Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Arthur Appleby: or, a Christchurch coincidence

This is Mr Arthur Appleby of Burton-on-Trent, Staffs and Christchurch, New Zealand. He appeared at the very top of my ebay page the other day and I couldn't help but notice that the vendor had labelled him as an 'opera singer'. With that beard? And a New Zealand opera singer? For the photo was taken in Dunedin, and it is dated on the back to 1882.

I think I know that era of music fairly intimately, but ... Arthur Appleby? I know George Appleby of the Soldene company, and T J Appleby,  singing comedian, and there was indeed an Arthur Appleby who sang in British and colonial musical  comedy touring companies around the turn of the century ...

Well, in summary, it turned out that that Arthur was actually this Arthur's son. But neither of the two of the vocal gents was what you would call an 'opera' singer. Father, certainly, never appeared on the professional stage in his life. Which doesn't make him any the less interesting, especially to me. Why, especially to me? Well, here is his life story as decidedly accurately recounted in a local obituary:

And the link with myself? The (second, non-German) Christchurch Liedertafel gave its first concert in 1885 (11 June), and Mr Appleby, who had, for over a decade, been a regular solo tenor in local amateur choral concerts, was indeed one of the few singers featured as a choir soloist on that occasion. 

Eighty years later, a teenaged bass from Christchurch's University was appointed choir soloist with the same group. It was I. I still have the badge of office ... a little silver lyre ... I saw it just the other day, in the drawer of my bedroom washstand ... I should give it to the group. There ...

The obituarist left out the fact that Mr Appleby was also many years a chorister at Christchurch Cathedral, and Arthur junior (b 15 July 1870; d Sydney 1928) one of the first intake of choirboys. Arthur had four sons by his first wife, Amelia Cotton Thompson (d 1 May 1879) and one more by his second wife, Alice Mary Bartlett (d 15 June 1941) -- Arthur, Leonard (b 1872; d Melbourne 10 June 1951), Godfrey (b 23 January 1874; d Hastings 1951), Hubert (b 21 May 1877; d Dannevirke 26 January 1917) and Raymond (b 18 August 1881; d Waimate 1954).

Ah me, another tomb in need of repairs. You would think, with all those sons and grand-children -- one slice of whom has squeezed into the DNB another into Burke's Peerage -- there would be one descendant who would care ...  Maybe, the Liedertafel (yes, it still survives and sings) would like to honour their founder member by a little restoration work.

Post scriptum: Well, apparently nobody cares. I have at least purchased the photograph, and will find it a home in one of the ungrateful archives of New Zealand. I'm still waiting for the cemetery to respond to my repeated inquiries ... The Liedertafel ignored my letter ... but the photo has arrived. With a bonus. Here is Alice Mary (I assume), photographed in Liverpool ..

Post-postscriptum: Gerard at the Cemeteries Division of the Christchurch City Council (how great to know there IS one) answered my call... and LOOK!  Bravo Christchurch City Council!   Now will you please fix the McDougall Art Gallery crisis ...

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