Wednesday, May 29, 2024

My Winter Palace 2024


This comes to you from Australia. For I am finally back here, in my Winter Palace, after two seasons of enforced absence. Yes, we've been suffering from a period of appalling mal-government down here in the Antipodes, which has turned the lives of many of us downwards in a sickening, ruinous spiral ... and the quiet, comfortable old age I had envisioned for myself is taking a deal of hanging on to.  But that's another story. Which after half a litre of gin I may one day write. Or relate to my biographer.

Last year, Wendy came here without me. After months and months of toiling on the farm, looking after ten horses, eight cats and me, seven days a week, a wee break at the seaside is the least she deserves! But I was in a bad way, one way and another, so I didn't come. I think, now, I may have been wrong, but wrenching myself away from the comfy and familiar purlieus of Gerolstein, from the nightly arms of Schnidibumpfl, and my loo-radar ...

This year ... I'm not sure whether Wendy and Paulie, my two 'spouses', colluded; but Wendy nominated June for her time at the Palace, and Paulie decided on July-August. I would have a 'carer' if I came for the winter. And in a burst of enthusiasm I booked us all in ... booked flights .. even booked massage appointments.

In the months leading up to the event, I had qualms.  Several falls, difficulty walking and, a week before departure a sudden rush of blood to the head.  Blood Pressure 200/100. I should not fly. Wendy looked sideways and got out our old BP machine. Her version was 128/85. Called in Brett the Acupuncturist. He diagnosed 'white coat syndrome'. See a doctor and the BP skyrockets. He agreed with Wendy. I decided that if I were going to go pop! on Air NZ, then so be it ... so equipped with a ton of Losartan and instructions from Rebecca, the eminently sensible doctor, as to reporting back ... off we set.

Air New Zealand. I normally have no quarrels with AirNZ. Their staff -- ground and in-flight -- are superb. BUT. Their booking arrangements are something else. I booked our flights months ago. I specified 'no cost spared', the best seating, near a toilet, wheelchair embark and disembark, the Works. We were allotted seats in Row 20. I complained at the desk. Bingo! Promoted to Row 4. So, I thought, let's have a peek at who's in Rows 1, 2, and 3. Two seats in Row 1 were empty. Next time I'm saying Row One (where my duff leg and arm can have room, and I don't get whacked by every fat passing person, or stewardess with a trolley!) or NO BOOK. Trouble is ANZ know the only alternative is Jetstar and that low I have not sunk.  AirNZ, get some planes with a 1st class that IS first class, and put us legless folk in Row 1, instead of .. who were these people?

The flight itself was splendid. Comfortable (although no pillows, so whacked-out Wendy had to snooze on my shoulder) and efficient. The meal was one of my top half-dozen airline meals of all time. And I can do four hours of Bejewelled wotsit, when it's not interrupted by half-comprehensible 'Passenger Announcements' to which nobody listens, and the most ghastly filmed stuff with cute/killable ?actors advertising or 'informing' ... whoever dreams up this stuff should be sacked.  An instruction needs to be simple, clear and with no koala bears or budding Shirley Temples.

So, safely arrived at Coolangatta. The wheelchair assistant was only allowed to trundle me to Immigration, after which Wendy took over. Immigration was swift, polite and efficient, and we trundled on to collect her suitcase (obviously, I don't travel one) and oh gosh! The processes have been smoothed out sensationally ...  Next thing, find a taxi ...   Another grand experience. The man in charge of the taxi queue was a honey. He trundled me straight up to a cab driven by an adorable young man with a hushed voice and twinkling eyes, who had probably been hoping for a long fare (night time/weekend?). We only wanted to go to the Car Hire place ...  Well, I gave him double the metre and Wendy did the safe-box thing and got the car.  Its an MG.  I don't like it as much as our Suzuki, but it did well to get us down the Pacific Motorway (once the confusing signage was sorted out!) by our projected 9pm.

Home!  The Winter Palace.

Will I still love it as I did?

Short answer. YES!!!!!!! 

Long answer .. coming up!

At 2am (how can one be jetlagged after a 4 hr flight?), having realised that I was not dead, I got up and started putting my little Palace back into order.  In spite of my STRICT orders that the furniture NOT be rearranged ... it had been. From my arrangement, focused on the view, the sunshine, the sea ... to being focused on .. the TV set. Which I rarely turn on.  So you come to Yamba to watch television? 

The sun rises behind the palm fronds ...

Sunday morning I began. Clothes that had been stored in the basement had, in two years, become somewhat musty. Four wheelie bins of washing. But first, breakast. Wendy was yearning for her avocado toast, and I hadn't eaten since my Moroccan meal in flight. 

When I first purchased my Palace, eight years ago, there was, a few metres up the road, a small ... um ... eatery. Useful, I thought for ... for what? As it turned out: nothing. Just a caff. Rather walk a kilometre down the hill to the delicious Beachwood Café for real food. I was not surprised to find it listed, soon after, 'for sale'. I investigated. It wasn't viable. The premises were leased from the adjacent motel at an horrific rate, and the departing tenants wanted a large extra cash payment for 'improvements'! WHAT improvements? Well, a lovely young couple took it on, did it up, and rechristened it the Sandbar, and it became a regular stop for me for an early morning coffee ... occasionally a bite, but I still walked down the hill to Beachwood or the Thai Payu for my real meals. Or most especially across the hill for the exquisite food at the French Pan Tree.  There is so much nice food to be had in Yamba ...

Then disaster! The French Pan Tree closed! And I noticed that the young man was mostly alone at the Sandbar. The lassie had another job. Probably to make up the shortfall from the Sandbar. Especially in the winter season. And then they were gone, too.  And in their place was a young Frenchman ... Well, just to say, he has turned the place from the caff of eight years ago into a bright, lively restaurant with delicious light meals and fine coffee ... Wendy gave her avocado on toast top marks, and I had a stack of gravad lax on ...  We are now going to be regular Sandbarrers and I don't even have to walk down the hill. Which, I may tell you is very much more difficult at rising 80 than it was at 70!

After this promising start, we headed for the monthly market, near the ferry wharf. It had barely changed while I had been away. We wandered round, and I flashed my nice new NAB card here and there (my old one had run out in my absence, but a new one was waiting me at the Palace reception) and breathed in the sea air ...  Next stop, the supermarket to stock the empty larder ... a BP test at Soul Pattison (down from 200/100 to 129/98), Yamba prawns from the Fish-O ... after which I was zonked. But we pressed on. I had more washing to do, the Palace bureau d'hiver to set up ...

Roast chicken for dinner in Wendy's kitchen ... Masterchef? 7.30pm. I was in the Land of Nod by 6pm!

Botero: my favourite tea and coffee joint

Monday, Tuesday mainly devoted to 'settling in', plus a trip to Maclean to buy coffee and tea at beautiful Botero, in the company of Max the kitten, a bag for Wendy and my favourite Slumbies slippers for me ... 

Max the kitten

Manufacturing the superb Botero coffee ...

And then, 7am Wednesday, as always, the wonderful Yamba Farmers' market. It, too, had changed but little. And my old friends remembered me! Alas, my very best friend, Warren of the Boorabee Dorper Lamb Farm, was not there. Someone else honed in on his patch and made the long trip to Yamba every week, for reduced returns, not worth it. I shall have to become a vegetarian ... easy enough here! You should SEE the avocados ... 

The best meat in the world .... dammit.

But the market, though it yielded up two vast bags of edibles, also proved a nemesis. Nine times I flashed the NAB card ... but the tenth time, at Orchids Plus, the little white box refused me. Odd. Oh well, just one of those things. Pete the Orchid Man grows fabulous flowers (mine has no less than seven budding spikes), but he's not a mechanical genius. 

My first Orchids Plus of the year!

But the next purchase it was the same refusal. And when we went back for 'more' at one stall, where the card had been flashed successfully before .. 'not valid'!  We stashed our shopping and headed for the bank (which is only open 2 1/2 hours weekday mornings) ... My nice new card was dead as a dodo. Why? It has had a 'stop' put on it? Allergic to orchids?  Well, the lovely Yambank ladies have ordered me a new card ... and supplied me with enough real live cash to get me through the 7-10 working days (why?) it will take to manufacture said card ... but it seems I can use my ANZ card from New Zealand here ... ladies and gents, the perils of a 'cashless society'. Don't fall for it!

Thursday already. No appointments. The Kiosk on Main Beach doesn't open Thursdays! So that'll have to be tomorrow. Before our magnificent massages!

Blue sky with some white fluffies which the sailor's trousers are already busy devouring ... it'll be the usual scorcher by midday. Wendy's gone for a wander ... perfectly safe with no bank card!!! ... I have made scrambled eggs to start the day, and promptly got very woozy. Better pop down to Soul Pattison for a re-check ..  sigh, it's so blissfully quiet here you could hear that sailor's trousers drop ... twelve weeks of this will do me just fine!

That's the ocean in the background

It comes up almost to the building, out to the left

but the trees and shrubs round my terrace have grown hugely while I've been away, and made a delightful green wall and shady corner outside my office ...

Oh, I should say that the Cove is in great condition. It looks better that when I first came here. The gardens and trees have matured so that I no longer look at the neighbours' houses, the buildings and gardens have everywhere been kept in tip-top order, simply everything around our complex is splendidly organised and maintained. 

Hmmm. I wonder if I can still get into the icy pool and the spa. 

I shall try soon. Ish. Do I have bathing britches?  Probably not. Hav'n't needed them for a decade ....

Time for a sandwich and a snooze in the midday sun, I think ...

PS Sandbar has come up truly trumps ..... four visits already ...

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Martens family and the real story of the Cat Duet


I wrote this years ago. I don't know why I didn't post it then. Anyway, being in a precarious state of health I hear Andrew Lamb's voice echoing in my cerebellum: 'post the damn' things before you kick the bucket or all that work will be lost'!



MARTENS, Monsieur (MARTIN, Johann Heinrich) (b Liège)

MARTENS, Madame (née SCHEELE or SCHULE, Marie Elisabeth) (b 21 August  1840;)

MARTENS, ‘Mlle Gretchen’ (née SCHEELE or SCHULE, ?Marie) (b Hamburg c 1840; d New York 15 January 1897)



MARTENS, Henriette

MARTENS, Charlotte [Elizabeth] (b New York 30 November 1872)

MARTENS, Adolph (b Hamburg)


The Martens family has long fascinated me, ever since I first read the score of Offenbach’s Geneviève de Brabant, with its dreadfully high soprano ensemble top line for a lady who wasn’t even a named character. I quickly discovered that it was a vocal line written for a yodeller, and that it really had been written by the composer ‘especially for’ the lady and her two colleagues, a team who had been featured on the variety bill at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, preceding the production of the show. Madame Martens, with her husband and a ‘Mademoiselle Gretchen’. Who were they? Well, it has not been easy to find out, and I have had to rely very largely on the only piece I have ever found about ‘Monsieur’ (his first name was never mentioned) in the Toulouse newspaper, Le Casino, 8 December 1869, taken from an article by Albert Wolff in Figaro, early in their known career. 


In that piece, he vouchsafes that he is from Liège, that his real name is ‘Martin’, and that his first steps in show-business were as a singer of comic songs, in Germany. There he met and married a tyrolienne singer, and formed a three-handed act, the two of them ‘with her accompanist’, featuring a ‘tyrolienne comique’. And he changed his name to suit. From later evidence, it appears that ‘Mademoiselle Gretchen’ (who was very much a singer) was Madame Martens’s sister. Anyway, her real name, I have discovered, was Marie Scheele, so it seems Madame was a Scheele as well. If it wasn't Schule. So, the ‘Belgian’ act was really two-thirds German.


This may be they? Johann Heinrich MARTIN (by Jacob Martin ex Elizbeth Kliffmüller b 22 May 1844) married Maria Elizabeth SCHEELE (b 21 August 1840) on 15 November 1868. Joseph Stephen Martens (actor) and Marie Georgine née Scheele having a child in New York ... same couple? 

Now, the way the story is usually told makes it sound as if their success came quickly, but I don’t think it did. My first spotting of the trio is in 1867, in Paris, playing the El Dorado, the Alcazar d’Hiver and the Menus-Plaisirs.  But in 1870, already, their (?) children join the act, and the one census listing in which I have found some of them, in 1881, has ‘Gretchen’ aged 39, with husband and two London-born children, Luz Mercedes Gretchen (b 1875) and Diego Vicente Haurie (b 1876), her mother (‘D[orothea] Schule, widow, b Hamburg’) plus her nephew Adolph Martin 22 ‘clerk’, and an Emma Martin 21 who is listed as his wife but I think could be his sister. Or not. So that would mean M and Mme Martin were connubing at least as far back as ?1858. Nine years before that Paris debut. Maybe Johann/Joseph had an elder brother.

Joseph and the Scheele sisters

Tyrolean songs and singers were by no means a novelty, so it is a little puzzling that –if the Martens were so very good or special – they did not break through sooner. Was their success due to their polyvalence? Or to an individual zaniness in their ‘representations excentriques’. The fact that they sent the Tyrolean genre up? Anyhow, it was January 1867 that they turned up at the El Dorado with their repertoire – a trio tyrolienne comique apparently from Le Chasseur de chamois, Joseph’s imitation of the eccentricities of famous violinists (‘Carnaval de Venise’), and Mr and Mrs in their performance of the Cat Duet. I wondered, initially, if this was a self-made piece (others of their pieces were) or the duo glibly and wrongly credited by sopranos, today, as ‘Rossini’s’. There’s been much ink spilled over the authorship of this burlesque of Rossinian prime donne: one Gotthelf Berthold gets a mention, also Friedrich August Reissiger, a certain C E F Weyse, and an English madrigal writer (Pearsall) had a MS copy amongst his papers, so one writer has assumed that he wrote it. The most convincing answer to the puzzle was provided by an old musician named Bénédit, who heard the Martens perform it, remembered the piece from 40 years earlier, and dug out his 1824 copy. The arrangement of Rossinian tunes, and other bits, as La Félodie,was credited to one Codanini, who was, de son vrai nom, the Italian opera timpanist, Jean Madeleine Schneitzhöfer (1785-1850). If the duet was, thus, written in the 1820s, it does not seem to have been much performed, at the time, although I spot it being sung by the great de Begnis and a friend at a private party in London (1 January 1826). Unless of course it was another Cat Duet ...

Only forty years later, was it to become popular. But Ricordi still publish it under the name of Rossini. And sopranos have taken over the male lines, as the piece, arranged and altered to death, lives on 200 years later.


In March 1866, a little tale appeared in the minor French press. Arsène Goubert was auditioning for acts for the Alcazar d’Hiver, and a pair of tyrolean vocalists turned up to perform the Cats’ Duet. He didn’t hire them. The journalist was surprised. He thought they were great fun. I am pretty sure that I can guess who they were! The Alcazar and the El Dorado being rivals, it is, thus, no wonder to see the Martens team, nine months later, in residence at the El Dorado and winning success and praise for their repertoire of vocal and musical eccentricities. And the ‘Duo des Chats’ – performed in evening dress, with scores, like an oratorio -- became an enduring success. They were promptly hired for the Alcazar, a new Schott edition of their duet was published (as ‘by’ Berthold), and then they were hired for the Menus-Plaisirs, giving their trio, their duo and Joseph’s violin act between the pieces.


Offenbach had already shown a penchant for burlesquing the tyrolienne, notably in his La Belle Hélène, now he was to outdo even that. When the Menus-Plaisirs produced his expanded Geneviève de Brabant, a scene had been introduced in which a burlesque Tirol trio, ‘Le Jour point’ was featured. It was there simply to feature the Martens trio (‘La Famille Martens a merveilleusement chanté une tyrolienne’, 'Stürmischen Beifall'). Madame got another go, too. A hunting quartet for Zulma Bouffar, the star, included Mme Martens on the top line, imitating the sound of the hunting horn. Once again they scored a hit, and the press reported: ‘Le trio original des Tyroliens Martens doit prochainement intercaler dans Geneviève de Brabant les morceaux les plus excentriques de son répertoire: le trio des instruments, le duo des chats, etc’. Did they?


From the Menus-Plaisirs they returned to the Alcazar, under Hervé, and then to the Théâtre des Variétés where they were interpolated into a play and, of course, gave the Cats’ Duet between the acts.


In December 1868 they visited London and sang at the Alhambra (‘the originators of the feline vocal study’), the Crystal Palace and at the Holborn Music Hall, in 1869 the press reported them at Brussels and St Petersburg and suggested ‘Mesdames Martens et Gretchen vont chanter très prochainement, dans un café-concert, une fantaisie nouvelle, les Sœurs siamoises’. I don’t know whether they did! 

In 1870 they visited Vienna (‘protégés of Offenbach’) and played at the Neue Welt in Hietzing and the Orpheum (‘Les Parisiens Tyroliens ou Trio Brabançon’, ‘Le Carnaval de Venise’, Katzenduett, Trio parodie Tyrolienne, ‘Les Hirondelles de la rue’)-- Auftreten der unübertrefflichen französischen und deutschen komisch-parodistischen Sängergesellschaft Martens, genannt: Le trio brabançon’. And Gretchen swapped to being ‘Mademoiselle Marguerite’ (‘Trou la la’). But it wasn’t just three of them. The family came too. And the four children performed a comic Quadrille Liliputienne in the style of the famous Clodoche troupe. The dear old can-can. ‘Beifallstürm!’.


Now, I do not know precisely how many ‘Martens’ children there were. Later the troupe would use a member or two – and, latterly, more -- who weren’t kosher Martens. But at the beginning, I think perhaps they were real. Fanny, Emma, Henriette and maybe Adolph.


In 1871 the troupe progressed to America, hired for the successful Kiralfy pantomimic spectacular Humpty Dumpty at the Olympic Theatre. They squeezed their Eccentricities Tyroliennes, some ‘Russian songs’, ‘Gushes of Melody’ and, of course, the Cat Duet by Joseph and Gretchen, into the proceedings during the extended run (155th performance, the Martens family will introduce several new songs’), and at the end of their long stay at the Olympic, set off for Boston. ‘The Kiralfys appeared in wondrous ballets; the Martens Family (M and Mme Martens and Mlle Gretchen) made a huge success in Tyrolean eccentricities, including a cat duo by M and Mme Martens’). Alas, I cannot find a passenger list for either their arrival or departure so what part of the family came along I do not know. In April 1872 it is announced that ‘the two Martens children will make their debut’. This appears to be Fanny and Henrietta (sic). During 1873, I find a mention of the Martens Family performance comprising six people. They were doing the Kiralfy show again in 1874, but then I lose them and don’t pick them up till 1876, when ‘he, whom the Duo de Chats made famous’ is performing at the Folies-Bergère with Fanny and Henriette.

Which kitty are you?

Gretchen is lost to the cause. She had married a member of the celebrated French Jerez de la Frontera sherry firm, Vi[n]cente Calixto Haurie, and begun her own family. Unfortunately the ancient firm was in decline, and Vincente had to find other employment. Gretchen would go back on the stage.

In July 1876, Joseph is at the Concert de l’Horloge, alongside the American travesty performer, Charles Heywood, doing the Cats with … Mlle Jenny! I suspect it is Fanny. 


In 1878, Father, Fanny, Emma and Henriette are at Vienna’s Danzer’s Orpheum ('Célèbre quatuor de l'Alcazar de Paris'), in January 1879 the are displaying their ‘Musée Tintamarresque’ at Prague, then back at the Concert de l’Horloge with their ‘Théâtre Rigolo’ and ‘automates parlants’ and something from Les Cloches de Corneville.

1 July they are at the Folies-Marigny. Joseph, ‘the veritable creator’ (dixit Joncières) of the Cats’ Duet gave it with Fanny, who sang ‘La Perle du Tyrol’, and he gave his violinists’ parody, Fanny and Henriette did an ‘Echo duet’ and Emma joined them in ‘La Guitare en chanter’. But there were two unusual members to the Family to make up for the curious absence of mother, in a tyrolienne septet: Adolph and six-year-old Charlotte.

They toured their act 'La Musée Tintamaresque' round Europe with numbers and personnel  varying thereafter.

 In 1884, I spot ‘the Martens Family’ in Brooklyn, and later the same team of Marie, Emma and Adolph are at the Bush Street Theatre in San Francisco giving songs ‘announced with incredible quaintness by Adolph’ to ‘repeated encores’. The Cats Duet (‘in evening dress’) was given by Adolph and Marie…

1885-6 I spy the Geschwister-Trio Martens at Danzers Orpheum (‘immer Furore’ especially Charlotte aged 12) and the gossip columns rattled: 'among the eleven sisters are ten of different nationalities ... Fanny is Dutch, Alexandrine from Liverpool, Charlotte born in New York, father is French ...' hmm. Maybe. Eleven?

Adolph mother and sister

 So where is mother? And from here, where is father? The Martens family which now appears before the public as such comprises Gretchen (now calling herself ‘Mrs Marie Emes’), Emma and Adolph. They sang at some small London concerts, tripped to USA (Koster and Bials, California) with Adolph now leading the Cats Duet, and to Panama. In 1887, Adolph Martens and ‘Laura Lee’ are in San Francisco. And a squib in the American press says ‘The Martens Sisters are Caroline Rahmig and Mrs V H Emes’. Rahmig? But we know that ‘Mrs Emes’ is ‘right’… ‘Ah. Caroline Rahmig who went with the Martens Trio to Panama succumbed [there] to apoplexy of the lungs’.


But there is one more ‘Martens’ chapter to come. A new act, with the old sort of content. But all girls. ‘Les Soeurs Martens’. Four of them. The same ones? I think, mostly, so. Fanny, Emma, Charlotte and … Alexandrine. Not Henriette. Alexandrine (or Alexandra) is, I think, an ersatz Martens. She switched to being a circus-rider for a while in 1889, and a sharpshooter in 1893. Anyway, apparently, she was a ‘prix de beauté from Vienna’. Although, when Fanny got into the lawcourts for breaking her contract at the Folies-Bergère, it was she who was paragraphed as the ‘prix de beauté. Anyway, they are ‘the Quattuor Franco-Russe’. And they were good. Of course, ‘beauty’ is a taste:

‘Et puis vous entendrez les sœurs Martens; je ne vous dis pas de les regarder: il y en a une qui est trop grosse, une autre qui est trop vieille, une troisième qui est trop prix de beauté, qui a trop l’air de dire ‘Regardez, comme je suis jolie’, une pauvre petite de quinze ans, jolie comme un amour, qui fait peine à voir avec tout le mal qu’elle se donne pour chanter des ordures de café-concert. Pauvre gosse. Mais écoutez toutes les quatre et, peu et peu, vous oublierez... Vous ne serez plus rue Richer. Voyez-vous Vienne, le Prater …’

Anyhow, the Sisters Martens knew their stuff, even if one was too fat, one too old (!?), one too posy … ah, but the little one. Charlotte. Charlotte would, I think, have the best career of them all.


Charlotte Martens went from the caf’ conc’ to revue, from revue to comedy and even musical comedy (Planquette’s Rip), from the stage to the screen (Chérie, Monsieur Albert, Les vacances du diable, Un homme en habit, Luck) and the recording studio …. Presuming its all the same Charlotte Martens! Our one became Mme Lucien Serrigny on 4 July 1897, and her marriage registration kindly revealed her parents’ names. Joseph ('professor of violin') and Marie née Schule. Whether she is the music-hall/theatre one whose 1934 obituary says she was Mme Pollet, went on the stage with her parents, four brothers and one sister, as a child ... had her heyday at the Cigale … and died at Ris-Orangis …

Emma started up an act (1889) the Martens-Terzett ... 'Frau'? or a fake? Alexandrine took a very amateurish troupe around the British provinces (1896). But she was spoken of, in years to come, as  a paragon of beauty. And much photographed in her time ... there are no less than three photos of her on ebay today ..

In the 20th century, there seem to have been a few more probably fake Martens. The odd one in America, and I spy two ‘Schwestern Martens’ performing in Vienna in 1904.


And to finish, I find a long piece written in St Petersburg (Nordische Rundschau) which claims that the four ‘sisters’ are ‘weder leibliche Schwestern’ ‘wiewohl sie für Kinder des einst berühmten Tyroler-Quartett-Impresario Martens ausgegeben werden’. One, it says is from Liverpool, one from New York, one from Vienna and the fourth from Brussels … It describes Fanny as ‘die jugendliche Duenna des Kleeblatts’, Emma as having a ‘metallische Altstimme’, Alexandrine as the ‘Miss Budapest’ winner (wasn’t it Vienna?) and Charlotte … well, Charlotte, with her Puppen-Couplets and ‘Untreuen Männern’, was clearly special.

But ‘Pseudo-Tyrolienne’ and ‘Quasi-Schwestern’ though he may have dubbed them, he and the ‘tout St Petersburg’ clearly loved them. And since we know Charlotte was a genuine ‘Mlle Martens’ … perhaps, this chappie didn’t know what he was talking about…


There are an awful lot of ‘whatever happened to’s and ‘maybes’ in my exhumation of the story of the ‘Martens Family’. To start with, how come both the Schule or Scheele sisters were named Marie?  Madame Martens seems to have been known as Dorothea. 


There are a few educated guesses, too. But it’s a start. All contributions welcome.


PS 1880 Josephine Martens daughter of Joseph of Danzers Orpheum ... another daughter?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Maltese Military Mummers ...


I have had this item on my desktop for a number of days. And so, I see, have others. It is offered for sale by at least three dealers ... I assume its an original, so how come?  Anyway, none of them seems to have taken the trouble to identify it, date it and so forth, so I thought I would have a crack before wiping it.

Not many clues, are there? Yes, it is garrison theatricals again. Date? Well, My Wife's Husband dates from 1830.

I've searched for all the officers listed, and not found a one. I have no idea who Miss Lewis was, but 'the other amateurs' turn up one recognisable name. The one civilian involved in the playacting -- the chappie who played the women's parts -- was Mr Hector (aka Ettore) Zimelli, a native Maltese. Mr Zimelli was to turn out to be a major figure in Malta, rising to be Superintendant of Public Works, director of Police, consul for Sweden and Norway, and it seems also impresario of the local theatre. He is remembered today as the architect behind the building of the Valetta Market Buildings.

I imagine this foray into amdrams would have taken place before his elevation to high places. Would the Scandinavian consul have been properly seen as Mrs Wildlove? So it seems we are looking at a date before 1843. At which stage he was 27 years of age and working as a government clerk.  (I am presuming here that there were not two Hectors!).  Well, 4 February fell on a Wednesday in 1835, 1840 and 1846 ...

Over to someone else to find out which regiments were garrisoned in Valletta in those years. 

Greyhound racing ... 1858

I wonder what they used for a lure. 'Good hares'.

Is a slipper the starter? And does that say 'paid judge'? It sounds a pretty money-making affair ... if you wanted to race your hound you had to buy a dinner ticket as well as pay your 'entrance money'. And it cost a shilling to get in, or 2s6d if you came on horseback .. £3.12.6 times 16 ... plenty of profit there with the stakes being £36 ...

Ah well, a day of 'gentlemanly sport' and a jolly social beanfeast at the end ... country pleasures!

I regret to relate that owing to the 'unfavourable state of the weather' (in other words a hard frost) the meet did not take place on the day announced ...

Well, they got full fields, ran the following week  ... and look! the Earl didn't win!

Well, I guess a good time was had by all. And how much more joyful to spend a day in the lovely grounds of the Ferrers Estate than in the barren surrounding of 21st century dog tracks ..


Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Shapwick Monster


Today I happed on a fun piece of ephhemera. An original 1841 copy of the tale of the Shapwick Monster. I had never heard of Shapwick, nor its Monster, and hoped it might be another Dragon of Wantley ...

I soon discovered that the Monster and its story were well known .. the William Barnes Society relates

The Shapwick Monster

On October 12th 1706, in the parish of Shapwick, a travelling fishmonger from Poole bound for Bere Regis dropped a crab on the outskirts of the village (a farm nearby commemorates this event adeptly named "Crab Farm").

The villages, who had never seen a crab before and believed it was some kind of Devil or monster, armed themselves with sticks and pitchforks in attempt to drive away the creature.

The fishmonger eventually returned in search of his lost crab saw the commotion caused by the villagers. Amused by their ignorance he casually picked up the crab, put it back in his basket, and continued on his journey, spreading the word of the dim-witted villagers of Shapwick.

Since then, the villagers of Shapwick were looked upon as a bit simple and daft. That no one from the famed village dare visit a fishmonger stall at the local markets in fear of being ridiculed. Therefore, the stigma remains today - at least that is what some may like to believe.

John Symonds Udal's publication "Dorsetshire Folklore" includes a similar tale, although the monster is identified as a tortoise or lobster. Interestingly he also mentions that, as a proverbial saying, "A Shapwick Monster" is something too extraordinary to be explained.

The story is best remembered in this amusing poem published in 1841, written and illustrated by East Anglian artist Buscall Fox (1818 - 1887), whilst lodging at the home of Mary Harrington and her family at West Street, Sturminster Marshall, Dorset.

So there we are. Yes, the 1841 census shows Fox boarding in Dorset, But who was he? He doesn't seem to have written more of the kind ..

Well, Buscall FOX was born in Merton, Norfolk, and christened there 3 March 1818. He was the son of farmer Edmund George Fox and his wife Susan née Wallman of Watton. In later life father became a post messenger between Watton and Ovington.

I don't know how long Buscall stayed in Dorset, but, in 1855 he married in Norfolk ..

and by 1865, he was living in the Norfolk village of Barton Mills, advertising for pupils and commissions.

'Pupil of the late J. F. Herring, Harry Hall, and B. Haydon (Student and Exhibitor of the Royal Academy), gives Lessons in Drawing, Oils and Water Colors, China, Painting and Drawing from Models and Nature. Attends weekly, Newmarket, Bury ...'

He seems to have done all right. The web has a number of his works ...

I like the country gent best. The posh people seem to be painted from photographs. Ah, I see some are merely copies of old paintings.

Buscall Fox died at Barton Mills 16 February 1887, leaving his widow and a son George James Buscall Fox (1855-1940) who I see collected stone tools 'from UK, Africa and the Middle East' and donated them to the British Museum.

Well, I guess that The Shapwick Monster is out of copyright now ...  but I am glad to have made his aquaintance.

The mini-mystery of Miss Farrar (vocalist)


I researched and wrote this little piece some years ago as part of my Victorian Vocalists project. Needless to say, Miss Farrar didn't make the final cut. But today I came upon a grand piece of ephemera in the amazing shop of 'Antiquates Fine and Rare Books' ... and there she was!

So I thought this was the moment to post what I have on her ..

FARRAR, Mary Ann (b ?Halifax, c 1807; d 17 Kildare Terrace, Paddington  September 1871)
‘Miss Farrar’ didn’t really make it into the Victorian category of vocalists. But she should have.
Her story has been really difficult to unearth: but I have got some of it. And it’s worth telling.
Mary Ann Farrar was born in Yorkshire. At various times she was said to be from York, from Leeds, more convincingly from Halifax, and she herself claimed Bradford as her birthplace. I know that she lived in Halifax in her youthful years…
It would help if her breeding were known, but the only document that would have told us whether she was daughter of John, William, Samuel, Simon or A N Other Farrar ‘of Halifax’ is her wedding certificate, and on that she has written tersely just: ‘dead’.  
Perhaps she was related to the Mr Farrar whom I spot in the 1810s and 1820s playing horn, oboe and Patent Kent bugle solos, with a Mr John White from Leeds. Why? Well, Mr White (1779-1831) it was – an eminent Yorkshire musician – who gave Mary Ann her early lessons. Ah, me, I’ll shelve the mystery for the moment.
I first spot Mary Ann as a performer as early as 1820, playing the violin (Mr White was a violinist) in concert in Leeds, and, as a vocalist, in the 1823 York Music Meeting, where she is part of the Halifax chorus. On 6 December 1824, she makes a ‘first appearance’, in White’s concert in Leeds, singing ‘Come, be gay’ with Miss Travis (‘gave great satisfaction’), again on 5 January 1925, and 21 January 1825, she is on the bills with Mr Linley jr at the York concerts. Soon after, she made a debut in Manchester.
It was noted that she was ‘eighteen years old’ when she sang alongside Henry Phillips in Manchester in March 1825. So be it.
In September of the same year she appeared as a soloist at the year’s York Festival (‘a native of Yorkshire of whose talents much commendation is abroad’). She sang ‘Oh, had I Jubal’s Lyre’ and a duet with Deborah Travis, and was deemed to have ‘much promising talent’.
Young Miss Farrar seemed on a fast track to fame. Next February she was engaged for the Covent Garden oratorios and ‘acquitted herself to admiration and was loudly applauded’ in the company of Miss Paton and Miss Stephens. She sang in The Thanksgiving, the Bridesmaid in a Der Freischütz selection, ‘Wise Men Flattering’ in Judas Maccabeus, joined the Cawse sisters in Meyerbeer’s ‘Giovanetto cavalier’, Miss Paton for ‘Come, be gay’ and took a supporting part behind Miss Stephens in Acis and Galatea. Weber was reported to have been quite taken with her.
The conductor of the series was George Smart, and, like most young shooting-star sopranos who came into his orbit, Miss Farrar quickly ended up being billed as ‘pupil of Sir George Smart’.
She took part in a few concerts in London, and then returned north where she sang in the Yorkshire Musical Meeting, a Selby Festival and the Liverpool Festival, in the concerts at Bold Street Music Hall with de Begnis and Sra Cornega, and, in November, made up a quartet for Mr White’s concert at Leeds. She sang, with Knyvett Vaughan and Miss Travis, then picked up her fiddle and played with White and two of his daughters (piano and harp)!
1827 followed the same plan: London for the Covent Garden Martyr’s Day concert and the Drury Lane oratorios under Henry Bishop (‘encored in ‘Marvellous Works’’), a few concerts, then back north for a Selby Festival, as a deputy for Harriet Cawse at the Norwich Festival, and at the Liverpool Festival, in the company of Pasta, Miss Stephens et al. She took part in Joseph, Haydn’s second mass, a Linley anthem, Hummel’s Mass, a selection from Israel in Egypt (‘Thou dids’t blow’ ‘tolerably well’), gave ‘Wise men, flattering’ ‘evidently under much embarrassment’ at Norwich, and at Liverpool featured ‘Though from thee I now depart’ and repeated her ‘Marvellous Works’ ‘very agreeably’. At Selby (12-13 September) she shared the soprano music only with Mrs Austin.
She cancelled her engagements for the early part of 1828, but was back 7 May, to take part in the concert given by another of her tutors, the pianist Mrs Anderson, singing alongside Caradori Allan and Mme Stockhausen, and returned to Leeds for the Yorkshire Music Meeting (‘her ‘Ah! come rapida’ excited no less delight than wonder’) and the local Subscription Concerts, before in 1829 repeating the cycle once more – Martyr’s Day, the oratorios, Choral Fund and New Musical Fund concerts, the Societa Armonica, then north for concerts with John Binge, a Wakefield and an Ecclesfield oratorio, and the Chester Festival alongside Malibran, Miss Paton et al.  Wakefield averred ‘[she] now stands in the first rank of excellence’, Ecclesfield was less positive and commented on her ‘moderate talents and unaffected manners’.
At the end of the year, she took a Benefit ‘in her native town’ of Halifax. Amongst the audience were the Bronte sisters, who duly recorded the occasion for posterity. And in 1830 she sang at Reading with Margarethe Stockhausen and Henry Phillips, largely billed as ‘pupil of Sir Geo Smart’, and in a Halifax Festival. It seems it was a farewell to Yorkshire. 
The following year she removed to Leamington, where she settled as a music teacher. Subsequently, she took over the business of Elizabeth Wagstaff in that town. She appeared occasionally in concerts – and was still worthy of ‘breathless admiration’ in a rare Yorkshire appearance in 1837.
On 1 July 1837, Mary Ann Farrar married a London hatter from Leeds, by name James Walsh. She gave birth to a son, James, and two daughters, Emily (b Belinda Terrace, Southwark 22 February 1840) and Mary Ann (1841-1910), in quick succession, and sometime in the 1850s was widowed. In the 1861 census, her daughters are living with an ‘aunt’, in 1866, Mary Ann jr married (Mrs H R Eyers), and, in 1871, Mary Ann sr can be seen living in Westbourne Park with Emily and four live-in music pupils.
She died just a few months later, allegedly aged 62. Emily seems to have thereafter run a small school in Paddington .. and oh! is that she in 1901 'paralysed'?
Miss Farrar is just a wee bit of a mystery. She left behind a lot of ‘whys’. For example: after such a fine beginning in the musical world, why did she suddenly close up shop, quit Yorkshire and virtually stop singing in her early twenties?
Maybe I’ll discover why eventually.

Monday, May 6, 2024

The Seventh of May ... My special day.


May 7 is a special day for me. 

In 1919, on that date, was born, at Everton NSW, Ian Archibald BEVAN. Ian was my 'partner' for over 30 years, until his death ...  well, it will be 20 years ago soon ...

This is my favourite latter day photo of him.


Tonight, we will light the valedictory candles for him on his 105th birthday.

I was hoping for a quiet day, you know, when you are being valedictory. But .. well, anything but ..

Today the 'fire lighting ban' under which we have suffered for months and months was lifted. I was actually in touch with the fire department two days ago, asking what was happening. They told me 'get a new browser'. FENZ get a new website, a new system ... if I can't contact you, then I ignore you.

Anyway, early this morning, I had to take my little car up to the garage, for a 9am appointment. And what?! My neighbour had a huge bonfire going! When I got home, Nick McPherson and Max Macmillan from the Balcairn/Sefton page had spread the news. Ban over. I rushed outside waving a box of what are accounted matches in the 21st century and set alight the reeking six-months old fire pile. 

Oh dear. I am still suffering from my fall. I fell twice into the fire pile. Fortunately, the bit I had not lit. Wendy had an acupuncturist appointment, so I was Fire Chief for two hours ...  I normally cannot stand for two hours, but a pitchfork helps. And I was sort of mesmerised by the fire ...  it was the Gates to the Other World, clothed in fire and smoke ... those buried in the grounds of Gerolstein would rise again, phoenix-like, through the flaming chasms ...

Boofie, Sally and ... Ian.

Wendy emerged after my two hour Feuerwatch ... and I was able to wobble, well-toasted, across to the Acupuncture Room. 

I was a mess. My fall of last week had apparently thrown my body (such as it is) into all sorts of chasms and spasms.  Work began ...

An hour later ... magic!  So much better! 

And 5pm ...

The valedictory candles ... 

Ever remembered, darling man xxx