El Granadas and Peter

The history of a variety act.

The El Granada Girls

During the period that El Granadas were in business, a number of girls were added to the act, usually when one member of the act was unable to perform but also after Peter and Dorothy left.


A young girl, Silva Harbord from Sunderland, was the first of a number of girls to join “El Granadas” and be taught to spin ropes and in some cases ride a unicycle. So far we have been able to identify seven “El Granada Girls” but if you know of one that isn’t mentioned here please let us know.


Over the years the act required new people to keep up the numbers of what was know as “The Big Act”. This happened next during 1951 when the act was touring the continent and Dorothy returned to England to have her first child, Steven and later when Peter and Dorothy left the act to give their children a more settled existence.



















Marceline Moss (Midge)

Jean Sweetman  (Now Jean Purdy)

 (recent photo)


Margaret Anita Bridge from Liverpool, Gloria Evelyn Kill from Portsmouth, Marceline Moss (Midge) and Jean Purdy were amongst the girls employed.


Many of the facts about these girls are rather sketchy and tracing them has been difficult. However, one El Granada Girl has been traced, Jean Sweetman (now Jean Purdy) and her help has been invaluable in tracking this forgotten aspect of the act. We would love to hear from anyone who knows of the whereabouts of any of the girls mentioned.      

Silva Harbord was the first El Granada girl to be employed by the act. Hiring her was probably a tactic by Lila to keep Dorothy out of the act when Peter and Dorothy began to get serious about each other.


The strategy failed and with Cecil’s insistence Dorothy joined the act Silva and Dorothy were together in the act and became good friends.


In March 1949 Peter was called up to do his national service in the medical corps. Silva stayed with the act until Peter was demobed.







Marceline Moss (Midge) joined the act after Silva left and when Peter was doing his national service. At this time El Granadas was touring the continent and Midge was very helpful to Dorothy with the care of  Dorothy and Peter’s first son, Steven.


Marceline originated from Stoke on Trent and was quite young and a little naive when she joined the act. She had told her mother that she wanted to be in show business and was going to go to Piccadilly Circus in London to see if they needed anyone to appear in the Circus!


Luckily, she joined El Granadas and proved to be a very happy addition to the act.









Jean Sweetman, Now known as Jean Purdy  had learned to dance as a small child and had been on the stage from an early age. She had appeared in 3 films including “The Lavender Hill Mob” at only 10.


When she was 15, she was between jobs. Her mother, who was blind,  and always eager for Jean to be working,  asked Jean to read out the “situations vacant” section of  the theatrical paper, “The Stage”.


Dismissing most of the jobs, her mother became interested in an ad from a speciality act who required a girl to join them. No experience was necessary and full training would be given. “That’s the one” said Jean’s mother and Jean was sent hot foot to the phone box with a handful of pennies to call the phone number in the ad, Maida Vale 1420. 











She was invited by Lila to come to their house at 41 Bolton Road, Maida Vale for an audition. Arriving at the big forbidding Victorian terrace (“like something out of the Adams Family”, said Jean) Lila answered the door and let her into the dark hallway and gestured to her to go down into the basement. At the bottom of the stairs, she spotted on the wall of this  rather creepy basement ropes and whips. It flashed through her mind that she might never get out of this house alive!


Turning to see if escape was possible, she found her way blocked by Cecil who had appeared on the stairs and was following her down. It was quickly explained that the act involved spinning ropes and cracking stock whips much to Jean’s relief.


After a short audition when she was shown the basics of rope spinning, Cecil and Lila were impressed  that she seemed to be picking up the techniques quite quickly and invited her to join the act.



Pamela Gigg


Margaret Anita Bridge Again, we are not even sure this picture is of Margaret Bridge, it could be Gloria Kill. And once more, what little we do know of Margaret Bridge has been gleaned from a carbon copy of a passport application that Cecil has left behind.


Margaret was another girl who joined the act after Peter and Dorothy left. We do know she was from Portsmouth and was born on 7th August 1935. At the time she joined the act she was living at 84 Newbolt Road, Portsmouth.








Pamela Gigg


Pamela came from Chelmsford and worked for a short time with the act.








After 6 months, Peter and Dorothy had been persuaded to return to the act, (a return that would eventually prove to be temporary) and so Jean left. By this time she had learned to spin a rope well and was able to set up her own act with a partner, “Toni and Robin Templer”. The act toured for many years appearing in some of the best (and worst) theatres in the world.


In a long and exciting career Jean has danced in Sleeping Beauty at the Albert Hall, worked with many stars like Tommy Trinder, Richard Murdoch plus Archie Andrews and Peter Brough. She has worked as a “Wing Walker” in Digger Pugh’s Flying Circus and a trapeze artist from a helicopter in the Spanish circus “Circo Americano.


Jean has even become World Champion fire eater in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1977, is one of the few women admitted into The Magic Circle and in recent years has appeared at Windsor Castle, on Eurostar and the QE2. She has number of different acts often appearing with her partner Bob Sacco who is famed for his Max Miller and Sandy Powell tribute acts. Jean can be contacted at www.jeanpurdy.co.uk            



Jean spinning ropes at Eastbourne

British Ring Convention Centre October 1st 1992

Jean Breaking the World Record For Fire Eating

Jean with Bob Sacco as Sandy Powell