Jeanie Barton writes…
Known to many on the London jazz scene as Maria, the first bar maid at Ronnie Scott’s, Mary Young, (nee McClardy), who died on Friday August 30th after a period of decline, was an ardent audience member with a passion for Bebop. Growing up in Plymouth in an orphanage following her mother’s death from tetanus, Maria’s father was a deep sea diver in the 1920s.
She moved to London in the 1950s and settled into a flat in Leicester Square, working in coffee shops and bars around Soho. During the time of Club 11 Maria immersed herself in the jazz scene and became friends with the musicians. When Ronnie Scott first got a drinks licence for his new club in Gerrard Street it was Maria who he approached to run the bar. This era was undoubtedly the most exciting in her life – night after night she watched the greatest jazz musicians from America, England and around the world visit and play, she hung out with them and collected their autographs. One of her many stories was that when Dizzy Gillespie first came to Ronnie’s, the only paper she had in her hand bag was a photograph of herself, which a street photographer had taken earlier in the day, so she handed it to him to sign – he simply wrote “Wow! Love Diz xx”. She was very beautiful…
Subsequent to the Bebop years at Ronnie’s, Maria continued to be a stalwart follower of The Laurie Morgan trio enjoying his long running Sunday jam sessions. She was a great educator to other audience members recommending CDs to buy and gigs to attend listed in Jazz in London – she loved to encourage young musicians and listeners alike and I among others owe her a great deal for my passion for jazz. She was the life and soul of the party. RIP.
Maria will be cremated on Monday the 17th September at 2pm at:
St Marylebone Crematorium
East End Road
There is a gathering for her afterwards from 3.30pm at:
The Railway Tavern
23 Crouch End Hill