Born at Orlestone, on the edge of Romney Marsh in Kent (birth registered Sep 1875, East Ashford district). One of around 11 children, Albert's parents were “caravan-dwellers” who moved from Sussex to the Hamstreet area, and settled in a house. At the time of the 1881 Census he was living in a private dwelling at Hamstreet with his sister Louisa (age 8) and his grandparents, Charles and Phoeby Hall, both aged 63. Charles Hall is listed as “dealer”.
Albert and his younger brother Jim (also reputedly a good singer, but never recorded) went to Hamstreet School, where they learned songs for singing at school concerts. Bert left school at 14, although he was very bright, especially at Maths, and his teacher wanted him to become a schoolmaster. His family couldn’t afford to keep him at school, and he spent the rest of his life doing farmwork, though he never really settled at anything. He’d do a bit of work, then do nothing for a while – one farmer said that when Bert was working he’d give him two men’s work just to keep him occupied. In the 1901 Census he is listed as Ordinary Agricultural Labourer.
Bert used to sing mainly at home, and family get-togethers, but not a lot in public - maybe some village concerts, but not in pubs. Played squeezebox (probably anglo-concertina) when he sang sometimes.
He knew a lot of songs, but only recorded half a dozen, because - according to the Beale family - although Peter Kennedy gave him one or two guineas, he didn’t keep his promise to pay him more when the songs were broadcast on the radio. Kennedy paid several visits but when he failed to keep his word, Bert wouldn’t have any more to do with him.
N.B. Orlestone, Hamstreet, Warehorne and Kenardington are adjoining villages - Google Map
A comical ditty (Fol the rol lol)
Charles Beale (Albert's son), interviewed by Andy Turner at The Wish, Kenardington, 1983.
Photographs of Albert Beale taken by Peter Kennedy, 1954