Friday 5 February 2021


 This morning Patrick Kurp sent me an ancient video clip of the music-hall artist Little Tich performing his famous Big Boot Dance. I'd seen it before but it's always a joy to watch such an astonishing performance – a shame that it's virtually the only footage of Little Tich that survives. 
Little Tich  was born Harry Relph and, as he was only four feet six inches tall, his nickname seems hardly surprising (if a little tautologous). However, he was actually the first 'Tich' to be so called, and it is only because of him that the words 'tich' and 'tichy' entered the language and became synonymous with anything small. The young Harrry Relph was called Little Tich because of his supposed resemblance to a man who had achieved great notoriety at the time – the 'Tichborne claimant' (pictured above). This was in reality a butcher and minor criminal called Arthur Orton, who convinced many people that he was in fact Roger Tichborne, the heir to the Tichborne baronetcy and estates, who had been lost at sea. Among those who were convinced was the real Roger Tichborne's mother, who, astonishingly, was prepared to overlook the fact that Orton looked nothing like Roger, was clearly uneducated and was essentially a rambunctious, hard-drinking ruffian. Some of Lady Tichborne's staff and advisors were apparently equally convinced, but the rest of the family saw the impostor for what he was. A sensational court case followed, and Orton was duly imprisoned for perjury. 
At the time of making his claim, Orton went by the name of Thomas Castro, a butcher from Wagga Wagga. Borges fictionalised the case as 'Tom Castro, the Implausible Impostor' in his A Universal History of Iniquity (1935), which I don't have. I think I must buy it... Meanwhile, here is that Big Boot Dance. 

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