Sir, Henry Irving’s Funeral


Bradford, Daily Telegraph, October 19, 1905




Yesterday morning a cast was taken of the face of Sir Henry Irving, which was tranquil and dignified in death. In the afternoon the body was cremated at Golder’s Green, beyond Hampstead, where the ceremony was of a strictly private character. Last night the ashes, enclosed in the elm coffin with its simple inscription, were carried to the house of the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, where they lie in a room overlooking Piccadilly, for the flat in which of late years Sir Henry lived had become too small for the growing collection of floral tributes, besides being inconvenient in other ways for a funeral. The flowers sent to 17 Stratton Street have been transferred to the larger dwelling at the corner, and it is requested that any further offerings of the same kind should be sent to the latter place.


At tomorrows service, the following gentlemen are to be pall bearers, those first named being at the head of the coffin:

(1)   Sir Squire Bancroft and the Earl of Aberdeen

(2)   Lord Tennyson and Sir Charles Wyndham

(3)   Mr. John Hare and Lord Burnham

(4)   Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Mr George Alexander

(5)   Mr. Tree and Sir L. Alma- Tadema, R.A.

(6)   Sir James Dewar and Mr. J. Forbes Robertson

(7)   Mr.A.W.Pinero and Mr. Burdett- Coutts, M.P.

The Chief Steward is to be Mr Arthur Bourchier. Other prominent gentlemen connected with the theatrical profession will also act as stewards.


Many people visited the Abbey yesterday to see the digging of Sir Henry’s grave beside that of Garrick. They were, however, disappointed, a tall black screen having been erected to enclose the Poet’s Corner. The people had to be content with the information that the sexton’s task was a hard one because it involved the piercing of a bed of concrete, just beneath the pavement. In these circumstances the persistence with which the people remained around the spot was surprising. Mr H.B. and Mr L Irving, Sir C Wyndham, Sir Squire Bancroft, and Mr Norman Forbes Robertson were also in the venerable church, their object being to make final arrangements for the funeral. One of their anxieties arise from the probability of a great crowd outside the building tomorrow. Fifteen hundred applications for tickets arrived by yesterday morning’s post, making a total so far of fifteen thousand. Of course, the number will be vastly increased before the close of today.


His Majesty the King has deputed General Sir Dighton Probyn to attend on his behalf at the Abbey service. Although the Prince and Princess of Wales will be absent from England they have arranged to be represented by Colonel the Hon. Sir William Carrington, Controller and Treasurer to his Royal Highness.


Among the many messages of sorrowful sympathy received yesterday was one from the San Francisco Bohemian Club, which a few years ago presented Sir Henry with a pair of sleeve links, enamelled with the words “We will coal together.” The phrase has an interesting history. When the United States were thrilling with the knowledge that in their struggle with Spain this country was resolved to prevent any interference the great actor was in Philadelphia. There he drove into the dockyard, and was cordially greeted by the officers. Talking of American naval prospects one of them said: “How can we go about the world? We have no coaling stations.” “We have” the guest replied “we will coal together.” The phrase was enthusiastically repeated and commented on throughout the States, and the Bohemian Club emphasised American approval in the manner indicated.


The following telegram was received yesterday from Mr. Joseph Clarke, president of the National Art Theatre Society, New York: “But one monument to Irving seems possible – the building and endowment of a great national theatre, his lifelong desire and his latest noble wish”

Mark Twain who is said to be deeply affected by Sir Henry Irving’s death, has telegraphed to Mr J.Y.W.MacAllister, editor of the “Library” to place on the bier of “his dear old friend Henry Irving” a wreath with the inscription: – “ All our people mourn him. He earned their love at his first coming, and never lost it. He was endeared to me by a warm friendship of thirty-three years.”

The English Actors’ Association has received this communication: – “Please accept condolences of Greek Actors’ Association on the occasion of Great Irving’s death – Nicholas Laskaris, president.”

Sympathy with the mourners on this side of the ocean has also been telegraphed by the Lotus club of New York.


Several wreaths are being sent from Bradford, by the Mayor, Mr. Lupton, Mrs A.H. Illingworth, the directors of the Theatre Royal and others. There is a huge collection of tributes already at Stratton Street.

Mr Walter M Gardner, of the Bradford Technical College writes – The suggestion that a small token of respect should be offered by Sir Henry Irving’s last audience has received much sympathetic comment and cordial support, and the available time being so short, the writer of the original letter has taken the responsibility of purchasing a wreath composed of Sir Henry’s favourite flowers – lilies of the valley and white and red roses – which will be forwarded to London tomorrow. It is to be inscribed, “From his last audience, in sorrowful remembrance of a noble performance.”


“Citizen” writes – An event of such historic importance to Bradford as the death of the late Sir Henry Irving (although in itself an irreparable loss) should not be allowed to pass by without some memorial to mark the time and place where the tragic event occurred. A marble bust of the great actor, suitably inscribed, might be placed in the hall of the Midland Hotel, or, if a more ambitious scheme was favoured, a statue erected in the Cartwright Hall. Such a memorial would be a graceful tribute from the citizens of Bradford to the memory of a great man.