Throughout my mother’s life, she believed implicitly that she was a descendant of William Charles Macready (1793-1873), the great Shakespearian actor1. I was brought up in a house full of memorabilia, including copies of the Macready Diaries.
After my mother’s death in 1971, I began sorting out her papers, and I was curious about the relationship with William Charles, because she never seemed too sure of the actual facts. I had assumed, as I think mother believed, that her grandmother Caroline Macready, also an actress, was the daughter of William Charles. Unfortunately, I was unable to follow up any research until the 1980’s, when I was at last able to begin some serious study of my family history.
I soon realised that dates were not typing up, and that I could not find any connections in the well-documented family history of William Charles. I knew that Caroline had been married to Edmund Elliott2 (pantomimist and comic actor), my grandmother’s father, but I could not find her name in the public registers. I knew that names get changed over the years, so I began a search for other possible entries. I eventually found her real name- Caroline McCreevy, and I sent for her marriage certificate, and as I knew the date of her death and also her age at that time, I was able to send for her birth certificate. This gave Caroline’s father name as Michael McCreevy, “cigar maker,” and her mother as Jane “formerly Griffiths.” As all the families originated in Dublin, I wondered if William Charles perhaps had other family connections that I hadn’t found.
The Theatre Museum very kindly put me in touch with Sir Neville Macready, a definite great grandson of William Charles. He was also very intrigued by my story. However he agreed with me that he could find no links with my family, and I had to assume that Caroline had changed her name to advantage her career.
I have never understood why no one, to my knowledge, ever queried the relationship, even though it appeared in so many publications. I am very pleased that my mother never learned the truth; I think it would have destroyed her.
Joan Duncan lives in Cambourne
Joan’s mother Dorothy Maud Macready Inglis, born on the 9th of October, 1887, was the daughter of Emily Inglis who was the daughter of Caroline Macready (McCreevy).
- William Charles Macready, also a manager and a famous diarist, was a leading figure in the development of acting and production techniques in the 19th century
- Edmund Elliot’s father was a contemporary of William Charles