♥ 1864 West Sunderland - 1918 Glasgow                    Actor, Comedian, Musician         


A lot of making and of experience has gone to bring Mark Sheridan to the top-of-the-tree-position-as-a-comedian which he occupies to-day. He did not tumble into it accidentally. Nobody ever does really tumble into success. Plenty of people would like to think that they could, but they shirk or are ignorant of the trying long years of hard work, beginning at small things and working up bit by bit, that added to innate capacity ultimately bring the successful to any position of eminence that they happen to occupy. So with Mark.

Mark Sheridan Music Hall


Mark Sheridan: " The Wise Jester " and “ One of the B’hoys”

At the time of his tragic death in January 1918, aged 53, Mark Sheridan had been on the stage for over thirty years. An immensely popular comedian and able singer of lusty seaside songs, most notably J.Glover-Kind’s classic, “ I do like to be beside the seaside”, he was also a major presence in pantomime and featured regularly in productions across the British Isles. With his eccentric appearance, comic- patter, and delightful dancing and singing, he was undoubtedly one of the most original turns  the halls had ever seen or heard. Born Fred Shaw in 1864 in Hendon, County Durham, of


Scottish- Irish parentage, Fred began his working life on the Sunderland docks, transferred  to the “ commercial department of the Newcastle-upon -Tyne Theatre, and from the office gradually drifted on to the stage.” The sheer number of Freds on the halls necessitated a name change and Fred Shaw became Mark Sheridan by adopting the first name of American writer/humorist Mark Twain and ( possibly ) his Irish mother’s maiden name. His early experiences in variety were predominantly in the provinces, followed by time served in South Africa in 1890, where he went after his marriage to


Ethel Maude Davenport. This tour was followed by the Harry Rickards circuit in Australia in 1892 where he was billed with a partner as The Sheridans. Mark Sheridan arrived in London as a solo turn on March 11, 1895 . For this important debut  he appeared at the Royal Standard , Pimlico and sang: “ It’s suspicious”, “ On my own “ , “ Fancy meeting you at the Isle of Man “ and other songs.


After this initial success he was very quickly established as a favourite music-hall comedian. Without question,  his highest  period of popularity occurred between 1909 and 1914 (  His first recordings date back to 1905).  An astute buyer of songs, one of the best  in London, he created a craze in 1909 with “ I do like to be beside the seaside  “ which led to that


song being used by principal boys in countless pantomimes across the country. This mania was recreated  five years later at the onset of the First World War with “ Belgium put the kibosh on the Kaiser “ and “ Here we are again. “   With such brilliant songs in his repertoire and accolades from his  audiences and the press,  Mark was probably


experiencing the finest years of his music hall career   However, he seems to have been plagued by insecurities, imaginings and indisposition ( From time to time his variety cards in The Era stated that he was indisposed  or resting under doctor’s orders  and many writers since his death have suggested that he suffered a nervous breakdown).



By 1917 he finally turned his attention to revue, an increasingly popular form of entertainment that was fast eclipsing music hall. Written and composed by himself ,“ Gay Paree” was a musical


burlesque of W.G.Wills’ West End favourite “ A  Royal Divorce ”. It was hoped to be Mark Sheridan’s next success and cost Ł2,000 to produce.  It had a London company of forty people-including one son


and one daughter - not to mention lavish sets and costumes. Unfortunately, under his direction, it was to be on the road for less than a month before his untimely death on January 15, 1918.


On January 14, 1918, “ Gay Paree “ opened at the Coliseum, Glasgow, a city where he was adored and where he had found some of his earliest successes. Mark, playing the part of Napoleon, seemed in good spirits, and performed on two occasions that evening.  Although there were some disgruntled members in the audience who preferred his former act, he went over competently.


The reviews in the local papers the next morning  were not  bad but  they were certainly not what Mark Sheridan was accustomed to.  Later that afternoon, two men taking a walk in Kelvingrove Park found the body of a man .  There was a bullet wound in the forehead and an automatic Browning revolver  lying nearby.  In the course of the afternoon, the police were able to identify the corpse and


contacted the acting manager of the Coliseum. The dead man was Mark Sheridan, “ One of the B’hoys ”, and one of the greatest  comedians of his day. He had apparently taken his own life.

 Mark Sheridan was buried in Cathcart Cemetery on January 18 , 1918 and “ Gay Paree” carried on for another five months under the direction of his widow.


© Angelique Antal, 2002

A shorter version of this biography appeared in the liner notes of Windyridge Cd Number 7.


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