Who really put Bridlington Spa Royal Hall on the map? It was Herman Darewski, a prolific writer of songs for revues and shows, and Bridlington’s Musical Director for many years between the world wars.
Herman was born in Minsk, Russia, on 17th April, 1883, the son of Eduard Darewski, a music teacher who settled in London, and trained in London and Vienna.
Herman’s music-writing success began with a piece called Humpty and Dumpty in 1908, and he is thought to have married his wife, Madge Temple, a musical comedy star, in the same year.
In 1914, he wrote one of his most well-known pieces: Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers, while he was in Australia with his wife, who was on tour, and he collaborated with Irving Berlin in 1916 to write A Broken Doll.
Herman was among the first musical writers to create work for a new theatrical form called revue, and he was then involved with the show that made his name: A Better ’Ole, a show based on Bruce Bairnsfather’s character of a cynical Tommy from the First World War.
It was staged in London over 800 times from 1917 onwards, and also performed in many countries, eventually becoming a film starring Sidney Chaplin. Herman went bankrupt in 1923, but accepted the position of musical director at Bridlington’s Spa Royal Hall in 1924, and appeared there each year until 1927.
He then went to perform in London and Blackpool, before returning to Bridlington in 1933.
In 1936 he decided to create the world’s largest wedding cake, which measured 25ft, which was made by women in the town and iced by “a bevy of girls” at the Spa.
Perched on top of the cake was a doll in a wedding dress, which was donated to a young disabled girl after the cake had been eaten.
Herman said: “Her face expressed all the joy and gratitude she would have expressed had she been able to speak.”
The cake became the talk of the town, and people from far and wide came to the Spa, creating a record attendance.
Another of Herman’s stunts was a huge bouquet, made by 25 helpers, for the Queen of Carnival one evening after he had asked the dancers to bring a rose to the Spa, and received at least 2,500. Occasionally, Herman’s son Barrie conducted the orchestra at the start of the evening, and after a couple of relaxed numbers, Herman would bound onto the stage, grab the baton and shout: “I’m here now, let’s liven the place up”.
In 1937, Herman’s book Musical Memories was published, and in 1938, Herman drew his musical illustrations, The Musical Midgets, in which pictures were drawn on top of the notes to encourage children to play the piano.
The illustrations appeared in the Sheffield Star, and it is said he taught the Queen to play when she was young, but Windsor Castle are unable to confirm this. During the war, Herman entertained military personnel and wrote songs to support the war effort. His wife died in 1943 in Sheffield, and the following year his son Neville was killed in action in Italy.
Herman passed away at his home in Kensington in 1947; his son Barrie died in 1996, and much of Herman’s memorabilia was sold and acquired in Bridlington by the author.
It is said Herman had written over 8,000 musical items, some recorded at the Spa, and had played the music for Richard Tauber at the Spa, played for the King and Queen of Afghanistan, and appeared in many of the country’s leading theatres. Herman Darewski should not be forgotten in Bridlington.