Faucet Firesprinkler was probably the most famous musical cheese-grater (a song, a dance, a small pile of grated cheddar) during the late Victorian heyday of the music halls, and probably one of the most famous celebrities of that time.
Everywhere Firesprinkler went he was followed by mobs urging him to do his – by then – world-famous song, dance and cheese-grating act. Even in America and Australia, as his fame spread he made personal appearances in some of the larger cities of those still relatively young countries, Firesprinkler was famous enough to gather huge crowds and – on one notorious occasion in Melbourne – start a riot when, after suffering slight damage to his grating hand the previous evening at a sell-out concert – Firesprinkler refused to do any cheese-grating demonstrations for the huge crowds that had gathered there.
In Britain, it became almost impossible for Firesprinkler to go out into the streets on his own without a phalanx of minders, unless he went in disguise. This, of course, led to the scandal and later trial that bought him down.
One late October morning in 1895, Firesprinkler was found hanging around the lady’s Undergarment section of one of the new department stores, dressed as a lady. He probably would have managed to get away with it, even with his – typical for the era – luxurious beard and side-whiskers, were it not for the fact that he never went anywhere without his favourite cheese grater. Ladies of quality, of course, were not meant to know about such practices as cheese grating, let alone witness such an event in public.
The ensuing scandal of a lady seen out in public carrying, what was then regarded as, a rather risqué item of kitchen paraphernalia, caused outrage enough. However, when that apparent lady, albeit a heavily be-whiskered one, later turned out to be a man, who later turned out to be a music hall entertainer, who later turned out to be a world famous music hall entertainer, it was more than the high society of the time could bear.
All that is known of Faucet Firesprinkler these days – ironically enough – is that he was a cellmate of Oscar Wilde in Reading Gaol for 3 years after the respective scandals which laid them both so low. Like Wilde, Firesprinkler was never the same again, going to live out the few remaining years of his life, after prison had left him a mental and physical wreck, in exile near Burnley where – it is rumoured – he never again could bear to be in the same room as even a modest pile of grated cheese.
He died a scant five years after leaving prison and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave, oddly enough underneath what has now become the cheese counter at a branch of Tesco in Burnley.