Friday, May 15, 2020

Three Tunns



Note: the pink and blue fire insurance map indicates that the Three Tunns had 4 floors with standard windows for the width and had a skylight.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

John Blennerhasset Steele, actor

Today, let an obituary speak for itself.


“J. B. Steele dead! What memories the bare announcement recalls ? It takes me beck to a morning in March, 1866, I had a dear sister and brother on board the ship Western Ocean, from Liverpool to Melbourne. She was overdue, and the notice board at the Telegraph Office in Market-street was anxiously watched. At length the good news was telegraphed : ‘Ship Western Ocean, Liverpool to Melbourne, passed Cape Otway.’ Another 24 hours, with good luck, would see the Western Ocean - drop her anchor in Hobson’s Bay. Next morning I was up by times and on Sandridge Town Pier, Sandridge originally -known as Liardet's Beach, and now by the more important name of Port Melbourne. The Western Ocean was just coming up amidst the forest of masts which then crowded Hobson's Bay. Our waterman stated that there would be no use in starting until she had dropped anchor, as no one knew where she might slacken sail. The jolly waterman's idea was to get a good boatload ; he knew pretty well about where the ship would drop her anchor. The Western Ocean dropped her anchor opposite the historical Gellibrand’s Point, where had anchored for many years the prison hulks Success, Lysander, etc. After half an hour’s pull and sail we reached the ship, end climbing up her tall sides, stood upon the poop deck to welcome my relatives. After greeting I noticed a lady and gentleman, the former leaning on the arm of the latter, the gentleman a splendid specimen of manhood, the lady somewhat short and stout, but they made a charming couple. I inquired who they were. My brother said, ‘Mr. Steele and his wife,’ who had come out to support G. V. Brooke. Alas  poor Brooke had gone down in the London some weeks before, in Biscay's Bay. Mr. Steele told me in after years that the first they heard of Brooke's death was from the pilot when he boarded the Western Ocean, ‘off the Otway.’ That was my first introduction to J. B. Steele, and off and on he was my friend since then. His roaming life kept us apart for many years, but on his permanently taking up his residence near Sydney, I had constant visits from him.

John Blennerhassett— Steele was a nom-de-theatre — came of a good family. He was the son of John Blennerhassett, Esquire, of 27 Lower Mount-street, Dublin (the same street in which John Francis Vallor, L.L.D., poet, etc., father of Mr. Waller of the Sydney Harbor Trust, lived). In that street the future actor was bom in 1832. The fact that Steele's father lived in such a neighborhood as Mount-street, Merrion Square, is proof enough of the position of the family. Steele's schooling was of the best. I am not sure that he did not graduate at ‘Old Trinity’; he was too modest a man to boast of his attainments; he was every inch the gentleman. I am not acquainted with his reasons for taking to the stage, when, from his family influence, any of the learned professions was open to him. I fancy that his splendid stage presence, perfect deportment, and grand elocution decided him. Dublin has always been the home of private theatricals, and all the stage-struck youths of the Irish metropolis could always find a means of fretting and strutting their little hour. If belonging to the ‘upper ten’. the Queen’s, the Royal, or the private ball-rooms readily furnished the opportunity. If of the middle-class, the old Fishamble-street theatre, known in its ‘glory days’ as ‘Daly’s,’ was the scene of the amateur ‘Richards,’ ‘Othello,’ and ‘Belphegor’ efforts. It was in this Fishamble-street theatre that the favourite Australian comedian, J . R. Greville, made his amateur debut, end more than one thespian who has made a name on the stage owns that dingy old theatre as the cradle of his ambition.

I do not know where J. B. Steele made the first appearance as a professional. I believe, like Barry Sullivan, that it was in Cork. When Brooke returned from Australia be met Steele and his wife at Brighton. He was playing with Brooke in Birmingham when Brooke's resolution to return to Australia was made. Whether the steamship London had a full passenger list, or Mr. Coppin, in a fit of economy, chose a sailing ship as the cheaper method of transporting his ‘new people’ to Melbourne, I know not, but I do know that the careful manager insured the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Steele for the voyage.

Not having the ‘star’ Brooke to support, Mr. and Mrs. Steele played a general engagement at the old Royal, and (afterwards they attached themselves to various stock companies. They spent a number of years in New Zealand in management with Mr. Keogh, husband of Marion Willis, a gentleman who once boasted of having studied under G. V. Brooke. He did study under Brooke, a long way ; he carried on a banner generally, and made the announcement, ‘The carriage waits’. Astonishing what a lot of mediocre people studied under Brooke when the great actor was unable to contradict their assertions. Brooke would give kindly advice, but never was a tutor. After many ups and downs, chiefly downs, Mr. J. B. Steele reached Sydney about the year 1891. Mrs. Steele had gone to England (poor Steele's Bohemiansm had become intolerable). I met him on many occasions at Poverty Point, when he told me that he was absolutely destitute. I urged him to retire to Liverpool under the fostering care of Dr. J. A. Beattie, who has a strong affection, for exponents of the drama. At length he consented. I saw Dr. Paton, who kindly gave me an order for his admission to Liverpool. He promised he would go next day, but his anxiety to see a friend detained him, and on the third day the late Sam Poole brought him to Critchett Walker, who endorsed the belated order to Parramatta, and to Parramatta Steele went. Let no one think that Steele was purely ‘pauper on the State.’ The Freemasons, in which fraternity he had held high office, took care of that. In Parramatta he had two rooms at his disposal, ranking as & sort of petty officer, with a small weekly wage. This he drew every three months, when he came to Sydney, and, as he once humorously said, could ‘act the gentleman for five, minutes.’  After an absence of some time from Sydney I knocked up against Steele one morning in King-street, near the Sportsman office. He had been inquiring for me. ‘You are the very man I was looking for. Come with me.’ The best hotel in Sydney alone would suit his generosity— no 3d. bar and counter lunch! To the Metropole, and in the quiet of the lounge we chatted over old times, of failures and successes, of good undone, of resolutions vain, etc., until it was time for him to return to his home.

Some months ago a friend of many years standing received a note from Steele that he was removing to Liverpool to undergo on operation for cancer of the tongue. On Friday, 11th November, that friend and myself journeyed to Liverpool, to the old institution, as I thought, the old smelfull Institution of the long ago but we were disagreeably disappointed. The cancer patients are housed in two new pavilions on the eastern side of the railway line,—some distance from the buildings of the Macquarie era. Fine, light, airy, roomy wards, cheerful to a degree, notwithstanding the melancholy of their Surroundings. Well-kept lawns and flower beds, a mass of color; relieved the eye is all directions, and one was almost led to paraphrase Thomas Davis, and say, ‘Oh, ‘twere good to the grave to go, if one were sure to be buried so.’ It made one almost wish to be permitted to die amidst such surroundings. I have bad some severe shocks in my time, but the shock I received on that Friday I suffer from yet. I expected to meet Steele as I had met him some months before, still upright, stalwart, but, alas 1 though the form was there, the Steele of my younger days was gone. The fine manly voice that had enthralled audiences and had charmed parties, was gonet only a guttural sounding of words difficult to catch remained. We chatted as best we could, he asking after old friends, amongst whom he specially mentioned Launcelot B— who, I think, rather ungenerously treats Steele's memory in a recent evening paper. We left him, promising to see him again ; but within a week he had gone to ‘that bourne from whence no traveller returns.’ On Saturday he was buried with Masonic honors in the new cemetery at Liverpool. May the daisies blossom on his grave, for a kinder spirit or more generous and disinterested man than John Blennerhassett Steele did not exist. He was 72 years of age.

About a year ago a well known freelance journalist, who has had a good deal to do with ‘sundry shows’ in his time, conveyed to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ the news that two old time, actors, John B. Steele and Sam Poole, ; had shuffled off this mortal coil, the one at Parramatta Asylum, and the other at the Sydney Hospital. The freelance only anticipated Father Time by a few months ; but both gentlemen repudiated their presumed demise and objected to premature burial. Sam Poole, I believe, visited the ‘Herald' office and threatened to perform a breakdown on the body of the staid and solemn business manager if ample apologies were not tendered for the gruesome announcement, Sam dealt more tenderly with the ‘Herald’ than did a certain up-country gentleman some years ago, about whom the paper published a column of eulogistic obituary, only to find that the old gentleman was ‘hale and hearty, thank you!’ The old gentleman's family had been inundated with telegrams of condolence, which it cost the worthy defunct £10 to reply to, and which £10 he claimed from the Herald and got.

Mr. Steele took his 'death' more philosophically. He came to Sydney, went to Brandt's studio, and had his photo taken as an evidence that he was still in the land of the living. A copy of that photograph was presented to me, and on Friday, before I left him, Mr. Steele wrote his name, with date, across it— the last signature he made. A recent writer, who knew Mr. Steele well, thus describes him : — He had a good figure, a good face, and a good voice endowments which, when united with even a fair amount of brains, have carried many a man farther than they carried the late Mr. Steele. With the natural talent and cultivated intelligence which he really possessed, and the personal qualifications just mentioned, Mr. Steele ought certainly to have won a higher place than ever he reached in relation with his art. He dropped somehow out of the regular running at a period of life, when, in the ordinary course, he should still have had plenty of 'go' an him. Before he quitted - the stage there were, through whatever cause, indications of failing power. His enunciation had become painfully slow and measured. That was apparent when, he played Marc Antony to the Cleopatra of the American actress. Miss Louise Pomeroy, in a revival of the tragedy at the Sydney Theatre Royal in the early eighties. What a host of actors and actresses who were then familiar to the Australian public have preceded J. B. Steele on the journey from which there is no return

Of Mr. Steele—L. B., of whom the former spoke so kindly at my interview with him, says: — ‘My first introduction to J. B. Steele was in 1870 at the old Theatre Royal, Melbourne (which was shortly afterwards destroyed by fire). We were playing ‘Richard III.,’ it being the opening night of Henry Talbot, the Scotch tragedian, who appeared in the name part. The cast on that occasion comprised names that adorned the playbills of the times— actresses and actors who had starred ond and were still stars, working together in ‘stock,’ There were Harwood, (Greville, Stewart, Ireland, Appleton, Sefton, Power, Steele, and Rogers. Coppin was away in England at the time; I cannot from memory be quite sure of the actresses. There are not many ladies in the city, but Adelaide Bowering (sic) (Mrs. J. B. Steele) was in the cast, also Mrs. Walter Hill (Queen Anne). You can count the survivors of the performance on the fingers of one hand, and have a finger or two to spare. I think Mrs. Walter Hill is the only one left of the ladies. J. B. Steele played Richmond, and my first sight of him made a great impression on me. When he made his entrance clad in a magnificent suit of armor. He was the in the prime of life. He was a fine-looking man, handsomely featured, well built, with a stately demeanor and carriage. He walked the stage with confidence and grace. No wonder that his stage presence begat admiration on the part of his audience, and created such a lasting impression that many defects were concealed thereby. Pity L.B. did not leave his obituary notice at that, without a further humiliating reference to the poorhouse. J. B. Steele played odd engagements through the country, till finally evil days came upon him and he found bis way (in plain English) to the workhouse — the Parramatta Asylum. He could not be induced to come out and face the world again like poor old Joe Raynor, he was content. He visited Sydney for a day or two at intervals, and then the instinct of the man came to the front. In his palmy days he was always faultlessly dressed, and to the last I have no doubt he was ‘natty.’ On his visits to Sydney he donned his best, and no one would have taken the neat, frock-coated, silk-hatted and gloved erect old gentleman, for an inmate of the asylum for the aged and indigent.

Like many another, L.B. is in error as to Mr. Steele's occupancy of his room in the workhouse. As everybody knows, J. B. Steele  was high up in Masonry, was a visitor to all the lodges in the neighborhood of Parramatta, and a welcome visitor at that : be was the life and soul of their convivial meetings, and the Masons, with a generosity for which -they are proverbial, looked after Mr. Steele's interests, and I question if his maintenance cost the State very much. His funeral cost the State nothing ; the Masonic body saw that John B. Steele did not receive a ‘work-house’ or pauper’s funeral. While he was an Inmate of the Cancer Hospital at Liverpool— not the asylum or ‘work-house’ — the Masons saw that he had the daily newspapers and any other literature he might require. And when I asked a very courteous attendant if Mr. Steele needed anything, the reply was; ‘He can have anything, he needs, in fact his friends anticipate his every want.’ At the office in the old building, wither we were escorted to leave our names and addresses so that we might he advised, ‘when the time came,’ the matron, a kindly lady, and the man in charge of the gate both bore witness that Mr. Steele was ‘a good patient’ — that is, that he gave, no trouble, took his fate with philosophical indifference, was duly-prepared for the end, and would he pleased when his name was called. And when his name was ‘called,’ John Blennerhassett Steele was found ready and not unwilling. Peace to his ashes”

— Annals of the Turf and other pastimes, Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW : 1900 - 1954), Wednesday 30 November 1904, page 3

Adelaide Bowering, origins undecided

I thought it would be all so simple; I would look up the birth details of Adelaide Bowering, and with the small gems that historians hold birth and death dates to be, set them neatly in their ready sterling silver prongs—commonly called parentheses— even if I had to add an annoying “circa”.  But this was not to be.

She was of course, an actress, known as Mrs. John Blennerhassett Steele (also an actor, but she was better known) and they had come to Australia with not only happy reputations, but the hard board-treading that puts serious miles on one’s repertoire. My first stop was the column inches devoted to the passing of J.B.Steele, who had died at the Liverpool Asylum in Sydney in 1904, fondly remembered by a few friend in the press with active pens. It mentioned a few snippets but nothing much, otehr than they had separated because of his “bohemian lifestyle”. Her death in 1899 was barely recorded here in Australia, and the small snippets scattered, left no clue as to her origins.

In “Players And Playwrights I Have Known” John Coleman relates a tale told to him by Frederick Balsir Chatterton about Chatterton’s first venture in theatrical management done on a shoestring, and it had been “Othello”. The character of Emilia was played by a Miss Blanchard, whom he noted — at the time of telling the tale — as then currently doing the rounds with Mrs. Langtry, under the name Adelaide Bowring. She was a Blanchard!? The Covent Garden Blanchards? The holy sixty-four of Garrick, Blanchards? The very loins of pantomime Blanchards?

I thought perhaps not, for her name appears nowhere in the papers of the day under Miss Blanchard, and I had thought that if one’s pedigree was so gilded, there’d be no apparent reason to replace it with Bowering (this is, by the way, the way the English press spelled it). The earliest record I found so far of Adelaide is as a Miss Bowering on October 10th, 1852, making her début at the Surrey Theatre Royal as Amanda Leigh (sharing the role with another actress, Clara Wynne) and Mrs. Playfair (fees and parts were in a savage economy) in “Seasons” based upon Thompson’s celebrated poem, and it was said of her that she was “of the Edinburgh Theatre”. There might even have been a mention of her earlier (if she had been inaccurate about her age), as I had found “Oxberry's Budget of Plays” of 1844 publishing an angry reply by an actor, when they had delivered a “verdict of annihilation” upon a young lady named Miss Bow(e)ring who had appeared in the Manchester Theatre Royal’s “London Assurance”, and who the actor-correspondent had thought “worthy and exemplary”. If this is Adelaide, then her later age was wildly extravagant.

In the ERA of May 1854 she was performing with a newcomer, E. B.Steele [sic] and by October of 1855 was performing at the Royal Queen’s Theatre in Hull, Yorkshire, with Steele. In that very year, on the 30th of April, an Adelaide Jane Rebecca Byerly married a John Benjamin Steele, in Holy Trinity, in Hull: there are no other John Steeles or Adelaide anybodies marrying in England at this date or with such a suite of names—surely that is not a coincidence.

In the 1861 census they are both rooming, along with four other non-“professional” lodgers, at Elizabeth Smith’s house in George Street, Stranton in Durham, and both give their birthplaces as Ireland (or at least that what the familysearch website has transcribed, and their occupation as “theatrical performer”.  John is not fully entered in familysearch database but is simply noted as “B” and I have not seen the original scan of the census record, so I wonder if the transcriber could not handle what may have been Blennerhassett or Benjamin written in too woolly a scrawl. So, John “Benjamin” Steele becomes a puzzle; I was given to understand that Blennerhassett was his actual birth name. Maybe I was wrong, but wait—J.B.Steele’s death in Sydney listed his name as Steele, not Blennerhassett, despite the claim that he was buried with his original name on the coffin nameplate. The father’s name is Samuel in the both the marriage record, and the NSW death index of Mr. Steele. Was he a man of Steele? Or was Blennerhasset just whimsical kryptonite to make us all nauseous? The whole thing smacked of that elaborate side-stepping that usually accompanies origins from the wrong side of the blanket. Steele, according to his obituary writers, was assumed to have made his début in Cork. Was he Irish of birth? Blennerhassett is a well documented family, and there is no record of the John Blennerhassett supposed to have been his father “off Marrion Square”, Dublin.

But back to Adelaide. It became more curious when I found a Jane Rebecca Byerlee christened in 1829 at Saint Dunstan’s in Stepney, daughter of Mr. William Byerlee and wife, Charlotte Dunckley (married, Saint Matthew’s in Bethnal Green, London 11 August 1822). Jane Rebecca Byerlee had several siblings, all born within a few years of each other, and although their actual birth places are not recorded, it looks as they never left London. William Byerlee was a rigger, and his widow and two daughters, Elizabeth and Jane were enumerated as hempstresses in the 1851 censuses. Was this the thing from which Adelaide Bowering was escaping or have I wandered up the wrong alley?

I note with curiosity that there was a English actor named William Byerly of a generation or two earlier that made his début in New York in 1769.

Then, I spotted a Rebecca Bryerly [sic], of a generation previous to Jane Rebecca, that had married a Mr. Henry Lewis Blanchard, Music Master, son of Thomas Blanchard. There are those Blanchards, again, and that name, Thomas, the name thrice borne by three Blanchards coming out of the misama of the 1700s and resolving into greasepaint and rouge in the 1800s.

In 1891, Adelaide was living at home, giving her birthplace as London, with sevant Harritte Selvage of Sussex, and a Lodger, Elizabeth B. Church. So between 1861 and 1891 she changed her mind about her birthplace. We do know with surety where she died: at Number 20 Illminster Gardens, Wandsworth, on the 26th of May, 1899 as Adelaide Steele, and is buried on the 30th of May at Morden, (now called the Battersea New Cemetery), Surrey. The cemetery website has no online record of her.

This is where the search ends, for the moment.


PS. I have lately found the death of a William Blanchard of 1848, a pantomimist of Edinburgh who died in Greenock, and who owned a dog show—what an end. Was this a relation? Stay tuned.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Lempriere Pringle

Normally I don't venture so far past the 1860-1880s, but here is an exception.

Henry Lempriere Pringle was a singer, like his father who was a man of some reputation. Young Harry was born down in Hobart and found some measure of fame before he died far too young in London where was had been making his mark. So many Australians sailed to England but most found that what is lauded as operatic talent at home, is merely entry level capability in London, the major English speaking world's Operatic centre.

I'll not go into his career there though as there is a fascinating little story about his father, Charles Lempriere Pringle, known on the stage as "Charles. H. Templeton" who, took flight to the limelight, abandoning the security of being a banking clerk in Hobart, for Opera. Charles himself was the son of James Jones Pringle and Mary Earle Lempriere (from a settler family who had their origins in Guernsey)

Unhappily, his wife and children were dragged into this change of career.

His wife, Margaret Birkmyre had married him in July of 1867. She was named in the newspapers as the daughter of Mrs. Gifford (Sarah Ann Hunt 1840-1887) although not, I think, her natural daughter; perhaps she may have been from a prior marriage, or even perhaps the daughter of a sibling or relation. I simply cannot find anything about her parentage although her death entry lists her parents as James and Elizabeth, which makes things more confusing. We know that the law notices refers to her as Miss Gifford, although she lists her surname on her marriage entry as Birkmyre. The reason she enjoyed such notice was her being the recipient of the funds via a will. Sarah Ann Hunt, prior to marrying Enos Gifford had been involved in it. I still have not sketched out the details but there it is; a classic Victorian will and testament case.

Margaret, now Mrs. Pringle, had to contend with stage life, and eventually filed suit for divorce. It seems Charles had been fooling around with Eleanor Agnes Lambert (died 1901, NSW). The divorce was in the papers and no doubt was uncomfortable for all. Charles married E.A.Lambert, a fellow singer in 1883. Margaret married a fellow clerk of Charles' down in Hobart, Charles James Barclay; he was now a manager.

Margaret took her three sons with her; Charles Lempriere Pringle II, Henry Lempriere Pringle, and E.Neville Pringle. Charles, her philandering ex-husband committed suicide by slashing his throat with a razor in 1889 in Fitzroy, Melbourne. By that time, "Nellie" as E.A.Lambert was known had one daughter by him, Ethel (a pianist of some popularity in the North going by the name Ethel Templeton). Nellie eventually married James Travers Falconer (1860-1938) and remained married until she died in 1901.

Nellie is well know in Opera history by those who dig regularly in that soil; she was the Hoxton born daughter of William Valentine Lambert and wife, Ann Bowery who migrated to the colonies in 1857. William was a compositor by trade and the print industry was hungry for such people. The Lamberts were watch makers, case makers, watch tool sellers and so forth. Nellie, who had been born in about 1859 was the middle sibling of five, and made her way onto the concert platform here in Melbourne first by amateur concerts, then by that slow drift into professional concerts in a colony that was starved for voices of any quality.

This was the storm above the head of young "Lempriere Pringle" the great Australian hope who died well before his time, in London, in 1914.

This photo of Lempriere is from Melbourne Punch's issue of April 18, 1901 page 26

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Nelly Daley (1846-1888) Actress, Soprano

Cormelina Virgilio Pelossi known on stage as ‘Nelly Daley’ was born in about 1846, in Palermo according to her marriage certificate and her last husband’s memorial notice placed in the newspapers. But, the British Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has an entry for a Virgilio Cormelina Pelossi born in Wandsworth, Surrey in 1846; it is an odd entry as the masculine first name is followed by a feminine second one, so I wonder how this mix up occurred.

Her father was the sculptor Virgilo Pelossi, a native of Ticino, on the Italian-speaking Swiss side of Lake Como, who came to England, placing an ad in the ‘Morning Post’ of London seeking clients to whom he could teach the art of sculpting. Cormelina’s mother was Martha Elizabeth Baker (a native of Ovington, Essex), and there is not an extant marriage entry for her and Virgilio, so I do wonder if they married on the continent, or indeed, if they married at all. 

There was a son born in 1848 named after the father, and who appears to have died young in 1851, the year of the census, which did not include the father Virgilio Senior; where was he?  The only record I can find of Virgilio Pelossi is of a sculptor who migrated to Lima, Peru, and there practiced painting and sculpting until his death, in ‘reduced circumstances’ in 1888. It appears that he hadn’t married Martha, and that he left after the birth of his son. Perhaps he intended to send for them, but whatever happened, he left them and the ties were cut. Martha had no breadwinner, and three children (she may have been pregant with a third). She had little choice but to take what oppurtunity she could, and whilst in Suffolk, for reasons I cannot find, she found just that.

In 1853, the ‘Calabar’ arrived in Australia, the passenger list noting the places from which the passengers were ‘sourced’ which meant that the ‘Calabar’ had been a labour ship, bringing out part of the workforce needed to build the colony of Adelaide, and all sought a new life. Martha was listed as the ‘Matron’ in charge of the single women, and with her was her young daughter, Cormelina Ellen Pelossi. Clearly Martha had changed the middle name to Ellen, shortened, of course in English, to ‘Nellie’ the orgin of her stage name.

Mrs. Pelossi then settled in Adelaide with her daughter and scraped by for three years, but on the 24th of March 1856, at the Wesleyan Chapel in Pirie Street, she married a Polish emigrant named Wilhelm August Przygoda. Przygoda (pronounced p’shee-go-da) had intended to be a miller, at least that what the family believed, and they lived at Flinders Street, Adelaide next to the Presbyterian Church. Cormelina and her baby sister, Ellen, were now about to have three step-siblings, as Martha gave birth over the next few years to three children.

Sometime in Cormelina’s late teens she met Frederick William Digby, a young man who arrived from England by the ‘Orient’ in 1857; he was educated, athletic and found work quickly as an assistant school master at the newly founded Collegiate School of Saint Peter, where he was involved in athletics,  and was on the rowing team for several years running. He was also noted as being among the ‘Honorables’ at the Queen’s Levée in May each year, as he was the cousin of Lord Digby of Dorsetshire. Frederick’s father was the Hon. John William Digby, but of particualr interest was his mother, Elizabeth Daly, daughter of Dominic Daly.

Frederick’s eventual own obituary in the New Zealand Papers mentions that when a young man, he travelled overland from Adelaide to Melbourne, settling at Wood’s Point as a ‘miner’, and that he had dabbled in the stage, and I do think that Cormelina Pelossi had accompanied him and that both took Fred’s mother’s surname as their theatrical name, ‘Daley’. In St. Kilda on the first of June 1865, Cormelina married Frederick; she had no bridesmaid sign the record, but rather two men, once a relative of the groom. She apparently had no friends or relatives in Melbourne, and was 19 years old. The marriage was by special licence.

In 1873, a daughter, Nina Kathleen Digby was born. Later records mention her surviving her mother but we have no record of what happened to her. In the following year, a John and Frances Daley were in the Frank and Rosa Towers Company that had arrived in Melbourne from Sydney. I think may have been Frederick and ‘Nellie’. The years follwing are blank until 1876.

In that year, after having lived in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband and daughter she left the house in March, and never returned. Nellie eventually joined the Charles Wheatleigh Company in Adelaide [?] making her first appearance as ‘Mina Daley’ on July the fourth at White’s Rooms for the July the Fourth Celebrations. The critics were pleased with her talents:—

“Miss Daley, who is a very pleasant singer, tendered two ballads — one sentimental and the other buffo— with good taste and expression. She is possessed of a soprano voice of fair quality, and will be a welcome addition to the company.”

‘Nelly’ then appeared with principals George D. Chaplin and Clara Stephenson in a proper role in ‘Rob Roy, playing the Scottish lass, Diana Vernon the teenage daughter of the Jacobite, Sir Frederick Vernon. She is billed as ‘for one night only’ so she may have been a last minute replacement, or contracted for one night from the Wheatleigh Company. Either way, this was her introduction to serious stagework, and she could sing and act well enough that the critics said:—

“Diana Vernon was impersonated by Miss Nelly Daley, who was advertised to appear for one night only. It is to be hoped that Miss Daley may be induoed to appear for many more nights. Though evidently suffering from nervousness, she succeeded in rendering very pleasantly the sweet old Scottish musio, which is delightful even to those to whom it conveys no old-time associations, and with which the play abounds.”

For the rest of 1876 she appeared in weekly performance of plays, pieces and burlesques like ‘Ixion’ and finally sailed to Melbourne where she appeared with Flora Armstead and Mr and Mrs. G.B.W.Lewis, big names in the Theatre world in Melbourne.

Then in 1877 she travelled to Sydney with the F.M.Bates Company, then headed off to New Zealand with the American, Charles Wheatleigh and his stock Company. By 1878 she was still in New Zealand, this time with Charles Dillon and Edith Pender in ‘The Queen’s Diamond’ where she had an affair with the baritone, Mack Alexander (né Mack Alexander Macdougall). The two of them then passed into the ‘Vaudeville Company’ under Borthwick Reid. By May of 1878 she had abandoned Mr. Alexander who she had supported and paid for (and reminded him of that fact in public). She then joined the Company of William Hoskins and John ProctorHydes. 1878 was a very busy year as she jumped from company to company.

The open affair with Mack Alexander was the impetus for her husband, Frederick—to whom she was still married — to initiate a divorce. She did not appear, and the divorce was granted after three very good witnesses testified to the intimate goings on that left no doubt that grounds for divorce were solid. Why did she leave him? We may never know. Perhaps she had too much of her father: artistic, mercurial, unable to settle, and with no qualms about leaving her spouse. Perhaps it may have been the mentla state of Digby himself, who died early in life shortly after his second marriage in 1879 to ‘Solange Novarro’ (Leonida Maude Vickery and a client of Robert Sparrow Smythe’s). Fred too, wandered, settled in New Zealand some years earlier with Cormelina, having left teaching, droving, mining and a string of other occupations, his penulrtinate being ‘journalist’ (aka ‘Sinbad’ and ‘Loafer in the Street’) and the ongoing post of Secretary of the Christchurch Jockey Club. He spent three years in an asylum before dying in 1886.

In 1879, Nelly left the stage and—at thirty years old— bought a Public Hotel, the ‘Lady of the Lake’ in Moray Street, South Melbourne, advertising her Hotel as having ‘Best Liquors Only’. She kept the Hotel until 1880 when she obtained the ‘Garrick Club Hotel’ in Little Flinders Street, but only held the license a short time. She left hostelry to be married; this time she married a Merchant that divided his time between, Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne.  Francis William Xavier Heanchain was the English educated son of Wee Chue, a Chinese Merchant based in Sydney (but who had once been in business in Ballarat) and his wife Ding Gee. 

In 1883 Heanchain sold his Singapore residence to settle permanently in Sydney with Nelly, whom he called ‘Nina’. There quickly followed a series of deaths for poor Nelly: in 1881, her step-father died in Adelaide; in 1882,  J.Proctor Hydes died; in 1885, Mack Alexander died in Liverpool; in 1887 her father Virgilio died, leaving so much debt that the Government in Peru sold what paintings he had to pay them, and in 1886, Frederick H. Digby died. 

Heanchain still travelled in and out of the Far East for business, and ‘Nina’ regualrly weng to Adelaide to visit her mother. In 1886 she travelled by train to Sydney to be with her husband once again where he had been running a trading store at 1, Change-alley, Sydney (trading as C. Y. Lee and Co.) but which ultimately went bankrupt, and at Newingotn in Parramatta, on July the 15th ‘Nelly Daley’ died, only thity-eight years of age. Poetically, her mother, died the following year on the 15th of September, at 84 Flinders Street, Adelaide. William Heanchain died in 1902 while running his grocery business at 253 Kent Street, Sydney.



And there, the Cormelina Virglilio saga ended.