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Tributes as ‘Queen of Soho’ Violet dies at 93

Death of former Berwick Street bingo caller, who became a popular figure in the West End, is not believed to be connected to coronavirus

03 April, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Out and about in Soho: Violet Trayte

THE West End is mourning the death of the “Queen of Soho”.

Violet Trayte, who has died aged 93, is not believed to have succumbed to coronavirus but because of the lockdown she spent her final days unable to see friends and well-wishers.

Hospitals are under intense pressure and many have had to ban all visits to wards to stop the spread of infection.

Funerals are also being put on hold because of social distancing rules and the ban on groups of more than two.

Violet – also known as “Godmother of Soho” – was particularly fond of Berwick Street where she could famously walk into any bar and never be charged for a drink.

“Violet doesn’t pay” was her catchphrase, said friends who described her as a “no-nonsense person” who was just as at home mixing with top celebrities as “working girls” of Soho.

A bingo caller at the Duck and Rice in Berwick Street, she dressed smartly often with “gorgeous well-groomed silver hair and red nails”, pearls and cashmere top. Every Sunday she would take a roast for the Catholic priest in her Warwick Street church.

Violet Trayte with pop art and surrealist artist George Skeggs

Karen Nayir, her neighbour and a long-time friend, said: “The hardest thing for us was the week she was in hospital she couldn’t have any visitors because of coronavirus. We couldn’t get hold of her to find out how she was. We would ring but the phone would just be cut off.”

She added: “Violet had a famous saying, ‘Violet doesn’t pay’. She could go in any bar down Berwick Street and she wouldn’t pay. That was definitely the case. Up until last winter, she was the bingo caller in the Duck and Rice every Sunday. Everyone knew it as Violet’s bingo night.

“Just a few months ago, Boris Johnson was visiting, and she called him over and told him what she thought of him. She knew lots of famous people. But she treated everybody the same, she was very outgoing person, very gregarious.”

Karen’s husband Cavit added: “Affectionately known as the Queen of Soho, Violet had her whole life in Soho. She saw Soho change through the years, through the Second World War, Swinging 60s, glamorous 70s, punk rock 80s, and right up until now.”

Violet would come and stay at their place over Christmas. She didn’t have any children and is believed to have worked at M&S and at a chemist in the West End. Her church was Our Lady of Assumption in Warwick Street.

George Skeggs, aka “Soho George”, told the Extra: “Violet was probably one of the first people I would have a bit of banter with sitting outside Ali’s Medi restaurant. You could not miss her gorgeous, well-groomed silver hair and red nails.

“We would often talk about the old days around the area, which included Covent Garden, and the West End in general, and how it had changed from the independent shops to the international chains that seem to be everywhere.

“I do miss her smiling face when I approached her and do a little tap dance for her, which she always found amusing.

“I love the fact that at her age she was still out and about.”

Violet had been unwell for several months following a fall last autumn.

In 2018 Violet she was left bruised after being mugged near her home in Ingestre Place during a period of rising street crime in Soho.


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