Harold Davidson was born in Sholing in 1875, the son of the local vicar. He attended Banister Court School at the same time as Arthur Maundy Gregory. After a brief and faltering attempt at a theatrical career, he eventually followed his father into the church, becoming the Rector of Stiffkey, Norfolk in 1906.
Despite the failure of his theatrical ambitions, his fascination with the stage continued for the rest of his life. He married an Irish actress, Molly Saurin, and became chaplain to the Actors’ Church Union. In 1908 he even part-funded a musical production entitled Dorothy (produced by Arthur Maundy Gregory), but with disastrous financial consequences.
He had a predilection for helping young girls, including dancing girls and prostitutes, whom he believed to be in moral danger. Rumours surrounding his sometimes ambivalent relationships with these girls dogged him for most of his life in the church, and in 1932, after escorting a young girl to Paris to find her a job, he was charged with immorality under the Clergy Discipline Act. He was found guilty and eventually defrocked. After returning to his first love, show business, he was killed by a lion at a Skegness funfair in 1937.
Newspaper clippings (available online or accessible through the Local Studies Library):
Article on Davidson (Southern Evening Echo 18/04/1992). Details about his local links and time in Sholing.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p36-37. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 15
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