A letter from Alice

In 1952 Ireland was busy trying to construct his autobiography, writing to many of his relatives for information. One with whom he exchanged correspondence was his loving and admiring niece, Alice. She wrote to him on 16 September, mentioning her brother Percy and son Raymond, music she’d heard and an array of domestic matters:

Percy has moved once more-this time from a large house to a small one-so when I go to Liverpool I shall be visiting a strange house, though not very far from the other two previous dwellings. Never have I known of so many changes – no one ever seems settled nowadays. I am glad to say Percy has had a good holiday at Colwyn Bay – he goes there every year.

I felt in splendid form on my return from Filey – the air is wonderful.

It has not really been a very hard year for me – but I have a good deal of expense this autumn  – my home will have to have some joinery repairs, new spouting, fencing & gate – also the outside has to be painted. I hope the time will not be far distant when rents can be increased to help pay for repairs & renewals.

I hope you have good news of Tony, & my cousin in San Francisco – I should very much like to read the cuttings about Uncle Alleyne when they are returned to you.

My son Raymond was finally rejected for the Ministry & now seems to have settled down. He devotes most of his spare time to the Youth Fellowship of his Church- he is the Junior Club Leader & seems to have his hands full, now the winter season has started.

We have been listening to a Rachmaninoff Concerto on the radio. Irene Kohler with the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra- but it did not approach the perfection of the records we have of it – for the gramophone.

Next Sunday is Harvest  Festival  Service & one of your anthems forms part of the service. A song of yours I heard recently I do like very much – “If there were dreams to sell”.

It is very cold up North – & September has not come up to expectations at all – there has been so much rain & so many high winds.

I wonder if you have television, or whether you prefer to be without it. Sometimes modern noises get unbearable. My daughter has an electric washer which bangs messily away – then there is her electric sewing machine which is just as noisy – to add to it all there is a Pressure Cooker which hisses loudly. Methinks the dignified quiet of the old homestead is a thing of the past.

Well I must close. I have meant to write sooner – but have been, as usual, so fully occupied this past eight months.

A letter will always find me if sent to Guiseley. As soon as I have had a short rest I want a post in Leeds or Bradford-preferably for the winter.

I do hope your rheumatism is not troubling you, & that you keep well. I am always so pleased to hear news of you.

Love & best wishes,

Your affectionate niece


1952 Oxford Road with Banks from postcard MBA.jpg

Guiseley, 1952


Eleanor Mysie Bickersteth Murray

Eleanor Mysie Bickersteth Murray was a musician and distant relative of John Ireland. A descendant of the Alleynes of Barbados, she entered the RMCM in 1926 as a violinist. Murray’s legacy survives in the form of teaching pieces for violin and piano, written in conjunction with the pianist Phyllis Tate, a contemporary and friend of Ireland. These are mainly folk song arrangements.The Essential Murray & Tate: Violin & Piano - Eleanor Murray & Phyllis Tate

My dear Jack

Daffodil Yellow

On 16 March 1956 Ireland’s nephew Tony wrote to him from 6 Cyprus Park, North Road, Belfast. At this time the composer was living in Rock Mill in Sussex, as is mentioned by Tony. Tony himself was now a teacher in Ireland, having separated from his wife Terry and restyled himself ‘The Baron’:


My dear Jack,

I hope you are enjoying your sojourn in rural Sussex away from the din and stink of the Fulham Road. Now that the days are lengthening and the crocuses over and the spears of daffodils beginning to peer, it must be pleasant to live under a clean sky, though the air is still keenly fresh.

I met a friend of yours the Irish painter Connor, who spoke of you most cordially and of the old days at the Chelsea Arts Club. Everyone who ever met you and mentions you, speaks of you with affection and cordiality.

I now have my own little circle of literary, musical and theatrical friends here. In fact in the autumn the opera house is staging my play “BYRON IN PICCADILLY”. I am earning a little bread to my butter in the shape of popular articles: see page 26 of Everybody’s. Do write, dear Jack, if it is only just a line. I shall be in London in July: hope to see you.

Ever affectionately,


The Roundabout Club

In the 1860s Ireland’s father Alexander was a well-known figure in south Manchester. At this time he founded the Roundabout Club. An article by Marjorie Cox tells us more about this intriguing gathering of Bowdon’s eminent residents:

In the early 1860s a literary club, The Roundabout Club, was formed in Bowdon. The founders were Alexander Ireland, Horatio Micholls and J M D Meiklejohn. Ireland was a Scot by origin, business manager of the advanced liberal newspaper, the Manchester Examiner and Times and a leading literary and intellectual figure in Manchester; he lived first in Stamford Road and later at Inglewood, St. Margaret’s Road, where his son, the composer John Ireland, was born. Horatio Micholls was a Manchester merchant and leading Reform Jew, of Summerfield, East Downs Road and Meiklejohn was headmaster of the notable Rose Hill School for Boys in Bowdon and later Professor of Education at St Andrew’s University.

The club was named the Roundabout because its monthly meetings and dinners were held in turn at the houses of its members, who numbered twelve. Among the original members, drawn from a variety of fields, were John Mills, banker, economist, musician and music critic; John D Morell, one of the early School Inspectors (HMIs) and a leading educationist, who , in 1851, showed Matthew Arnold, newly appointed an HMI, round Manchester schools; John Watson, a well-known naturalist, and James Mudd, photographer. For the record, the other members were Mr J Leese, Mr Swanwick, Mr Fleming, Mr Marsland and Mr Phillips.

Alexander Ireland was the leading spirit of the club, inspiring it with ‘its remarkable
qualities of geniality and its unrestrained liberty of expression of opinions’. As vacancies occurred, new members were elected and there were visitors from among Ireland’s exceptionally wide range of literary friends. Ireland was noted, too, for his interest in America and his kindness to Americans. Emerson, a close friend, stayed with him in Bowdon, and in 1957 Ireland accompanied Nathaniel Hawthorne to the famous Manchester Exhibition of Art Treasures on the occasion when Tennyson was there.
It is interesting to note that James Mudd took a photograph of Tennyson during that visit to Manchester: a reproduction of it can be found in The Tennyson Album by Andrew Wheatcroft.

Ireland left Bowdon in the late 1880s and we do not know what happened to the Roundabout Club afterwards, but for over twenty years James Mudd must have belonged to it. A club which had as its centre the exceptionally well-read (he was said to have a library of 15,000 to 20,000 books) and influential Alexander Ireland, friend of Carlyle and acquainted with Wordsworth, Lamb, Leigh Hunt, De Quincey and Mrs Gaskell as well as American writers, must have been a stimulating society.
Bowdon Hydro

Sources: http://www.altrinchamheritage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Bowdon-Sheaf-1-1983-to-55-2015-with-Contents.pdf; http://www.altrinchamheritage.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Schools-in-Victorian-Bowdon-Myra-Kendrick-1996-BHS-v6.pdf


Alfred Sebire

One of the dedicatees of Ireland’s piano suite, Sarnia, was the Guernsey flautist, Alfred Sebire, known to the composer as ‘Seeba’. Sebire (1892–1980),  a former pupil of Charles Souper and John Amadio, was introduced to Ireland by another Guernsey man, Andrew White, who became friendly with Ireland and John Longmire when they were living on the island in 1939–40. Sebire’s connection with Sarnia is intriguing, as the long panpipe roulades that make up ‘Le Catioroc’ are perhaps influenced by this flautist. Sebire remained friendly with the composer after his departure from the island, seeing him on his return to Guernsey in 1948, and then visiting him at Rock Mill in Sussex in the late 1950s.

Image result for le catioroc

Ireland’s books: The Book-Lovers Enchiridion

On Ireland’s bookshelves was a copy of his father Alexander’s best-known ble.jpegpublication, The Book-Lover’s Enchiridion: Thoughts on the Solace and Companionship of Books (1882). This volume is a delightful collection of passages in praise of books, selected by Alexander Ireland from a wide range of authors. Very popular in late Victorian Britain, the book went through five editions (the third sold 3,700 copies).

The intention of the Enchiridion was to ‘meet some of the special needs and moods of those earnest minds which seek in books something more enduring than passing amusement – something that will yield a satisfying and tranquil joy, and beautify the hours of common daily life’ (p. vii). To this end, the compiler chose a huge range of writings, from Socrates to Robert Louis Stevenson. The passages are sometimes only a sentence, but with long sections devoted to Carlyle, Emerson and Ruskin. The selections, unusually eclectic for the time, betray Alexander Ireland’s liberal approach, with the inclusion of women and of Persian and Hindu writings. A distant relative, Andrew Lang, features, as do many of the editor’s friends, such as Leigh Hunt. Many of the contributions come from well-known figures – Goethe, Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, but there are also many snippets from the unknown, for e.g. Elizabeth Inchbold (1753–1821).


Uncle William

William Robert Nicholson was Ireland’s uncle and the elder brother of the composer’s mother, born c.1839. It transpires that he was another musician in the family, but something of a black sheep. It’s very unclear exactly what his background was, but a little obituary of 1888 records the tragic demise of William Nicholson, professor of music, burned to death in his home on the drawing-room floor of a residence on Euston Road. William R Nicholson

Source: Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 15 April 15 1888; Issue 2369. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.