Ireland’s pupils: Peter Crossley-Holland

One of Ireland’s pupils at the RCM was the renowned ethnomusicologist, composer and BBC Producer Peter Crossley-Holland (1916–2001). On the face of it very different personalities, they went on to become good friends.

A sequence of letters from Ireland to Crossley-Holland is held at the Royal College of Music. They span a period from 1935–52, and contain many fascinating little observations and revelations. The letters cover a decade when Ireland was living away from London, and end when he was back in his Chelsea home following the end of the war. In the letters Ireland always refers to his former pupil by his surname, and writes fondly of many of his students.

In 1939 Crossley-Holland invited Ireland to his wedding. The latter was then living on Guernsey, and declined the invitation, while suggesting the island as a honeymoon venue – somewhat ironic given that Guernsey was invaded only 8 days later. In the following year, now living in Radlett, Ireland gives his comments on Crossley-Holland’s Piano Sonata, hoping he will not get the ‘Celtic or “bardic” fever – it does not lead to conciseness or clearness of expression or form’ (24 July 1940). His pupil was at this time working as an ARP warden. Crossley-Holland asked Ireland to be the godfather of his new son Kevin in 1941, with the composer politely deflecting the request.

In 1945 they met at the Albert Hall. Crossley-Holland was now living in Wilmslow, Ireland back in Gunter Grove. They met again in 1948, soon after which point the surviving correspondence concludes.

Source: letters from John Ireland to Peter Crossley-Holland, RCM:



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

People at St Luke’s: Hugh Henry Molesworth Bevan

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 ninth in a series of short blogs uncovering the personalities behind the faces.

St Luke's choir whole

Bevan juniorThe man in the third row back, to the left of the photograph, surrounded by choristers, is Hugh Henry Molesworth Bevan. Hugh Bevan (1884–1970) was  the eldest son of the Rector, Henry Bevan, who is seen in the centre. At the time of this picture he was single, marrying Rachel Knatchbull-Hugessen in 1917, with whom he had three sons.

As with some of the other curates associated with St Luke’s, Bevan went on to have an eminent  career in the church. He was made deacon in 1908 and priest in 1909, then becoming curate at Holy Trinity, Paddington (1908–13) and at Chelsea Old Church (1913–16), this latter having close affiliation with St Luke’s.

From Who’s Who, it is possible to list some of Bevan’s subsequent appointments, culminating in his appointment as Archdeacon of Ludlow, a senior position with the Diocese of Hereford.

  • Lecturer in Divinity (Whitelands College), 1915–17
  • Vicar of St Dunstan’s, E. Acton, 1916–28 and Rural Dean of Ealing, 1926–28
  • Vicar of Hammersmith, 1928–48 and Rural Dean of Hammersmith, 1928–42 and 1945–48
  • Prebendary of Newington in St Paul’s Cathedral, 1942–48
  • Hon. Clerical Secretary of London Diocesan Conference, 1943–48
  • Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral, 1948–66
  • Vicar of Stanton-Lacy, 1954–66
  • Archdeacon of Ludlow, 1948–60East window


The St Luke’s schools

King Street St Luke's Scholl on right CM697b

At the time when Ireland was organist at St Luke’s, Chelsea, there were schools attached to the church, attended by several of his choristers. It is difficult to find much in the way of concrete information on these schools, however. This picture shows King Street, a narrow road which ran north from Cale Street in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries. On the right are the entrances to the two St Luke’s Schools (Boys and Girls) which were behind the church in Sydney Street. The schools were completed in 1826, with an objective of providing education for poor children, but are no longer standing. King Street is now St Luke’s Street.


Lawford Road

For the most part, John Ireland lived in Kensington or Chelsea. However, when he first came to London as a student, an early place of residence was Lawford Road, Tufnell Park, where he shared lodgings with his sister Ethel. In letters to her in their later years, the composer often reminisces, mentioning many of the places in which he lived. Clearly his sister was something of a pianist too:

Do you remember 5 Chichester Street, that was Miss Prince’s, and A8 All Saints Church, Tufnell Park, 4 Bedroom For Salennie, the drudge – and Mr Winder? We had an Erard grand there, & I remember you practising Bach’s Italian Concerto, also Mendelssohn’s ‘Variations Serieuses’ – you played very well, also sang well. You must remember living in Tufnell Park, Camden Town, & the Seymours – I was the organist of All Saints Tufnell Park… How distant it all seems now.

The church (right) has now been converted into apartments.

Source: letter John Ireland to Ethel Ireland, 14 December 1946, British Library MS Mus. 1749/2.

Map of Lawford Rd, London NW5 2LN

Gunter Grove neighbours

In 1916 one of Ireland’s closest neighbours in Chelsea was Alfred Raphael Dell’Isola, living opposite the composer at number 15 Gunter Grove. A few years younger than the composer, born in 1891, Alfred married Darcy Moore in 1917. In 1916 he changed his name to Dell, stating:

I Raphael ALFRED RAPHAEL DELL, heretofore called) by the names of Alfred Dell’Isola, of 15, Gunter Grove, Chelsea, in the county of London, a natural born British subject, hereby give notice, that I have assumed and intend henceforth upon all occasions and at all times to sign and use and be called and known by the surname of Dell only (by which surname I have for some years past been more generally called and known), in lieu of and substitution for my said surname of Dell’Isola, and that such intended change or assumption of name is formally declared and evidenced by a deed poll under my hand and seal, dated the 26th day of January, 1916, and enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 8th day of February, 1916. In testimony whereof I hereby sign and subscribe myself by such my intended future name. ALFRED RAPHAEL DELL.

In the previous year another Gunter Grove resident, abiding further up the road at no. 36, met his death on 27 October. This was Lance Corporal Alfred Gerald Week (1883-1915), son of Alfred and Nellie. Prince Albert

Gunter Grove was the home to a number of well-known artists, among them the Glassby family. At no. 6 lived the sculptor Alfred Briscoe Drury (1856-1944). This was his home from around 1893, becoming just the site of his studio from 1911. Drury is known for a number of statues, including this one of Prince Albert at the front entrance of the V&A.


The London Gazette, 25 February 1916, p.2139.


A friend in Gatty

A frequent visitor to Ireland’s home in Chelsea was Nicholas Comyn Gatty, often found there along with Forsyth and Thomas Dunhill. Gatty (1874–1946) was a composer and music critic who met Ireland at the RCM when he arrived to study with Stanford following his first degree at Downing College, Cambridge. A composer primarily of opera, his main profession was as music critic for the Pall Mall Gazette and The Times. He was also assistant editor for the second and third editions of Grove. Gatty, from Yorkshire, was a close friend of Vaughan Williams, as seen in this faded photograph. In it Gatty is the violinist on the right, while the horn player is his brother René (Reginald), who became Reader in English at the University of Prague, and then a folk song collector on his return to England. Further information on Nicholas Gatty can be found HERE.

Source of photograph: