Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amelia Bailey -Part One

“...but there is no record of her musical career, if indeed it ever bloomed.”

So penned, in regard of Miss Bailey, Peter Game, author of “The Music Sellers” who had never tracked her career, which was in point of fact twenty years long and if measured by distance travelled and continents covered would have her eclipse the most famous of vocal names.

Amelia Elizabeth Bailey was born in Soho, London, the daughter of George Bailey (c.1805-1885), saddler and his wife Amelia Howell (1807-1889), both of whom were living in London at the time of the 1841 Census, in London. George was the son of Robert and Louis Bailey and Amelia Howell, the daughter of William Howell (a tailor by profession) and Louisa. George and Amelia had married on the 17th of May 1838 at St. Anne’s in Soho. The first child was born in London, a girl named Sarah Amelia Louisa Bailey, of whom we have no record save her passing with her brother George Howell Bailey (born and died in St. Olave’s London) who died during the July-September quarter of 1842. Amelia was next and arrived and survived on the 5th of November 1843. There followed sometime later a brother named George Robert Bailey, born 14th February 1845.

Amelia’s soul had hardly four years purchase on English soil when she was carried away on a ship on the emigration route to the colony of New South Wales, Australia in 1846. When she arrived, it was 5 years before the discovery of gold in Victoria and 7 years before the 1849 bonanza of California, so gold was not on George’s mind when he left London. A better life perhaps, far from the scythe wielding smog and the industrially corrupted air of a Dickensian London which had claimed two of their children already, might have been the motivating force. It was a well made gamble. George moved to Melbourne in 1851 when the gold fever struck and found work in the colony of Victoria as a saddler where two more children were born, Mary [Louisa?] Jane, and Sarah Jane Ellen, born 1853 in Melbourne were born in Victoria but died in infancy. Mrs. Bailey had lost three children and had just two left.

The colony of Melbourne was a bubbling copperpot of desperation and excitement containing such disparate groups who needed to stand together or disintegrate along their own lines. Melbourne had neither the population nor funds to build separate schools for every denomination of different shade and tint. Many schools, though rendered in a particular hue of religious belief accepted students of theological kin.

The gold rush of 1851 brought fortune hunters, as gold rush’s tend to do but it also attracted the enterpreneurs both small and large who were the suppliers, outfitters, purveyors and nabobs of all sorts of goods from beer, to ladies hats, from picks, to shoes, and what wasn’t imported, was manufactured on the spot from what was available. In happy addition, it brought men of talent and skill who, having turned their hand to teasing gold from a claim, soon realized that a better and more constant living could be made in being a school teacher, shop owner, clerk or subsequent variation on whatever trade or inclination they left behind in England, Scotland, Ireland or Europe.

George Leavis Allan (1826-1934) was one such adventurer who turned from the gold-pan to music education and eventually to sheet music and a Melbourne emporium icon. It is of note that his mother was an Ann Bailey, who’s family had lived in St Olaves, where lived also George Robert Bailey and wife Amelia. I wonder if Amelia was a cousin of some sort?

In 1853 George Leavis Allan started public teaching of Ladies and Gentlemen and later that same year started to teach as part of the school system and ended by being appointed the singing teacher for various schools and had in the course of his charge of teaching the children of Melbourne how to sing, discovered Amelia’s voice and recommened her for further training with a seasoned and professional musician, the Germanic gentleman, Herr Carl Gotfried Elsasser, who was scholarly, disciplined but an odd creature for his day in the handling of teaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment