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Abrahams, Doris Caroline [pseud. Caryl Brahms] (1901–1982), writer and songwriter, was born at 28 Morland Road, Croydon, Surrey, on 8 December 1901, the only child of Henry Clarence Abrahams, a wholesale jeweller, and his wife, Pearl, one of the twenty-one children of ...

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Alexander [née Humphreys], Cecil Frances [Fanny] (1818–1895), hymn writer and poet, was born at 25 Eccles Street, Dublin. She was the second daughter of John Humphreys, a second lieutenant in the Royal Marines and later brigade major in the Tyrone yeomanry, and his wife, ...

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Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895) by Charles Napier Kennedy, 1894 photograph © Ulster Museum. Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the National Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland

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Armstrong [née Cobbe], Lucie (1851–1907), musician and writer on etiquette, was the daughter of Major Charles Henry Cobbe and granddaughter of General George Cobbe (b. 1782), who was descended on the paternal side from Charles Cobbe (1687–1765), archbishop of Dublin (1742–3). She was the second cousin of ...

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Bacon, Richard Mackenzie (1776–1844), newspaper editor and music critic, was born in Norwich on 1 May 1776, the only son of Richard Bacon (1745–1812), proprietor from 1794 of the Norwich Mercury, one of the leading provincial organs of liberal opinion. He was educated at the ...

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Jonathan Hall and Magnus Williamson

Banastre [Banaster], Gilbert (d. 1487), composer and poet, is of obscure origins, but was possibly related to (or even the son of) Henry Banaster (d. 1456) of Southwark, a yeoman of Henry VI's household. His mother, Alice, was still alive when he made his will. A birth date not later than ...

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Banks, Iain (1954–2013), author and composer, was born in Dunfermline, Fife, on 16 February 1954, the only surviving child (he had a sister who died at six weeks) of Thomas Menzies (Tom) Banks (1918–2009), an Admiralty officer at the Rosyth naval base, and his wife, ...

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Iain Banks (1954–2013) by Mark Gerson, 1985 © Mark Gerson / Bridgeman Art Library

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Barnard [née Pye], Charlotte Alington [pseud. Claribel] (1830–1869), balladeer and poet, only child of Henry Alington Pye (1799–1883), a lawyer and speculator, and his wife, Charlotte Mary Yerburgh (d. 1847), was born at The Cedars, St Mary's Lane, Louth, Lincolnshire...

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Bolan, Marc [real name Mark Feld] (1947–1977), musician and poet, was born on 30 September 1947 in Hackney, London, the second child of Simeon Feld, cosmetics salesman (1920–1991), and his wife, Phyllis Winifred, née Atkins (1927–1991). The energy of 1950s rock'n'roll captivated the young ...

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Marc Bolan (1947–1977) by Keith Morris, 1972 © Keith Morris; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Boosey, Leslie Arthur (1887–1979), music publisher, was born in Bromley, Kent, on 26 July 1887, the eldest of five children (three sons and two daughters) of Arthur Boosey, music publisher, and his wife, Lucy Ashton. After some years at Malvern College he chose, instead of going to a university, to work for a time in the music publishing house of ...

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Bremner [Brymer], Robert (c. 1713–1789), music publisher, may have been born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1713, the son of John Brymer and Margaret Urie, possibly episcopalians whose occupations are unknown, and, if this identification is correct, younger brother to James Bremner (...

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Brown, James Duff (1862–1914), librarian and compiler of music reference books, was born on 6 November 1862 at 3 Reid Terrace, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, the second of seven children of James Brown of St Fergus, Aberdeenshire, a bookkeeper, and his wife, Margaret Douglas of ...

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Buchan, Peter (1790–1854), folk-song collector, historian, and publisher, was born on 4 August 1790 at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, the only son of Peter Buchan, a ships' pilot from Peterhead, and his wife, Janet Buchan of St Fergus, Aberdeenshire. On 20 June 1813 he married ...

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Wilson, John Burgess [pseud. Anthony Burgess] (1917–1993), writer and composer, was born on 25 February 1917 at Carisbrook Street, Harpurhey, Manchester, the only son of Joseph Wilson (1883–1938) and his wife, Elisabeth Burgess (d. 1919). Joe Wilson was a bookkeeper who played the piano in picture houses and pubs; his wife was ...

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John Burgess Wilson [Anthony Burgess] (1917–1993) by Denis Waugh, 1980 © Denis Waugh / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cameron, William [nicknamed Hawkie] (c. 1787–1851), pedlar and beggar, was probably born at St Ninians, Stirlingshire, the son of Dugald Cameron of Braemar, a mashman, and his wife, Janet Paterson. As members of the Burgher Secession church the family barely feature in parochial registers, so details of ...