Gertrude Mary Astbury was born on 28th December 1887 at 7 Shirley Street, Longport. Her mother Lavinia was a school teacher. William, her father worked in a pot-bank. She began her stage career at the age of four with a Potteries-based entertainment act called Tomkinson’s Gipsy (later ‘Royal Gipsy’) Children’s Troupe – this is not a well-known fact – under the stage name ‘Little Gitana’ (“gitana” means gypsy girl in Spanish and Italian).

The above information is from BBC Stoke-on-Trent’s website > people > profiles.

A web search for Royal Gypsy Children will return a number of hits all repeating the above information although none can agree on the name of the Troupe. For example:

  • Tomkinson’s Gipsy Children’s Troupe
  • Tomkinson’s Royal Gypsy Children’s Troupe
  • Tomkinson’s Royal Gypsies (claimed to be Romany entertainers)
  • Tomkinson’s Royal Gipsy Choir
  • Mr T Tomkinson’s Gipsy Children

Mr. Thomas Tomkinson III of Sparrow Street, Smallthorne, was the creator of the Royal Gypsy Troupe, a children’s song and dance Troupe which did the rounds of the local Music Halls.
Thomas Tomkinson III is the grandson of Thomas Tomkinson Senior, the author of the poems found in “Poems” and “Village Changes”.

Not only is Thomas Tomkinson III responsible for giving Gertie her debut, he also gave Gertie her stage name. Gertie’s first stage appearance was at the Theatre Royal in Hanley in 1892 at the age of four.

There are certainly plenty of articles written about Gertie Gitana but other than the information mentioned above very little is known of Thomas Tomkinson III or his Gypsy Children. If anyone has any information and/or photographers please contact Geoff Tomkinson at [email protected], or Barry Ashley [email protected] or even share on the Smallthorne History and Memories Facebook Group.

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