31 January 2012

Music history in Liverpool

... but not regarding The Beatles!!

I'm trying to find an academic or learned person who has expertise in the music history of Liverpool, England, but unfortunately all music history in Liverpool seems to focus on popular music i.e. The Beatles. I'm looking more for the early 1800s - when W.G. Weiss was selling and publishing music there, and when Charles Nicholas Weiss was teaching and performing there.

Anyone? Anyone?

30 January 2012

Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was my second cousin three times removed. He is from the musical branch of my family - Benigna Weiss née von Holst being his great aunt. Gustav Holst, born Gustavus Theodore von Holst, was a British composer, most well known for his work The Planets, the most famous part of it being Jupiter, with the well known "hymn" I Vow to Thee My Country set to the music of Jupiter.

Last year a documentary on Gustav Holst was produced: Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter, by Tony Palmer. I recently received a copy on DVD from my sixth cousin once removed, Harro Lange, a fellow Holst/von Holst-family researcher. The documentary is brilliant. I learnt so much about Holst, and have a new appreciation for his music. Commentary on his life is interspersed with interviews with people who knew him, including his daughter Imogen Holst, and also with performances of his music. You get a very good idea of the cross-section of music that he composed throughout his life, connected with his own experiences and world-view. I also think the Morris Dancing portrayed in the documentary was quite hilarious. I think the British have a different view of manliness than Aussie men!

I recommend Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter to you, if you have any interest in Holst's music, or British composers in general.

29 January 2012

Who was A.S. Weiss?

I continue to work on the biography of Charles Nicholas Weiss and continue to search for historical newspaper references to him. Because of my search terms I often find other Weiss' as well.

The other day I came across the following reference in the Liverpool Mercury, 14 Feb 1834, to Charles' brother Willoughby Gaspard Weiss, who lived and worked in Liverpool as a music-seller and publisher:

W.G. WEISS begs leave to inform his Friends and the Public that he has just published the FOURTH SET of the CHESHIRE QUADRILLES, dedicated to Mrs Hulton of Hulton Park, by W. ST. ALBIN; also a Set of beautiful WALTZES by A.S. WEISS, of Mulhausen, adapted for Dancing, and dedicated to Mrs Jos. Langton, by W. ST. ALBIN. These Quadrilles and Waltzes are danced every night at the Wellington Rooms, and have been received with the most dedicated approbation, which induces W.G. WEISS to recommend them with the greatest confidence to the Public.
An Elegant Assortment of PIANO-FORTES, of every description, MUSIC, etc.
Music Saloon, 2, Church Street.

The mystery is: Who was A.S. Weiss? (Mulhausen is the German form of the French word Mulhouse). He or she is not one of Charles and Willoughby's siblings. Their father, Gaspard, was apparently the first musical member of the family. I asked Tobias Bonz, who has been working with Gaspard's autobiography and he's never heard of A.S. Weiss. Googling brings no answers. So, was A.S. Weiss a member of the extended family who also developed their musical skills, in response the success of Gaspard and Charles? Will we ever know? Probably not.

Oh, and William St. Albin was a local dancing teacher. And Mrs Hulton was married to William Hulton, a wealthy landowner who was a major local player in the social unrest caused by the struggle of the working class towards the end of the industrial revolution in Britain. I could at least find references to them!

26 January 2012

William Rich in Waverley Cemetery

I had the chance to check the transcripts for Waverley Cemetery yesterday to find the record of William Rich's (abt 1832-1927) burial.

It turns out that the double grave he was in was reasonably crowded - he was buried with his wife Lavinia (née Huxley, surname Bennett from her first marriage before she married William, 1847-1929), their daughter Lily Rich (1877-1912), their son William Milton Rich (1881-1950), and their daughter Laurina Garrett née Rich (1883-1952).

One day I'll get there in person to have a look.

17 January 2012

Allan Wickham's war mates Part 2

The Australian War Memorial website has files called the First World War Red Cross Wounded and Missing files. There is a file there on Allan Wickham. It contains eye-witness accounts of his death, and also statements by some of the men who served with him, giving details on his physical appearance, and also the place of his burial. One of the statements, by Percy Martin, service number 3841, gives a description of him that made me smile: "Big lump of a chap." I have not seen a photo of Allan Wickham, but I have seen photos of his brother Tom Wickham, the policeman, who was a big burly guy - a bulky upper half - not fat, just big boned. Also, Allan's sister, my Great Nanna, was also big in the upper part of her body, as is my grandfather, her son. It's clearly a physical characteristic that's common amongst the Wickhams.

Anyway, on the back page of his war diary Allan has recorded 8 surnames with numbers after them, grouped into pairs. One of the names is his own, with 94 after it - his service number. So Mum and I have tried to work out who they all were. These were the names and numbers:

Turton 252
White 2033

Martin 3841
Kelly 1733

Grimes 3745
Wickham 94

Wakenfield 2030
Ovesen 1868

TURTON. Roy Turton, service number 252. He was unmarried, 21 when he enlisted, a carpenter, and in the RANBT, like Allan, and transferred, like Allan, to the 12th Field Artillery Brigade (F.A.B.), 48th Battery, on the same day as him. He was promoted to bombardier 3 days after Allan. Unlike Allan he survived the war (although he was wounded), rising up to the rank of sergeant. Sergeant Turton wrote an account of Allan's death for the Red Cross file, in which he said "I have sent Wickham's wallet and photo and other small property home to his mother, Mrs Wickham." I get the feeling that there was a great camaraderie in the RANBT - after all, for all of them in that unit it was the first conflict they'd all seen, together, which must have forged a great bond, so when they lost one of their own, they looked after things for them.

WHITE. I believe this was Frank Isaac White, service number 2033A. He was unmarried, just turned 24 when he joined up, a coach body maker, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery and transferred to the 24th F.A.B. on the same day as Allan, but transferred out of that unit 4 months later. He was killed in action in Belgium on 20 Sep 1917.

MARTIN. Percy Martin, service number 3841. Mentioned above. He was unmarried, 18 when he enlisted, a miner, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, and transferred to the 24th F.A.B. on the same day as Allan, but transferred out of that unit at the same time as Frank White (above). At the end of his statement to for the Red Cross File he said about Allan "He was one of the best comrades I ever had." Martin also survived the war.

KELLY. I believe "Kelly" was Francis Lawrence Kelly, service number 1733A. He was unmarried, 20 when he joined up, a miner, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, then the 24th F.A.B., then the 11th F.A.B., transferring from unit to unit on the same days Allan did. Percy Martin mentioned him in his statement for the Red Cross files as Gunner Kelly. Although he was wounded in action (gassed), Kelly also survived the war.

GRIMES. This was Thomas William Grimes, service number 3745. He was unmarried, 23 when he enlisted, a bricklayer, and was in the 12th F.A.B. for three months overlapping the time Allan was in that unit. For such a short time I guess they must have worked reasonably closely together to be listed amongst what I presume were Allan's close mates. Grimes was gassed during the war, and although he made it home to Australia he was discharged as permanently medically unfit, his level of incapacity listed as total.

WAKENFIELD. This was actually David Victor Wakenshaw, service number 2030B. He was 28 when he enlisted, unmarried and a farmer. He was in the 12th F.A.B. 48th Battery, for four months, coinciding with Allan's service in the unit. Wakenshaw survived the war.

OVESEN. Ove Christian Ovesen, service number 1868A. Ovesen was unmarried, 20 years old when he enlisted, and a farm worker. He was in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, the the 24th F.A.B., and then the 11th F.A.B., transferring on the same days as Allan. Ovesen survived the war.

Considering all the named soldiers served at some stage in at least one of the units with Allan, I think we can assume that they knew each other (definitely for Turton, Kelly and Martin, on the basis of the Red Cross files). That they were mates is just guessing, but it's a reasonable assumption to make. They were mostly very young, and all single - the young unmarried blokes apparently sticking together. It seems sad that apart from Frank White and Allan Wickham all of these alleged mates made it home to Australia, however for at least some of them their lives were irrevocably changed by the war, for the worse.

14 January 2012

Allan Wickham's war mates Part 1

Mum transcribed the whole of Allan Wickham's war diary recently and we've just finished going through the transcript, checking it. I've now got some more of Allan's mates to try and identify. I shall write about this in a few posts.

He wrote of one mate “Lawrance” (though the spelling might be wrong because Allan wasn't the best of spellers, neither did he care much for using conventional sentences...) who I'd particularly like to identify.

March 28th 1916 was when he first mentioned him: “Went to Serpeum (sic – actually Serapeum) to see Lawrance. Has not arrived there yet, still at Mosasque (sic – Moascar).”

Next, June 2nd: “Arrived at Alex[andria] at 9 o'clock trip an eye opener as regards irragation (sic) loading our guns and gear. Met Lawrance sailing on the same ship the Kingstonia.”

The third and final mention was on June 10th: “Reached breakwater [of Marseilles] and tied up at dock. P[illegible] up town with Lawrance some fine buildings struck by number of women workers the number of women in mourning Japanese in French uniforms and the variety of uniforms.”

I tend to think Lawrance was a friend of Allan's from back home in Australia. Certainly he doesn't seem to be a mate from the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT), the original unit Allan served with. There was a training camp at Moascar, so possibly it was Lawrance's first destination since leaving Australia, before being sent on to France with whichever unit he was with.

I searched on the Australian War Memorial site for people named Lawrance, assuming that Lawrance was his first name. A cursory glance of the service records in the National Archives of Australia of any individual with a first name of Lawrance did not reveal any likely candidates – none of them lived near Allan's home, nor had jobs which would likely bring them in contact with Allan, in fact only one came from Sydney. Using Lawrance as a surname also brought no luck.

I have sent a query to the Australian War Memorial to see if they can tell me which units might have trained at Moascar and then moved on to Marseilles, transported on the troop ship Kingstonia. They may not be able to tell me, but perhaps they might! I suspect that I might have to widen my search to other spellings of Lawrance too, but I'll wait for a reply from the AWM first.

04 January 2012

Farming in the Macleay region

I was out at State Records again this week. I looked up a whole lot more probate, deceased estate and primary application (a land ownership process, by which owners could convert land granted before 1863 to the new land title system) records.

One of the probate packets I looked at was for Thomas Wickham, who I have previously written about here - going to the Macleay region, rather than the Mackay region which I originally thought.

I found out what he was most likely doing in the Macleay region when I was at State Records, from looking at the probate packet: he was farming. He, unbeknownst to my living family, had two bits of land up there, one part way between the NSW towns of Gladstone and Belmore River, of 44 acres, and the other, less than 10kms away, near Kinchela, of 75 acres. I've managed to find both of them on original parish maps, using maps from the Parish Map Preservation Project of the Department of Lands. The thing is, as a bit of a novice at this type of thing, I'm now not sure whether there is any more I can find out - I'd be hoping that there might be original purchase documents and that sort of thing, but I don't know whether they would still exist... Can anyone help?

Searching through historical newspapers on Trove I found that it is likely that Thomas Wickham was a sugarcane farmer - though I don't know whether the articles referred to Thomas Wickham junior or senior (as both lived in the area). I was quite surprised at this - I didn't realise that sugarcane was farmed that far south on the east coast of Australia - I would have thought Queensland was more the domain of the sugarcane industry.

In the historical newspapers I also found a long listing for title deeds, ready for delivery from the Surveyor General's department, including part of Thomas' 44 acre property - "2057 Thomas Wickham, Kinchela, 22 acres 3 roods, portion 27", from The Empire newspaper, 21 May 1860. I can't find any notices for the other bits of property Thomas owned.

A number of Thomas Wickham's sons lived in the Macleay River region, but I am not sure who moved to the region first from the family. According to a notice in the paper about his death, Thomas Wickham jnr lived at "Belmore River" and I think that this may have been Thomas Wickham snr's 44 acre property, which he would therefore have taken over from his father.

02 January 2012

Mrs C N Weiss - Professor of the Harp

I wrote ages ago about the Von Holst sisters, and said that I hadn't been able to find any evidence of Benigna Von Holst's musical/artistic/language talents.

I found some today. I am currently working on a biography of Charles Nicholas Weiss, Benigna's husband. I have been spending days and days going through historical newspaper articles for any with "Weiss" in them, most of which are for John Weiss, surgical instrument maker (who I believe is no relation), W. G. Weiss, Liverpool music seller and Charles' brother, plus many for Charles - for concerts he performed in, music he composed and released, and offering his services as a Professor of Flute. There are so many of them that I was probably getting a little snow blind, and almost missed the fact that one newspaper advertisement I was reading was for Mrs. C.N. Weiss rather than Mr., and announced her as a Professor of the Harp.

Since I wrote about the Von Holst sisters I had already discovered that Benigna was a talented artist - I have seen some of her drawings and they are beautiful. However this is the first time I have found anything to suggest that she also had musical talent.

One of the advertisements:

MRS. C.N. WEISS, Professor of the Harp, Pupil of Bochsa and Philip Mayer, begs leave to inform the Gentry that she has received from London a beautiful Ultramarine Double-action HARP, ornamented in the richest and most elegant style, possessing a full and brilliant tone, and expressly chosen for her by Mr Bochsa, which is to be disposed of on reasonable terms.
Mr. C.N. WEISS, from the London Concerts, Professor of the Flute, takes this opportunity of acquainting his Pupils, the Gentry, and his Friends, that he has removed to No. 3, Camden-street, London-road. (One concern.)
Liverpool Mercury, 25 January 1833

Interestingly, the two advertisements I have found so far that mention her were for 1833. By this stage she already had two or three children, but still found the time to teach the harp. Like her sister Constantia she either had help with the children or she juggled work and children well. Also, she was a pupil of Bochsa, as was her sister Carolina. The "Philip Mayer" noted in the advertisement was Philip James Meyer (1779-1849), a harpist and composer, who was a highly respected teacher.