Jessie Bond as Phoebe Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard

Jessie Bond (1878-91, 1891-92, 1895-97)

[Born Camden Town, London 10 Jan 1853, died Worthing, Sussex 17 Jun 1942]

Jessie Charlotte Bond was born in London, but moved to Liverpool with her family at a young age. At the age of eight she played a Beethoven piano sonata in concert, but soon turned to singing:first in the Roman Catholic Church choir, then on the concert stage at Liverpool's St. George's Hall where she made her debut at age seventeen. She returned to London to study music and eventually decided to try her musical and dramatic abilities on the lyric stage.

Her first appearance on the London Stage was as Hebe in H.M.S. Pinafore, a role she created at the Opera Comique in May 1878. She also created the part of Maria in After All!, when that companion piece was added to the bill in December 1878. Miss Bond left the Company briefly in July 1879, but returned to the Opera Comique in October, resuming her role as Hebe and preparing to go with Gilbert, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte to America.

In New York, as Hebe, she helped give American audiences their first taste of the authentic H.M.S. Pinafore on December 1, 1879, and on December 31, created the role of Edith in The Pirates of Penzance there. She toured America though June 1880 as Edith (and possibly, at times, as Kate) in Pirates, with Carte's First American Pirates Company and, briefly, with the Fourth.

In July 1880 she was back on the Opera Comique stage as Edith, which she played until Pirates ran its course in April 1881. This was followed by a string of appearances as principal soubrette at the Opera Comique and Savoy:the Lady Angela in Patience (April 1881-November 1882), Iolanthe in Iolanthe (November 1882-January 1884), Melissa in Princess Ida (January-October 1884), and Constance Partlett in the first revival of The Sorcerer (October 1884-February 1885). After a brief break from the Savoy, she returned to create Pitti-Sing in The Mikado (March 1885-January 1887) and Mad Margaret in Ruddygore (January-November 1887), and to appear in the first revivals of H.M.S. Pinafore (November 1887-March 1888), The Pirates of Penzance (March-June 1888), and The Mikado (June-September 1888), in her original roles of Hebe, Edith, and Pitti-Sing, respectively.

October 3, 1888, brought the premiere of The Yeomen of the Guard at the Savoy, in which Jessie Bond achieved her greatest success as Phoebe Meryll. Next came The Gondoliers (December 7, 1889) with Miss Bond as Tessa, and Dance, Desprez, and Solomon's The Nautch Girl (June 30, 1891), Jessie as Chinna-Loofa. She left the D'Oyly Carte in August 1891, along with Rutland Barrington, and took a series of "musical duologues" on a provincial tour. They returned to their Nautch Girl roles at the Savoy in November, but Miss Bond left the D'Oyly Carte organization at the end of The Nautch Girl's run in January 1892.

Over the next several years she had several engagements in London theatres, the longest running of which were as Helen Tapeleigh in Go-Bang (Trafalger, March-August 1894) and Nanna in Gilbert and Carr's "His Excellency" (Lyric, October 1894 to April 1895).

She was persuaded to return to the Savoy to play Pitti-Sing in the revivals of The Mikado that bracketed (and, in the case of six matinees, ran concurrent with) the first production of The Grand Duke. These ran from November 1895 to February 1897. When the revivals were over Jessie Bond left the stage forever, and married Lewis Ransome.

In the 1920s Miss Bond wrote several articles on her memories of Gilbert & Sullivan and her years with the Company for The Strand Magazine and The Gilbert & Sullivan Journal. Her autobiography, "The Life and Reminiscences of Jessie Bond, the Old Savoyard" (as told to Ethel MacGeorge), was published in London by John Lane The Bodley Head in 1930. She had great admiration for Gilbert, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte, and decried the way in which performers in the modern era departed from the standards they had established.

In her later years, she entertained wounded soldiers and sailors at a south coast veterans' home. She died in Worthing on June 17, 1942, at the age of 89. She was the sister of D'Oyly Carte chorister Neva Bond. Those interested in further details on her family history may wish to review Paul Ernill's article "Jessie Bond - Glimpses Anew," in the W. S. Gilbert Society Journal, Spring 1999.

Page modified September 14, 2002 © 2001-02 David Stone