Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Reading between the lines

I have previously expressed some doubts as to the reliability of the the recollections of Ms Pauline Seal (in 1923) as a source of information on the history of the Brisbane Band in 1857.

In the middle of Miss Seal's hagiography[1] of her father's role in the promotion of music in Brisbane, we find one curious anecdote purporting to have taken place immediately upon the arrival of the four musicians

... they went in search of a room, in which to conduct their practice. Longing eyes were centred on a room in the back of the old North Brisbane Hotel. Feeling rather nervous, Mr Seal approached the wealthy proprietor, Sergeant-Major Walker ... he was rebuked with the reply of "Tut mon, I would noo allow my hotel to be made a public show of by musicians ...
The North Brisbane Hotel was situated on the west side of Queen Street, between Edward and Albert Streets. It was destroyed by fire in April 1864. (Sketch held in State Library of Queensland)

What could be the (historical) importance of such a seemingly trivial incident in which one Scots publican declined the patronage of a group of newly-arrived non-British itinerant musicians? Particularly when the next sentence indicates that they found a suitable room just one block away.

The meaning becomes clear when you realise that Sergeant-Major Walker was Pauline's grandfather. A family tale that he had not thought much of his future son-in-law on first meeting is given an almost biblical dimension as Andreas and August and their soon-to-be-born Band are turned away from the inn into the night.

We are reminded again that this is not dispassionate reportage but deeply committed family history written in the last few months of the life of Pauline's mother and rich with personal meaning that needs to be pared away to reveal the underpinning facts.

[1] Records of Early Australian Musicians The Brisbane Courier 14 April 1923 page 17; Brisbane Bands Early Records Interesting Reminiscences 16 June 1923 page 18; Early Musicians on the Wallaby 1 December 1923 page 19

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog, Bob.
    Enjoyed the few posts I read - will be following from now on.
    Cheers, Jill


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