Cousin John Nicholson Varty

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.

John Nicholson Varty

Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93775373

 

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Great Aunt Barbara

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

 

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