Ada Edney

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Ada Edney (b. London, 25/04/1882 - d. South Africa, **/**/1970) was an actress.


Ada Jane Sarah Claudine Edney was the oldest child of Robert Joseph Edney and his first wife, Jane Leechman. Her father was an actor who came to South Africa and, in 1905, appeared on the Johannesburg stage as Robert Bolder. She was born In London and it seems that she and her South African-born brother, also Robert, were sent to boarding school in England. In 1894 they returned to South Africa and on one of the genealogical sites there is a reference to her appearing in a photograph showing several “theatricals”, possibly in Rhodesia. In 1906 the British newspaper The Era mentions that she is part of a quartet of young women with the Wheeler-Edwardes Company. At some stage she joined the Howitt-Phillips Company, which had played in Johannesburg in 1909 (they had also hired Muriel Alexander). By March 1915 she was with them in Singapore, acting at the Palladium in such plays as When Knights Were Bold, Milestones, Diplomacy (Sardou) and Raffles. In April 1916 she was one of the members of the Melbourne Comedy Company, first in Shanghai and then in Singapore, and she was still with them in September, for in a Dutch-language newspaper published in Batavia at the time, Tom and Eileen Melbourne and Ada Edney offered a reward for the return of three lost music books.

By 1918 she was in South Africa, performing with the Betty Kendal Company at the Theatre Royal in Durban in Folly and Love, in Come In and Winnie Brooke, Widow at the Standard Theatre, in Xtra Speshul (with George Taylor) at the Empire Palace, followed by Pantomime Pie at both the Tivoli in Cape Town and the Palladium in Johannesburg as a member of the New Musical Comedy Company. She frequently performed in vaudeville attractions presented before the screenings of feature films. During this time she also acted in Joseph Albrecht’s film version of Henry Seton Merriman’s novel With Edged Tools (1919) as the young woman who nurses the hero (Charles Sparrow) back to health and eventually marries him. Further stage appearances in South Africa included The Follies of 1920, Theodore & Co. and The Fatal Wedding. In December 1926, Miss Ada Edney, “soprano and soubrette” performed at the Strand Theatre in Singleton (NSW) with the Rev. Frank W. Gorman, an American clergyman who had turned to vaudeville and was popularly known as “The Singing Parson”. A newspaper published in New South Wales referred to her as "the charming Australian soubrette".

Ada’s mother seems to have died in South Africa and in 1891 Robert Joseph Edney remarried. He eventually made his way to the United States and, as Robert Bolder (1859-1937), carved out a successful career in Hollywood, mainly in supporting roles in both shorts and features. Ada’s brother, Robert, came to the United States as a miner, but ultimately became an Assistant Treasurer at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Ada’s half-siblings all settled in the United States. Ada herself was married twice, first to Arthur Griffith Evans and after that to James Barry Gilbert. She married Gilbert in in Durban in 1931, but it is uncertain whether she continued her theatrical career. (FO)


The Era, 10 March 1906

The Straits Times, 26 March 1915

The Straits Times, 27 March 1915

The Straits Times, 17 April 1916

Het Nieuws van de Dag, Batavia, 17 September 1916

South African Pictorial, 6 March 1920

Singleton Argus, 16 December 1926

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