Glen Innes – just like home to Melba

After leaving Armidale Melba’s train travelled seemingly through the valleys at the top of the world to Glen Innes which must have been a little like a home coming to Melba. She would have felt comfortable among so many people from her father’s homeland Scotland. The town is called the Land of the Beardies and having Celtic origins proudly includes a strip of tartan as part of its logo.

Glen Innes Railway Station is small compared to those of Tamworth and Armidale. Dominating the station was the massive water tower still standing there today on the abandoned station and line. The bridges later built at Grafton and Tweed Heads saw the inland line from Sydney to Brisbane fall out of favour and close.

But in 1909, Melba’s June 23 overnight stop at Glen Innes was her last concert until Brisbane when her next concert was scheduled on June 26.

The water trank for steam trains at the now closed Geln Innes Ra
The water tower at the Glen Innes Railway Station.

As with Armidale, Melba left the train and rested, probably at the Tattersalls Hotel – the leading hotel in town – before driving a short distance to the Town Hall for her concert. After supper at the hotel she would have been driven back to the station to spend the night on the train.

While in Glen Innes we tried to get into the Town Hall which is very little changed since Melba’s visit. However, it was a polling booth for the recent Federal elections and the Electoral Commission had changed the locks and held the keys to keep the ballot papers inside safe.

Still we had a wonderful time with Eve Chappell OAM, Museum Manager and Research Coordinator,

Glen Innes & District Historical Society. The society has taken over the old nurses’ home and other building at the Glen Innes Hospital site and created a magnificent local history museum called the Land of the Beardies Museum and Research Centre.

I spent several hours with Eve who, after receiving my email had spent several hours finding information and images suitable for my Glen Innes story. It was eve who suggested Melba stayed at the Tattersalls Hotel because it was the largest and used by the more well-heeled people when they stayed in town.

The society has a wonderful research centre which made me quite envious. They need lots of volunteers to operate it and offer good service and seem to have no shortage of help.

Eve was able to solve one mystery for me. The local coursing club was holding a two-day event and the day when Melba arrived they promoted it as Melba Day in local advertisements. Eve believed this was not because Melba would attend but because it was being held on the day Melba arrived in Glen Innes. The club knew it would attract more people if it was held when so many people were in town for the Melba concert. Smart marketing.

One mystery which will have to be solved is the missing copy of the Glen Innes Examiner – Friday, June 25, 1909 which would have contained the report on the concert. It is not on Trove nor in the microform held at the museum.

As reports from it have been quoted in publications, I hope the State Library of New South Wales holds a bound original Examiner for that time with the missing edition and will be able to copy it for me. Otherwise, sadly Glen Innes will be the only town in New South Wales not to have a concert report. More homework to do.

The Australian Standing Stones at Geln Innes NSW 2016.
The Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes NSW 2016.

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nellie melba museum

A journalist and historian, for many years I have studied Dame Nellie Melba and written articles, books, and given talks about her. I established the first website int he world dedicated to Melba and still maintain it today as a virtual museum.

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