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.

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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.

People at St Luke’s: Edward and Reginald Motley

This single small photograph of Ireland at St Luke’s has huge significance, given the close (and in some cases lifelong) associations of the composer with the people captured in it. This is the tenth in a series of short blogs uncovering the personalities behind the faces.

St Luke's choir whole

MotleysThe two lads with identical hairstyles, one standing, one seated at the front, are Edward and Reginald Motley. It’s possible to identify them through census records and by judging their ages from the photograph. In the picture the older boy, Edward, is 12, his younger brother Reginald 10. Edward stands next to Ireland’s favourite chorister, Charlie Markes. The two Motleys lived in Fulham, at 69 Rostrevor Road, not that far from John Ireland in Gunter Grove.

Great Uncle John Burley Waring

Ireland’s great uncle on his mother’s side was the architect John Burley Waring – brother to his grandmother Annie Elizabeth Waring.

Waring (1823–75) was, like most of his siblings, born in Lyme Regis. In 1840, having already studied the art of water colour, he became apprenticed to a London architect, Henry Edward Kendall. As with a number of members of the family J.B.Waring’s health was delicate, therefore he spent the winter of 1843–4 in Italy, and again travelled to southern Europe in 1847, after which he published a fine volume of drawings, Architectural Art in Italy and Spain (1850). The success of this work led to a spell in Burgos and further published drawings.

Waring was superintendent of the works of ornamental art and sculpture in the 1857 Manchester Exhibition and of much of the International Exhibition at Kensington in 1862, following which he published the lavish three-volume Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture.

Like Ireland’s grandfather John Nicholson and the composer’s Aunt Fanny, Waring was an admirer of Swedenborg. However, he was also drawn to publishing his own personal, somewhat mystical statements, wrote poetry and played the violin. The V&A owns one of his drawings of boxers. Waring lived in London for a short time in 1853, as described in his own words in A Record of Thoughts on religious, political, social, and personal subjects, from 1843 to 1873:

It is getting far into the night; the wind sweeps stormily round the nooks and chimney-stacks of these old creaking houses, yet not strongly enough to drown the sound of busy life in the great streets. I hear the dull pattering of feet, and the more distant rumble of the wheels. In this great, throbbing city what feasting, dancing, acting, singing, go on around me: a whole beating mass of human souls.

One of nine distinguished siblings, among whom were medics and majors, John Burley Waring died in Hastings in 1875.


Ireland’s books: Čapek, The Cheat

On Ireland’s bookshelves was Karel Čapek’s novel The Cheat, lent to him by his friend George Dannatt. It’s an interesting book for several reasons. Left unfinished at the Czech author’s death in 1938, it was then completed by his wife Olga Scheinpflugova. It tells of a man who wishes to be a musician and composer of an opera, but who ends up as a musical plagiarist. It was translated into English in 1941, also published under the title The Life and Times of Compose Foltýn. Čapek (shown below) is better known as an important contributor to the development of the genre of science fiction. It was a perceptive choice on the part of Dannatt, as Ireland was drawn both to fictionalised musical worlds and to evocations of the uncanny.

Ireland at the pantomime

During his time at St Luke’s, Chelsea, Ireland would attend the annual dinner for adult members of the choir, as well as the summer seaside outing for the choirboys, always to either Sussex or Essex. He also, though less regularly, accompanied his young choristers to the pantomime. One such occasion took place on 6 February 1909, when the performance in question was Dick Whittington at the Drury Lane Theatre, a show that had already been highly successful in the previous year.

Ireland was there along with several members of the clergy, including his good friend Paul Walde. The boys were very taken with the scenery, which included a lavish set depicting Highgate Hill, with London seen in the distance (St Luke’s parish magazine, 1909, p.97).

Dick was played by vaudeville star, Queenie Leighton. The highlight for the choristers of St Luke’s, however, was a fleeting appearance in a comic song by Manchester-born Wilkie Bard, a famous music hall entertainer.