When Melba arrived at Tamworth in 1909, it was a quiet country town divided by the Peel River. The train had spent most of the day winding through the Hunter Valley from Maitland.
Today Tamworth is the country music capital of Australia and along the main street – Peel Street – stand statues of country stars such as Slim Dusty.
The council and historical society have put a lot of effort into heritage signage and the one featuring the Caledonian Hotel mentions Melba stayed there. The plaque is a few metres from Slim’s statue and somehow it seems appropriate recognition of music legends of two different eras.
However, research has shown that while the plaque says Melba stayed there on June 21, 1909, she and her party actually stayed at the Caledonian on June 19 and 20. The concert was on June 21 but after the concert and supper Melba spent the night on the vice regal railway carriage as the train to Armidale was leaving early in the morning.
Thanks to the wonderful staff at the Tamworth branch of the Central Northern Regional Library, I spent several hours going through the microfilm of their local paper and their local history books.
Shirley from the Tamworth & District Family History Group and the Tamworth Historical Society have also helped with the Melba story at Tamworth.
It is amazing to see how much research has been carried out by local heritage groups and published so people such as me can gain and understanding of life in the town at any time in its history.