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Boruwlaski, Joseph [formerly Józef Boruslawski], styled Count Boruwlaski (1739–1837), travelling performer and memoirist, was born in November 1739 near Halicz, Galicia, Poland, the third son of a lower gentry family. The principal source for his life is his own memoirs, published in several editions between 1788 and 1820. When he was nine his father died, leaving a widow with five sons and one daughter. Three sons were very tall, but three children suffered from achondroplasia, an inherited condition in which the cartilage in the bones fails to grow. ...

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Campion, Mary Anne (c. 1687–1706), singer and dancer, was born of lowly parents, her father having possibly been a servant of William Cavendish, first duke of Devonshire. She displayed a precocious talent on the stage; aged eleven, she was a member of Christopher Rich's...

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Close [married name Neame], Ivy Lilian (1890–1968), beauty queen and film actress, was born in Stockton-on-Tees, co. Durham, on 15 June 1890, the elder daughter and one of four children of John Robert Close, a jeweller in Stockton, and his wife, Emma (...

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Ivy Lilian Close (1890–1968) by unknown photographer Stockton-on-Tees Museum Heritage Service

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Coan, John (1727/8–1764), sideshow performer, was born at Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although he has been known as the Norfolk Dwarf, both accounts of his development and pictorial representations of him reveal that he was not a dwarf but a midget. Coan appeared to grow normally in his early years but by the time he was exhibited at the ...

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Davies, Dame Gwen Lucy Ffrangcon- (1891–1992), actress, was born on 25 January 1891 at 195 Finchley Road, Hampstead, London, the daughter of David Thomas Ffrangcon-Davies (1855–1918), choral singer, and his wife, Annie Frances, née Rayner (1863-1936). Her father was said to have taken the name ...

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Dame Gwen Lucy Ffrangcon- Davies (1891–1992) by Walter Sickert, c. 1932–4 [in The Lady with a Lamp by Reginald Berkeley] © Estate of Walter R. Sickert. All rights reserved, DACS 2010. Collection Browse & Darby

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Dearmer, Geoffrey (1893–1996), writer and radio broadcaster, was born on 21 March 1893 at 59 South Lambeth Road, London, the elder son of Percy Dearmer (1867–1936), Church of England clergyman and liturgist, and his wife, (Jessie) Mabel Pritchard White (1872–1915), children's writer and illustrator, daughter of ...

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Geoffrey Dearmer (1893–1996) by Tim Bishop, 1993 © reserved; News International Syndication; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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Garry [née Campbell], Flora Macdonald (1900–2000), broadcaster and poet, was born on 30 September 1900 at Mains of Auchmunziel, New Deer, Aberdeenshire, the second of the four children of Archibald William Campbell (1869–1947) and his wife, Helen Mary, née Metcalfe (1873–1955). The ...

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Harrison, Kathleen (1892–1995), actress, was born on 23 February 1892 at 500 Whalley New Road, Little Harwood, Blackburn, Lancashire, the daughter of Arthur Harrison, assistant engineer to Blackburn corporation, and his wife, Alice Maud, née Parker. From the age of five, when her father became borough engineer for ...

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Joseph Carey Merrick [the Elephant Man] (1862–1890) by unknown photographer, c. 1889 Royal London Hospital Archives and Museum

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Merrick, Joseph Carey [called the Elephant Man] (1862–1890), freak show novelty and medical curiosity, was born at 50 Lee Street, Leicester, on 5 August 1862, the elder son (there was also a daughter) of Joseph Rockley Merrick (b. 1835/6), a warehouseman and machine operator in a cotton factory, and ...

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Athene Seyler (1889–1990) by Madame Yevonde © Yevonde Portrait Archive; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Seyler, Athene (1889–1990), actress, was born on 31 May 1889 at 18 Goulton Road, Hackney, London, the seventh and youngest child by ten years of Clarence Heinrici Seyler, secretary and financial adviser to a Greek millionaire, and his wife, Clara Thies, a baker's daughter. Both parents were of German extraction. Her father was a Hellenophile; he called all his daughters by Greek names. ...

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Ellaline Terriss (1871–1971) by Barraud, 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Terriss, Ellaline [real name (Mary) Ellaline Lewin; married name (Mary) Ellaline Hicks, Lady Hicks] (1871–1971), actress, was born (Mary) Ellaline Lewin on 13 April 1871 at the Ship Hotel, Stanley, Falkland Islands, the eldest of the three children of William Charles James Lewin...

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Dame Ninette de Valois (1898–2001) by Gordon Anthony, 1937 © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Valois, Dame Ninette de [real name Edris Stannus; married name Edris Connell] (1898–2001), ballet dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Royal Ballet, was born on 7 June 1898 at Baltiboys, a country estate near Blessington, co. Wicklow, Ireland, the younger daughter and second of four children of ...

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Zavaroni, Lena Hilda (1963–1999), popular singer and entertainer, was born on 4 November 1963 at the Rankin Memorial Hospital, Greenock, Renfrewshire, the first of two daughters of Victor Alfredo Zavaroni and his wife, Hilda Catherine, née Jordan (d. 1989), who owned a fish and chip shop in their home town, ...