful and clever in her interpretation of the part. Mr Robert Noble gave a typical stage portrayal of the character of an English aristocrat to whom birth had been more generous than nature; whilst Mr Thomas Curran as Bill, so frequently called upon by the bailiff to "bring in the barber," met with encouraging applause. The cast was a strong one, and the individual members worked harmoniously together, and contributed to the general success of the production. A number of very acceptable vocal items were rendered, and the ballets were graceful and artistic, whilst the scenery was charming and effective. The accompaniments and incidental music were very acceptably rendered by an efficient orchestra. "The Lady Slavey" will be repeated to-night and on Saturday night, and on Monday "King Dods," in which Mr Sheridan and Company made a great success in Sydney last year, will be staged for the first time in New Zealand.  -Otago Daily Times, 12/1/1906.

Town and Country
Speaking of the death of  "Little Gulliver," - which took place in Dunedin hospital on Thursday night, Mr Buller, a representative of the Sheridan Company, told a "Herald" reporter yesterday that the little chap's exit from the stage of mortality has been a great shock to the members of the company, with all of whom he was a great favorite. The ladies of the company especially were much attached to their Lilliputian confrere, whose end was perhaps the sadder because it came so quickly. He caught a chill while fishing and died of pleurisy and pneumonia after two davs' illness. The night before his seizure he played the part of a little girl, and when he was encored for his performance, he reappeared, divested himself of his feminine wig, and catching hold of Mr Sheridan, a man more than twice his own weight, carried him off the stage on his back. There are, of course, understudies who will no doubt fill his place to the satisfaction of the public, but nobody can fill "Little Gulliver's" place in the affections of the company. Speaking of the malady which carried off the midget, Mr Buller remarked that he had himself contracted his first attack of pneumonia in Dunedin, and was not troubled with it again until he revisited Dunedin recently.  -Timaru Herald, 13/1/1906.

Personal Notes
The funeral of John Rumbelow ("Little Gulliver") will take place on Sunday at 3 p.m., when the members of the theatrical company with whom he has so long been associated, and his numerous friends, will pay their last tribute of respect to his memory. The Citizens' Band will accompany the cortege to the graveside, where a choral and orchestral service will be held.  -Otago Daily Times, 13/1/1906.
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The hearse about to leave the hospital.  Photo: "Papers Past."

Comedy and tragedy are surprisingly interwoven in the scheme of life, and it came as a great shock to the hundreds of people who a few nights ago were entertained by the dwarf eccentricity "Little Gulliver," of the Sheridan Pantomime Company, to hear that he had died suddenly in the hospital of pneumonia. This afternoon extraordinary interest was displayed in his funeral, and 10,000 people lined the streets to watch the cortege go past. The Citizens' Band led the procession, and played Handel's "Dead March." The wreaths and floral tributes from members of the theatrical profession and friends were numerous enough to fill a carriage. The cemetery hill was a sight in itself, and thousands of people took up positions overlooking the grave where the Rev. J. A. Torrance conducted the burial service. The members of the company, who have been greatly saddened by "Little Gulliver's" death, sang "Abide With Me," at the graveside, and the scene was exceedingly affecting. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the lady members of the company and many other women present. It was intended to have conducted a more elaborate choral service, but the crowd pressed so closely that the pantomime orchestra could not use their instruments, and this, in addition to falling rain, made it necessary to cut the musical arrangements out.
A member of the company furnishes me with a brief biography of "Little Gulliver," whose real name was John Rumbelow. He was born in While Hills, near Bendigo, Victoria, on January 14, 1876. Therefore his 29th birthday would have been to-day. He entered the profession 10 years ago in "Djin Djin," and then toured the colonies with a vaudeville show, under the auspices of Mr. Williamson, which included Miss Alice Lemar and Johnny Coleman. The next year saw the diminutive comedian playing the pigmy king in "Matsa," which was a huge success, and it was then that he acquired the name of "Little Gulliver," of which he was very proud. In 1897 he played in '"The Babes in the Wood," in 1893 in the "Forty Thieves," in 1899 in "Red Riding Hood," in 1900 he had a part in " Australis," in 1901 ho played Ihe cat in "Alice in Wonderland," and in 1902 the cat in "Dick Whitlington." He joined Mr. Sheridan in 1903, and since then he has toured New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, West Australia, and South Africa. He was a genial little soul, so different to the usual dwarf, who is traditionally bad-tempered, vindictive, and spiteful. "Johnny" was none of these, he was unusually good-tempered and loved by everyone. He had one hobby, and that was fishing, and it is suggested that a chill he got when indulging in his favourite pastime, recently, was a contributing cause to his untimely death. "Johnny;'' had a sister of similarly small proportions, but the rest of the family are of average stature. "Little Gulliver's" height was 3ft 4in, and the figures reversed represented his weight (4st 31b).  -NZ Herald, 15/1/1906.

"Little Gulliver" - 1899.  Image courtesy of ""

The curtain falls, and round about
Is neither mirth, nor joy, nor light, 
As' Little Gulliver goes out
Into the shrouding night
In sun and shade, from dusk to dawn, 
He lived elate his brief life's span: 
'Tis not in inches or in brawn, The measure of a man. 
"We bulky folk may never go  
Along some paths these small feet trod; 
The little children truliest know 
The fatherhood of God. 
For him our garish sun has set; 
But he, safe gathered to his own, 
May by his tiny stature get 
The nearer to the Throne.
"Little Gulliver is dead!" Such was the message flashed across the wire from the Hospital to the Princess Theatre on Thursday just as the members of Sheridan's Co. were in the midst of "making up" for the evening performance. Although it was known that day, and for two days previously, that their bright little fellow artist, friend, and companion was lying at Death's door, the news of his passing away came with startling suddenness. "Little Gulliver is dead"; the news quickly spread from principal to chorister, from chorister to callboy, until every member with one accord sorrowfully murmured, "Little Jack is dead." It was too late to cancel the evening performance, for already people had assembled to see the entertainment, but it was a broken-hearted company which bravely attempted to conceal its deep sorrow and almost personal affliction in the lines of the comedy. Why wonder that the play did not go with its usual vim and abandon, and that a cue was occasionally missed and a line forgotten? When tears mingle with the "make up" and course down cheeks masked by grease paint 'tis idle to pretend. 
Playgoers everywhere, but especially in Australia and New Zealand, will learn of the death of the favourite comedian with deep sorrow and regret. Little Gulliver was in his usual health and spirits on Friday evening, but on the Saturday, while performing as Tiger in "The Earl and the Girl," he complained of having caught a chill. On Sunday there was a change for the worse, and on Tuesday Little Gulliver was taken to the Hospital, which he was fated never to leave alive. He died shortly before 7 o'clock on Thursday evening last, having been almost unconscious some hours before his death, the cause of which was diabetes, accelerated by a severe attack of pneumonia and pleurisy. 
Everything was done for him that was in the power of the attending doctors to do, but it was seen at the outset that he was dangerously ill. 
HIS CAREER. John Rumbelow (Little Gulliver) was born at White Hills, near Bendigo, Victoria, on January 14, 1876, so that at the time of his death he was just on 29 years of age. He was a natural midget, perfectly formed, and his height was 3ft 4in, while his weight was 4st ,31b. His sister is also a natural midget, who Gulliver used to say "could just stand under his arm." The remaining members of the family are about the average height. The writer well remembers Little Gulliver when he was first brought under general public notice in Melbourne in 1888. Some time after this he was taken on tour through the Victorian towns, and in 1896 appeared in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre under Williamson and Musgrove's management in the second production of "Djin Djin," in which he did his specialty — a parody on "Home, sweet home." The next year saw "Johnny" as a comedian, when he played the Pigmy King in Messrs Williamson and Royle's "Matsa," which was a huge success. It was then he acquired the name of "Little Gulliver." One day, at rehearsal, the stage manager said, "Here you, Gulliver, Little Gulliver." Johnny turned round at the name and said "Yes?" The name stuck to him, and very proud he was of it. In 1897 he played a little Buttons in "Babes in the Wood," '83 a part in "Forty Thieves," '99 a Fat Boy in "Red Riding Hood," '00 a Little Sailor in "Australis," '01 the Cat in "Alice in Wonderland," '02 the Cat in "Dick Whittington." In 1903 he joined Mr John F. Sheridan in Melbourne, playing the Buttons in "Mrs Dooley's Little Joke," and he has been continuously with Mr Sheridan ever since, touring New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, West Australia, and South Africa. Little Gulliver appeared in the majority of the pantomimes under the Williamson/Musgrove regime, his last appearance in pantomime with that management being in "Alice in Wonderland" in Sydney. He was the star attraction in "Australis," staged by the J. C. Williamson Co. in conjunction with the Pollards in Sydney some five or six years ago. He first visited New Zealand with the Matsa Vaudeville Co. about 1892, which company included in its ranks Misses Gertie Campion, Alice Leamar, Ernest Fitts, Johnny Coleman, and Leoni Clark the Cat King. Of a quiet, retiring, and gentle disposition, Little Gulliver was a fast favourite with his fellow actors, and a special one of Mr Sheridan's, who naturally feels his death very keenly. His diminutive stature specially fitted him for many roles. As a comedian he was sprightly, a good spacer, a capital singer, and there was undoubted talent. He became the admiration of the adult play patron and the delight of the children, who will in coming years recollect poor Little Gulliver in the character of Whittington's cat. It was a sad duty for Mr Sheridan to perform in having to cable the news to a friend in Melbourne to convey the sorrowful tidings to the bereaved parents. Mr Sheridan has been the recipient of a number of telegrams of sympathy from friends of I his own and of the deceased in different parts of the colony. 
AN IMPOSING FUNERAL. The funeral, which took place on Sunday afternoon, was a deeply impressive one. The cortege left the Hospital at 3 p.m., and as the casket containing the remains of the little favourite was lifted into the hearse the quiet wellng tears of sincere regret were visible in the eyes of many. The popularity of Little Gulliver had been so pronounced and his death so  sudden that it was next to impossible for those with whom he had been such a favourite to subdue their emotion. Even the little children stood near by with sorrowful expression written on their faces, and in one instance a "'wee mite" was heard to sob aloud. Leaving the Hospital, the procession, headed by the Citizens' Band, playing the "Dead March" in "Saul," journeyed along Cumberland and Princes streets to the Southern Cemetery, the pall-bearers being Messrs F. W. Winter, Robert Noble, Horace Jardine and T. Curran. Immediately following the hearse came the members of the Sheridan Company, down to the programme boys, the orchestra, together with the members of the Fuller Company; representatives of the musical societies of Dunedin, and sympathisers of the deceased. The first carriage, containing a large number of floral tributes, was followed by another occupied by Mr J. F. Sheridan. Miss Barlow, and Mr Torrance. The third carriage contained the Misses Massey, Tate, and Leighton, and Mr Stanley Grant. The fourth carriage contained Misses Ray Jones and Merton, and Messrs Collard and Duncan, and other carriages with members of the Sheridan Company. In this order, and accompanied by other vehicles, the funeral was witnessed in the streets of the city and at the cemetery by nearly 10,000 people. At the grave an impressive burial service was performed by Mr Torrance, and at the conclusion of the obsequies an orchestra, under Mr A. I. Robertshaw, accompanied the members of the Sheridan Company in the singing of the beautiful hymn. "Abide with me." It was noticeable that the singers were deeply affected at the graveside during its rendition. It was originally intended to engage in a full choral service, but the immense crowd edging in on the open grave prevented the members of the orchestra from being able to perform, and this part of the service had to be abandoned. The last rites performed, the vast crowd moved rapidly away, whilst the members of the Sheridan Company took a long and farewell look at the casket containing the mortal remains of their late little associate, Little Gulliver.
If further testimony to the esteem in which Little Gulliver was held were necessary, it was furnished in the large number of beautiful wreaths sent expressive of sympathy, of which the following is only a portion: Messrs Allan Hamilton, John F. Sheridan, S. Grant, F. Duncan, J. W. Weierter, Avalon Collard, T. Curran, Misses Heba Barlow, Ray Jones, Florence Faning, H. C. Campbell, Fuller Vaudeville Company, the Brescians, chorus ladies, John P. Sheridan Company, ladies' ballet, gentleman of chorus, boys and girls of Sheridan Company, stage hands, Robertshaw's Orchestra, Criterion Dancers, Mr and Mrs McKewen (Grand Hotel), admirers (Grand Hotel), Citizens' Band, Mr C. Little, passengers s.s. Maheno. The casket, which was covered with white figured cloth and mounted with nickel-plate, bore the inscription: 
29 years. 
Died 11/1/06. 
Mr Sheridan wishes us to express his heartfelt thanks to Dr Macdonald and the nursing staff of the Hospital for their kindly and minute attention to their little patient; to Dr Watt for his interest and attention to Little Gulliver before his entry to the Hospital, and to the members of the Citizens' Band who took part in the pantomime of "Dick Whittington" with Little Gulliver.
Mr John F. Sheridan writesth: — "I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those who so kindly assisted in the impressive funeral of Little Gulliver. It devolves upon me to acquaint his bereaved relatives of the great tribute which was paid him, and it should suppress somewhat the great sorrow which has fallen on them to know that here in Dunedin, so many miles away from his home, there were found kind hearts who paid this last token of respect to our dear little friend — beloved by his brother and sister artists, and by all who knew him."  -Otago Witness, 17/1/1906.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin