Dr Anton (Antoine) Velleman was the husband of Ireland’s sister Ethel and father of their two sons, Anthony and Silvio. Born in Vienna on 15 May 1875, he studied in Vienna, Bonn and Zurich. In 1904 he was Director of the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz in Switzerland, where his youngest son was born. Ethel worked alongside him as a school mistress. At the time of the 1911 census the Velleman family were back in England, staying in Brighton with the Blyths – family contacts related to Ethel’s father’s first wife Eliza Blyth. However, this domestic situation was not to continue for much longer, and Velleman divorced Ethel, then going on to have an international career. He spoke 12 languages, 8 of them fluently, and is best known for his pioneering development of consecutive interpretation.
From 1919 Velleman worked as an interpreter at international conferences including the League of Nations, the International Court of Justice, the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, the International Institute of Agriculture in Rome, the International Institute for Statistics in The Hague, the International Alliance for Cooperation, the International Union for telecommunications and the Bank for International Settlements. He became Associate Professor of Romansh language and literature at the University of Geneva in 1931 and in 1941 founded the important Interpreters School of Geneva.
After the Second World War Velleman spent some time in the USA, arriving in New York in 1947 on the Queen Elizabeth. He was interpreter at the United Nations in Lake Success (Long Iceland , until 1951 the United Nations headquarters) and Flushing Meadow. Velleman returned to Switzerland in the 1950s, dying in Geneva in the same year as Ireland, on 16 February 1962.
It is difficult to make a fair assessment of Velleman’s subsequent relationship with his wife and children after the divorce. In her many letters to her brother, particularly in 1939, Ethel claims to be penniless, living in cheap lodgings in Vence, near Nice, while her elder son Tony is based in Zuoz. Ireland responds to what he considers her ex-husband’s ‘selfish & callous disregard’ of Ethel’s needs by periodically sending her cheques, and other family members such as Uncle Henry are also brought in to help. Ireland does, however, express exasperation with Ethel on several occasions, berating her for her attitude to money. Evidently there is more work to be done on Velleman’s associations with the Ireland family.
Sources: 1911 census; Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960