PERCY HONRI - ‘The Concertina Man’
Mary Horwood was baptised in the village church in 1852. In 1872 she married Henry Thompson a budding entertainer and son of Banbury’s superintendent of police. They lived in a cottage in Thorpe. In June 1874, Mary gave birth to Percy Harry, the only one of their three sons to survive childhood. Percy was also baptised in the village church. His childhood would have been immersed in his father’s musical and entertainment talents which included a minstrel act. Seven years after Percy’s birth, the Thompsons left Thorpe Mandeville by horse and cart to further their careers in entertainment.
Percy’s musical ability developed at an early age. In 1879 he was billed as “Little Percy Thompson who will give his noted Clog Dance” and later his billing was “Champion Boy Tenor of the World”. After touring the continent, young Percy’s stage name was corrupted to Percy Honri.
In 1884 The Thompson Trio was formed. The trio was Harry and his wife Mary, who adopted the stage name Marie Mandeville after her home village, and their son Percy. They worked together for many years performing in music halls and theatres throughout the country and on the continent. In 1890, not wishing to miss a marketing opportunity, the trio changed their name to The Royal Thompson Trio after performing before royalty. Leaving Liverpool by the White Star steamship Majestic in 1893, the trio undertook a tour of the United States including performances in Boston, Detroit, Chicago and New York.
Percy embarked on a solo career when his mother became ill. He was billed as “The World’s Greatest Concertinist”. In 1901 John Philip Sousa, “The March King”, invited Percy to join his band’s world tour as the featured guest but Percy declined. Perhaps marriage was on his mind because in December 1902 he married Nan Broadhead of the famous Blackpool music hall family. Percy’s career prospered and he directed and starred in his own shows. By 1911 he was starring in his musical show Concordia twice daily at the London Palladium. Percy played many return dates at the Palladium and in 1918 he signed a ten year contract guaranteeing him annual performances there.
Percy Harry Thompson, ‘Percy Honri’, died in 1953, aged 79, and there is a memorial to him at his parents’ grave in the north-west corner of Thorpe Mandeville churchyard.
(Most of the above information and photographs have been extracted from a book by Percy Honri’s grandson, Peter Honri, Working The Halls first published by Saxon House in 1973: ISBN 0 8600 7106 5 )