Archives for category: From Family Archives


This is me about 18 months ago. I don’t think it scanned as well as it could have. It looks much better in real life. It was made using the wet collodion process.

This hand written note from Dame Nellie Melba to her dentist Mr Hain, was written by the great lady herself in grey lead pencil. My grandfather’s working relationship with Melba started around 1915 when he was 13 years old. She was unwilling to use his musical services, however, until he was made cosmetically suitable. I wonder just how bad his teeth looked?

I imagine this letter was sent to my great-grandfather, Albert Parkes, who would have taken it as a letter of introduction to Mr Hain, who would have handed it back as a matter of course.

It reads –

Dear Mr Hain

Please look after little Cecil Parkes teeth (my bill), which need attention very badly.

Yours very truly

Nellie Melba

I have assumed that she was a guest of the Governor General at the time she wrote this note as she used the note paper from his office or residence. At the time I am estimating this note was written, the Governor General was The Right Hon. Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, the sixth person to hold the title after the Federation of the Australian states in 1901.

My apologies for the quality of the scan. The writing is very faint. I must say it surprises me that in that era, anyone would have written to a professional practitioner in pencil. I was taught by my grandmother in the 1970s that writing a letter (or note to someone) in pencil was a very rude thing to do, but I have heard stories about Melba’s personality that makes it less surprising than it might have been from another luminary of the period.

In 1915 my grandfather played with Dame Nellie Melba in a fundraising concert for the Belgian Relief Fund at the Melbourne Town Hall. He was thirteen years old. His piece was Allegretto non Troppo and Finale, from Concerto in E minor by Mendelssohn. Below is a ticket to the concert and the envelope in which it was kept these past 97 years.

Before the great Dame was willing to associate herself with my darling Grandpa, she wished that some cosmetic changes be made to his appearance. More of this in a future post…

This 8 x 10 inch portrait photo of silent movie star Mary Pickford was brought back from the USA by my Grandfather after his solo violin performance tour of 1917. It is a shame that what appears to me to be a hand signed inscription, is not made out to him personally. Despite this, having in my collection an original photo of this screen icon, one of cinema’s earliest, female, international celebrities, is a joy.

Apparently a distant relative on my maternal Grandfather’s side, this photo was in an album which was given to my Great Grandmother by Eliza Blackwell, prior to Read the rest of this entry »

This is my Grandma driving again, but in a different car.  We think this one belonged to her brother Tom and that it was he who took the photo. She is parked outside the Freer’s Hotel in Moray Street, South Melbourne. My Great-Grandmother, Mary Broderick was the licensee of the establishment. She was widowed when my Grandma was just 8 years old. She bought the business to support herself and her two children.  Her license was transferred to James T. Lewis in December 1924.

Not only was my grandmother a groover with “a motor”, she was also a fine musician with a career that started in her teen years. She performed on the piano as a soloist, an accompanist and in a trio called The Strad. She was a frequent performer for the ABC at the 3LO radio studio in Melbourne from its inception in 1932 through to the 1950s. This is one of her promotional photos from the mid 1930s.

My grandmother May Broderick taking her wheels for a spin with a group of friends in the mid 1920s.  I have more photos of my groovy Grandma in the driver’s seat of this, and one other vintage car, that I will post soon. In the meantime, please check out these fabulous vintage car pics at DC Photo Artist’s blog.



Actual size

Grandpa (Cecil Parkes) with his father Albert


This is a recent find from the bottom of an old box of my grandmother’s things. This tiny tintype photo is the only extant picture that shows my grandfather and great grandfather when on a tour from Australia to the USA. Grandpa was a child prodigy in the violin and toured the vaudeville circuit in 1917 with his dad as chaperone. He performed with many noted people including Lillie Langtry. His mum and two brothers had to stay at home in Williamstown, in Melbourne for the duration of their fifteen month trip. We are currently trying to work out where this was taken.


Transcript of the message –

Milton and Kingsley, just look at this photo and see if it is just like the papa you saw in Electra Street over 8 months ago.  Wouldn’t you have liked to have been on this big boat with us. I know Mama (crossed out word?) …. would.

God bless you all

(Papa) possibly a date

Milton and Kingsley are my Great Uncles and Electra Street is where the Parkes family lived in Williamstown, Melbourne.

My Grandma’s brother Tom who became a doting uncle to my Mum, started the way he meant to go on by sending this telegram of welcome. It was addressed and sent to my mother the day after she was born on the 12th of May 1929. Tom was working in New South Wales. Mum was born in Melbourne. Dalkeith was a small private hospital in Albert Park, a few doors away from my Great-grandmother’s home. The telegram is a treasured family memento, scanned crookedly as it is very delicate and not happy to stay where it is put.