"THE White Queen," as she has been called, lives in the heart of Soho. Her palace is in Dean Street, an Adams house which once had a cockpit in the basemerit, where Regency bucks rolled dice until the dawn and the voice of Macready the actor was heard rolling out his sonorous lines: a stream of great ghosts, Sheridan, Hazlitt, Goldsmith, Johnson give the palace the tradition all royal households require. They walk the nearby streets.
Times have changed and the Palace is now in the centre of Spivdom. But young men still write through the night in the attics of Frith Street, women may still be seen dancing in Hogarthian revelry at midnight before a barrel organ in Gerrard Street, and young artists still wander in Soho's haunted lanes and love its shadowed buildings. Where the White Queen " reigns, the old tradition is alive. Actors, poets, writers, tumblers. the youth of the arts and the theatre are her subjects. She is their guide, mother confessor and friend, she is Mollie Balvaird Hewett; the secretary of the only theatrical club for Catholics in England. The Interval Club is known to all members of "the profession."
MOLLIE is white-haired these days, but bustling through her work
with her eyes twinkling and a ready word of welcome she has made a home of the club for many hundreds of lonely striving people. It was founded by her mother. Primarily the Interval is for actors and members of the kindred professions of the theatre, artists and writers, but a percentage of members from lesser trades is tolerated. It opens every day in the year, except Sundays. It provides good meals at low prices. It is a licensed employment agency. In the residential section in Soho Square it provides living accommodation. in the large rooms on the top floor one may sit before fires and join in good conversation. it is a home for the witty homeless. It is perhaps the most comprehensive organisation of Christian action in this country. It admits a percentage of non-Catholics. Twice each year it runs a retreat. and here under the wise. witty, erudite and holy direction of Canon Reardon, parish priest of Soho, and Fr. Francis Devas, Si., one has seen famous actors from the West End and the Abbey sitting with their humbTer. but ever-rising, brothers and sisters. The centre of this hive of celerity is Mollie. She was horn in Glasgow in the slum parish of South Coburg lane which was run by her father, the Rev. Edward Hewett. A brilliant scholar and athlete at Oxford, Edward when he left university soon decided that his life would be given to the poor of the Church of England; he spent himseq in the Dostoevsian slums of the Glasgow of the latter years of the last century. He and Mollie's mother founded the Guild of Aid which stilt serves the city's poor. He died when his daughter was 12. The mother and daughter became Catholics. At the age of 16 Mollie decided to become an actress. She played in repertory and pantomime around Glasgow and then she came to London. She worked with the great and lovely Marie Tempest, with the Vanbrughs, with Somerset Maugham, with Dion Boucicault: she played many parts and she became the first woman stage-manager in England; patiently sh learned the hard, heart-breaking, rewarding and glowing craft of O theatre. And she loved it. If you search among the files of the Moe of a certain year you will find an article by Mollie in which she writ of her profession.
And then Mrs. Hewett resigned from her work with the Guild of ta in Glasgow, came to London, decided another club-one for Catholics was needed by the theatrical profession. In 1926, assisted by good friend the old lady launched the Interval. She told her daughter that she mus help in this more important task and so " the White Queen" abandoned the limelight. That was 21 years ago. Mrs. Hewett died in in 1926. just as the Papacy had recognised her work by sending the Cross Pro kcciesia et Pontifice. Mollie carried on.
NOT once during all these years has the club closed its doors. lames Mason. Rex Harrison. Diana Wynyard, Henry Wilcoxon came to its portals, became members when they were unknown. Good friends, a sterling committee has been associated with the work. During the war, as warden and fire-watcher in Soho, Mollie put out the flames by night and struggled to raise them by day, so that her members might eat lunch. Those who were in the services, at goodness knows what sacrifice, received free subscriptions and sugar in their tea while on leave. The club remained open and the Christmas parties which are part of its tradition went on. And when peace came Mollie led the first organised English pilgrimage to Lough Derg to thank our Lady for the
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