Herbert Matheson

Another figure who is occasionally mentioned as a War Composer is Herbert Matheson. He was a songwriter (possibly for the theatre?) who appears to have been killed in action on 24th March 1918.

Unfortunately, as with many lesser-known names on the site, I have been unable to find enough about him to make a main site entry, but his Copac entries feature a number of published songs from the 1910s, mostly novelties with names such as “Maxi, take me in a taxi” and popular songs.

From this book, it appears that he may have changed his name from Herbert Matheson Goldstein and to confuse matters further, it appears he also published some works under the pseudonym Herbert Mackenzie.

Searching for that name we find a few more copyright entries for his songs in the British Library, as well as a mention in the Merchant Taylors’ School register, 1561-1934, Volume 1 of a pupil of that name. From this, it appears he was born on 12 September 1888 and attended that school from 1897 to 1900, after which he went up to the Guildhall School of Music.

He was born in Upper Clapham, London. He gained an ARCO (Associateship Diploma) of the Royal College of Organists and became organist of the church of St Swithin London Stone in 1906. So perhaps the pseudonyms were to separate the comic and sentimental-sounding songs from his role as an organist. The entry notes that he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 18th London Regiment.

St Swithin London Stone, incidentally, was a Wren church which contained the apparently ancient London Stone in its walls. The church was itself destroyed during WWII and demolished in 1962.

3 thoughts on “Herbert Matheson

  1. Herbert Matheson was my grandfather and, yes, you are right (a) that he changed his name from ‘Goldstein’ (by deed poll, German names being disliked during the war) and (b) that he published some works under the name McKenzie (before being killed on the Western Front). His wife Ethel survived him until the late 1960s and his daughter Barbara (my mother) until the 1970s.

    • Dear Mr Thompson, thank you very much for this information. I’ve taken the liberty, given the confirmation of some of my conjectures here, of creating a full entry on the War Composers site for your grandfather: http://www.warcomposers.co.uk/matheson.html

      Please do let me know if you have any materials, images or further information about your grandfather (or any corrections), as it would be good to improve the biographical details. Thank you, best regards, Robert@warcomposers.co.uk

      • Robert

        Thanks for getting back to me and for sending through the fuller info about my granfather which I have found quite fascinating.
        I do have one or two photos of him and I will try and send you a copy by email.
        Looking through your list of his compositions (some of which I had not heard of), the only one(s) I can add to your list are, firstly, ‘Romance’ words by Edward Lockton, the song dedicated by permission to Miss Doris Keane (London, G Schirmer Ltd 1916), ,secondly, ‘At the Sign of the Dragon’, A Song Cycle, words by Helen Taylor, music by Herbert Mackenzie (London, West’s Ltd 1915) including that song and (2) ‘The Strangers Song’, (3) The Lark’s in the Sky’ and (4) The Pedlar’s Pack, and thirdly ‘Songs of Remembrance’ by Herbert Matheson (West’s 1919) comprising (1) ‘A Dream’, words by Edward Lockton, (2) The Little Old Room’, words by Edward Lockton, (3) Heart of Gold, words by Robert W Service, (4) ‘When Rooks Fly Homeward, words by Mc Mathavil, and (5) ‘Making Love’ words by Joan Gilchrist.
        I have my grandfather’s commission document which indicates that he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 11 June 1917, 13th (Country of London) Princess Louise’s Kensington Battalion, The London Regiment. Prior to that, the copy of his 1917 deed poll change of name document which I have indicates that he was a cadet in the 2nd Artists Rifles Officers Training Corp at Hare Hall Romford (prior to which he was a professional misician living at 33a Powis Square, London). I think therefore that ‘herbert Gerard Mathieson’ must be someone else.
        My grandparents’ marriage certificate indicates that Herbert had married my grandmother Ethel Robson on 3rd April 1913 at the catholic church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Bouverie Road, Stoke Newington at which time he was living at 10 Springfield Gardens, Upper Cl;apton andf she was living (close by) at 116 Cazenove Road, Upper Clapton. Their one child, my mother, Barbara Dawn Goldstein, was born on 13th May 1915 at which time they were living at 33a Powis Square. Ethel died on 17 April 1968 (50 years after Herbert).
        Apart from the family story that my grandmother (who also played the piano) nevert played again after Herbert’s death, that is all the information I have.

        Thanks again

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