Robert Bruce Mantell (1854 – 1928), Irvine-born actor noted for his skill in performing Shakespeare plays.

Robert Bruce Mantell was born at the Wheatsheaf Inn, which was owned by his parents, in Irvine on the 7th of February 1854. The youngest of three children, he had a tumultuous childhood. When he was 5 years old his family moved to Dublin and Robert spent time in a variety of schools, being dismissed from 5 for disciplinary problems before finally settling at McLinton’s Seminary.

Robert’s passion was the stage and in Dublin he joined a drama club, becoming one of the shining stars as a result and he became committed to pursuing a career as an actor. His mother enjoyed amateur theatrics but was aghast upon learning of this desire. She insisted that he change his name to Robert Hudson and that he travel to America to attempt to achieve this dream. Robert complied with these demands and was given a small sum of money, the same as his older siblings had received, and he travelled to Boston.

The USA was not, however, to be the place where Robert would achieve his dreams, at least not initially. After a mere 10 days in Boston with no job and no prospects, Robert was forced to return to Dublin having been barely able to afford the return ticket. After his return, he gained his first theatrical job in Rochdale, Lancashire at the Theatre Royal. On the 21st of October 1876, he made his stage debut in Dion Boucicault’s ‘Aarrah-Na-Pogue’. For the next two years Mantell would travel in the UK and perform ‘Macbeth’, ‘Othello’, ‘Richard III’ and ‘Hamlet’.

In 1878, he won the role of ‘Tybalt’ in the Leyland Opera House production of Romeo and Juliet and this saw him once again set sail for the USA except this time, he would use his real name. The tour would see him perform in Baltimore, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Louiseville and Washington DC and it wouldn’t be long before he returned to the USA once more in 1883 where he would gain critical acclaim in the role of ‘Loris Ipanoff’ in Fanny Davenport’s 1883–84 production of ‘Fedora’. Work began to come easily for Mantell, who was becoming prolific for his skill in performing Shakespeare’s plays. He also made the transition to the big-screen, performing in 8 films until his death in 1928.