Nephew Tony

In letters to his sister Ethel, Ireland often refers to Tony, her younger son and his nephew. This colourful and complex character was born Walter Anthony Velleman in Zuoz, Switzerland, in 1906, though changed his name more than once. In 1933 Tony married Mary Stella Henrietta, daughter of Canon William Alexander Carroll (at that time the Rector of Wicken) and Nora Jane Bruce Hamilton.

Rector 1921-1929 Canon William Alexander Carroll.

Canon William Alexander Carroll

Always known simply as ‘Terry’, at the lavish Buckinghamshire wedding Tony’s wife wore a fitted gown of parchment satin, with Brussels lace wired to form a Medici collar. The flowers chosen to emphasise the whiteness of the event were orchids, lilies of the valley and white heather (Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press, 22 April, 1933, p.5). Two years later, now in the Old Vicarage, Church Street, Buckingham, the couple issued a statement that they were officially changing their name by deedpoll to Velleman von Simunich.

Tony worked at Eton, for the BBC and as a freelance playwright, often having money troubles. While at Eton he went by the name Baron von Simunich, made broadcasts in Swiss German on the BBC and was eventually sacked for wearing a scarlet cloak at chambers (Blond, 2004, p. 74). Like so many of this extended family, he was a skilled wordsmith with a number of publications. At first these were language textbooks, perhaps following in his linguist father’s footsteps. After the Second World War he produced two plays, Byron in Piccadilly (1945) and A Sea of Troubles (1947).

Ireland was both fond of and frustrated by Tony. He mentions meeting him in 1925, inviting him to tea in Chelsea, writing to his sister that he hoped ‘to be more in touch with him’. Clearly Ireland maintained a relationship with this wayward nephew for a long period, as over twenty years he seems to know Tony’s affairs well. By 1946 Ireland is writing to Ethel that Tony, now living in Hampstead, is heading for bankruptcy, and that as Terry was from the ‘gentry class’ may have encouraged Tony to think he had to live in a certain manner (letter to Ethel, 21 June 1946). Ireland was fond of him, often expressing this in writing: ‘I like Tony personally, & get on very well with him, for, like most people who are entirely devoid of principle and common honesty, he can make himself extremely pleasant, & is highly cultured’ (letter to Ethel, 6 July 1946). The composer’s letters give insight into his nephew’s character and indeed his own: ‘It needs considerable tact to get on with Tony – but that is true of all members of the Ireland family, who take offence extremely easily, and are very difficult to get on with. We all have that reputation’ (letter to Ethel, 28 October 1947).

In 1947 a rift between Tony and the composer developed, and by 1948 Ireland was writing: ‘I had to be excessively careful in talking to him to avoid a violent hysterical outburst on his part. He cannot be treated as a normal human being. He inherits not only the Nicholson nervous instability, but also the fantastic ego-mania and self-esteem of his father’ (letter to Ethel, 13 March 1948).

Tony was now in a state of poor mental health and his wife had taken over all financial John Somerset Murray, by John Somerset Murray - NPG x68226
matters. The marriage eventually broke down and Terry remarried the renowned photographer John  Somerset Murray (1904–92), seen right, who had for many years run a studio in Chelsea in Sloane Street, also exhibiting at one of Ireland’s favourite haunts, Chelsea Arts Club. Happily Tony did find a new path of his own, moving to Belfast and continuing to write to Uncle Jack. The last we know of their relationship is that Tony wrote in 1956 hoping to meet up with Ireland in London.


Sources:; Northampton Mercury – Friday 09 December 1932, p.9; Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press, 1 September 1934 p.8; British Library sound recordings (; British Library letters from John Ireland to Ethel Ireland; Anthony Blond (2004).  Jew Made in England, London, Timewell Press.

Second Violin Sonata in Nottingham in 1952

In 1952 Frederick Grinke once again played Ireland’s Second Violin Sonata, this time in the YWCA Hall in Nottingham, with Kendall Taylor at the piano. The two other works in the programme were Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and Brahms’s Sonata in G major. A review of this concert, shown below, particularly liked Grinke’s unassuming manner and ‘delicate’ technique.


On this day: 2 August 1949 and 1952

On this day in 1949 John Ireland’s Overture ‘Satyricon’ opened that evening’s Prom, in a concert that also included works by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Rimsky-Korsakov. On this occasion Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

On this day in 1952 Ireland’s Piano Concerto was featured, with Colin Horsley (seen below) as soloist and Basil Cameron conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

More on Bobby Glassby

Further to the earlier post on Robert (Bobby) Glassby, it is evident that Ireland remained in contact with his chorister  long after he had left St Luke’s and grown up. On 22 October 1924 Ireland was the organist at the wedding of Glassby’s sister Una to a Kentish man, Frank Frost. The wedding took place at All Saints, Fulham (seen below), Fulham now being the Glassby family home. The bride’s father being deceased, her brother Bobby, now aged 24, gave her away. The wedding was brought forward to accommodate Glassby’s work in the West Yorkshire Regiment, as he was due to ‘return’ to India.

Source: Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 25 October 1924, p.3.

To Victor Beigel

Victor BeigelSome years ago now I was given a copy of Ireland’s ‘Earth’s Call’, inscribed ‘to Victor Beigel from John Ireland: December 1918’.

Victor Rudolph Beigel (1870-1930), seen right in the photograph, was a near contemporary of the composer, a pianist and sought-after singing teacher. Ib Melchior, describing the circumstances under whch his famous father Lauritz Melchior came to study with Beigel described him thus:

Beigel was a heavy-set Viennese with a big, gray handlebar moustache and a shaven head. Because of his vast knowledge of music and his language abilities he had been accepted in the most distinguished society. His opinions were quoted with awe and he was without doubt the most fashionable singing teacher in London (Melchior, p.85).

While Beigel was revered as an outstanding teacher, he was also a natural entertainer, often singing Viennese popular songs in social gatherings, on one memorable occasion alongside Noel Coward. He was friendly with the painter John Singer Sargent, with Grainger and with Sybil Colefax. Beigel was also known for his war work, creating his own charity, performing and putting on concerts to raise money for his Wounded Soldiers’ Concert Fund.

Ireland gave Beigel a copy of ‘Earth’s Call’ shortly after it was first published in 1918. It seems likely that he knew him personally through connections with other singers, and through London musical life more generally. There are a number of plausible connections. Beigel taught John Goss, a friend of Ireland, and one of the Harrison sisters, Monica. He also played an important part in the life of the tenor Gervase Elwes. Elwes studied intensively with Beigel in 1903, his teacher even going so far as to live in Elwes’s country house, Billing Hall in Northamptonshire, mixing daily lessons with croquet and fishing. A letter written by Elwes at this time waxes lyrical about the benefits of this period in his life:

Beigel is really the most delightful person in the world-he is such a charming person and he joins in everything so vigorously and with so much spirit and go. After the singing lessons we go and fish in the ponds. I had two splendid lessons today and really my high notes are improving wonderfully. The lessons are simply glorious (Elwes, p. 131).

Beigel’s charitable work went in a new direction after Elwes’s tragic death in 1921, whereupon he set up the Gervase Elwes Memorial Fund. It was originally intended to assist young musicians, in 1926 renamed to become what we now know as the Musicians Benevolent Fund.


Collins, L.J. (1998). Theatre at War, 1914-18, London, Palgrave MacMillan.

Elwes, Winefride and Richard (1935). Gervase Elwes: The Story of his Life, London, Grayson & Grayson.

Melchior, Ib (2003). Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth, Fort Worth, Baskerville.

The London Gazette, 11 March 1930, p. 1609.


Sussex in words: Across the Weald

This is another in the ‘Sussex in words’ blog series, taking evocative passages to show some of the ways in which the county is captured in words, their meanings often close in sensibility to Ireland’s way of thinking about the downland landscape he loved so well.

Puppeteer Walter Wilkinson’s A Sussex Peep-Show, introduced in a blog post earlier this year, is full of little gems such as this:

A sheltered bay among the bushes invited comfortable camping, and we set the tent, laying our beds over the thick grass and the fragrant thyme. From the tent door, across the edge of the Down, we looked out to the Weald, over all the trees and woods of Sussex, the great plain receding into the misty line of the North Downs. Nothing disturbed the immense serenity; we were in the heavens, looking down on a toy, miniature world that was all beauty, and light, and colour, a world of loveliness in which all men might live had they but the good taste to embrace it.