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Stars of the Stage From a Bygone Age: Auntie M'lita.

Director & MDO at Midlands based heritage railway museum. Local historian/ researcher/ archivist and cataloguer of The Hollick Collection

M'Lita Dolores. Child Impersonator.

M'Lita Dolores. Child Impersonator.

A Sorrowful Star Is Born.

Auntie M'Lita, broadcasting star, and childrens' favourite upon Maltese radio, came from very humble beginnings. Her given name was Mary Poole, known as Madge, and she was said to have been born in 1890 in Mollart Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in North Staffordshire. She was to become a versatile individual, with her many talents including, roller skating, trick cycling, as well as being a comedienne, character actress and specialty dancer.

She got her lucky break when she won a local talent contest held at the Imperial Concert Hall in Glass Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. the venue later became a skating rink. She had the opportunity then to become one of the brightest stars of the Music Hall during the 1920s, with her abilities as a child impersonator coming to the for.

Mary acquired her unique stage name whilst on honeymoon with her new husband and stage partner Harry Rustage. They were on the island of Malta at the time, which the locals call M'lita. Whilst there she was taken ill and cared for by the local nuns, who gave her the name 'dolores', which means sorrowful.

Madge and Will;- Listening In.

Madge Poole and Will Hay performing a sketch in variety show ' Listening In' at the London's Apollo Theatre in 1922.

Madge Poole and Will Hay performing a sketch in variety show ' Listening In' at the London's Apollo Theatre in 1922.

M'Lita Dolores Performes With Will Hay.

Following her return to Britain, she put her new stage name, M'lita Dolores, to good use, and was soon topping the bill in the West End theatres of London, like The Apollo. Here in 1922, she performed the revue scene with the likes of Will Hay, in particular in a hit variety show called 'Listening In'. Over the next four years she appeared in a string of West End hits. She also performed at The Palladium in a Julius Darewski's show entitled 'Tip Top Topics'. She appeared in another of his productions ' Twinkles'. She even performed had the opportunity to perform before royalty.

Capitalizing upon her new found fame, she performed her child impersonator act for B.B.C. radio. In 1925, listings in the May 7th issue of the Radio Times, show that M'Lita is beginning to develop her broadcasting style and persona, as the reads and performs ' Child Character Studies', for B.B.C.

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She also gave dance demonstrations at the Savoy Hotel in London. These were accompanied by the first jazz band to perform in the U.K.; Bert Ralton's New York Havana Band.

Unfortunately life off the stage was far more 'dolores', or sorrowful, with the relationship with her domineering husband becoming difficult. Madge found relief in the arms of an the American band leader, Bert Ralton. These illicit liaisons were tragically brought to an abrupt end in 1927, Ralton was killed whilst shooting in South Africa. Her affair had somehow became public knowledge, and before long her stage career petered out.

M'Lita reads 'Child Character Studies'

M'Lita reads 'Child Character Studies'

Auntie M'Lita.

With her stage career on the wane, and the scandal of her relationship with Ralton still fresh, she decided return to Malta, emigrating there in 1930. With the outbreak of the Second World War, all thought of reviving her performing career were put on hold. However, following the cessation of hostilities, Madge then took time to fully develop the character that she had begun to create at the B.B.C; that of Auntie M'Lita'. This persona enabled her to become a popular children's storyteller on the island's radio during the 1950s and 1960s. She put her singing talents to good use also and sang in the Valletta Cathedral Choir.

In 1969, she died and was buried in the Maltese capital city.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 David Reynolds

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