Little Tich

Harry Relph was a 4-foot-6-inch-tall English music hall comedian and dancer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was best known for his acrobatic and comedic “Big-Boot Dance,” which he performed in Europe and for which he wore boots with soles 28 inches long. In 1927 he suffered a stroke, which was partly triggered by a blow to the head which he had accidentally received during an evening performance at the Alhambra Theatre. He died the following year at his house in Hendon, aged 60.

About Little Tich in brief

Summary Little TichHarry Relph was a 4-foot-6-inch-tall English music hall comedian and dancer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was best known for his acrobatic and comedic “Big-Boot Dance,” which he performed in Europe and for which he wore boots with soles 28 inches long. Aside from his music hall appearances, he was also a popular performer in Christmas pantomimes and appeared in them annually at theatres throughout the English provinces. In 1927 he suffered a stroke, which was partly triggered by a blow to the head which he had accidentally received during an evening performance at the Alhambra Theatre. He never recovered fully from the injury, and died the following year at his house in Hendon, aged 60. Little Tich was born Harry Relph in Cudham, Kent, the last of eight children born to Richard Relph, a farmer and publican, and his wife Mary, née Moorefield. The Relph family were close and lived in relative affluence. He reached 4 feet 6 inches in height by the age of ten, but grew no taller. He had an extra digit on each hand, webbed from the little finger to the centre joint. His physical differences from other children caused him to become socially withdrawn and lonely, but his disabilities were an asset to his parents’ business. As a youngster he revelled in the attention he received from the curious guests at his father’s bar. He became interested in the travelling singers and dancers at the Knockholt, a three-mile walk from Cud Ham, Kent.

From an early age, he displayed considerable academic ability and also excelled in art; by the time he was five he was selling his drawings to patrons of the Blacksmith’s Arms in Sevenoaks. In the early 1880s he formed a blackface act and gained popularity with performances at the nearby Rosherville Pleasure Gardens and Barnard’s Music Hall in Chatham. In 1884 he adopted the stage name “Little Tich”, which he based on his childhood nickname of “Tichborne”, acquired through his portly stature and physical likeness to the suspected Tichborne Claimant Arthur Orton. Between 1896 and 1902 Little Tch performed in his own musical theatre company, and spent much of his time in Paris, where he became a popular variety artist. He created characters based on everyday observations, such as the Gas Inspector, The Spanish Señora and The Waiter; all three were later recorded onto shellac discs, of which he made twenty in total. He married three times and fathered two children. He also had a son and a daughter with Mary Moorefield, a nurse-maid governess from Dublin, who died in 1845. His early wealth, attributed to a series of successful horse-trading deals, enabled him to purchase his first public house, the Rising Sun in Fawkham. He moved to CudHam, Kent in 1851.