In 1890 John was asked to present a quartet of children for the pantomime Robinson Crusoe at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Liverpool.
He chose four of his best Manchester pupils, all aged about 10 years: Dolly Grey, Tessie Lomax, and twins Cissy and Lilly Smith. They were chosen as they were all the same height and had the same very slender shape with dark hair. He worked with them relentlessly repeating every movement time and time again until they were perfect. He worked them so hard that at times they were so exhausted they had to be carried home by their parents- their feet too blistered to walk.