Engelbert Humperdinck, Eurovision, and the India Office Records!
'Royaume Uni, Douze Points’
This is what all patriotic British viewers will be hoping to hear during the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest, which this year takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. National hopes rest upon the shoulders and larynx of Engelbert Humperdinck, who - as readers of this blog may be surprised to hear - has a direct link to the holdings of the India Office Records at the British Library.
Engelbert Humperdinck is not his real name! He was born Arnold George Dorsey on 2 May 1936 at Royapuram, Madras, the son of Mervyn Dorsey of the Port Trust and his wife Olive. As well as Arnold’s baptism record from St. Mary's Cathedral in Madras, the India Office Records has a birth registration for him. It is quite unusual for there to be both birth and baptism entries since birth registration was never a legal requirement in India during the Raj.
With the utmost respect to past and present members of the Dorsey family, one can appreciate why his showbiz manager might have thought that staying as plain A.G.D. would spell career death. After a spell of releasing records as Gerry Dorsey, his career was relaunched in the swinging Sixties using the name of a German composer born in 1858 who was most famous for his opera ’Hansel & Gretel’.
‘Hansel and Gretel crying’ from A Child's Book of Stories (1913) © The British Library Board Images Online
And going off at a complete tangent to think of other Engelberts in the British Library, we should not forget Engelbert Kaempfer of Japan fame.
Engelbert Humperdinck is not the only Eurovision Song Contest entrant who appears in the India Office Records. He would have been four years old when Harry Rodger Webb, now better known as Cliff Richard, came into the world in Lucknow on 14 October 1940.
Messrs Dorsey and Webb are just two of a number of famous figures from the world of entertainment who appear in the India Office Records and who will be the subject of future posts in Untold Lives.
John Chignoli and Hedley Sutton
Reference Specialists, Asian and African Studies