August 7 - 13, 2011: Issue 18  

Above:  Balcony photo of(from left): George Armstrong, Mrs Hugh Ward, Mr Chalmers, AW Allen, Madame Melba, John Lemmone, Mrs Armstrong, Hugh J Ward. Pic No: a3293014h Album 64: Photographs of the Allen family, 23 August 1914 - 7 March 1915 , courtesy State Library of NSW.

Above: Melba with  H J Ward in the grounds Pic: a3293016h . Below; 'Bilgola Cottage' in 1913 taken from headland by  A W Allen, 11th of May, Pic a3291037  and below this 'Within the Grounds', a3293016h , Dec 1913 all courtesy of State Library of NSW.

Below Pic:a3293015h, by A W Allen, 1913, courtesy State Library of NSW.

Dame Nellie Melba Lunches at Bilgola Cottage

'Madame Melba with John Lemmone' Picture a3293015, Courtesy State Library of NSW

Called Australia’s First Diva, Dame Nellie Melba, had a long association with the Allen family of Sydney who were highly cultured and enjoyed cultivating and entertaining the who’s who of Sydney Society. One of their number, Arthur Wigram Allen, was an enthusiastic photographer and vehicle owner, with the combination of both providing generations of Australians wonderful insights through the masses of images he took, all now housed at the State Library of NSW and known as the Allen Family Albums.

On Wednesday 23rd of September, 1914 ‘Madame’ Melba as she was referred to by Arthur Wigram Allen, went with the family and others to visit and explore Bilgola beach. They were entertained ‘at lunch’ lavishly and spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and beach. 

Dame Nellie was accompanied by Mr and Mrs H Ward (Mr. H J Ward had taken over the management of J C Williamson’s entrepreneurial entertainment firm on that man’s death in 1913. Melba had established the Melba-Williamson Opera Company in 1910), and her business manager, flautist John Lemmone. It would have certainly been an august party given whom attended.

As A. W. Allen states beneath one of the photographs: a number of us went up to Bilgola today to show the place to Madame Melba. We had a very successful afternoon’.

Also in the party were Mr and Mrs George Armstrong, Mr Chalmers, Denis and Mr. Allen.

Early Spring is beautiful in Pittwater and considering Dame Nellie Melba had sung the role of Mimi in La Boheme at the Royal Opera Convent Gardens in London at the request of King George V on May 11th of 1914, the visit probably formed part of a well deserved day off. You cannot tell from the black and white images here that this lady had auburn hair nor that she was highly spirited with sparkling eyes but the way she is pictured stepping off the veranda gives us some insight to a sprite spirit. Given that she was 53 years of age on this day, born May 19th, 1861, it seems that the blithe aspect of her hard worker nature was well and truly intact.

What was called ‘Bilgola Cottage’ was built in 1870 by William Bede Dalley (1831-1888), orator and politician, a gentleman who was born in George street to Irish convict parents. The Hon. W B Dalley, called to the Bar in 1856 is described as being highly educated, refined, articulate and with an open, warm and magnetic personality.  In 1878 his second son, John Bede Dalley, was born. Educated in England and called to the Bar in London in 1901 John practised in Sydney until 1906 at Wigram Chambers in Phillip Street, Sydney until a fall from a horse deafened him and he turned to journalism and writing. 

John was described as a bit of a character, always immaculately dressed and perfectly mannered, who satirised the upper echelons of Sydney society, even though a part of this crowd, in all his books. He was known as a ‘man about town’ from an early age and named as co-respondent in his older brother’s divorce proceedings in 1905.

The weekender Bilgola Cottage was the scene of many Allen Family lunches and picnics through the Springs and Summers of 1913 to 1914. They seem to have come and gone as though they owned the cottage and notes in the family photo albums seem to infer a stronger link then merely having access through their association with then owner, Walter Oswald Watt, the famous WWI Australian pilot, who was overseas serving in France when this luncheon took place. Images of him do turn up in other Allen family albums

It is interesting to note that there is an Allen Avenue in Bilgola after the family became involved in the first Bilgola Beach Subdivisions.

Notes and references

Tallamalla-Bilgola Cottage-Bilgola House

Pittwater Roads II: Where The Streets Have Your Name - Bilgola

Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens And Camping Grounds

Walter Oswald Watt; 11 February, 1878 – 21 May, 1921

John Bede Dalley Biography from ADB Online: here
In 1928 he published two novels, No Armour and Max Flambard. Back in Sydney and on the Bulletin, at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Macquarie Street on 8 November, he married an artist Claire Campbell Scott, who had designed the dust-jackets for his books.

John Lemmone Biography from ADB Online: here , Dame Nellie Melba Biography from ADB Online: here 

Hugh J Ward Biography from ADB Online: hereJC Williamson Biography from ADB Online: here

Silk program for opera excerpts which featured Nellie Melba as Mimì in La bohème, State Performance by command of King George V in honour of the visit of the King and Queen of Denmark, Royal Opera Covent Garden, London, 11 May 1914 Performing Arts Collection From: here  

In 1882 Hon. W B Dalley, returned to Sydney. He bought the area of ‘Manly Heights’ and decided to build a castle-like building in the Gothic Revival style on his new property, out of the beautiful local sandstone. He named it Marinella (meaning ‘home by the sea’) and took up residency in the magnificent castle in 1884.

Short stories
Dalley, John Bede Polding (Lieutenant, 2 Division Artillery, AIF b. 1882 d. 1935) [ Unpublished : 1918 ] At Aus War Memorial

John Dalley.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) Thursday 11 December 1930 p 56 Article
... John Dalley. IN "Only the Morning" (John Long), Mr. John Dalley, a Sydney writer, has produced a ... story. Apart from the way in which the interest of the reader is sustained, Mr. Dalley has achieved a ... travel along the years. But the task seems to have troubled Mr. Dalley not - at all, for he has ... 327 words

Mr. Dalley on Sir John Robertson.
The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893) Saturday 31 July 1886 p 3 Article
... Mr. Dalley on (Sir John Robertson. Following is the Herald's report of the speech of the Right Hon. W. B. Dalley in the Legislative Council on the second reading of the Sir John Robertson grant bill ... he (Mr. Dalley) thought it was, for the sake of the country, deeply to be regretted that the grace ... 2511 words

'Bilgola Cottage' Pic No: a105043, ca. 1900-1927, Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers, courtesy State Library of NSW.

From A W Allen Album of 1907:

Sunday, 8th September, 1907; Jack and I motored to Oswald Watts' at Wivenhoe near Camden (41 miles), Mrs Wilson and Mrs Rhoda Anderson came with us. We had a very nice day getting back at 6 p.m. 

Wivenhoe - various views of the house. Items: a2883025h to a2883029h. All from Album 40: Photographs of the Allen family, 6 July 1907 - November 1907, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Dame Nellie Melba Lunches At Bilgola Cottage - by A J Guesdon, 2011