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DAME NELLIE MELBA'S FIRST CONCERT, SORRENTO, VIC., AUST. (Helen Mitchell?)

Journal by itellya

Grace E. Caldwell's 1921 letter about Dame Nellie Melba's concert, which she organised when she was a girl soon after the Continental opened and Hughes was mine host, to raised funds to fence the Sorrento cemetery, might have been held in January 1885 when Helen Mitchell was a married woman, Mrs Armstrong, aged about 24.Either Grace was wrong to describe her as a girl at the time or there were two concerts, one in about 1876 and another in 1885. See my comment of 2014-12-27 19:39:52.

MORE ABOUT MELBA was the title of another fascinating article in the Balnarring and District Historical Society newsletter of August 2011. It is about a concert that Melba gave at the Flinders Naval Depot. It was broadcast by 3LO but a crying baby and interference caused by the telegraph to Tasmania affected the quality.The stamp to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Melba's birth was designed by the great-great -granddaughter of Septimus Planck, Balnarring's first school master. Other details of the concert had obviously been given in a previous issue.

PLANCK LAND AND THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE.
S.Planck,possibly the Balnarring teacher, Septimus, was granted crown allotment 104A of the parish of Bitten on 25-3-1876. The acreage is not recorded on the parish map but it had to be 95 acres 1 rood and 20 perches.It had a frontage of 706 metres to the south side of Myers Rd and today would be occupied by the Bluestone Lane Vineyard and,at the middle of the frontage, No 265 Myers Rd, (roughly Melway 163 B8.)

FLINDERS. Last Saturday morning, a very severe accident befell Eric, the 14 year old son of Mr Chas. Planck of the Telegraph Company.(P.2, Mornington Standard, 15-7-1905.)

A pleasant social gathering took place at Balnarring, on Tuesday evening last, the occasion being a complimentary farewell dinner to Mr S M Planck, head teacher of the Shoreham State School, he having been a teacher in the district for upwards of 11 y ears, and is, it is understood, about to be transferred to a school in a more populous locality, at Avenel. The chair was occupied by Mr Robert Wighton.
(P.9, Argus, 26-6-1883.)

RECOLLECTIONS. " To the Editor of "The Standard." Sir,-The football match, Frankston v Balnarring was a very pleasant game from the start to the finish. I am glad to see such good feeling between these teams, as it reminds me of old times, about 30 years ago, when we used to meet the Frankston cricketers, with either Ben Baxter or Johnny Box as captain of the F.C.C., and S. M. Planck skipper of the Balnarring team. We always had very pleasant meetings for years. Those were the good old days; and I hope the good feeling of last Satur-. day will always remain between those two football teams. I was glad to see our old friend,Mr B.Baxter, sen;, present but we miss a few of the old faces. I will say nothing about the young barrackers this time.
Yours etc.,. - - ROVER. Balnarring, 20 /7 /1910.(P.3,Mornington and Dromana Standard, 23-7-1910.)

Septimus may have left the district but the family remained for some time, with C.Planck acting as treasurer for the Flinders Mechanics' Institute and library.

Valedictory. MESDAMES PLANCK AND SAVAGE, FLINDERS.
Mornington and Dromana Standard (Vic. : 1908 - 1911) Saturday 12 June 1909 Edition: MORNING p 2 Article
... Valedictory. MESDAMES PLANCK AND SAVAGE, FLINDERS. Owing to the closing down of the Eastern Extension Cable Co's local branch at Flinders, Messrs Planck and Savage (who were on the cable staff) together with their wives and families, are leaving Flinders for the metropolis, where they intend mak ... 318 words




THE ABOVE ARTICLE REMINDED ME OF AN ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY WHICH MADE BEING SIDETRACKED VERY WORTHWHILE!

SORRENTO AND MELBA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS.
Sir-Son onto in Mr MueDonnld s line phrase is the adie, of the State Die iirst mai nugi heiviee wai, s ilenimsetl hele and on Oitiber ii the 1 ill and Countess of stiidbiolL mtenil 1 nig piescnt at the hcrviee that mail (his hist inc event

Another thing, Dame Nellie Melba Queen of Song, gave her first concert in this the queen of watering places. The Continental Hotel had just been erected* (Hughes being mine host ) and Melba was here with her father. Walking one day they came across the grave of a member of the crew of a recent wreck and being told it was a cemetery which they were going through, the girl exclaimed, "And without a fence!" It was explained that it was probably owing to lack of funds that the cemetery was not closed in. She decided to give a concert, and wrote the placards herself being wise enough not to mention her own name for "singing in public makes a young girl bold" was the father's opinion who was then in ignorance of his daughter possessing "a singing voice." The concert was held, and a sum made that erected the fence that is still there, whilst today if Dame Melba repeated the performance, two people would have to occupy one chair, so great would be the enthusiasm to rehear her-
Yours, &c, GRACE E. CALDWELL.
Sorrento, Sept. 26.
(P.10,Argus, 28-9-1921.) My apologies for not correcting the text in the first paragraph but you can see how much fun I had doing the relevant bit!

*The Continental Hotel was built in 1875 by Ocean Amphitheatre Co Ltd of which George Coppin was the Managing Director.( Continental Hotel - About www.continentalhotel.com.au/â).


Melba, Dame Nellie (18611931)
by Jim Davidson
Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), prima donna, was born Helen Porter Mitchell on 19 May 1861 at Richmond, Melbourne, eldest surviving of ten children of David Mitchell, building contractor, and his wife Isabella Ann, ne Dow. (Australian Dictionary of Biography.)


Mitchell, David (18291916)

by Joan Campbell

David Mitchell (1829-1916), builder, contractor and businessman, was born on 16 February 1829 in Forfarshire, Scotland, son of William Mitchell, tenant farmer, and his wife Anne. In 1846 he was apprenticed to a master mason and on completing his indenture sailed from Liverpool on 6 April 1852 in the Anna, arriving at Melbourne on 24 July.

Mitchell worked as a mason and saved money to build a shanty on a lot in Burnley Street, Richmond. Next year he visited Bendigo and near-by goldfields but returned to set up as a building contractor at his Richmond site, which became the centre of his business operations. In 1856 he married Isabella (b.1833), daughter of James Dow, an engineer at Langlands Iron Foundry, and built a new home, Doonside, to replace his shanty.

The next forty-five years saw his active and successful participation in a variety of business ventures. Work had been started in 1850 on rebuilding St Patrick's Cathedral, Eastern Hill, and in April 1856 Mitchell won the tender for the masonry work for 7760. By mid-1858 he had completed this work on the first stage of the building but it was then decided to demolish the existing structure and to start again with W. W. Wardell as architect.

By 1859 Mitchell had a factory for steam-made and pressed bricks at Burnley Street. In 1874 he became a shareholder in the Melbourne Builders' Lime and Cement Co., formed to break the monopoly of the Geelong limeburners. By 1878 he had bought Cave Hill farm at Lilydale and began working its limestone deposits, later also handling the distribution. In 1888 his extensive workshops at Richmond were destroyed by fire. He rebuilt the works and added two new ventures, the production of 'Adamant' plaster and in 1890, with R. D. Langley as a partner, a Portland cement factory at Burnley using materials from Lilydale.

In 1890 Mitchell formed a company to mine a channel and tunnel on the Yarra River at Pound Bend, Warrandyte, and employed gangs of Chinese to work three miles (4.8 km) of riverbed for gold. By 1894 he had cheese, butter, bacon, ham and soap factories at Cave Hill, housing them in a complex of well-designed brick buildings. In 1888 his dairy had operated the colony's first mechanical milking device. By 1900 he owned vineyards and wineries at Yeringberg, Coldstream and St Hubert's. He acquired several large stations in various districts, including the Bethanga estate on the upper Murray, Jancourt in the Western District, Gooramadda, Dueran, Barjarg and Colbinabbin, most of which were subdivided and sold.

Among his many large structures Mitchell built the Menzies Hotel in William Street (1857), the Paterson, Laing & Bruce warehouse, Flinders Lane (1871), Scots Church, Collins Street (1873-74), the Presbyterian Ladies' College, East Melbourne (1874), Prell's Buildings (1887), the Masonic Hall, Collins Street (1888), the Equitable Insurance Building (1893), the National Bank and the New Zealand Loan Co.'s wool and grain warehouses at Kensington. His grandest venture was the Exhibition Building, which employed 400 men and was opened in 1880. He retired from building in 1899 and concentrated on his other business interests.

Mitchell had given support to the eight-hour movement in 1856 but was not very active in public affairs. He was a member of the Council of the (Royal) Agricultural Society and of the Builders' and Contractors' Association. As a Presbyterian he was a long-time member of Scots Church choir. His musical interests included playing the violin at home and encouraging the talents of his daughter Helen, later Dame Nellie Melba, but even when she became world famous his natural reticence prevented him from openly praising her singing. Predeceased by his wife in 1881, he died on 25 March 1916. Of his ten children, he was survived by Frank, Charles and Ernest, Dame Nellie who travelled extensively after 1886, and three married daughters living in Melbourne.

A portrait is held by the David Mitchell Estate Ltd., and another by Hugh Ramsay is in the Castlemaine Art Gallery. (Australian Dictionary of Biography.)

P.226, MEMOIRS OF A STOCKMEN, Harry Peck (available online on trove, digitised newspapers and more.)
David Mitchells name so far has only cropped up incidentally
as the holder at different times of Yering, St. Huberts, Dairy, Killara
and Pendleside, but in reality David Mitchell for fully half a century
was the colossus of the Upper Yarra, standing head and shoulders
over all of the district in his multifarious transactions. He was also
widely known as the father of the world-famous Dame Nellie Melba,
herself born at Lilydale. F o r many years David Mitchell was a
member of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society and, as a
member of the works committee, was a host in himself, for be it
remembered that as the contractor he built both the Melbourne
Exhibition Building and the Equitable (now the Colonial Mutual
Assurance building) at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins streets.
Like his famous daughter he had a voice of silver, and sang for years
in the choir of Scots Church in Collins street. His speaking voice
was equally mellow and soft and his whole personality pleasant.
W earing the full beard of his day, slightly titian and early tinged
with silver, of medium height and weight, David Mitchell was ever
a man of easy approach, even for the most humble. He held a number
of stations, owning Jancourt near Camperdown, Dueran near
Mansfield, Bethanga Park and Gooramadda in the north-east, and
Colbinabbin near Rochester.

No doubt the great Cave Hill lime quarry on the boundary of
Lilydale township and still going strong after 80 years working, was
the foundation of his fortune and it is still worked by his trustees.
In connection with the lime quarry and works there are about 1000
acres of well-grassed lands and 50 to 60 years ago Mr. Mitchell sent
drafts of fat sheep and lambs fattened thereon regularly to
Newmarket by hoof, before the Lilydale railway was built. As is
generally known Dame Nellie Melba bought a property of about 1000
acres just beyond Coldstream some 10 years before her death, and
built thereon a fine home (Coombe Cottage), where her son Mr.
George Armstrong now resides. He has improved the property
considerably by top-dressing and has been a regular supplier of fat
bullocks to Newmarket.

Surnames: CALDWELL MITCHELL PLANCK
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by itellya Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2013-04-23 08:32:31

Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.

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by ngairedith on 2013-04-23 09:11:44

first paragraph:
SORRENTO AND MELBA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS.
Sir - Sorrento, in Mr MacDonald's fine phrase is "the cradle of the State." The first marriage service was solemnised here, and on October 23 the Earl and Countess of Stradbroke intend being present at the service that marks this historic event.

by itellya on 2014-12-27 19:39:52

Newspaper articles that prove the following paragraph from page 150 of the study have been found. A Dame Nellie Melba google search reveals that her son, George ARMSTRONG,inherited her property near the Melba Highway. I had assumed that the concert described by Grace E.Caldwell in 1921 had taken place in 1875 soon after the Continental Hotel opened (in October, according to Coppin's advertisement.) However "mine host" in December 1875 was not Hughes, as stated by Grace, but M.A.Cleary, who became insolvent because patronage had been affected by scarlet fever, stormy weather and THE HOTEL NOT BEING COMPLETED! As Cleary received his certificate of Discharge of Insolvency in October 1876, he must not have been the proprietor of the hotel for long and it is possible that William Hughes (who re-opened the hotel in 1879) became the proprietor soon after the 1875/6 peak season finished. My speculation that "mine host" might have been Sir Daniel Abraham Hughes would now seem to be wrong, although he might have sold the Continental site to Coppin's company, but the reference will not be deleted. If William Hughes was not "mine host" in about 1876,when Helen Mitchell would have been about 15, and Grace E.Calder was instead describing the 1885 concert (which was to raise funds for the cemetery), why would she have described Melba (by then a 24 year old married woman as a GIRL?

P.150. SORRENTO MECHANICSâ INSTITUTE. The hall was the venue of a concert by Madam
Melba, then called Mrs Armstrong on January 24th 1885, when Melba sang two solos and a
duet. This was reputedly her first concert since she first sang publicly, as a child, in her home
town Richmond.614 In the next year, she travelled Europe to begin a serious musical career.(614)
(614. 614 Sorrento and Portsea Yesterday, 58-9. N.B. THIS IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE BIBLIOGRAPHY.)


Is it possible that Dame Nellie gave two concerts in Sorrento? Grace Caldwell linked the first concert with the Continental Hotel (built 1875) which had just been constructed. Helen Mitchell would then have been about 14 years old. Could the author(s) of "Sorrento and Portsea Yesterday" have been a decade off the correct year or were there two concerts, or was Grace Caldwell wrong about Nellie being a girl when she organised the concert and when the Sorrento Cemetery was fenced as a result?


Extract from my journal, written as itellya, DAME NELLIE MELBA'S FIRST CONCERT, SORRENTO ...
Another thing, Dame Nellie Melba Queen of Song, gave her first concert in this the queen of watering places. The Continental Hotel had just been erected* (Hughes being mine host ) and Melba was here with her father. Walking one day they came across the grave of a member of the crew of a recent wreck and being told it was a cemetery which they were going through, the girl exclaimed, "And without a fence!" It was explained that it was probably owing to lack of funds that the cemetery was not closed in. She decided to give a concert, and wrote the placards herself being wise enough not to mention her own name for "singing in public makes a young girl bold" was the father's opinion who was then in ignorance of his daughter possessing "a singing voice." The concert was held, and a sum made that erected the fence that is still there, whilst today if Dame Melba repeated the performance, two people would have to occupy one chair, so great would be the enthusiasm to rehear her-
Yours, &c, GRACE E. CALDWELL.
Sorrento, Sept. 26.
(P.10, bottom of column 6,Argus, 28-9-1921.)

*The Continental Hotel was built in 1875 by Ocean Amphitheatre Co Ltd of which George Coppin was the Managing Director.( Continental Hotel - About www.continentalhotel.com.au/â).


trove search re armstrong, concert (JAN,FEB 1885)/CONCERT, CEMETERY FENCE 1875/ HUGHES, CONTINENTAL 1875
THE COMPANY'S CONTINENTAL HOTEL,
Sorrento.
The above hotel is now being tastefully and comfortably furnished, and will be opened to the public at once.etc. (P.8, Argus, 23-12-1875). N.B. M.A.Cleary was the proprietor, not Hughes.


It is possible that "mine host" was not the lime-burning pioneer after whom Hughes Rd was named but an insolvent in 1875, Sir Daniel Abraham Hughes who had sold land to Coppin's Ocean Amphitheatre Company. Perhaps,he had owned the Continental Hotel site and Grace assumed that he ran the hotel. See:MELBOURNE, column 5, P.3,Geelong Advertiser, 13-7-1875. It would seem from the first advertisement that Cleary had not been the first lessee; perhaps it had been Sir Daniel. Coppin advertised,P.8, Argus, 2-9-1875:" SORRENTO Continental HOTEL to LET, now building. Possession in October. Full particulars of G. Coppin." Cleary wrote in December:" Tho proprietor begs to intimate that the hotel is in no way connected with anyone but himself." Michael Austin Cleary became insolvent because the Continental was unfinished when it started operating and scarlet fever (probably the Webster children)and stormy weather had reduced patronage.(P.7, Argus, 9-10-1876,LAW REPORT.)

It seems that Grace's facts were slightly incorrect. William Hughes was the proprietor of the Continental when it re-opened in 1879.
CONTINENTAL HOTEL, SORRENTO CONTINENTAL HOTEL, SORRENTO
RE-OPENING Of the CONTINENTAL HOTEL, SORRENTO
New Furniture and Stock Great Reduction in Prices to meet the times Terms-Board and Residence, 30s per week ; all meals, 1s. 6d Passengers and luggage taken from the steamer to the hotel free of charge
WILLIAM HUGHES, Proprietor (P.3, Argus,27-12-1879.)


The reference to a concert in the Mechanics'Institute in January 1885 is correct and it was in aid of improvements to the Sorrento and Rye cemeteries.
On Saturday evening an amateur concert will be given in the Sorrento Mechanics'Institute, in aid of the improvement fund of the Sorrento and Rye cemeteries. (P.5, Argus,22-1-1885, bottom of second last column.)

A concert which was attended with great success took place at Sorrento on Saturday in aid of the funds of the local cemetery. The hall, which was crowded, was very tastefully decorated. The performers, who were well known amateurs, viz., Mrs Armstrong, the Misses Service, Barry, Dawson, Donaldson, Anderson and Messrs Cadden, Hood and Hesselmann all rendered their solos remarkably well. The funds of the local cemetery will be increased by more than £20. (P.5,halfway down in column 3, Argus, 27-1-1885.)

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