|Born the tenth child – hence her name - of Edward Henry Moore, an analytical chemist, Decima Moore came from a musical family. All four of her sisters became professional performers. They included Eva Moore, a successful stage and film actor, who was also the mother of Jill Esmond, the first wife of actor Laurence Olivier; Bertha Moore, a singer; and Bessie Moore, a member of the D'Oyly Carte company.
Decima was educated at Boswell House College, Brighton. After leaving school in 1887, she won the Victoria Scholarship for singing at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music where she studied for the next two years. In November 1899, she signed a three-year contract with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. On 7 December 1889, just four days before her eighteenth birthday, she played Casilda in the first production of Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Gondoliers at The Savoy. The critics were unanimous in their praise of her performance. The production was a great success and ran until June 1891. Next, from September to November 1891, she played Polly in Captain Billy, a curtain-raiser before The Nautch Girl at the Savoy from early September until November 1891, when her contract with D'Oyly Carte ended.
Her elder sister, Jessie, took over her part in Captain Billy but Decima went to the Prince of Wales's Theatre to star in her own show Miss Decima (1891-2). She appeared in a succession of shows over the next couple of years, including Ophelia in Gilbert’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1892) and Bab in J. M. Barrie's and Conan Doyle's Jane Annie (1893).
In 1894, she went on a world tour of The Gaiety Girl and, while in Richmond, New York, she married another cast member, Cecil Ainslie Walker-Leigh (1866-1948), who later became a career soldier in the British Army during the Boer War and the Great War, retiring with the rank of Colonel. The marriage, however, did not last anywhere near that long. On the grounds of adultery and cruelty, Decima divorced him in 1902, at the end of the Boer War. On 15 August 1905, she became the second wife of Major Frederick Gordon Guggisberg (1869-1930) and went with him to West Africa, where he was subsequently to become Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Gold Coast and British Guiana.
During the periods when she returned to Britain, she continued to appear in musicals and concerts for another ten years or so, until the outbreak of the First World War when she threw her considerable skills and energy into significant projects that included founding the Women's Emergency Corps and establishing the British Navy, Army and Air Force Leave Club in Paris. For her war work, she was awarded the CBE in 1918.
By the time her husband died in 1930, he had been knighted and she was Lady Decima Guggisberg, CBE. She continued to do a considerable amount of charitable and social work, especially during the Second World War, when she reopened the leave club in Paris, fleeing in 1940, a day before the German Army entered the city.
She died in 1964 at the age of 93.
Photographed by Alfred Ellis of 20, Upper Baker Street, London.
Inscribed and signed in ink by the sitter across the lower edge of the print and the lower margin of the mount.
condition: The print is in excellent condition. The mount shows one small black mark
recto in the upper margin and some corner wear.
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