‘no simple Frisian, but an ill-looking rascal’

Is it me, or is Carruthers rather enjoying his sojourn on dry land after three weeks trapped on a small boat at sea with Davies?

First, he heads off on the train for a night at luxury hotel in Amsterdam. The next day he returns to the region to breakfast in Esens, explore the Bensertief and sleep al fresco on a lighter.  On October 25, he heads for Dornum for what becomes, as far as I can see, an extended pub crawl towards the sea. Quite what Lloyd notDavies is going to get up to whilst I replay this section of the book is anyone’s guess.

I’m not meant to do the pub crawl on my own, though. A local ‘dockside crimp’ should be joining me – first in beer and then in gin. So what kind of people would have been knocking around in a Dornum pub in 1898? The answer may surprise you…

This footage (above) is of ‘Mr Gallagher and Mr Shean’ a very famous U.S. vaudeville double act of the 1910s and 1920s. Mister Shean is none other than Al Shean – or rather Adolf Schönberg, born in 1868 in… Dornum!

Now, apart from contributing one half of this *very* popular song at the time, Al Shean was also uncle to another successful vaudeville family act: the Marx Brothers. You see, Adolph had a sister called Miene, who became ‘Minnie’ when she arrived in America and married Sam ‘Frenchie’ Marx. It was Minnie’s idea to form her sons into a troupe, and it was Minnie who managed the act, negotiated the contracts, got the gigs and generally kept the boys in order.

Dornum men (aka the Marx Brothers)

Adolph and Miene emigrated to the U.S. in 1880, just 18 years before Carruthers would turn up in a bar in Dornum. Their mum was a ‘yodelling harpist’ and dad was a ‘ventriloquist’, so I think it’s fair to say show business was in their blood. On October 25 1898, the Marx family would have just finished celebrating Gummo’s 6th birthday across the Atlantic (Groucho would have turned 8 a few weeks earlier).

One has to assume, surely, that Dornum would still have been the home of several Marx family relations, no? And, as that great film ‘Duck Soup‘ shows, the Marx Brothers were clearly interested in the absurdities of spying and the machinations of European superpowers.

Carruthers supping at the bar with a Marx cousin – now isn’t that an appealingly odd image?


Here’s a wonderful, if a little dark, story from mental_floss about the one time Groucho returned to Dornum in the 1950s. It involves going to a pub, you’ll note. But it ends not in Dornumersiel, but somewhere else entirely: http://mentalfloss.com/article/30567/time-groucho-marx-did-charleston-hitlers-grave

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