Decima Moore as Casilda in The Gondoliers

Decima Moore (1889-91, 1893, 1900)

[Born Brighton, Sussex 11 Dec 1871, died Kensington, London 18 Feb 1964]

Lilian Decima Moore won the Victoria Scholarship for singing at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music. She was four days short of her eighteenth birthday when she created the role of Casilda in The Gondoliers for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy on December 7, 1889. It was her first appearance on the professional stage. She had been offered a position with the Company earlier still, but declined it in order to complete her musical education.

She played Casilda for the length of the run, ending June 20, 1891, then, still under contract with Carte, remained at the Savoy where she appeared as Polly in Captain Billy (September-November 1891), companion piece with The Nautch Girl. (Her older sister Jessie Moore toured with one of D'Oyly Carte's provisional companies and replaced Decima in Captain Billy at the Savoy in November 1891.)

Decima Moore left the Savoy when her commitment expired, moving to the Prince of Wales's (in Miss Decima, 1891-92), the Court (in A Pantomime Rehearsal, 1892), the Shaftesbury (in The Maelstrom, 1892), the Court again (as Ophelia in Gilbert's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, 1892), and the Trafalgar Square (in The Wedding Eve, 1892, and in the title role in Stephenson & Cellier's Dorothy, 1892-93).

She returned to the D'Oyly Carte and the Savoy in May 1893 as Bab in Barrie, Conan Doyle, and Ford's Jane Annie. Jane Annie ran for only 50 performances, closing July 1, 1893. When it closed she was promptly engaged for the Criterion where she appeared in La Fille de Madame Angot. She subsequently appeared at a number of London theatres, and made a world tour, before returning to the D'Oyly Carte and the Savoy for a third and final time from April to June 1900, replacing Jessie Rose as "Scent of Lilies" in The Rose of Persia.

In 1905 she accompanied her second husband, Major (later Brigadier General) F. G. Guggisberg, to West Africa. She returned the following year, appearing in the crowd in court in Trial by Jury in the Ellen Terry Jubilee Celebration matinee. She would continue to appear on stage in musicals, legitimate theatre, and concerts for another ten years or so. She toured America and Australia, as well as appearing in London and throughout the British Isles. She and her husband wrote a book, "We Two in West Africa" (London, William Heinemann, 1909), which describes her adventures but makes no mention of her musical or theatrical career.

In 1918 she was honored with the C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) for her services in founding and running a military services' leave club in Paris during World War I. She reopened the club in 1939 and only left Paris in 1940, just 24 hours before the Germans entered the city.

She served her country as Hon. Exhibition Commissioner for the Gold Coast at the British Empire Exhibition (1923-26), was Chairman of The Play Actors (1927-29) and Chairman of the Overseas Section of the Forum Club (1928-32), and appeared in the film Nine Till Six (1932).

Lady Moore-Guggisberg lived a long and full life. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society elected her vice-president in 1960 when she was undoubtedly the last surviving creator of a Gilbert & Sullivan role. She died in 1964 at the age of 93.

Page modified February 27, 2003 © 2001-03 David Stone