Biographical sketches

Below are several short sketches of artists that appeared in The Referee Sydney. Dates are given, any typographical errors are either mine or due to problems reading the print.

March 31 1897

Miss Marietta Nash

Undoubtedly one of the cleverest and and most popular artists on the Australian stage is Miss Marietta Nash, at present playing Widow McLonely in the Matsa pantomime at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

This clever lady made her first appearance on the stage at the old Britannia Theatre, London, with a stock company, and after touring the provinces put in a lengthy stay in America.

She then came to Australia-about five years ago-under engagement to ‘The Firm’ with whom she has remained ever since, with the exception of when she appeared in ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ at Her Majesty’s under engagement to Mr George Rignold.

The parts she has played here have been as varied as they have been numerous and anything which she has undertaken has been remarkable for its artistic touches. In fact it would be hard to single out any part in particular for being especially meritorious.

Mis Nash, however, says she has the greatest liking for the Call Boy in ‘In Town’ and Aunt Martha in the pretty ‘Ma Mie Rosette.’

Going back to her London experiences, Miss Nash does not entertain any great pleasure.

‘Invariably we played four or five pieces a week. The curtain would go up about 7.30 and would not finally come down until midnight; and yet,’ she added with feeling, ‘they say ‘give us the old days!’

‘When I first came to Australia’ said the lady, ‘ I did not like it a little bit, but the people were so nice that that feeling was soon overcome and now I feel so much at home I should not think of leaving it.’

And as long as Miss Nash remains in that mood the theatre-going public will not have any cause for regret.

NOTE; Marietta was married to actor George Lauri.


November 4 1896

Miss Maud Lita

MISS MAUD LITA who is playing the principal female part in ‘The serpents call’ has not long been prominently before the public as a dramatic artist. As a matter of fact Miss Lita was trained as a singer and it was owing to her singing ability that she was engaged by Mr William Cosgrove for the part of Dora McAllister when he put on ‘Fun at the Bristol’ at Her Majesty’s not long since. As Miss Lita showed, however, that she could act as well as sing, she gradually got parts to play that proved her capacity as a dramatic artist. She has much to learn yet, but from the way in which she gets through with her present part in ‘The Serpents Call’, we fancy she will one of these days become a prominent melodramatic artist. She has youth, expressive features, and a good voice to help her. Experience will come with time and opportunity.

December 16 1896

Miss Stella Esdaile

The young lady who is to play Sinbad in Mr C B Westmacott’s pantomime of ‘Sinbad the Sailor’ at Her Majesty’s Theatre this Christmas, was born in Melbourne on December 17 1877 and will, consequently, unless our mathematical calculations are very much out, be 19 years of age tomorrow ( Thursday) Miss Esdaile has entered the profession under the management of the Cogill Brothers, and subsequently played parts with Maggie Moore, John Gourlay, and others. Eventually she joined the chorus of Messrs. Wiliamson and Musgrove’s Comic Opera Company. Here undoubtedly she got the training which has enabled her to rise from the chorus ranks to that of principal boy in a first class pantomime company. No small jump for an Australian born girl. And it says much for the encouragement given to our own people both by Mr Williamson , who has lost no opportunity of encouraging this latest addition to the ranks of our principal artists and Mr C B Westmacott who has every confidence in her ability to fill the part she has been selected for as well as anybody could fill it. Miss Esdaile has been more prominently brought under public notice lately by filling the part in ‘A Milk White Flag’ left vacated by the much regretted death of poor Sadie MacDonald. It can quite be understood that it was a most trying ordeal for a girl to undergo in the pathetically tragic circumstances ,and Miss Esdaile cannot speak of Mr Julian Mitchell’s kindly encouragement too warmly; also the members of ‘ A Milk White Flag’ Company have been kindness itself to her. The public, too, has not been slow to recognise the undoubted ability of this promising young artist, who by the way is sister to Florrie Esdaile, the well known soprano. The subject of our sketch is loud in her praise of Mr Williamson, to whose appreciation of her work she owes so much of her advancement, and she says that in the forthcoming pantomime, she will do all she can to justify the already good opinion formed of her by the public.


November 17 1897

Miss Lilian Wheeler

Miss Lilian Wheeler leading lady for Mr George Rignold, has not had a very lengthy stage career, but it has been an exceedingly successful one.

In fact it is but a few months since the lady made her first appearance as a ‘supe’ with the Bland Holt company at Melbourne. She was then recognised as possessing the qualifications for success-she is young and pretty, has an excellent enunciation and more than usual intelligence-Mr Neild, the well known Melbourne critic advised Mr George Rignold to give her a show, which he accordingly did with most satisfactory results to all concerned.

Miss Wheeler joined Mr Rignold during his late season at Adelaide, and soon after doing so she was entrusted with leads owing to the talented Miss Emily Hughes being snapped up by ‘the Firm.’

During the course of a chat with theatrical representative of the REFEREE Miss Wheeler spoke enthusiastically of her profession. ‘I love it dearly,’ she said ‘and am thoroughly satisfied, so satisfied indeed that there is nothing which would induce me to leave it.’

‘My forte is tragedy, but I like comedy because it means experience, and I want all the experience I can get.’

It will be remembered that while in Melbourne the local Press universally referred to Miss Wheeler as the ‘Toorak heiress". Questioned as to the foundation for the title the lady replied;

‘There is no truth whatsoever in it. I several times contradicted the statement, but the papers clung tenaciously to it, and highly amused themselves over it.’

Miss Wheeler promises to rank among the foremost actresses Australia has produced, and the REFEREE takes this opportunity to congratulate her on her past success and to hope that it may continue.


April 22 1896

Miss Elizabeth Watson

Miss Watson was born in Aberdeen and commenced acting as a very small child. The engagements she remembers best at that period were in ‘East Lynne’ playing Willie Carlyle. Then she joined Barry Sullivan with whom she had quite a round of children’s parts. Miss Watson’s childhood’s career finished with the little girl’s part in ‘In the Ranks’. Her first grown up engagements were with Miss Marriott and Edmund Searle, playing everything and anything. She was then engaged by Wilson Barrett to play Lara Lee, the gipsy girl in ‘Romany Rye’, which she did for twelve months. After that Miss Watson tried comedy and had engagements with Mr Penley in ‘Useless and Aunts’ and Mr Edouin in ‘Turned Up’ and ‘Kleptomania’. Then back again to serious work and tours followed of Nellie Danver in ‘The Silver King’; Esther Eccles in "Caste’ , Henrietta in ‘ The Two Orphans’, Mercy Merrick in ‘ The New Magdalen’ Minnie Lipton in ‘ Lord Fauntleroy’, Ethel Arden in ‘The Union Jack; and also a season at the Pavillion Theatre, London. Just before coming out here Miss Watson had been playing the title role in Mr Tree’s company of ‘A Woman of No Importance’. We have only seen Miss Watson as yet in one character , but we have seen enough to satisfy us as she is a clever and painstaking actress.

Elizabeth was the sister of Henrietta Watson ‘so well and favourably known in Sydney’

September 8 1897

Tommy Hudson

Mr Tommy Hudson is one of the best known of Australian theatrical managers, and his name is also a household word through India and the East. For close on thirty years he has been travelling this portion of the globe, and any part which he has not visited has not the reputation of being a town. During that time he has visited India no fewer than 26 times, and the fact of a company bearing his name is always is always a sufficient guarantee as to the quality. He is the lessee of a theatre at Calcutta-where the Broughs are shortly to do a season- and also the Adelaide Bijou, where his clever company commenced a season on Saturday night. Mr Hudson will shortly return to Sydney to enjoy a well earned three week rest.


Beanie Galletly (incomplete)

Miss Galletly is a long limbed daughter of Australia, a simple country maiden, born at Wodonga (on the Victorian border, near Albury NSW) on July 20 1875, and , as a consequence, is just a shade over 20. When she was 7 years old her parents went to Melbourne and took an hotel, and have remained in the hotel business ever since. MISS GALLETLY first ‘went on’ at Christmas three years ago, in Coppin’s "Babes in the Woods’ pantomime at the Melbourne Royal, as a beginner in the ballet. She immediately developed a talent for dancing and high kicking, which is unsurpassed in Australasia. Her first solo dance was in the cerulean ballet, which Mr Darrell introduced into his production of ‘The Double Event’ at Melbourne Royal. She went on tour with ‘The Double Event’ Company, and then joined Mr J C Williamson’s dancers to dance in the big ‘Blue Ballet’ which followed the Italian operas, and which introduced Mesdames Bartho and D’Argo to the Australian public. After this, Miss Galletly rejoined Mr Darrell on tour, and at the completion thereof enlisted herself under the banner of Mr Harry Rickards at Melbourne Opera House. After Miss Galletly had been dancing herself into public favour for about three months at the Opera House, Mr C B Westmacott came along and made her an offer (by arrangement with her then management) to take charge of the ballet in his contemplated production of "Pat" at he Theatre Royal , Sydney. The offer was accepted, together with a long engagement with the result that the "Ballet of the Belles" in "Pat" under Miss Galletly’s direction, ranks without doubt amongst the best ever done here. In "the Work Girl", Mr C B Westmacott’s present production at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, Miss Galletly has introduced a very smart ‘Larrikin ballet" in Act IV. Miss Galletly has a bright future before her…..(incomplete)


December 23 1896

Mr Harry Plimmer (incomplete)

MR HARRY PLIMMER who is announced to play Harold Wilson ( the juvenile lead in "Tommy Atkins") under Mr Rignold's management at the Theatre Royal, has , like most of the young men who have come to the front, climbed the ladder by sheer pluck and perseverance. Years ago the writer remembers him as a boy reciting in Wellington, New Zealand.. Even at that time Plimmer gave promise of doing well in the profession her was intended for, and nobody who knew him was in the slightest degree surprised when he threw up his billet with the Wellington Harbour Board to make a bee line for Sydney and fame. It was a bold stroke, for he could have remained with the Harbour Board all his life, and would doubtless have in time died in the odour of nonentity(?) and a comfortable competence. But the blood was hot in his veins, and the stage had named him for its own. Arrived in Sydney he boldly approached Ada Ward, who was then running the Opera House. She gave him the part of Richard Hare in "East Lynne" said part being known generally in the profession as being the biggest rotter anybody could well tackle. He also played in "the Woman in Red" and an Australian piece called "Bright Hopes". Here he experienced what all actors do at one period or another, namely the occasional unreliability of the theatrical ghost. This didn't daunt him, however, for he went along to the Standard and played  the part of Carlton in "The Mystery of the Hansom Cab" with the late H O Sydney and Alice Norton. Then he went for a two year tour with Charlie Taylor. Bland Holt heard of him and the consequence was an eighteen month engagement with that most excellent of management. He then tried a tour on his own , but as the era of land tax and prosperity had not then set in, the tour was a frost. A short season with Baker and Norman and then with Baker and Howe brought him along to the time he joined...(incomplete)



Referee February 6 1901

Death of W G Barker

The death of Mr William G Barker, the popular basso, who expired on Thursday morning, though expected for some time past, will nevertheless be keenly felt in Melbourne musical circles. Three or four months ago Mr Barker was troubled with an abscess on the brain, which was operated on no less than five times, but without success. He continued his duties as long as possible, but his condition grew worse, and on Sunday week he lapsed into unconsciousness, and remained so until his death. Mr Barker, who was one of the best bass singers who has ever resided in Australia, was 29 years of age, and a native of Melbourne. He leaves a widow and one son. Mr Barker's services were frequently asked on behalf of charitable objects, and were never asked in vain, and he was deservedly one of the most popular of Melbourne vocalists. When the news of his serious illness was announced, arrangements were made by a number of his admirers to hold a benefit concert on his behalf, although personally he disclaimed any desire to receive any reward for any charitable acts which he had performed on various occasions


Theatre Magazine, December 1st 1905

Miss Grace Fletcher

Miss Grace Fletcher, whose portrait appears in this issue, is a charming and accomplished vocaliste well known in this city as a teacher. She not only possesses a mezzo soprano voice of beautiful and refined quality , but is also a gifted linguist, her Italian and French lending a special charm to the interpretation of music of those countries. Miss Fletcher was for some two years one of the first violins of the Amateur Orchestral and Philharmonic Societies, but subsequently relinquished her violin studies, that she might give all of her energies to the study of singing. Having had her first vocal lessons from Miss Nellie Young (now Madame Weiedmann) who will be remembered in Sydney as an artistic singer of German Leider, when Miss Young retired from her profession, Miss Fletcher became a pupil of Mr C C Bethune, making her first professional appearance in 1899, at one of the Pieyel classical concerts, under the direction of Monsieur F Aengenheyster. During the following year, Miss Fletcher made many important appearances, one of which , was with the Amateur Orchestral Society, under the baton of Signor Hazon. At the end of 1900, Miss Grace Fletcher sailed for Europe, where she continued her vocal studies under the direction of the well known teacher, Madame Cornelis-Servais, chief professor of singing of the Conservatoire Royal of Brussels. Madame Cornelis was a pupil of the world renowned Marchesi, who takes a trip every year from Paris to Berlin to hear Madame Cornelis pupils sing. After a visit to Paris and London, Miss Fletcher returned to her home in Sydney, and has since devoted her time to teaching, and her cultivated vocal style has been much admired on many important public occasions.


Referee March 24 1909

Mr Reynolds Denniston

A prominent member of the Julius Knight Company, who is at present playing Marquis de Beaumont in " A Royal Divorce". Mr Denniston is a New Zealander, and son of  a judge of the Dominion. He has travelled over a good deal of the globe, and is a very versatile actor.

Referee October 28th 1908


The well known actor-manager who died in Melbourne last week. He was one of the best known men on the Australian stage and as an actor held a very high position, his productions always showing artistic taste and careful selection of the cast. The deceased was about 50 years of age, and was educated at the London University College School. He first appeared on the stage in Christchurch (NZ) in 1876 and it is noteworthy that his companies always included some New Zealanders. A little later he appeared in Melbourne with Creswick, Bland Holt and others, and then filled a seven years engagement with Williamson, Garner and Musgrove. He then went to India ,and the East and returned to London. A visit to South Africa was made in 1896 and he remained there some years directing eventually a circuit of ten theatres. He came to Australia in 1902 and with a few months intermission remained here till his death. He joined forces with Robert Brough in 1903, but the latter died a year later, and the deceased conducted his own comedy company up till the time of his death. Mr Flemming appeared in Sydney last June and July when he was successful with some new productions. He leaves a widow and two sons.

Picture of Herbert Flemming

 G B Turner- The Theatre Magazine March 1 1913

The well known G B Turner is 71 years of age. Who is it that hasn't got a good word to say for "George" as he is popularly referred to? Mr Turner was at the National Amphitheatre for five and a half years. Now he is at the Princess Theatre. It is something like ten years since he dropped out of stage work.

Mr Turner comes from England. he made his first stage appearance in Australia in 1866 at the old Scandinavian in Sydney. he was then-and for thirty five years later- known as the double voiced  vocalist. He could sing baritone and alto. In his time he fulfilled engagements with the Mastadon Minstrels, the Georgia Minstrels and the Federal Minstrels. With the Georgias he was billed as the female impersonator. Burlesque performances were given by the Georgias of 'Pinafore' and 'The Pirates of Penzance'. In 'Pinafore' he appeared as Josephine, and in the 'Pirates' he was the Pirate King.

'This', he explains, 'was to show the difference in my voice.'

Mr Turner adds that despite the burlesque character of the performances, the whole of the music of the two operas was seriously rendered. In 'Pinafore' Johnny Gilmore played Buttercup and in the 'Pirates' Billy Wilson appeared as Mabel. Later Mr Turner was with the London Pavillion Co-as interlocutor, and alto. John Fuller Senr. was a member of the same company. Mr Turner has had a number of shows of his own. He took a marionette show through Tasmania and tried his luck with a variety company in Fiji. The Fiji venture proved a very profitable one.

Mr Turner carries his age remarkably well,. He is surprisingly active for a man of his years. But even more than his activity in making him appear much younger than he is  is his ever cheerful, kindly, good humoured disposition.


The Theatre Society and Home, September 1 1924

Jennie Pollock

Jennie Pollock was a native of Auckland, New Zealand ,and for many years was a most valued member of Bland Holt's dramatic company, appearing with conspicuous success in such fine melodramas as 'The White Heather', 'Woman and Wine', 'One of the Best' 'The World', 'Hearts are Trumps' and other plays. After Bland Holt went into well-earned retirement, Miss Pollock was associated with various other companies and then went into management with her brother Robert Pollock, and for many years toured the big country centres with a repertoire of the most successful pieces of the day. Occasionally the melodramatic fare was varied by Shakespearean plays, and in those Miss Pollock proved a keen knowledge of the classic drama. Her death was a decided blow to the Australian stage, for she was an actress of great promise.

Eugenie Duggan

Eugenie Duggan is an Australian actress, still happily with us, although her appearances on the metropolitan stages are not so frequent now as her many admirers would like. As the much tried heroine of what used to be known as 'transpontine melodrama' she won favour with Australasian audiences, and at times appeared in classic drama, one of her most notable achievements being Roxanne in Rostand's poetic play 'Cyrano de Bergerac'. Her husband, the energetic William Anderson for many years controlled metropolitan theatres, and managed various dramatic companies more or less engaged in staging the most popular melodramas of the day. But Anderson deserved well of all Australians for he encouraged local dramatists and 'The Squatter's Daughter' with Eugenie Duggan as heroine, was an outstanding success. Bert bailey and Edmund Duggan were the authors.

Maud Jeffries

Maud Jeffries is a native of America and was playing small parts in Daly's theatre, New York when Wilson Barrett saw her and promptly engaged her for his company. She appeared in London as Mercia in 'The Sign of the Cross' and also in this role in Australia. When 'Herod' was produced by Tree in London, she figured as leading lady. Australia first saw her in 'Claudian' with Wilson Barrett in 1898, and her success in that monumental drama paved the way  for Desdemona, Ophelia, Nellie Denver and the heroines in the Melodramas of Hall Caine. A few years later she returned with Julius Knight to delight us in 'Beaucaire', 'Resurrection', wherein she reached the heights of tragedy, 'The Eternal City' , 'The Darling of the Gods', and other fine plays. Later she married J B Osborne, of the well known Australian family, and settled here as a good Australian.

Biographies from Theatre Programmes

-Majestic Theatre programme Adelaide 1950s

Alec Regan

Alec Regan, general Manager of the Majestic Theatre, has had an interesting career. Born and educated in Devon, his first public appearance was as a choir boy in the Exeter Cathedral Choir. In October 1913, he made his first professional appearance with the 'SPLASH ME" Revue Company in London. When war broke out he joined the East Lancashire Regiment, and saw service in France until December 1918, when he was demobilised. Later , he appeared in a number of West End Revues and Musical Comedies, and was starred with George Robey and Rebla in "ROUND IN" . Before embarking on a  tour of South Africa and Australia he played with Ralph Lynn and Evelyn Laye in MARY.

Australian remember Mr Regan as a member of Clem Dawe's "MIDNIGHT FROLICS". In 1930 Mr Regan was married in Adelaide, and later spend some years managing several of the Regent Theatres in new Zealand. In 1939 he came to Adelaide to manage the METRO Theatre, but after a period of a year in this position he eagerly grasped the opportunity to return to his first love-the legitimate stage-as General manager of the Majestic Theatre for S.A Theatres Limited.

Lyla Thomson

Miss Lyla Thompson, a member of the VOGUES OF VARIETY COMPANY, which opens at the Majestic Theatre on December 4, originated in Victoria that old comedy number, BULL AND BUSH, and held the record at the Gaiety Theatre Melbourne, as she played that theatre for the longest term of any Variety artist.

Maude Fanning

Miss Maude Fanning, one of the stars of the VOGUES OF VARIETY, first commenced her theatrical carer in ballet and solo dancing with J. C. Williamson. From the ballet she stepped into Principal Boy with Mc Lean's travelling company in the pantomime 'Cinderella". The song that started her on the way to fame was LILY OF LAGUNA.

 The Theatre, Society and Home, January 1 1926

Fanny Wiseman ( Mrs South)

An Australian Veteran

Australia's oldest actress is Miss Fanny Wiseman (Mrs South) who has just celebrated her 79th birthday. She is a native of Melbourne. All who have long memories will recall Fanny as Topsy in her own version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at the old Melbourne Princess Theatre, Spring street, her singing of  " Golly, Ize so wicked" being a classic and her chaff -bag dance a riot. When Fanny Wiseman was a girl of 15 she played Lady Macbeth and Portia to big English actors visiting Australia, while it is only about a year ago, since , at the Perth Theatre Royal , she recited a fine piece of verse dedicated to the blind soldiers. It was written by her youngest daughter, the wonder of it being that she could not only give it, but that she could have memorised it in so short a time. Mrs Wiseman is now living at Perth, W.A., where the public intend giving her a benefit. She has been playing for 68 years, having started as a youngster of seven, and richly deserves a testimonial, especially as of late years her health has not been too good.

Theatre Magazine June 1 1921

The last call George Villiers Arnold

George Villiers Arnold ,well known throughout Australia as one of the cleverest character actors, died yesterday at a private nursing home after comparatively short illness from pleurisy and pneumonia.

Mr Arnold, whose baritone voice had given pleasure so thousands of music lovers, had recently been appearing at the Grand Opera House as the Cobbler in "Chu Chin Chow". His artistic rendition of 'The Cobblers Song", in the third act was one of the features of the production.

Mr Arnold came to Australia in 1914 with the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Co and was induced to extend his contract until the present date. His experience in England was mostly gained with the D' Oyley Carte Opera Co. While in Australia Mr Arnold married Pearl Ladd, a Gilbert and Sullivan artist , who survives him.

Dean Talbot has arranged to conduct a funeral service at St Andrew's Cathedral at 10.15am on Monday.

FROM The O Brien Girl Programme Melbourne 1923

Harry Hall

Harry Hall, the  London producer Mr Hugh J ward has brought to Australia to stage his spectacular musical productions, was for three years at the London Hippodrome, a house famous the world over for its lavish presentations. Mr Ward had to angle carefully to persuade Mr Hall to come to Australia at all. he was well established in London, and with a rapidly improving tone coming into the theatrical business there which would naturally induce entrepreneurs to stage more lavish productions, his scope would have been greatly enlarged, for even among producers many try, but few really great ones emerge from the test. Mr Ward however, had set his mind on ranging Mr Hall under his banner, and got his own way about it. Mr Hall has also been responsible for putting on several American productions which have even startled blasé old New York.

Willy Redstone

Willy Redstone, Musical Director at the New Princess, was born in 1884 , in Paris, and made all his studies at the University, where he holds his bachelorship in Latin, Greek and Mathematics. A hard and fast rule at the National Conservatorium of Music, Paris, which would not permit its pupils producing anything in public, caused him to translate his name from the French ,when he staged a comic operetta act entitled, "le Trou d'Almanzor" in 1903. "That play" , he says," being a success, established my new name and I have kept it." Ever since those days Mr Redstone has thoroughly established himself as a composer in Europe, among his successes known in Australia being " A Night Out".

His mother is a sister of Charles Gounod, the famous French composer, and one of his cousins is the manager of the Opera Comique in Paris, where he produced all Preconn's works, "Louise", "Pelleas and Melisande." and modern school works.



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