A dwarfish music-hall comedian has given his nickname to the English language to mean a diminutive person. Harry Ralph (1868-1928) was a pudgy infant at the time of the Tichborne case, in which an Australian claimed to be Roger Charles Tichborne, an heir to a baronetcy who had left England for a trip to South America some years earlier, in 1854. Tichborne had boarded the ship Bella, which subsequently sank with a complete loss of life.
Eleven years later, the Australian had many people believing that he was the long-lost heir. But other members of the family were not convinced, and they brought this matter to court. After a trial that lasted 188 days, the longest in English legal history, the defendant was proved to be an impostor. He was identified as Arthur Orton, a butcher from Wapping, Australia, and he was sentenced to fourteen years of penal servitude.
Harry Ralph grew into a fat adolescent. Because of his size, he was nicknamed Tich in allusion to the Tichborne case because the claimant was corpulent. The comedian, less than four feet tall, adopted the nickname, and thereafter used it as his professional name.
Tich had natural talent as an entertainer and was renowned for his stage pranks and satirical humor. By the turn of the century, his performances were acclaimed internationally. In due course, he hit the top of the circuit and appeared in Drury Lane. His popularity in Paris gained him the Legion of Honour.
Tich’s audiences were entertained, and the English language gained a new word. A diminutive person or object may be said, affectionately, to be tich or tichy.