Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heidelberg's favourite music teacher

Mr Renn Wortley, a long-time member of the Heidelberg Historical Society, will be the guest speaker at next month's Heidelberg Historical Society Meeting. His talk is on:

MADAME MARY CONLY: A Brilliant Australian Soprano in Edwardian England

Fitzroy-born soprano Mary Conly arrived virtually unknown in London in 1902, aged 27.  Within a year she was well on the way to widespread recognition as a first rate professional concert and oratorio singer.  She was a “dramatic soprano”, her voice noted for its beauty and sweetness of tone, coupled with immense power.

For a decade she appeared regularly in London and across regional Britain as a soloist with the leading choral and orchestral societies of the day, in company with the best principal vocalists in the land.

In 1913 Mary finally returned to Australia and her house Koonung, Ivanhoe Parade, Ivanhoe.  She continued to accept engagements as solo soprano in oratorio with the principal Melbourne choral societies, including from its inception in 1920 the Heidelberg District Musical Society (later renamed Heidelberg City Choir).  Madame Conly also taught singing to private students at her home studio in Ivanhoe.

She suffered a stroke at her Ivanhoe home in August 1930 and died there a couple of days later, aged 56.   She was survived by her husband John Jarrett (died 1934), whom she married in Melbourne in 1900.  They had no children. Mary Conly’s admirers placed a monument over her grave in the Warringal Cemetery, Heidelberg in memory of “a brilliant artist and soprano of international fame”.

Renn was born in Ivanhoe in 1947, and attended Ivanhoe Grammar School.  His family were well-known in Heidelberg district business and musical circles for more than 60 years after World War 1.  He grew up hearing lively and affectionate stories of Mary Conly.  She was the singing teacher of many of his extended family.

Renn Wortley is a retired solicitor who served Monash University as its senior in-house legal counsel for 24 years until 2007.  He is an active baritone singer in music theatre and community choirs, and an enthusiastic amateur historian.  His successful pursuit of research clues was gratefully acknowledged by Ann Blainey in I am Melba (2008), her award winning biography of the legendary Australian opera diva.

When: Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at the Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe at 8pm.  Ph: 9455 2130.  Free.

All welcome.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lochaber Farm

Lochaber cottage was home to two generations of the Smith Family, located at the present address of 45 harvest Home Road, Epping.  Two of the twelve Smith children are pictured here with their father in front of their bluestone farmhouse in c.1918.  “Mr Robert Smith (pictured at right) spent his lifetime in this and surrounding districts, and has always been an inspiration to his friends by his diligence, good heartedness and ever ready to help characteristics” (Advertiser, 1933).  Owning and living at the farm from 1884 Robert Smith named it after his birthplace near Inverness in Scotland.  Son Roy Smith who served as a Councillor and later President of the then Shire of Whittlesea, took over the farm until its sale in 1944. An early example of rock-faced stone construction, the cottage is thought to date from c.1865 when the farm was owned by John Mason.  Its modest scale, bluestone construction, and simple plan form and detailing are typical of mid-nineteenth century farmhouses in the rural Victoria. The Smith family, are referred to in “Nature’s Plenty: a history of the City of Whittlesea”  by Jones and makes mention of the WW1 service of a Robert Smith and then his subsequent service on the local council.  If you have any photos or further information on Lochaber Cottage and the Smith Family or of the Epping area the library would like to arrange a copy for our collection.  Please contact us

Monday, June 02, 2014

Victorian Community History Awards

The 2014 Victorian Community History Awards organised by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria are now open.  Entry is open to all Australian residents but works must substantially relate to the history of Victoria. Works may take on several formats, including printed, multimedia, walks etc but must be of a historical nature.  Family histories are generally not included unless they contain substantial content relevant to the development of a Victorian district. Works must be published between 1st July 2013 and 30th June 2014.
Entries from community groups and individuals are encouraged. 
Entries close on 1st August 2014
Information including categories of  the Awards are available from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Call for Toorourrong Stories

A working group has been formed as part of the Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial Group to source photos, information and stories concerning the Toorourrong Reservoir from its inception in the 1860’s to the present day, including the devastating 2009 bushfires. 
The rotunda at Toorourrong that was situated near the carpark, surprisingly was one of the few structures that survived the bushfire and is to be refurbished and will contain the story of the reservoir, the park, the people who maintained it, the community who enjoyed it and the volunteers and emergency services who assisted on Black Saturday.
An afternoon will be held at Whittlesea Masonic Lodge, Beech Street, Whittlesea on Sunday, 29th June, 2014 from 2pm to 4pm for anyone who may have photos and stories to share. 
Further information please contact Jan Hyndman on 9464 0001 or Fay Zanatta on 9716 2236.
We would also appreciate any donations or recollections for the local history collection at Mill Park Library. Please contact the Local History Librarian