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The Holloms in Peter Pan- A Family Tradition

Juvenile Programme, 1910.


There have been several noted families whose members appeared in Peter Pan through the years. Margaret Lockwood played Peter to her daughter Julia Lockwood’s Wendy in England while in the U.S. Mary Martin seriously contemplated her daughter Heller playing Wendy until the decision was made to cast her as Liza. And of course, Cathy Rigby has occasionally employed her offspring in her productions as well but there was one family that still holds the record in terms of the numbers of immediate family members who have played in Peter Pan in London or New York; the Hollom family.

I first became aware of the Holloms quite by accident while I was doing research in London for my first book in 1990. While I spent much time in the research room at the old V & A Theatre Museum, I tried to spend two hours a day going to other museums while each night I would try catch a play. One sunny afternoon, rare in London, I was on my way to the British Museum when I stopped for directions. The woman who came to my aid asked what I was doing in London and when I explained, she told me that she recently obtained a vintage Peter Pan programme as well as a copy of the Peter Pan Keepsake. “Would you be interested?” she calmly asked. “Would ! exclaimed, practically drooling. “Here’s my card,” she responded with a smile. “Write to me.” The card read: Margarita Reeve, Ph.D., Specializing in Children’s Literature. Margarita was on her way to an antiquarian book fair nearby (which I also decided to attend and bought a few items for my book although not nearly as exciting as what I would eventually purchase from Margarita).

As soon as I was back in New York I sent an international money order to Margarita and a week or so later I received the Keepsake and an odd paper leaflet; a small programme for a “Special Representation of Scenes from Mr. J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, By the Juvenile Members of the “Peter Pan” company.” “Oh my God!” I shouted to my son as I ran to pull my Fifty Years of Peter Pan by Roger Lancelyn Green from the bookshelf. I was holding an original Duke of York’s Theatre juvenile programme. You see, these programmes are quite rare as only members of the companies were received them. This one, however, dated Tuesday, February 8, 1910, was not even listed in Green’s book! And, even better, the cast included the first stage performance of Peter Pan with the lead cast character played by a boy. Herbert Hollom.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Herbert Hollom played Michael Darling from 1907 through 1910 (at the Duke of York’s as well as on tour), inheriting his role from his brother Ernest, who essayed the part in 1906. At right we see Ernest Hollom in the role of Michael, refusing the medicine that Wendy is attempting to give him while below left he is on the pirate ship.

Herbert then went on to portray John Darling during the 1910-11 season in London and on tour. What was interesting about the 1910 juvenile performance was that not only did Ernest return to the company to play this one time (as Mr. Darling), but two other brothers were also listed: James Hollom as John and Willie Hollom as Michael. With Herbert as Peter that were four Holloms! Could there be any others?

Yes! One Violet Hollom also appeared for several seasons as the First Twin; 1907-08 (in London and on tour), 1908-09 (touring company), and again in 1911-12 (on tour).

Just who were these Holloms? Unfortunately, not much is out there about the family although I imagine one could trace their genealogy and/or their stage appearances by sifting through the hundreds of thousands of theatrical ephemera housed in the Theatre Museum in London. Here are a few facts: Violet Hollom, who was born in March, 1890 in Brixton, London, appeared as early as six years old in A Night Out at the Vaudeville which opened on April 29, 1896. Later, in 1907, she was seen in See-See and at The Grand, was featured in Dick Whittingham, a pantomime with Tom Foy, in 1909. That same year she married Alan Hillier Henry Gardner in December.

Unfortunately, as little info as I have on Violet, I am even less knowledgeable about her brothers. Herbert appeared in Mrs. Grundy in 1905 as a four-year old character playing opposite Forbes Robertson (whose daughter Jean would later be acclaimed as one of the best Peter Pans of all time) and Gertrude Elliott. The three actors received good notices from The Bystander’s November 29 review.

Last year I came across another Peter Pan juvenile programme (from 1911, and this time not by accident) which, although Green listed it in his appendix, he omitted the line crediting the direction of the special performance to Herbert Hollom. And again, James and Willie are credited as playing John and Michael, respectively while brother Herbert played Hook.

Did the Hollom brothers continue in the acting field as did Violet? What became of Violet, Ernest, Herbert, James, and Willie? Does anyone else care? Perhaps, for, coincidently, a few days after I had written and stored this entry as a draft, I received an email from my friend, Christine De Poortere at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, telling me of one Andrew Cutmore of London who is researching his family’s history. The family? The Holloms! Stay tuned.


13 thoughts on “The Holloms in Peter Pan- A Family Tradition

  1. I have done alot of research into the Holloms (who are ancestor’s of mine-on my Mother’s side) I have found out quite a bit (though I’m very slow) and will give more info when I have organised my info.I know that my Grandmother saw the Holloms on stage but as she died in 1983 I,unfortunately,can’t ask her anymore about it!She did have a photo of Violet Hollom (and her actress sister May)together,close up,in costume but,alas,this has got lost within the family.My Grandmother’s sister(Olive)used to visit the Holloms alot as her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) and the Hollom’s mother(Alice)were sister’s and were very close!I wish I could go back in a time machine to London in the early 1900s to see my ancestor’s on stage.I’m sure they were in a lot of good shows-especially the ‘Peter Pan’ ones!Thanks!Andrew

    Posted by Andrew Cutmore | May 14, 2011, 12:07 PM
    • Being the niece of Violet Hollom, whom I knew well, I’d be very interested in learning more about your relationship to our family and where you fit into our family tree.

      Posted by Katherine Hollom | January 2, 2012, 7:34 PM
      • Katherine,

        I live at Raghill Cottage in Aldermaston, the long time home of Violet’s son (Alan Geoffrey Reginald Horace Gardner) and his wife Pam. I have the original deeds and some other interesting Gardner artifacts that were left in the house when we bought it. I also have a few old photos, which I presume are of Geoffrey and Pam, and another one of an older woman. I wonder whether this older woman could be Violet. If I were to send you the photos, I wonder if you’d be able to take a look and see if you recognise the people, please?

        Posted by holdcroft | October 1, 2012, 4:19 PM
      • How nice to hear from you. I would indeed be interested in looking at the family photos and any other items relating to the Gardners. As I come to Aldermaston to visit my cousin Pam a few times a year, I will get in touch with her in order to be able to make contact with you before my next visit.

        Posted by Katherine Hollom | October 9, 2012, 1:38 PM
      • Katherine,

        Much of what I have is already scanned, and I can make it available to you online if you like. Can you send me email? I can’t see how to send you email through WordPress.


        Posted by James Holdcroft | October 9, 2012, 1:57 PM
  2. Thanks for the info Andrew! And also the pics of Violet. As soon as I am finished working on the index and proof reading the proofs, I shall post more on the Holloms with the photos and info you have provided.

    Posted by bruce k hanson | May 16, 2011, 8:22 PM
    • Thanks Bruce for adding the extra info !I have a bit more info myself to add…unfortunately,Ernest Hollom was killed in action,in France,during World War One in,1916.Herbert Hollom was captured in France during WW1 and stayed in the ‘Rhuleben’ prisoner of war camp (where they played in football matches!!?) He was luckier though and survived the war ! I’m not too sure but he may have died in 1969 in the USA? Violet Hollom is more illusive but I’m fairly sure that she died in 1974 (not in the USA but near Reading near London!) I hope to find out more info as soon as I can and to find more photos of the Holloms (especially Herbert!) but it’s quite hard!Thanks!From Andrew

      Posted by Andrew Cutmore | August 23, 2011, 2:17 PM
      • Yes, you are right, Violet Gardner (nee Hollom) died in 1974 in Aldermaston near Reading where she moved to from her flat in Hove to be near to her eldest son Geoffrey Gardner before she died.

        Posted by Katherine Hollom | January 2, 2012, 7:16 PM
  3. This message is just to confirm what I thought may be true before,that Herbert Hollom DID die in California in 1969 aged 74,He was living with his wife in Norfolk,England when she died in 1965.I don’t think he emigrated afterwards to the USA,so it’s more likely that he just happened to be over there on holiday!!?And just to repeat myself,Ernest Hollom was killed in France during World War One on July 24th 1916 aged just 22.He is buried in a war cemetery in France.I have been lucky to acquire a different photo of Violet Hollom,but it is of poor quality but have been unluckly having horrendous problems trying to improve it to the best-things keep going wrong-but when I do,after many more hours!?I will send it to Bruce Hanson to post!

    Posted by Andrew Cutmore | October 1, 2011, 5:12 PM
    • Herbert Henry Hollom known as Mike came to live with our family in Southwick after his wife died and then moved to Hove. He died suddenly of a heart attack on 11.6.1969 whilst visiting a friend in California.

      Posted by Katherine Hollom | January 2, 2012, 7:25 PM
  4. Having just been made aware of this site by my brother, who came accross it whilst doing some research, I have found it extremely interesting to read and to learn that so much has already been written on the Hollom family. As a personal member of the Hollom family, being the eldest daughter of James Thomas John Hollom, we have drawn up the family tree and can possibly contribute even more information, if required. Herbert Henry Hollom and Violet Hollom who married Lord Gardner, were therefore my uncle and aunt.

    Posted by Katherine Hollom | January 2, 2012, 7:14 PM
  5. I don’t know if what I’m going to say is known or not (I haven’t got Bruce’s book yet,I’m afraid!) but I have recently found out that there was a performance of Peter Pan at the Theatre Du Vaudeville in Paris on June 20th 1908 and Herbert and Violet Hollom were in the cast! (I just want to finish by saying R.I.P. David Jones,who was the friendliest of the Monkees!-Herbert and Violet Hollom may have heard of them!?)

    Posted by Andrew Cutmore | March 3, 2012, 9:47 PM
    • I placed the Paris programme on the blog for the week of March 4th, 2012. It would be great to find out more about this theatrical family. I wish there was something written about Barrie’s reactions to Herbert’s direction of the early annual juvenile productions.

      Posted by bkhanson | March 7, 2012, 6:22 PM

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