Elsie Griffin and Ivan Menzies, opera singers and actors: papers

Scope and Content

This collection consists of material relating to Menzies' and Griffin's careers. It includes production programmes, photographs, correspondence, song sheets and press cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elsie Griffin was born on December 6, 1895 in Bristol. She made her stage debut during World War I with Lena Ashwell's Company, formed at the request of King George V to entertain Britain's troops in France. The lyricist Fred E. Weatherby, impressed by her voice, brought her his song, "Danny Boy". Her singing resulted in one of the most popular hits of the era.

Griffin joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1919, immediately appearing on tour as Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Kate in Yeomen of the Guard, and Gianetta in The Gondoliers. In 1921, she added the roles of Yum-Yum in The Mikado and Rose Maybud in Ruddigore. In 1927, she left the company but returned from time to time to participate in recordings. Between 1934 and 1937 she joined with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, singing the leading soprano roles in Die Fledermaus, The Barber of Seville, Carmen, The Tales of Hoffman, Pagliacciand Elixir of Love.

Ivan Menzies was born on March 23, 1896 in Bristol. He joined D'Oyly Carte on Easter 1921 as an understudy to Sir Henry Lytton. Menzies became the principal comedian in 1925, playing Reginald Bunthorne in Patience, Lord Chancellor and Ko-Ko in The Mikado and Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore. In 1927 Menzies left the company. In 1931 Menzies accepted an offer with the J. C. Williamson organisation in Australia. There he toured extensively as Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore and also as General Stanley, Bunthorne, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, Jack Point and the Duke of Plaza Toro. He returned to England and D'Oyly Carte Opera Company briefly in 1939 as a wartime replacement. He then returned to Australia again as principal comedian in the Gilbert & Sullivan tours in 1941, 1944, 1949 and 1951.

Menzies and Griffin met when Menzies joined the D'Oyly Carte Company in 1921. They married in Sheffield March 9, 1921 at a registry office in Workhouse Lane, between performances. Their last stage appearance was in the Moral Re-Armament musical The Vanishing Island, in which they toured the world from 1955 until 1957. Ivan Menzies died April 19, 1985 and Elsie Griffin died December 21, 1989.


This collection has been arranged chronologically in the following series:

  • THM/365/1 - Programmes, Brochures and Posters
  • THM/365/2 - Photographs
  • THM/365/3 - Correspondence
  • THM/365/4 - Press Cuttings
  • THM/365/5 - Music Sheets

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mahala Menzies, 2007

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also Theatre & Performance Core Collections: material relating to Elsie Griffin and Ivan Menzies may be found in several collections, including Theatre & Performance production files and photographs. Related material also found in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company (THM/73). Please ask for details.

The published book The Song of a Merryman, Ivan Menzies of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company,1976 and a single copy typescript of the play Aladdin 1934 have been removed and transferred to the V&A Theatre & Performance Collections Library.