I Did it for Kicks

The Chairman said that he was sorry that Mrs Coggan was unable to attend the Memorial Meeting and sent his good wishes to her on behalf of the Forum. John Taylor will write to Mrs Coggan.
In 1886 John Tiller watched the precision of guardsmen on military exercise and decided to extend the principle to female dance when he founded the Tiller School of Dance in Manchester. The girls were to be ladies, not chorus girls of ill-repute and their nails were regularly inspected as symbols of general cleanliness.
When our speaker Pam Harcourt joined the Tiller Girls as a teenager in 1951, the troupe was run by the strict Miss Doris and Miss Barbara, following the death of the founder and his wife. Pay was parsimonious and 24 girls were given 1 bottle of sherry between them to celebrate the New Year. Pam appeared in pantomime with Albert Modley, did several seasons in Blackpool and at the Victoria Palace with the Crazy Gang and her group co-starred on Shirley Bassey’s first appearance. She became Head Girl and danced on ITV’s Opening Night in 1955 and later on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.  The Tillers were on ITV, the Toppers, their great rivals, on BBC TV.
The talk was made more interesting because Pam showed that life in show business is often far from glamorous. In 1952 the girls had to struggle back in London smogs to digs in Brixton. Arriving in towns on tour on Sundays led to evenings watching old films in seedy cinemas and lodgings in Llandudno and Liverpool were pretty primitive. The dancers in their white ankle socks often shivered on stage although they were allowed tights eventually. Nevertheless as kicking Tillers they considered themselves superior to “pantomime” Tillers.
A reunion in 1987 led to a revival of the 60s Tillers and Pam still appeared occasionally until a few years ago. At the end she showed that she could still do a high kick.  After several questions from an enthralled audience, Peter Belton gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the forty attending members and six guests.

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