Tex McLeod

Photo:Tex McLeod autographed photo, circa 1925

Tex McLeod autographed photo, circa 1925

Photographer unknown

Texas cowboy entertainer who once lived on Tidy Street

By Clark Gray

Alexander "Tex" McLeod was born on 11th November 1889 in a small town east of Austin, Texas. His father had immigrated to Texas from Scotland. His mother was of Spanish extraction but her family had first settled in Peru for several decades before moving to Texas.

Tex was destined for a life of roaming adventure starting at the age of 10 when he first started running away from home to spend time on the open range. His father, a school teacher, dreamed of seeing his son become a concert violinist. Tex, however, had other ambitions and by the age of 12 had taken his first job on a ranch some fifty miles away from home.

World champion

Within a few years, as Tex matured to become a man of 6 foot 2 inches, he proved his skill as a cowboy among the rough-and-tumble world of bucking contests. These first rodeos, which were called round-ups at the time, gave Tex an understanding that there was money to be made in this new competitive sport. Tex went on to earn several large prizes and World Champion titles in bronco riding, trick roping and wild horse racing. These skills were just the first step in what would become an amazing 50-year career as a star in Wild West shows (including Buffalo Bills Wild West), circus, stage performances, and silent films. Tex traveled around the globe, from South Africa to Australia, where he put on his comic roping routine to the delight of thousands.

Royal performances

Tex relocated to England in 1919 and quickly became a headlining star in some of the most opulent night clubs and variety theatres and enjoyed a great deal of fame in England, America and many other countries. He befriended everyone from famous painters and actors to British Royalty, even providing private lessons in trick roping to several members of the Royal Family. He was still in touch with the Duke of Norfolk decades after they first met.

His life, while adventurous, was also plagued by the harsh realities of life on the road, including failed marriages and estranged children. As he grew too old to continue his life as an entertainer, he settled into his home at 26 Tidy Street in Brighton, England, where he ran a boarding house for homeless men. It was one of the very men he took into his home who started the downward spiral of events that would lead to his death. On 31st January 1973 Tex and one of his boarders, after several previous altercations, got into a fist fight. The man was too much for the 84-year old cowboy to handle. He left his home to seek the help of the police but died in a phone box while trying to reach emergency services.

I am currently writing the biography of Tex McLeod and would much appreciate any memories, photographs or other assistance in gathering information on this unusual character, who was loved by many but remembered by few.

Please add your memories below.

This page was added on 28/09/2008.

I was employed at the National Assistance Board, later Social Security, and worked at the Brighton Office between 1962 and 1971.  I knew Tex very well as I visited the lodging house he ran in Tidy Street.

He was a very compassionate man and he told me all about his life. At some point in this period he had a young wife and child.  He had a signet ring with the names of all his wives engraved on the inside.  I believe one was Vera Cody.  I have a photo of Tex in his car with Bernard, Duke of Norfolk, saying goodbye and another of the London Hippodrome exterior with his name in lights, both signed by him.

Please do email if you would like any more of my memories of Tex.

By Roger Vaughan
On 12/12/2008

Was Tex married to Marjorie Tiller?

By Anita Bailey
On 05/05/2009

Dear Mr Gray,
I am an autograph collector and was researching some autographs I have but with no information about them and came across this site. I have a very clear pencil autograph of Tex from The State Cinema on 10th August 1940. Please let me know if you wish me to forward a scan of his autograph for you to possibly include in your book. Many Thanks. C Baker (United Kingdom)

By Cliff Baker
On 13/07/2009

I am Tex Mcleod's eldest daughter and he was married to Marjorie Tiller.

By Kit
On 13/07/2009

Saint Mary's College is digitizing a collection of newspaper columns by William W Dunkle (1873-1940) including at least two that mention performances of "Tex" McLeod. While they are not yet available online (hopefully by the summer of 2010) we could send you a copy of the columns and any others we may find in the William W Dunkle Circus and Theatre Collection, covering 1889-1940. You can contact the Archives at archives@saintmarys.edu and we'll send you copies of the columns.

By Katherine Ward
On 04/10/2009

At some point during 1949 to 1951 Tex McLeod lived in Banstead, Surrey. I know because my family lived next door! I was only four years old when we moved away so I only have very hazy memories of him, but I remember his wife. I don't know which one it was! I remember him doing his rope tricks and I was under the impression that his wife appeared on stage with him, like a magician's assistant!

By Mrs Gay Boxall
On 17/12/2009

Hi, I am Cordelia McLeod's son.  We have photos within the family: photos of my grandad with Wild Bill and some other friends in one of the first cars, plus a load more.

By Edward Fisher, Cordelia McLeod's son
On 08/03/2010

Thanks for your reply, Kit. I am so interested to know what happened to any of my family or my parents' family. My Mum was a cousin of Marjorie. Can you give me any family history with her marriage to Tex McLeod etc ? I would love to hear.

By Anita Bailey
On 02/04/2010

As you well know, Tex's real name was Alexander Davila McLeod. His mother was Candelaria Davila and his father's name was Alexander McLeod. Cordelia was named after her mother Candelaria. It was shortened so that people could pronounce it. When Cordelia came to Luling, Texas, for the Davila reunion she met a lot of people that knew of her father Tex. Candelaria's father is the one that showed Tex how to rope at a very early age. Some of my aunts still have Tex's letters. He would write in Spanish and English. He was like my great great Uncle.

By Chris Sanchez
On 19/05/2010

My Mum, Laura Milward, who was born in Bury, was ALSO a cousin of Marjorie Tiller! Marjorie tried to persuade her to join the Tiller Girls - Mum was tall and a ballroom dancer, but to Granny, a staunch methodist, this was very shocking! Mum, sadly no longer with us, said that Marjorie changed her surname when she auditioned because she knew her father would be furious too! Father met Tex after he settled in Brighton.

By Judy Goodlet
On 16/07/2010

I would like to thank you for bringing back childhood memories when my son showed me your information on Tex McLeod recently. I am 78 years old but remember Tex well when he bought my father´s farm back in the 1940s. This farm was Hackhurst Farm, Hellingly, Sussex in England. My father continued to farm in the neighbourhood so we remained in contact for some years. He was at this time married to Vera, whom I believe was his fourth wife. She also was in show business with a horse called Bracken that danced. Tex was a larger than life character who tried to lasso me in the farmyard and laughed so much when I stooped down and it went over my head. He always wore a cowboy hat and as a small child I found him most exciting and unusual. We always went to the Brighton Hippodrome when he was playing there and went backstage to meet other people there. The last time I saw him I was a teenager when he came to visit us and introduced his latest young wife! I now live in Spain, but felt I must write to acknowledge the work you have put in bringing happy thoughts of my early years on a farm in England, and to others also I´m sure.

By Margaret Campbell
On 28/11/2011

Would like my email passed on to Anita Bailey and Margaret Campbell as I would be pleased to be able to email/chat with them and exchange memories if possible. I know Marjorie and Tex's son, Jamie, died in the early 2000s. Unfortunately I missed out on getting back into contact with him by about 3 months as John Hall would not give me any contact information for him. I have a picture of Jamie from shortly before his demise, and he looked almost exactly like Tex at that age. Jamie went by the name of Fairley, as when Tex and Marjorie split, Marjorie changed Jamie's surname to suit her new relationship. When Tex and Marjorie got married, Gracie Fields was the Matron of Honour and was one of the official witnesses to the marriage in the 30s. I have over 80 photos of Tex dating from 1900 through to 1972. I spent 2 weeks in Brighton with my father in November 1972 having hitch hiked from Norfolk to see him when I was only 15. He was furious with me but pleased to see me, but I was glad I had done it, as he died on February 3rd, 1973, only 1 week after my 16th birthday. Needless to say he paid for me to return by train. Also, my father did die in the telephone box, as stated above, but it was after he had successfully fought and evicted the beligerent younger inmate of his hostel. The reason he went down to the telephone box was to ask for someone to be around in case the man came back, as he was exhausted from the fight, and didn't think he could go another round. He died in the telephone box, from a heart attack, and before the ambulance was able to get to him. I know the above, as I was the one who answered the door to the police who came to inform us of my father's death, and also because I have kept in touch with our old next door neighbour from those days. I would appreciate being kept in the loop in respect of any book, as I may be able to help with some facts etc. Regards Cordelia

By Cordelia Mcleod
On 31/05/2013

James Fairley, Marjorie's son by Tex McLeod, was a good friend of mine, and we both enjoyed recreational flying together.  Both James and Marjorie are buried in Boundary Bay Cemetery in Tsawwassen, just south of Vancouver BC, Canada.  Marjorie died on 19 May 1993, and James on 5 April 2000.  I have put photos of their gravestones on www.findagrave.com.

By Adrian Walker
On 24/07/2015

Fascinating stuff about Tex - here is our memory......

By Michael Reeve
On 21/12/2015

Denizens of Tidy Street in the early 1970s were a diverse bunch. Besides the exotic showbiz flamboyance of Tex there was a Chinese family who ran a takeaway in Preston Road; an affluent London couple who had a weekend cottage; a dapper retired tenor from D'Oyly Carte (spats and a pale grey waistcoat with pearl buttons); the gay secretary of the Gracie Fields fan club and ourselves : a young couple of ex-teachers with two young sons living above the junk shop "Articles" at number 31 - now a private house.

On a particular Saturday night not long before Tex expired in the phonebox we were asleep in our bedroom over the shop when we were woken up by two unmistakeably Irish voices returning from the pub and giving the world their fairly tuneless but loud interpretation of "Some Enchanted Evening". They were giving the final rising line "...wise men never try...." the full welly when they realised they had lost their door key to Tex's lodging house; the "never try" tailed off to a whimper as they began to hammer away on Tex's front door.

We peered through our curtains to see what happened next. Everyone on Tidy Street knew that Tex was fairly deaf and the two Irishmen knocked harder and began a repetitive dirge that grew louder and louder in the echoey night-time empty canyon of the street - "Tex, Tex. Open up Tex. It's us Tex. Tex Tex. Open up." and as Tex failed to respond the litany changed to - "Tex, Tex. You daft old bugger. Open up. Tex,Tex - a pox on you, you cloth-eared son of a cowpoke" and with that one of the pair picked up the milk bottle from Tex's step and smashed one of the glass panels of the front door and reached through to open it. They disappeared inside. There were a few moments of silence and then we heard muffled shouting and banging culminating in an overstuffed suitcase hurtling through the remaining glass of the door onto the road followed by the two drunks being harangued by Tex resplendent in striped pyjamas and slippers and cracking his bullwhip with a sound like pistol shots.

"Out you no-goods. Out you bums," Tex roared - "I've had enough."

"You Yankee bastard", one of the men said, "where's our coats, where's our coats?"

Tex cracked the whip and the men cowered between two parked cars. "I give you beds. Cheapest beds you've ever had. I run a respectable place here. Coming in at all hours.... Pissed."

"Just give us our coats you grasping bloody cowboy"

We watched as Tex gave one more almighty crack that seemed to zip like an electric shock through the Irishmen. Tex went inside the house. There was a period of silence. It looked like the Irishmen were trying to get up the courage to have one more try at getting to their beds. Tex might have calmed down. The Irishmen rose from the road between the cars. Suddenly a large flaming bundle of cloth shot through the broken glass of Tex's door and fell flaming and smoking like a bonfire in the middle of Tidy Street followed by Tex, now wearing a stetson and cracking the whip at the burning coats and sending sparks and ash into the night air. "There's your coats, you slobs, you bloody slobs. Go and sleep on the beach."

The Irishmen grabbed their suitcase and scuttled away. Tex went back into his house. We closed our curtains and went back to bed. Exhausted. Tidy Street was never dull.

By Michael Reeve
On 21/12/2015

I know that Tex had obtained several artifacts that once belonged to Chief Iron Tail. It might have been when they performed together in the Wild West Show. Some of these artifacts wound up in the possession of an elderly lady who lived in Northern Canada. Is there any chance that these items belonged to Tex?  And if so, how did they find their way to Canada? I would really like to know the whole story. 

By Kimberly McLean
On 03/04/2016

I am a western historian and artifact collector, recently finding a rather unusual Colt pistol in the Wilmington, Delaware, USA area. An eighty some year old man sold it to me saying it was a very rare item that belonged to a famous rodeo man.  The reason I have researched into this site is that the pistol has an extra cylinder that is chambered for an English cartridge, and that the pistol, a revolver, has obviously been fired with only blank cartridges, as were used in wild west shows.  it is also in nearly unused condition.  So my question for any of the posters here is, did Tex have a pistol, and were any of his relations living near Delaware?  Oh yes, forgot to mention that inside of each grip panel is inscribed "Te ....", which has been scraped over to conceal the rest of the name.  The serial number on the pistol is listed in the Colt archive records, showing it was shipped to the 101 ranch in 1926. Did he ever return to America for shows or special appearances, or correspond with former friends here?  So, perhaps this belonged to Tex at one time.  Thanks for your assistance.

By Dave Lanara
On 06/06/2016

Does anyone know what became of Vera CODY?

By John Wynne
On 04/12/2017

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