Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Lionel Logue discovered his life's passion by accident. Ordered to detention one day, while a student at Prince Alfred College (a boys' prep school), Logue was looking for a book to help pass the time. Randomly pulling a volume off the shelf, he opened it to these words by Longfellow:
Then Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
He the traveller and the talker,
He the friend of old Nokomis,
Made a bow for Hiawatha;
From a branch of ash he made it,
From an oak-bough made the arrows,
Tipped with flint, and winged with feathers,
And the cord he made of deer-skin.
Reading the story of Hiawatha, Logue was spellbound. He loved the rhythm of the words which almost sounded like spoken music. Never did detention time pass so quickly!
Lionel wanted to study elocution. He longed to become really good at speaking. He wanted to give recitals which, in those early years of the 20th century, provided live entertainment for many people.
Leaving school at sixteen, Logue (1880 -1953) studied his craft with a master elocutionist named Edward Reeves. On the 19th of March, 1902, Lionel gave a recital which also featured his blossoming dramatic skills. A newspaper reported on his performance:
Mr. Logue looks young, but he possesses a clear, powerful voice and a graceful stage presence. He evidenced in his selections considerable dramatic talent - scarcely mature at present, however - and an artistic appreciation of characters he impersonated and of stories he was telling. (Review in the Adelaide Advertiser, 20 March 1902.)
With his growing skills, Logue was in high demand in his native country as he helped people overcome speech impediments. Then ... he decided to spend some time in England, where he opened an office at 146 Harley (in London's medical district).
By the 19th of August, 1925, Logue was sufficiently respected to give a talk on 2LO - a radio station run by a fledgling new business called the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). He called his radio talk "Voices and Brick Walls."
Meanwhile ... someone else who lived in London desperately needed help to overcome a bad case of stammering. His name was Albert Frederick Arthur George (or, "Bertie" to his family and closest friends). His formal title (at the time) was "Duke of York," since he was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary.
On the 19th of October, 1926, the Duke met the speech therapist for the first time. They would work together until the Duke - who became King George VI in December of 1937 - died twenty-six years later.
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Lionel Logue, in 1937, photograph by Bassano. Image X85183 from UK National Portrait Gallery.
Quoted passage from Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.