Monday, 19 January 2015

Tales of a Tiller Girl by Irene Holland. Book review

Hello, Here is a blast from the past, does anyone remember The Tiller Girls? I remember them from Sunday Night at the London Palladium, mum would let us watch it, then it was straight off to bed afterwards, school in the morning.

I thought they were marvelous, and would often copy them doing the high kicks, I could never keep up though without losing my balance. I could see myself on the stage, but the nearest I ever got to a dancing career was three months with Mavis and the Silver Stars, but had to give up because mum couldn't afford the lessons, the shoes, and costumes.

I digress. I've just finished reading a smashing book written by Irene Holland, who started life as Irene Bott, but she was asked to change it when she became a Tiller Girl. She chose to dance under the name of Irene Starr. Her book, Tales of a Tiller Girl, is an amazing account of her early life in London, through to the the present day. She was born in 1930 near Wandsworth Commomn, but sadly her father died when she was two years old, so she grew up with her brother and mother. Dancing was always her passion from an early age, and her mother who was a musician went off touring with a band just so she could afford to send Irene to Italia Conti stage school. In three years she was trained in all types of dancing and singing.

Things didn't always go smoothly though, her height she wasn't tall enough for the Blueball Girls, she sustained back injuries, and the war got in the way, but at the age of eighteen she was accepted into the world famous high kick dancing troupe, the Tiller Girls.

Irene has so many incredible stories to tell, from the stars she performed with at the Palladium, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Danny Kaye, to entertaining the soldiers and becoming their pin up. The book is also an interesting insight into war torn Britain, and how it affected ordinary working people.

Irene is now 84 and lives in Devon. I've found this short biography about her, if you are going to read the book you might not want to read this, as it gives away the ending of her story. I must say, from a tough start in war torn London, her story has a wonderful heartwarming ending.

I have found this ITV news report from July 2014, about her returning to The London Palladium. There is a short video to click on. All that dancing must have been good for her, she certainly doesn't look 84.

Give this book a try if you like autobiographies, it's an easy read, and entertaining.

Welcome to the new readers, I hope you enjoy your visits. We've had snow here, and I hear there's going to be more, so I won't be going far. Keep snug, wrap up, and watch tele.
Toodle pip


  1. My kids are waiting for snow, we had a few flurries but nothing that has stuck. I personally am staying wrapped up warm inside with infected sinuses so have to be good and look after myself. Stay warm. X

  2. What fun to see the Tiller Girls! yes, I remember hearing of them, but never saw them before. And the Bluebell Girls, too. Forgot about those troupes. I guess we still have the Rockettes in NYC! I wonder if there are any other high kicking troupes left?

  3. I remember the Tiller girls too. We had to go to bed after that programme as well, ha ha. My Dad saw them when he went on a works outing when he worked at British Celanese at Spondon. The star of the show was Norman Wisdom , also the Crazy Gang, with Flanagan and Allen. I think the compere in those days(50's) was Tommy Trinder.

  4. Be sure to keep warm and dry, Ilona. I don't know of the Tiller Girls, but here in the states we had the dancers from the Radio City Music Hall who were syncronized dancers as well. I'm sure they all have great inside stories. Thanks for sharing her story...quite a lady at 84!

  5. Yes, those are the Rockettes I was mentioning earlier.

  6. Hi,thanks for sharing info links.Enjoyed watching the impressive dancers and hearing her story.Such a lovely,stylish" with it" lady and still teaching five days a week no less, and having survived WWll!Very special person.Regards, D.

  7. One of the many autobiographies on my reading list(so many so little time)!

  8. Hi Ilona Live very close to Irene Holland ,hubby taught drama at her theatre school and my eldest son attended for lots of different classes she provided. She is truly an amazing lady as is her hubby Kaye. So glad you enjoyed her storey she makes me smile and always have a giggle when we bump into her in town x

  9. Hi, Thank you for sharing your review of this book. It inspired me to read it and I'm enjoying it very much. I found it interesting to hear what she remembered of the American soldiers and I tried to imagine my father and father-in-law there in the audience. I love this book! Martha from Kansas

  10. I am reading the book at the moment.what determination she had at such a young age trully focast.she deserved to live her dream.wonderful


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