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Wally Davenport

Wally Davenport

Brief Biography

A member of the Davenport family, he spent most of his life attending to essential behind scenes functions in his role within the various Davenport magic shops.

Information taken from Volume 3 The Davenport Story by Fergus Roy. Permission given by Betty Davenport and Fergus Roy to reproduce it here.

Wally Davenport, son of Lewis Davenport and brother of George (Gilly) and Gus (father of John Davenport). He was the Uncle of Betty Davenport. Wally Davenport served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and served in Burma and India.

Wally was married to Hilda. They had a daughter, Rosemary who died aged two months on 4th May 1944. Wally announced this by telegram on the same day. The funeral was held on the following Saturday. Wally and Hilda were not to have any more children.

In May 1946 after being demobbed, Wally returned to Davenports to supervise the post room.

In the words of Patrick Page:

“Wally was short, slim, very neatly dressed, always complete with bowler hat and tightly rolled umbrella, and looked more like a city gent than part of a magical dynasty, and he had a strange, dry sense of humour”.

“One day, Jay Marshall from Chicago was in town and he had just bought, as really was his wont, a large, very expensive antique Punch and Judy print. He brought it into the shop and asked Wally if he could roll it in paper to protect it. Wally took the print and disappeared out back for five minutes, and then returned, carrying a small packet tied with string. Jay nearly fainted. It was a gag”.

Patrick Page worked with Wally and one of his great delights was to pop around to the Crypt at Davenports to pick up stock for the shop.

“We would be passing a crate and he would say “That illusion belonged to Owen Clarke”, which was my cue to ask what it was and he would go into great detail in explaining not only what the effect was, but a short history of Owen Clarke, whose two cannon ball production was the best magic trick he had ever seen”.

“One day I was climbing over a few boxes and Wally said ” Do you know what you’re standing on?”, and when I answered in the negative, he explained that it was the false stage which had been erected on top of the genuine stage at Maskelyne’s theatre so that spectators could see under it and note that trapdoors were not being used”

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WALLY DAVENPORT

A significant member of the Davenport family, he spent most of his life attending to essential behind scenes functions in his role within the various Davenport magic shops. At the time of this recording he was an older man and his memory was fading a little, so Pat (who certainly knew the Davenport family history well) gently prompts and leads him through his stories. But amusingly, old Wally, still had some tricks up his sleeve, you can hear the delight in Pat’s voice as Wally revealed a few tales even he didn’t know; including working with Okito and the Davenport family moving house to the country, brick by brick. One especially fascinating revelation is Wally’s desire to be a Solicitor, he didn’t want to be in magic at all, or so he said.

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Lewis Davenport took his name from the location of his first ever paid performance. It was in a house in Davenport Road, in Lewisham – and he thought that the name of this road plus the Christian name of Lewis came off the tongue well. (Source: Magic Circle Magic)

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  1. John Davenport

    It is great to hear my uncle Wally’s voice after so many years. The interview covered much ground and some of Wally’s stories were completely new to me.

    Not surprisingly, some of Wally’s recollections were not quite right. For example, the Town Hall that the family bought was from Wye in Kent, not Watford. Also, Wally and Pat did not realise that the juggling act of Doo and Dare which toured Scotland with WF Frame was a second spot for my grandfather Lewis with his first wife, Julia. Julia’s brother, Dave, whom they mentioned as being half of the act, was not actually on this tour.

    I’d like to add my views on the story, published by Peter Warlock in Magic Circle Magic, that the professional name Lewis Davenport came from Davenport Road in Lewisham. The story goes that this was the first decent booking that my grandfather had, just as Wally and Pat mention on this recording. While I believe that this was probably Lewis’s official story, I think he had a good reason for making it up. About the time of the name change my grandfather was working in and around the East End of London. His first wife, Julia once lived on Devonport Road. In this period Lewis was sometimes billed as Devonport rather than Davenport. Also, Lewis, or Louis, was a first name that had been used within his family. So perhaps he took the name Lewis Davenport not from the road in Lewisham, but from Devonport Road where Julia once lived. Changing Devonport to Davenport would avoid comparison with the naval dockyard!

    Why do I believe this might be the case? Look at it this way. When Julia died and he remarried a lady called Winifred Wynne, he might well have been reluctant to say to her that the name Davenport was associated with his first wife Julia. Such stories tend not to play well with second wives, and Lewis would have guessed this. So perhaps he invented the Davenport Road, Lewisham story for a quiet life. We shall never know.

    John Davenport

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