El Granadas and Peter

The history of a variety act.

One of 11 children, she was born Lillian Rose Mary Darbon on September 19th  1908 at Shepherd's Bush, West London.

Her father was a stonemason of French extraction. From almost the moment she could walk Lila was scrubbing doorsteps to earn a sixpence to pay for Saturday morning lessons at Madame Victor's School for Dancing.

When Lila was 16, Mme Victor was asked to supply a troupe for a tour of Palestine and surrounding countries. Her father refused to allow her to go, so she forged his signature on the consent form, got a passport and one night slipped away from the family home to join the party on its way to Marseille, from where they sailed to the Middle East.


They toured for several months, as The Royal Scots, a troupe of all-girl trick cyclists that included bagpipes (mostly stuffed with straw, as only a couple of the girls could play).

Photographs of the period show a very determined young lady on what must have been a huge adventure.

Surprisingly, the whole episode it did not seem to make Lila in the least bit more cosmopolitan and she rarely referred to it in later life.

This was, perhaps due to the unhappy associations which were part of her experiences in Palestine.


Jerusalem 1926: Lila (left) poses in Arab costume with frends from the 12 Royal Scots. The girl on the right, Pearl  “always wanted to be a bride”  so she wore the bridal gown instead of the Arab costume creating this rather surreal picture.

Lila soon met and married a Palestinian policeman called Hussey, who was a Roman Catholic. When he turned out to be violent, she saved her housekeeping money, secretly bought a passage home and returned to her forgiving parents.

These are a small selection of photographs we found when she went into Brinsworth House. Lila has maked herself on a few of them with a small cross.

 The photographs   certainly portray the atmosphere of the Middle East in the 1920’s and the fun she must have had whilst over there.  

Lila’s short lived marriage in Palestine - the only woman in the photograph

On returning home Lila didn’t waste any time getting back to the stage. Before long she was in costume again and appearing in pantomime at Derby, where this picture (below)was taken at the newly opened Diana Photographic Studios over the Carlton Shoe Shop at 45, Peter Street. 

Her 1928 appearance in Derby was a fateful one, as this is where she met the young rope spinner Cecil Prentice. After what must have been a short but rather intense affair the two of them went on to their next engagements.

However, the story was not over, as Lila found herself to be pregnant. Not sure where Cecil was, she put an ad in “The Stage” advertising for Cecil to get in touch with her. When he did, she told him the startling news. He immediately shouldered his responsibilities and stayed with her until his untimely death in 1971.

The resulting baby, Peter, was born in December 1928 and the stage was set for the future act that would be known as “El Granadas and Peter”    

Baby Peter Prentice (Peter Granada) Age 11 months in 1929