John Nicholson Ireland had a cousin going by the same name, born just two years earlier in 1877. This other John Nicholson was the son of Ireland’s aunt Lucy, who was married to Thomas Varty of Stag Stones, Penrith. John Nicholson Varty grew up in Cumberland and, like others in his immediate family, emigrated to Canada following the death of his father in 1898. Sadly, like his brother Henry Alleyne, this John Nicholson died young, aged only 31, in 1908. He is buried in Fort Saskatchewan Cemetery, north of Edmonton, Alberta.
One of Ireland’s close friends, as well as being his solicitor, was Mr Brown, known to the composer from his time living in Deal. Herbert Sydney Brown worked for the firm Emmerson Brown & Brown, then just Brown & Brown, based at number 127, High Street, Deal. It is primarily in that capacity that he knew Ireland, working for him in various capacities, including drawing up a will in 1940.
However, a less often cited fact about
‘HSB’ is that during the Second World War he was ARP Head Warden for the Deal district, a particular difficult role given the cross-channel gunfire that affected the town. Before he took on this role, while Ireland was still living in Deal in 1939, Mr Brown often invited Ireland to dine with him and his wife at his home in the lovely Kent village of Shepherdswell.
St Andrew’s church, Shepherdswell
Ireland’s Second Violin Sonata was a work much performed by many different soloists. In 1922 Ireland’s it was taken to Birmingham by Paul Beard and Michael Mullinar. The latter is perhaps best known for his associations with Vaughan Williams, as discussed here. Beard was originally born in Birmingham and in 1922 was back in the city as leader of the CBSO, staying there for the next ten years. After that he led first the LPO, then the BBCSO.
Ireland’s great aunt Barbara was the younger sister of his grandmother Annie. Born in 1818, Barbara Sarah Waring married William Morgan Benett (1813–91) in Penrith in 1843. This was a bringing together of Lyme Regis naval families. Barbara was the daughter of the (then late) Captain Henry Waring, William the son of Captain Charles Cowper Benett, who also held a position as magistrate in the town. The Benett family was a wealthy one, owners of a fine country home in Wiltshire, Pyt House (below). William himself was Master of the Supreme Court of Judicature and Master of the Court of Common Pleas.
Barbara was a keen musician, and as a young woman spent time in Tübingen with her older sister Annie and John Nicholson (Ireland’s grandfather), where she was able to attend operas. Barbara and William Benett had 8 children, including the landscape artist Newton Bennet (1854–1914). Great Aunt Barbara died in 1894.
Dorchester Abbey by Newton Bennet
For several summers prior to the First World War John Ireland holidayed on Jersey. In particular he recalled swimming in the sea on the east coast, at Fauvic. Jersey’s east coast as seen in July 2017, with its eerie lunar landscape at low tide, looks much as it might have done 100 years earlier.
One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was the curiously-named Music for the man who enjoys Hamlet, by R.H. Haggin. Haggin starts from the premise that Hamlet is the deepest expression of poetic feeling and explores the idea that those who appreciate the play can go on to appreciate music. Haggin centres his ambitious little book on Beethoven, and in particular on Opus 111.
It’s an interesting attempt to teach listening skills, as reviewed in 1948:
An earlier review of 1945 liked this book very much, particularly for the charm of its presentation: ‘Almost never didactic or condescending, he communicates simply and persuasively his sane enthusiasm of wide experience to arouse the latent response of the intelligent novice, in a style which suggests a stimulating conversation rather than a lecture’.
Clearly Ireland liked books of this type, as he owned a large number of didactic works on all sorts of musical topics.
Reviews: Music for the Man Who Enjoys ‘Hamlet’ by B. H. Haggin, Music & Letters, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1948), pp. 298-299 and by Philip Greeley Clapp, The Kenyon Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1945), pp. 328-330.
John Ireland is one of many English composers drawn to the county of Sussex (both East and West).
Home of Parry
In addition to Ireland living at Rock Mill, Washington, others with Sussex associations include:
- Bax, Arnold: Storrington
- Brian, Havergal: Brighton
- Bridge, Frank: Friston
- Coates, Albert: Selsey
- Elgar, Edward: Fittleworth
- Gipps, Ruth: Bexhill-on-Sea
- Harrison, Julius: Hastings
- Murdoch, William: Bognor Regis
- Parry, Hubert: Rustington
- Reeves, Sims: Worthing
- Sammons, Albert: Bognor Regis
- Scott, Cyril: Eastbourne
- Turnbull, Percy: Pulborough
- Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Rottingdean