Melba’s Triumphant return to Grafton

As Nellie Armstrong at the end of 1885 and start of 1886, Melba gave four sell out concerts at Grafton so was looking forward to a successful concert again on August 2, 1909.

The town didn’t let her down though the strenuous timetable was taking its toll on her and the company.

After her final Brisbane concert the party took the train south to Tweed Heads, boarded a river boat and headed upstream to Murwillumbah and the train which took the party to Lismore, Casino and then to Grafton before returning back to Tweed. This was called her Northern Rivers tour.

The train trip was circuitous because the railway and road bridge across the Clarence was not built until the 1930s. When completed it provided the coastal railway route between Sydney and Brisbane which is still used today.

At Grafton she performed at the Rink Hall commonly called the Trocadero which was a skating rink.

It was used because for the concert because it was large and could accommodate the audience.

A special steamer was run to bring people from the lower Clarence to the concert and took them home again.

The Clarence River today at the end of Warf Street, Grafton 2016
The Clarence River today at the end of Warf Street, Grafton 2016.

Sadly, it is no longer there nor is the railway station she was greeted at. However, Roche’s Hotel is still very much operating. On the banks of the river it was part of the prosperous coastal river trade and boasts some wonderful seafaring memorabilia on its walls.

Roche's Hotel Grafton where Melba and her concert party stayed i
Roche’s Hotel Grafton where Melba and her concert party stayed in July-August 1909.

I spent two sessions with the wonderful Robyn and Hazel at the home of the Clarence River Historical Society who worked through my extensive wish list for images and information.

Nothing was too much trouble for them and I was quietly envious of their museum and archive in Schaeffer House, the home of Grafton’s former engineer who designed supervised the building of so many of Grafton’s wonderful buildings.

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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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