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Diana Devlin

Diana Devlin read English at Cambridge and has a Doctorate in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota. Her mother was a musician, her father a Shakespearean actor.  Her grandmother was Sybil Thorndike, one of the greatest actors of the 20th century.  Her grandfather, Lewis Casson, was an eminent actor, director and manager.  Her biography of him, A Speaking Part: Lewis Casson and the Theatre of his time (Hodder and Stoughton, 1982) was well received.

Diana has spent her most of her career in the theatre, primarily as a teacher, director and deviser of plays for many generations of students in the UK and USA.   She has written numerous articles and reviews, and several educational books on theatre.

In 2011 she retired as Head of Drama Studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, leaving her free to pursue her passionate interest in the history of her grandfather’s family.

Diana’s Story
In Marrying Mr CassonDiana Devlin recounts the lives of three women in her family from the late 18th to the early  20th century. Mainly based in Wales, the action is also based in the  Lake District, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cheshire and London.

Read Diana’s posts.

To learn about the other stories on this site, visit  Authors.

18 Responses to Diana Devlin

  1. Jo Williams

    To Diana Devlin, I am currently writing about the village of Burbage in Leicestershire. It is a march through time and I am particularly interested in how quite ordinary people lived through extraordinary historical events. Having made my way from 1043 (the first recorded mention of Burbage) I have just ‘pitched up’ in the 19th century. With the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire as a backdrop ‘my villagers’ are becoming more colourful and their lives are better recorded. I was delighted to read your profile of May Osmund Alonzo Durant. I knew that he was a surgeon and had lived in Tong Lodge, having previously resided in Burbage Hall, a somewhat grander residence. I also knew that he was a bankrupt. Would you permit me to use extracts from your notes please? I have a photograph of Tong Lodge if it is of interest to you. Regards, Jo Williams

    • Diana Devlin

      Hello Jo Williams. Interested to discover that May Osmund lived in Burbage Hall before Tong Lodge – his fortunes certainly did rise and fall! You are welcome to use anything you want from my blog post. Does the village of Burbage have anything to do with the Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage?

  2. Pieter-Jan

    Dear Diana, I’m living in South Africa and are currently in the process of “saving” two redundant Casson pipe organs from further deterioration and trying to preserve them for the future generations of this country.

    I got very excited when I googled for information about the Positive Organ Co and stumbled upon the article about your great grandfather only published a few days ago! What a coincidence! One of the Casson pipe organs that I’m trying to save looks exactly like the one in the photo used in your article.

    I’ve discovered what I suspect are the instruments’ opus numbers painted on some of the pipe organ parts. You don’t perhaps know if there’s an archive for the documents of the Positive Organ Co, and if so, if there’s an opus list, stating the country the instrument got exported to, as well as a date?

    Any assistance in this regard will be greatly appreciated.

    Best wishes and kindest regards

    Pieter-Jan Bouwer
    South Africa

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Pieter-Jan
      It is always interesting to hear of Casson’s Patent Positive Organ, especially so far away. I’m afraid I don’t know of any opus list, though I did recently discover there is an organ archive at Cadbury Research Centre in Birmingham, which I have not yet accessed. My present problem is discovering the ‘patent’, since I have not found one that seems to describe a ‘positive organ’. The Positive Organ Company survived for quite a few years after Thomas Casson’s death in 1910, so there may be sources that have not come up for me because I am less interested in the later years.
      Best wishes

  3. Liz Muldoon

    Dear Diana
    I was interested to read that Captain Holland Thomas was a relation of yours – he was my great grandfather, his daughter Fanny being my grandmother. I have just been given a carved wood Chinese boat that he brought back from one of his travels on the Laura Ann. We must be related !
    Liz Muldoon

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Liz
      Sorry, I don’t look at the blog very much and have just been alerted to your message. Yes, we are related!! I have only recently discovered that Fanny’s sister Mabel wrote a novel, and I shall try to get hold of it. Would love to stay in touch.

      Best wishes, Diana

      • Warren and Ginsy Frost

        Thinking about you and hoping that you will in visiting Vermont this summer!!!!!!!!!

        Keep in touch!

  4. Bob Gaines

    I am a Theatre Historian ( MA–University of Maryland–1969– Ph.D. Indiana University–1972) who is interested in presenting a paper at the International Shaw Society Seminar in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada next summer. The Shaw Festival, located in the same town, is doing St. Joan and I wanted to put together a paper on Sybil Thorndike’s St. Joan. Do you have material that might be helpful, I can offer Ben Campbell as a reference as we are great friends and he performs at The Shaw Festival many seasons including the upcoming one in 2017. His father Douglas was also a wonderful friend until his death.

  5. Kate

    Hello Diana
    Can I ask if you were at school (Beaufort House School) with Vivien Crew?

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Bob
      So sorry – I rarely look at this blog and now see that you wrote to me over two years ago. But I think I had conversations with Ben Campbell and may even have sent him something for the programme.
      Best wishes
      Diana D

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Kate
      So sorry – I rarely look at this blog, and I see you wrote over two years ago. Yes, I was at school with Vivien. We were ‘best friends’ for a while, then we were a foursome, with Pamela Cherry and Alfreda Benge. When Vivien left, we were a rather uneasy threesome! Have often wondered what happened to Vivien, so if you have information, I’d love to hear it. My email is
      Best wishes
      Diana D

  6. patsy hammond

    Dear Ms Devlin, were you taught English at secondary school by Audrey Laski ? I was at the same school in London from Sept 1959 -64, and would be pleased to know if I have remembered correctly. Regards.

    • Sue Bond

      Hi Patsy
      I was at Carlyle during the same time as you. I was taught by Audrey Laski. Also Miss Chown, Miss Hipperson, Mrs Bartholomew. Miss Ewart was the Headmistress. I remember Diana Devlin as Head Girl.

  7. Amanda Currie

    Hi Diana, Several months ago I picked up a copy of your book “a speaking part” at a charity shop in Barrow -in-house Furness, Cumbria.I was drawn to it because I know my Grandma was a cousin of Lewis Casson, unfortunately I don’t know how close a cousin.But I believe she went to his funeral.I’m in the process of trying to trace my Casson roots, not easy! I would love to find out exactly how we are related.My Grandma ‘s name was Rebecca, she was one of six girls.Their farther John Casson, was a village policeman in Lancashire, but he was born in Gawthwaite, his Father was William, and after that I’m stuck.I know we still have one family member living in Ulpha.I would love to hear from you, if you have time, kindest Regards Amanda.

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Patsy Hammond
      So sorry, I rarely look at this blog, and I see you wrote over a year ago. I was at Carlyle School from 1952 to 1960. I wasn’t actually taught by Audrey Laski, who came after I left. But after I graduated in 1963, I taught in her department for one term.
      Best wishes
      Diana Devlin

    • Diana Devlin

      Dear Amanda
      Sorry to be a while before replying – I rarely look at this blog. I don’t know of any relation of Lewis’s called Rebecca, so I think she must have been quite a distant relation. I have a Casson tree on which you might want to look at. I have just written a book about Lewis’s branch of the family, who left Furness and went to North Wales, where two Casson brothers bought a slate quarry in 1800. It’s called The Cassons in North Wales and is available on Amazon.
      For some of my research I used a book called The Family Forest by Margaret M Russell, published by Ulpha Press, Manchester in 2000. It traces several Lakeland families, including several branches of the Cassons.
      Best wishes
      Diana D

  8. Diana Devlin

    Dear Patsy Hammond
    So sorry, I rarely look at this blog, and I see you wrote over a year ago. I was at Carlyle School from 1952 to 1960. I wasn’t actually taught by Audrey Laski, who came after I left. But after I graduated in 1963, I taught in her department for one term.
    Best wishes
    Diana Devlin

  9. Graham Padden

    I am sorry to have to tell anyone who has been corresponding with Dr Diana Devlin that she died yesterday 27th September 2020 in London.

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