Hetty King

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Hetty King
King, Hetty - 1910 (male impersonator).jpg
1910 sheet music cover
Winifred Emms

(1883-04-21)21 April 1883
Wallasey, Cheshire, England
Died28 September 1972(1972-09-28) (aged 89)
Wimbledon, London, England
OccupationMusic hall male impersonator
Spouse(s)Ernie Lotinga (1901)
Alexander William Lamond (1918)

Winifred Emms (4 April 1883 – 28 September 1972),[1] best known by her stage name Hetty King, was an English entertainer who played in the music halls over a period of 70 years.


Emms was born in New Brighton, a seaside resort in Cheshire, and performed with her father on the beach in a company of minstrels.


Emms adopted the name Hetty King when she first appeared on the stage of the Shoreditch Theatre,[2] at the age of six with her father, William Emms (1856–1954), a comedian who used the stage name of Will King. For the week commencing 10 December 1904 she topped the programme at the newly opened (by 10 days) Empire-Hippodrome in Ashton-under-Lyne, billed as "The Society Gem". It was her first of many appearances at this theatre, part of the Broadhead circuit.[3] By 1905, she was appearing in music halls, with her solo act, as a male impersonator, often dressed as a "swell". Her career spanned both World Wars when she performed in the uniform of either a soldier or a sailor. In the First World War her act included, in 1916, "Songs the soldiers sing" in which she sang some of the less ribald songs invented by soldiers in the trenches.

She also played the "principal boy" in many pantomimes. She continued to entertain until the end of her life, touring with the show Thanks for the Memory.


Hetty King caricature in the New York Clipper, drawn by P. Richards (1908)[4]

She was married to actor and writer Ernie Lotinga (aka Ernest) (1876–1951), born in Sunderland. Her husband was a music hall comedian, singer and theatre proprietor, appearing as Dan Roe from 1898, who appeared in films in the 1920s and 1930s, often as the comic character PC Jimmy Josser. They divorced in 1917, decree nisi being granted on Friday 16 March by Sir Samuel Evans on the grounds of Miss King's misconduct with the vaudeville artist and actor Mr Jack Norworth. The divorce was not contested.[5]

Her half sister Olive Emms was also an actress and her half brother, Harold Emms, wrote many of Hetty's songs with his French wife, Francine.

The family were not related to H. Vernon Watson (1886–1949), the music hall artist performing under the sobriquet Nosmo King.

Hetty King was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.


On 8 November 2010 a commemorative blue plaque was erected to King at her last residence in Wimbledon by the theatre charity The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America.

Songs recorded[edit]

1907 sheet music cover
  • All the nice Girls Love a Sailor (also known as Ship Ahoy)
  • Piccadilly
  • Tell her the Old, Old Story
  • Down by the Riverside
  • I'm Going Away
  • Now I'm Home Again
  • Bye Bye Bachelor Days
  • Love 'em & Leave 'em Alone
  • Fill 'em up
  • Oh Girls, why do you Love the Soldiers
  • What Does A Sailor Care?
  • I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark


Hetty King appeared in the movie Lilacs in the Spring (1954), which was directed by Herbert Wilcox and starred Anna Neagle and Errol Flynn. Towards the end of her career, aged 87, she appeared in a film entitled Hetty King – Performer (1970).


  1. ^ BFI biography accessed 21 June 2007
  2. ^ Music hall pantomime accessed 21 June 2007. This site gives date of first appearance as 1897, i.e. when she was four. However, other biographies generally give the age of six, at the same theatre.
  3. ^ [Empire-Hippodrome archive, Tameside Heritage Centre, Ashton-u-Lyne, Gtr Manchester]
  4. ^ Richards, P. "New York Clipper". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  5. ^ Cambrian Daily Leader 23 March 1917

Interviewed on BBC Desert Island Discs 14 April 1969 - Can be heard via BBC iplayer