Ella Retford (1886–1962)


(Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection,
with permission)

Irish-born Ella Retford was one of the great stars of the Music Hall. Historian W. Macqueen-Pope describes her thus:

Dainty, delightful Ella Retford, a magnificent principal boy [in pantomime] and probably the best “Aladdin” ever seen, had many splendid songs; in World War I she aroused terrific enthusiasm with “Hello There, Little Tommy Atkins.” She was sparkle and grace personified and her dancing was a joy....A woman of gentleness and charm off the stage and of vivid talent and beauty on it, she is of the front rank.1

Retford sang or recorded the following Fred Godfrey songs: She’s A Girl Up North (Amberol 12072, Jumbo 386, 1909; Pathé 8205, 1910); Molly O’Morgan (The Irish-Italian Girl) (Pathé 8204; Jumbo 503, 1910); Hey Ho! Can’t You Hear The Steamer? (she sang it on stage in 1913 but did not record it until 1930, as part of “Ella Retford Songs Medley,” Regal Zonophone MR-205); How Do, Miss Wintertime? (1913); Watching The Boat Coming In (From Alabamy) (1914), “Ella Retford, who is at Holborn and Lewisham, pins her faith to Fred Godfrey and Worton David’s ‘Watching The Boat Come In’ with... gratifying results”;2 We’re Irish And Proud Of It, Too (she sang it on stage in 1914 but did not record it until 1930, as part of “Ella Retford Songs Medley,” Regal Zonophone MR-205); Be Sure He’s Irish (Jumbo 1234, 1914); Up He Goes In His Little Monoplane (Jumbo 1232, 1914), “Ella Retford has in rehearsal a new Feldman ‘Monoplane’ number, for which artists and publishers expect great things. The authors are Fred Godfrey and George Arthurs”;3 Sergeant Macadoo (A Little Bit Of French And A Little Bit Of Scotch) (Jumbo A-513, 1915); The Yiddisher Irish Baby (Levi, Carney, Jacob, Barney, Michael Isaacstein) (1915);4 We’re All North Country Lads And Lasses (Coliseum 788, 1915; Scala 663, 1915; Scala 731, 1915; Jumbo ?, 1916?); You Were The First One To Teach Me To Love (Jumbo 1358, 1916); Sorry (You’ll Be Sorry, Florrie) (1923); and What A Wonderful Wedding That Will Be (1928).

She is also famous for singing She’s A Lassie From Lancashire and Ship Ahoy! (All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor), two songs that Fred Godfrey claimed to have written but for which he received no credit.



1  W. MacQueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On: The Story of Music Hall (London: W.H. Allen, 1950), p. 338–39.
2  “Song Notes,” The Stage, 7 May 1914, p. 20.
3  “Song Notes,” The Stage, 26 March 1914, p. 28.
4  “Variety Gossip,” The Stage, 18 March 1915, p. 20.