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Entertainers/Eke names/Eponyms: Titch

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157543.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:18 am Reply with quote

The first small person to be called “titch” was Little Tich (sic), the British music hall performer. Interestingly, he is an example of an eponym named after someone else!

Harry Relph was born in 1867 (with webbed hands and twelve fingers), the sixteenth child of a Kent pub landlord. He stopped growing aged ten, measuring 4ft 6ins. Being short and stout, he was nicknamed “Little Tichborne.” Arthur Orton, fraudulent claimant to the legendary Tichborne inheritance, was famously fat - Harry was, therefore, a small version of (the man who wasn’t) Lord Tichborne.

Little Tich (his stage name was not, of course, tautologous - though it has since become so) grew up to be one of the most famous showbiz figures of his generation. He started as a blackface performer, but was especially celebrated for his Big Boots dance; as well as being an “eccentric dancer” he was also a leading comic, a massive success in London, Paris and New York. He was a great influence on, and idol of, several generations of cinematic comedians.

The use of “Little Tich” to refer to a short person probably started in the army during the Great War.

After Little Tich’s death in 1928, and as memories of him began to fade, so immediate understanding of the eponymity died away, and the slang term for small became “corrected” to “titch” - presumably because that’s how other “itch” words are spelled.

S: World Wide Words, 17 March 07

157544.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:19 am Reply with quote

Little Tich and the Big Boots

157545.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:20 am Reply with quote

The Tichborne Claimant

157665.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:36 pm Reply with quote

I've edited the header to include the word "Entertainers". This is a nice topic. Picture researchers, can we get the shot of the Big Boots? Don't worry about the Tichborne Claimant too much because he looks just like me, so we have a fall-back.

157667.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:48 pm Reply with quote

Going by his hands, I'd guess he was a big computer-game fan. Maybe that's why he's so fat?

157668.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:52 pm Reply with quote

My doppelganger the Tichborne Claimant was a butcher from Australia who managed to convince Lady Tichborne and various other people that he was her long-lost son Roger. When she died in 1868, he embarked on a legal case to prove that he was the heir. It lasted 102 days, and, when he lost, the subsequent criminal case for perjury lasted another 188 days. He got 14 years hard labour. The legal costs were £200,000, which is reckoned to be £10 million or so in modern money.

157693.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 4:50 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
He got 14 years hard labour.

I wonder if there's an 'after' picture - I bet he was thinner when he came out.

157695.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 5:01 pm Reply with quote

Since Orton was several inches shorter than Roger Tichborne was, lacked a tattoo which Roger had, and didn't know which school Roger went to, it's hard to understand how anyone - even a mother pining for her lost son - took him seriously.

Orton concocted his plan after reading that Tichborne was missing in an old copy of The Times. At this time, he was living in Wagga Wagga under the unlikely name Thomas Castro.

157710.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:20 pm Reply with quote

The other thing was that Tichbourne's first language as a boy was French, but Orton didn't speak a word of it.

Or so say the accounts - but he did seem to accumulate a lot of supporters, so maybe we're not getting the whole story.

157774.  Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:55 am Reply with quote

Fraud cases always have that element to them, though, don’t they? That post-event amazement that anyone could ever have fallen for it, or how did the person get away with it. That kid who brought down that bank by dodgy dealings - his story is full of moments when you find yourself thinking “But why didn't anybody notice/stop him/ask him what he was doing?” I think that’s perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole subject of the con - how on earth does it ever work?

I think the Tichborne case is probably the most famous fraud case of all time, so it shouldn’t be hard to find details - lots of books, TV films, etc have been made about it.

161995.  Sat Mar 31, 2007 7:01 pm Reply with quote

Mat, there's good news on Little Tich - Jon Petrie has been to the pub where they keep his comedy shoes in a glass case on the wall, and they say we can borrow them for the show - plus, he has found some original film of Little Tich actually performing in those very shoes. It belongs to the Museum of London, so we're trying to clear it.

Frederick The Monk
162030.  Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:27 am Reply with quote

I too do all my best research in the pub and I seem to remember that the Tichborne Arms in Tichborne, Hampshire has all the photos, articles etc about the Tichborne Claimant. Of course I was there trying (unsuccesfully) to get my hands on a free bag of flour courtesy of Tichborne Dole, a yearly hand-out given by the Tichborne estate every Lady Day (25th March). The (blessed) flour is distributed to the local people of Tichborne, Cheriton and Lane End who receive one gallon of flour per adult and half a gallon per child.

There's a good legend behind it so let's go back to the thirteenth century...........


Suffering from a wasting disease which had left her crippled, on her deathbed Lady Mabella Tichborne asked her miserly husband, Sir Roger, to donate food to the needy regularly every year. Her husband was reluctant but made a bizarre agreement as to how much he would give.

Sir Roger agreed to give the wheat from all the land which his dying wife could crawl around whilst holding a blazing torch in her hand, before the torch went out. Lady Mabella succeeded in crawling around a twenty-three acre field which is still called 'The Crawls’ to this day and which is situated just north of Tichborne Park and beside the road to Alresford.

Lady Tichborne charged her husband and his heirs to give the produce value of that land to the poor in perpetuity. But aware of her husband's miserly character, Mabella added a curse - that should the dole ever be stopped then seven sons would be born to the house, followed immediately by a generation of seven daughters, after which the Tichborne name would die out and the ancient house fall into ruin.

The custom of giving the dole continued for over 600 years, until 1796, when owing to abuse by vagabonds and vagrants, it was temporarily suspended by order of the Magistrates.

Local folk however, remembered the final part of the Tichborne legend and Lady Tachborne's curse. The penalty for not giving the dole would be a generation of seven daughters, the family name would die out and the ancient house fall down. In 1803 part of the house did indeed subside and the curse seemed to have been fulfilled when Sir Henry Tichborne who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1821(one of seven brothers), produced seven daughters.

The tradition was hastily re-established and has continued to this day.

Interestingly Roger (the one who drowned, giving the Tichborne claimant his opportuity) was born during the suspension of the dole.

162044.  Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:31 am Reply with quote

The tradition was hastily re-established

Slightly bolting the stable door after the horse has buggered off.

Great story, though.

162249.  Mon Apr 02, 2007 4:49 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Mat, there's good news on Little Tich - Jon Petrie has been to the pub where they keep his comedy shoes in a glass case on the wall, and they say we can borrow them for the show - plus, he has found some original film of Little Tich actually performing in those very shoes. It belongs to the Museum of London, so we're trying to clear it.

Brilliant work by Jon; it'll be a rare honour for the panellists to be in the presence of true comic greatitude.


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