12 Park Place

In 1831 Ireland’s great grandfather, the Reverend Mark Nicholson, purchased a new home in Clifton, Bristol. Here he lived along with two of his sons – William and Mark – and his three daughters, Elizabeth (Iddy), Ann and Lucy. The house was one of a fine row of Georgian houses, with a small park immediately opposite. The terrace survives largely intact, with fine trees in the green space in front as seen below. When the Reverend died in 1838, the children chose not to remain in what was never a particularly happy family home. The house was sold in 1839. William and Iddy eventually emigrated to Ohio, Mark to Melbourne, while Ann and Lucy married and relocated to Liverpool and Monmouth respectively.

 

Ireland’s books: A Tale of Two Worlds

One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was A Tale of Two Worlds. A familiar name on the spine of the book was Frank Carr Nicholson, the composer’s cousin. He co-wrote this epic in 1953 with a British-Canadian friend, Georgina Sime.

It was quite a departure for Frank after his life as a scholar of German medieval literature and librarian at Edinburgh University, part of his new life in retirement in the Lake District, he having returned to the place of his Nicholson roots.

Frank wrote to Ireland in August 1953:

…when one has retired from professional life it is nice to have some congenial employment to which one can apply oneself more or less steadily. Since I came to Keswick I have certainly never found time hang heavily, and one of my main and constant occupations has been to collaborate with an old friend of mine, Miss Sime, in writing of one kind or another. We got a long-an enormously long!- novel published a couple of months ago-I wonder if you would at all care to have a look at it. Probably you have quite eschewed novels long ago ( as I too have done for many years past so far as reading the, is concerned!) but you might possibly like to sample this one in an idle moment, for there is a good deal about music in it that might conceivably entertain you. 

The book is certainly interesting, even a compelling read, focused on generations of a Viennese family, some of whom emigrate to Canada to find new lives. Music is a central theme, and the style of the writing is reminiscent of the Australian author Nevil Shute. He was extremely popular at that time, having recently published his bestselling A Town Like Alice. Perhaps the most arresting aspect of A Tale of Two Worlds is the focus on ‘family’, an increasing preoccupation of the composer, who was trying to unearth his own, elusive relatives. It’s also an oddly moving book, ending as it does with a reflection on the human frailties and incomplete stories of the people who constitute families, everyone ‘trying, trying, and none of them ever getting at the truth-at what this particular life on earth means for each of us’ (p.682).

Sources:

British Library: Letter from Frank Nicholson in John Ireland: Personal Correspondence, MS Mus. 1749/2/10

Nicholson, F. and Sime, G. (1953) A Tale of Two Worlds, Frome and London, Butler and Tanner.

Ethel Ireland at the RAM

As has already been mentioned on this blog, John was not the only family member with musical talents. His sister Ethel enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in February 1891, a couple of years before her brother entered the RCM. Her home address was registered as Mauldeth Road, Fallowfield, Manchester; her London address was in South Hampstead. Her fee guarantor was her ageing father Alexander. Ethel was principally there as a pianist, also taking second study violin, changing from singing. Other subjects included German, Italian and elocution. Her studies were short-lived, however, and registers show that she left in 1892. When her younger brother John came to London she did, however, share lodgings with him..

Ethel studied piano with Henry R. Eyers, a well-known and highly regarded teacher at that time, perhaps now best remembered for his many editions of music by such as Clementi and Raff. Eyers died in 1919, by then a man of great authority and seniority, as recalled in a brief tribute:

henry-eyers

 

With thanks to Ilse Woloszko, Library Assistant, RAM, for providing this information.

Other source: The Musical Times, Vol. 60, No. 913 (Mar. 1, 1919), p. 120

Uncle John the composer

I have several times referred to Ireland’s Uncle John Henry Nicholson, the older brother of the composer’s mother Annie. John emigrated to Australia and became known as a teacher and writer. However, he also turned his hand to a certain type of composing, namely patriotic songs.

Several were published, with John providing words and melody only, one of the most commercially successful being Sons of Britannia. This song was much reviewed and very popular, praised for its inspiring sentiment, sonorous ring and ‘valuable addition to what may be termed the literature of Anglo-Saxon unity’ (Brisbane Observer, 15 December 1898). This unity is seen in the splendid cover created for the song. Described as a ‘federation song’, it was ahead of its time, as the official Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was only formalised on 1 January 1901.

Other songs in similar vein included Rouse, Australians! and Sunrise.

sons-of-britannia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

When Annie went to Barbadoes

John Ireland’s mother Annie is best known as a biographer, journalist, and mother of five children. Less well known is that within her short life she was extremely well travelled, both in Europe and beyond. She records that some of her most vivid memories were connected with a visit she paid, in around 1860, to some of her father’s family in what she describes as ‘Barbadoes’. She was about 17, and fears for her health  led to her being dispatched to a tropical climate and a new household in which every member was a near relative, though all much older than herself. Here Annie spent the best part of a year. At an impressionable time of life, torn from her familiar surroundings, siblings and studies, she was highly receptive to her new residence. One member of the household was a revered great-aunt who liked to regale the young English visitor with stories of her girlhood.

When Annie was there the island still had its flourishing sugar industry. The planters at that time had large incomes, lived in handsome houses, and Barbados sugar was the most fragrant and delicate in the world. The slave emancipation had already taken place, but there still remained a Government House, an ‘Icehouse’, or ‘Club’, and extensive barracks. Annie was drawn to the glorious climate and the magnificent flowers and fruits, especially the Martinique roses (seen below), but found the prospect from the island uninteresting to an almost intolerable degree. Accustomed to the Cumbrian hills, she felt the monotony of white road and blue sky, rustling fields of cane and everlasting sugar-houses, so oppressive that she had her dining chair moved to a side of the table that had no view. Instead she preferred to contemplate a bare wall or the portraits of her ancestors. There is no record of her ever having discussed this visit with her son John, yet she chose to write about it later in life, and it was published in a book edited by her daughter Ethel.

Source: Annie E. Nicholson, Longer Flights: recollections and studies (London, 1898)