Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ William Henry Don 1825 - 1862

Liverpool
1.  Playbill for the Royal Ampitheatre, Liverpool.  November 1859.

William Henry Don 1825–1862

Playbill for the Royal Ampitheatre, Liverpool.  November 1859.


In 1861 Don went to Australia. At this period he had taken to playing female characters in burlesques, and he appeared at the Royal Theatre, Melbourne, in ‘Valentine and Orson’ and in a travestie of the ‘Colleen Bawn’ called ‘Eily O'Connor.’

In February 1862 he visited Hobart Town, Tasmania, with a company of his own, where he fell ill. On 15 March 1862, he played Queen Elizabeth in the burlesque of ‘Kenilworth,’ and four days later he died from aneurism of the aorta at Webb's Hotel, Hobart Town.

Don possessed a fine sense of humour, a quick perception of the ludicrous side of life and character, a remarkable talent for mimicry, a strong nerve, a ready wit, and great self-possession.

After his death, Don's wife returned to Britain to resume her acting career.  She was for a short period lessee of the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, and assisted at the opening of the Gaiety Theatre, Edinburgh. Latterly she was in reduced circumstances and was obliged to appear as a vocalist in music halls. She died at Edinburgh in September 1875.


Obituary  William Don

Died at Hobart Town, Tasmania, March 19th, 1862. Was the son of Sir Alexander Don, a Scotch baronet. Was originally in the 5th Dragoon Guards, but ran through his property and was obliged to sell his estate, Newton Don, which fetched £85,000.

Being accounted a good amateur actor, he determined to take to the stage as a profession, and so played in the North of England, and went to America in 1851, and was successful in New York and Philadelphia, remaining there five years. Then came to England, played in the provinces, and eventually at the Haymarket. Was over six feet in height, and was only thirty-six years of age, when he died of consumption, leaving a widow.

J. L. Blanchard

Top ~ Don Anecdotes

2.  Doin

Sir William Henry Don, 7th Baronet (1825–1862) c 1842of the 5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales's), portrait by James Warren Childe (1778-1862).


This miniature depicts William during his brief flirtation with the Army (1842-1845). During the three short years William spent in the Dragoon Guards, his debts had amassed to such a degree that he was forced to sell the family seat of Newton Don in Berwickshire, using the £85,000 realised to silence the clamour of his creditors. It was at this time that William married his first wife, Antonia Lebrun (d.1869), who bore him a daughter, Alexina.

Quitting the United Kingdom in 1850, William first began to gain popularity as an actor in the United States where he appeared as John Duck in 'The Jacobite' at the Broadway Theatre, New York.

After a 5-year career on the American stage, William returned to Britain where he enjoyed great success, initially in Scotland, before reaching the West End in 1857. It was during his sojourn in London that William married his second wife, Emily Eliza Saunders (d.1875), the daughter of the proprietor of the Adelphi Theatre and mother to William's youngest daughter, Harriette. Together, the couple travelled to Australia in 1861 where William entered the en travesti phase of his career. He died in Tasmania in 1862 having played Queen Elizabeth in 'Kenilworth' four days previously.

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