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
On this day in 1932 Ireland broadcast his First Violin Sonata with violinist May Harrison, seen below with sister Beatrice, also a performer of Ireland’s music.
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.
When Ireland was living on Guernsey in 1939–40, he may have encountered the island’s Christmas customs. One of these was a festival known as La Longue Veille, which took place on 23 December. On this day a special feast was prepared, consisting of Guernsey biscuits (pictured), cheese, galettes and mulled wine. There are other interesting habits and traditions. Christmas Eve was known as Serveille, and the people of Guernsey shared a folk belief common to a number of English counties that all cattle kneel at midnight in remembrance of the manger at Bethlehem. Another superstition was that on Christmas Eve the water in the wells is turned to wine. Ireland would surely have liked the idea of these distinctive customs, given his propensity for researching English folklore.