Dorothy (Edna May) Squires was born on 25th March 1915 in a showman's caravan at Bridge Shop Field, in the village of Pontyberem, near Llanelli. By 1928 her father Archibald Squires and his family, had settled down in Dafen, at which time he was described as a steelworks 'sheet worker' and had purchased 'Aston House', New Road, Dafen, Llanelli.
Perhaps Dorothy's first claim to fame was in 1926, when she won a skipping race at the opening of the Dafen Welfare Club's sports day. But, her real talent was her singing, as witnessed by a young Mr Jack Davies, who's father Mr Tal Davies, kept a grocery shop in the village. "As a very young lad, I remember her on the Dafen Bridge singing to a gang of young boys . I was about seven or eight at the time.Her brother who was younger than her, later became her agent ". Mr Martin Jenkins, who lives next door to 'Aston House', recollects his mother, Annie Rees 'The bakehouse' telling him "Young Dorothy often practised singing and playing her ukulele or banjo out the back garden and often heard her singing in the outside toilet". She soon became known as a first class singer, performing with a local band known as the Denza Dance Orchestra or The 'Denzas'. The 'Denzas' were a local semi-pro band performing at local dances held on behalf of the Mayor, the Police, the hospital and local charity balls etc.
Local press reports state that by 1936 she was working at a local tinplate works earning £1-15-8d (£1.78) a week, but this was not for her, for, without her father's consent,
"She left her Dafen home very early one morning and took an express train to London with a fixed intention and determination of making good as a singer".This she certainly did! After a few setbacks, she got a booking at the Burlington Gardens Club, stating that...
"This was a lucky break in more ways than one because it led to my first broadcasting date. Charlie Kunz happened to call in at the club one evening , and the next morning he sent his secretary round to see me. He wanted me to call on Charlie as soon as I could. I went round the same day, and a week later I started with Charlie's band at the Casani Club . The next time they went on air I was with them, and I felt quite naturally, on top of the world . I could hardly believe my luck. It made the old days at Llanelly seem just dim memories."
Locally the event was reported in the Llanelly & County Guardian of 20th February 1936.
Crooner on the Air - Young Llanellyite to Broadcast, Miss Dorothy (Edna) Squires, Llanelly, who is well-known to local devotees of the Terpsichorean art, will broadcast for the first time on the National Broadcasting programme on the 27th inst. Her engagement is along with Charlie Kunz and his Dance Band on that date at the Casani Club, London, from whence the broadcast will be made. Miss Squires will enjoy the distinction of being one of the first Llanellyites to broadcast from the National Programme in this form of entertainment. She has made frequent appearances at the Ritz Super Ballroom, Llanelli as the crooner of the Denza Players and enjoys a large measure of popularity. Her parents are Mr and Mrs A. J. Squires of Aston House, New Road, Dafen.
There was great excitement locally as news had got around that Llanelli's newest star was to top the bill at the next Llanelly & District Rugby Supporters' Club dance at the Ritz Ball Room, with over five hundred tickets being sold . Supporting music was provided by Billy Reid's Accordion Band and the local Len Colvin's Denza Players.
She then went on to cut a number of records with Billy Reid . These included; 'When the Poppies Bloom again', 'Coming Home', and I'll Close My Eyes'. Dorothy Squires had hit the big time and became known and famed throughout the world as a singer and entertainer.
She never forgot her roots. Shortly after the Second World War she returned to Wales to top the bill at the Swansea Empire Theatre and later in December 1946, she appeared closer to her home when she starred in the Odeon Theatre, Llanelli, on behalf of the Nuffield Works Hospital Committee. Performing with her on the stage of the Odeon was her partner Billy Reid, Lu Owen and His Orchestra, and another Llanelli born musician who later became famous - Ronnie Cass!
Three years later she performed another charity show in Llanelli when she appeared at the Regal Cinema for the Dafen Welfare Club in September 1949. The event was a 'sell out' during her visit. The day before the show, she and Billy had visited Dafen meeting old friends and enjoying themselves. It was reported that
'Wherever she is met, Dorothy talks and thinks of Dafen. The village is grateful for all her kind actions and thoughtfulness'.Shortly after, in February 1950, the pair acquired the Astoria Theatre, New Dock , Llanelli, which was turned into a 'live' theatre, but this possession was short-lived for they then sold it on to Perritt Bros (Theatres) Ltd.
By 1952, Dorothy Squires had amassed a large number of famous friends, a list that included Frankie Howerd, Jess Conrad, Hylda Baker, Petula Clarke and Diana Dors to name but a few that were invited to weekend parties at her home in Kent. It was at one of these parties that she met the budding model and actor, Roger Moore who she was to later marry on 6 July 1953. Roger Moore subsequently rose to fame starring in TV and film roles such as 'Ivanhoe', 'The Saint' and more famously as the secret agent, 'James Bond 007'. They remained married until 1968.
One of Dorothy's greatest fans was Elvis Presley, for he often watched her when she performed at the Coconut Grove, frequently requesting her to sing 'This is my Mother's Day'. Closer to home in 1966 -, while she was performing at a farewell concert at the Bay View Club, Aberavon, she was surprised by her old school friend and fan, Millie Leyshon of Dillwyn Street, Llanelli who presented her with a Welsh Doll.
Dorothy Squires' career was plagued by turmoil and litigation, but she still found time to return to Llanelli on a number of occasions.
In 1973 she was billed to star at the 'Cabaret Candlelight', then a new prestigious night club in Market Street, Llanelli. The 'Candlelight' was a night club that was to advertise and feature national stars such as Dickie Henderson, Frankie Vaughan, Tiny Tim, Peters and Lee, Diana Dors and Acker Bilk to name but a few - . The 'Llanelli News' carried the advert
Dorothy Squires – Cancels American Tour To Appear In Her Home Town with Nicky Welsh and his Concert Orchestra – October 1 – 7 Inclusive.The newspaper went on to report...
Dorothy brings Drury Lane premier to Cabaret Candlelight. - Standing on their ears – that's the effect Dorothy Squires is having on Cabaret Candlelight audiences this week. Pontyberem born Dorothy has become Britain's Miss Show Business in a starry career that has known an overflowing share of heartache and happiness.
Dot wanted to prove to television and and radio bosses that she has one of the most loyal followings in the world. The little Llanelli girl stood tall at the packed Palladium and the Squires Show was West End's hit of the year.
George Cooper, famous stage door keeper of the Palladium still says: "We have never had a night like it for emotion and remember we've had Judy Garland, Tom Jones and the Beatles here" Dorothy's professional life – not to mention much more money than the initial £5000 – depended on that one show .
Miss Pontyberem knew what she was doing . She had polished her one-woman show that was launched at Scott's of Llanelli until it shone like a diamond.
To prove 1970 was not a fluke Miss Squires hired the Palladium at her own expense in 1971 and 1972 and again her shows proved Sunday Night Spectaculars and became best selling L.Ps.
"But for that 1966 week of shows at Scott's I would never have known where to start the Palladium show" admits honest Dot.
In August of 1977 she was back in Llanelli and pictured in the Falcon Music Shop signing her latest album 'Rain, Rain Go Away'. But life continued to trouble her amid the various comebacks to the national scene. In 1981she was declared bankrupt and finally in the sunset of her life living off the charity of others she was taken ill with cancer.
In his autobiography My Word is My Bond, her ex husband Roger More states...
Towards the end of her life, in 1998, when Dot fell ill and on hard times , she and I spoke on the telephone . We agreed that we'd shared some great and happy times and wouldn't have missed them for the world. I did what I could to make her remaining time more comfortable and while not asking her to ever understand what I did all those years earlier -, she did say that she was pleased I had now found happiness with Kristina - , my fourth wife
On the 15th April 1998 the Western Mail reported...
The one time superstar who was married to actor Roger Moore for 16 years died in South Wales early yesterday...Local night club owner and Llanelli Community Heritage member, Mr Paul Brookfield, wrote to Roger Moore enquiring if he would sponsor a Blue Plaque to commemorate her early life in the village of Dafen. This he readily agreed to do.The Plaque was ordered, manufactured and placed on Aston House, her former home in the village of Dafen, Llanelli.
In Nov 2009, the Odeon Theatre (Theatre Elli) once again experienced the sound of Squires, this time, in the form of a tribute to her...
The Life & Music of the Sensational Singing Star of the 40s & 50s featuring Gerri Smith as Dorothy Squires.
I was living away in 1966 and while home in Llanelli one weekend, reluctantly went to see Dorothy Squires at the Regal with my mam and dad. I didn't know who she was and went to the first performance on the Saturday. We were so bowled over with her unique voice and charisma we bought more tickets for the second performance.
She had the audience in the palm of her hand and I remember during the build up and the ending of the song 'Till' she stepped back by about five steps from the mic and threw her voice right to the back of the theatre. I was amazed and there were lots of encores. My mum knew her from years before and we went backstage and she gave us lots of hugs and was very friendly. Since then I've seen many concerts over the country and met her from time to time. She played 'The Glen Ballroom' a few times plus the 'Candlelight', 'The Rainbow Club' in Gorseinon, and 'Jackie Mason's Club' in Gorseinon.
She did a weeks booking at the 'London Palladium' around 1973, I went to a matinee where only a few seats had been sold. She still put her soul and enthusiasm into her performance as if it was a full house.
Dorothy Squires was from the 'old school' who often did three shows a day in theatres. Today singers don't want the hard work and want instant success. My mum and dad took me to the 'Astoria' when I was about five and of course Dorothy owned this theatre with Billy Reid. I saw her at pantomime, but at the time, I vaguely remember I was more impressed with the comedian 'Ozzy Morris'! Credit due, Dot never forgot her roots in Llanelli, and Wales, where she eventually died.
Our thanks to Roger Forsyth of Andypandemonium for his contribution, Byron Davies for his help with the research and the Llanelli Star for their permission to use the extracts from old copy of their newspapers.