Ward's Book of Days.

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JULY 21st

On this day in history in 1867, was born Little Tich.

Little Tich was a music hall comedian, noted for his various characters, and his outrageous Big Boot dance, which involved a pair of 28-inch boots.

Harry Relph was born on 21st July 1867, at Cudham, one of fifteen children, the son of a pub landlord. Mementoes of his life are preserved at his birthplace. [Blacksmiths Arms, Cudham Lane South, Cudham, Sevenoaks, TN14 7QB] He made his first stage appearance at the age of twelve at Rosherville Gardens, Kent. His unusual stage name came from an extraordinary legal case which roused the public imagination in the 19th Century. The Tichbourne case concerned an imposter, who claimed to be the lost heir to the Tichbourne fortune, and was unusually stout, and became known as ‘Big Tich’. Relph who was only 4ft 6in became ‘Little Tich’.

Relph was a polydactyl, having five fingers and thumb on each hand, and six toes on both feet, but he resented being portrayed as a grotesque. In 1884, he made his London music hall debut, where he his speciality dance, in which he appeared to defy the laws of physics and gravity, by leaning at precarious angles, and balancing improbably on the tips his elongated boots. In addition, he sang comic songs accompanied by the banjo. In 1896, he appeared for the first time at the Folies-Bergère in Paris, where he performed his dance at the same energetic pace, as the can-can dancers for which that establishment is renowned.

Relph went on to make three films, and achieved such popularity that he dance was frequently copied by other burlesque artists but never perfected by them. The Big Boot dance was described by one of the film’s directors as 'a foundation for everything that has been realised in comedy on the screen'.

Relph died on 10th February 1928, and is buried at London. [St Marylebone Cemetery, (sometimes known as East Finchley Cemetery) 122 East End Road, London, N2 0RZ]

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