Hilda Attenboro

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Hilda Attenboro () was a British-born actress, resident in South Africa and Australia.

Also credited as Hilda Attenborough, and sometimes referred to as Mrs Dan Thomas by the press in South Africa.


Known both as a vaudeville performer and a dramatic actress, Hilda Attenboro made some of her earliest appearances on the London stage in Sapho (1912), A Trip To Chinatown, Queen of Thieves and The Woman Conquers (all in 1913). In 1913 she was part of a theatrical company that came to South Africa and performed at the time that martial law was proclaimed in Johannesburg in response to the great strike. In 1913-1914 she appeared in various plays for the Hoffman-King Company, including The Sorrows of Satan and Tommy Atkins at the Palladium Theatre and Uncle Ham at the Orpheum Theatre, followed by Motherless for the London Repertoire Co., also at the Palladium. It was during this time that she met another visiting British actor, Dan Thomas, a noted pantomime dame.

She went to Australia in 1915 After teaming up with British comedian Dan Thomas the pair left for South Africa in 1917. These were relayed to 3LO.

In September 1914 Thomas moved on to Australia under contract to George Marlow and by the following year Attenboro was in Melbourne to act in Mary Latimer -Nun for the George Marlow Company, her first appearance in Australia. While there she was named as “the other woman” in a 1916 court case in which Daisy Yates, the wife of Dan Thomas, sued her husband for divorce. Apparently Attenboro and Thomas had been living together as husband and wife and were reported to have had a child together.

In 1917 Thomas returned to South Africa and in October of that year he and Attenboro appeared in the revue S’Nice at the Empire Theatre. This was followed by plays such as Damaged Goods, Daddy Long-Legs, Turn to the Right and Nothing but the Truth (Montgomery), all but the first for the visiting American Dramatic Company. Following the arrival of Marie Tempest, she joined this touring company for Good Gracious, Annabelle!, The Marriage of Kitty, Penelope and The Duke of Killicrankie, all in 1918 at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg. By this time the South African newspapers referred to her as Mrs. Dan Thomas. It was also during this time that she acted in three films for African Film Productions, namely Bond and Word (Dick Cruikshanks/1918), The Voice of the Waters (Joseph Albrecht) and The Bridge (Dick Cruikshanks/1918). However, in 1918 she separated from Thomas and became involved with a bookmaker called Clifford Roberts, who was shot at the Carlton Hotel on 27 November of that year. She and Dan Thomas were divorced in 1920.

In 1910, the British comedian Claude Dampier and his wife, Irene Vere, had left for Australia and, in 1917, embarked upon an extended tour of South Africa that was to last up to October 1921. When he returned to Australia he was accompanied by Hilda Attenboro and there was some speculation that Ms. Attenboro was Dampier’s second wife as together they toured the vaudeville circuit in Australia and New Zealand. They were a most popular duo and the local critics used adjectives such as “clever”, “charming”, “beautiful”, “vivacious” , “piquant” and, on one occasion, “plumply graceful” to describe her qualities. The Vice-Regals (1922) was especially popular. The following year she took the title role in the play Our Liz at the Grand Opera House in Sydney. However, they split up in 1922 and Dampier established a new partnership with comedienne Billy Carlyle while Attenboro joined first Stuart Mack’s Dramatic Players and then the Frank Neil Comedy Company. For the latter she acted in such plays as Meet the Wife, Ladies’ Night in a Turkish Bath and The Best People.

She remained in the Australasian region until at 1935, appearing in variety, drama and on radio. In 1935 a vaudeville programme called Quick Fire on national radio featured Attenboro and her Professional Idiot and as Claude Dampier used to bill himself as such, it is reasonable to assume that the Attenboro in question was, in fact, Hilda. (FO)

South African Stage Credits

During her first visit to South Africa with the Hoffman-King Company and the London Repertoire Co. (1913-1914), she appeared in The Sorrows of Satan (1913), Tommy Atkins (1913), Conn, the Shaughraun (1914), Uncle Ham (1914) and Motherless (1914).

On her return in 1917, she appeared in S’Nice (1917), Damaged Goods (1918), Daddy Long-Legs (1918), Turn to the Right (1918), Good Gracious, Annabelle! (1918) (with Marie Tempest, Harcourt Collett and Dick Cruikshanks), Nothing but the Truth (1918) (with Edward Donnelly, Florence Roberts, Richard Scott and Cecil Kellaway), Penelope (1918), The Duke of Killicrankie (1918), Cousin Kate (Howard, 1919), Outcast (1919) At the Barn (1919), Palace, Bedroom and Bath (with Edith Cartwright, Elise Hamilton, Moss Siegenberg, Florence Roberts and Harcourt Collett (1919).


New Zealand Herald, 16 October 1915

NZ Truth, 7 October 1916

Rand Daily Mail, 10 June 1919



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