originally Henry Benjamin Leete (1845-1911)
comedian and theatrical proprietor
was born in London in December 1845. The date of birth is sometimes given as 1847, but the earlier date is more likely to be correct. His father, Benjamin Leete, was chief engineer of the Egyptian railways, and his son was also intended to be an engineer. He had been forbidden during his apprenticeship to attend theatres, but developing a talent for comic singing he was engaged as a vocalist at a music hall, where he appeared under the name of "Harry Rickards". He established a reputation as a singer of comic songs, and coming to Australia in November 1871 made his first appearance there at the St George's hall, Melbourne, on 9 December. He then went to Sydney where he also appeared with success. Returning to England he was a successful "lion comique" at the music halls and a good comedian in pantomime, especially in the provinces. He again visited Australia in 1885, and for some years toured Australia with a vaudeville company with much success. About 1893 he bought the Garrick theatre, Sydney and renamed it the Tivoli, took control of the Opera House, Melbourne, and was also lessee of theatres in other state capital cities. Every year he visited England, and during the next 18 years he engaged for the Australian variety stage great artists like Marie Lloyd, Peggy Pryde, Paul Cinquevalli, Little Tich and a host of others of great talent. Rickards died in England on 13 October 1911. He was married twice and left a widow and two daughters. He was an excellent singer of such songs as "Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road" and "His Lordship Winked at the Counsel", and was a first-rate business man whose hobby was his work. For 25 years his name was a household word in Australia, and at the time of his death his business as a single-handed manager and proprietor was possibly the largest in the world.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1911; The Argus, Melbourne, 16 and 26 October 1911; The Age, Melbourne, 5 August 1939; A Century of Journalism, p. 572.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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