Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/MacDermott, Gilbert Hastings

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MACDERMOTT, GILBERT HASTINGS, whose real surname was Farrell (1845–1901), music-hall singer, born on 27 Feb. 1845, served in youth in the royal navy. As 'Gilbert Hastings' he made his first appearance on the stage in 1869, as 'utility' actor at Dover. A few months later he came to London, making his first appear- ance as 'G. H. Macdermott' at the Oriental Theatre, Poplar. Later he played at the Grecian (1870-1), Britannia (1871-2), Sanger's (1873), and the Gaiety (1873). A fair actor in parts like Myles-a-Coppaleen in 'The Colleen Bawn,' Richard Varney in 'Amy Robsart,' he was also a versatile playwright in melodrama, and among plays of his which were produced in London were 'The Headsman's Axe' at the Grecian (1870), 'Driven from Home,' at the Grecian (1871), 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood,' 'Brought to Book' (with Henry Pettitt, [q. v.], 1876), both produced at the Britannia, and 'Racing' (1887), at the Grand Theatre, Islington.

Meanwhile, in 1873 Macdermott made his first appearance at the London Pavilion music-hall, singing 'The Scamp,' the first of a highly successful series of comic songs. In 1874 he accompanied the opera-bouffe artiste, Juha Matthews, to America as both stage manager and actor. He appeared with her at the Eagle theatre. New York, in such pieces as 'The Irish Heiress' (1 Nov. 1875) and 'Giroflé-Girofla,' and played Bob Brierley in 'The Ticket of Leave Man' (February 1876). On his return to England in April 1876 he acted at the Britannia Theatre in 'Brought to Book,' and then returned to the London Pavilion, where he sang such popular songs as 'I'll strike you with a Feather' and 'The Two Obadiahs.' Early in 1878, when political excitement in England over the Russo-Turish war ran high, and Lord Beaconsfield, the prime minister, sent a British fleet into Turkish waters to resist the advance of Russia, Macdermott leapt into universal fame by his singing of a song written and composed by George William Hunt (1829 ?-1904), a most fertile composer of music-hall songs, who was author of some ballet music and of the incidental music to the burlesque 'Monte Christo, Jr.,' and was also a painter of some merit (he died in Essex County Asylum of softening of the brain on 3 March 1904; cf. Musical Herald, April 1904; Referee, 22 Oct. 1911). Hunt's patriotic song of 1878, with a swinging tune and a refrain beginning :

We don't want to fight.
But by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men,
We've got the money too,

became at Macdermott's instigation the watchword of the popular supporters of England's bellicose policy. The 'Daily News' on 11 March 1878 first dubbed the latter 'Jingoes' in derision, and George Jacob Holyoake [q. v. Suppl. II] wrote to the paper on 13 March 1878 of 'The Jingoes — the new type of music-hall patriots who sing the Jingo song.' Macdermott continued singing the 'Jingo' song for two years, and at his call the words 'jingo' and 'jingoism' passed permanently into the EngHsh language in the sense of 'aggressive patriot' and 'aggressive patriotism (cf. New English Dict. s.v. 'Jingo').

Later songs which owed their popularity to Macdermott were 'On the Strict Q.T.' and 'Jubilation Day,' which, set to the Boulangist tune 'Le Père de Victoire,' was popular during Queen Victoria's jubilee year, 1887.

'The Great Macdermott' was of fine stature and commanding presence, and possessed a powerful if unmelodious voice. He was practically the last of the 'lion comiques' of the English music-hall, resplendent in evening dress with a vast expanse of shirt-front. In his later years Macdermott performed in dramatic sketches at music-halls, making a hit in 'Our Lads in Red.' His last appearances were at the London Pavilion and Tivoli music-hall in 1894. Subsequently he was proprietor and managing director of several music-halls. He died of cancer at his residence in Clapham on 8 May 1901, and was buried at West Norwood cemetery. He was twice married, his second wife being well known on the music-hall stage as Annie Milburn. An engraved portrait appeared in the 'Era,' 11 May 1901.

[Personal recollections; Daily Telegraph, 9 May 1901; The Times, 10 May 1901; Era, 11 May 1901; Notes and Queries, 20 July 1901; information from Mr. Henry Davey.]

J. P.