our musical melbournites

Dame Nellie Melba was Australia’s first superstar. Her father did not want her to become a singer but his friend John Grainger, father of the composer Percy, actively encouraged her to pursue her dream.

image of Nellie found here

There’s a story about Melba being onboard ship with John Grainger. They’re having dinner. And they have the first course and the second course and the pudding arrives. And the pudding’s a wonderful green jelly, but because the fridges on the ship are down a little bit it’s spread around the plate. And Melba looked at it and said, “There are two things I like stiff and one of them’s jelly.”

Comb Jelly found here

Nellie died under somewhat mysterious circumstances in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in 1931. ABC’s Rewind program revealed why when it was aired in 2004

Historians have long puzzled over her death certificate. It says she died from septicaemia, but how did she contract this fatal infection? For 70 years, the nuns at St Vincent’s kept the cause of Melba’s death a secret. NURSING SISTER’S MEDICAL REPORT: “While in Europe, Dame Nellie Melba had a facelift, possibly in Switzerland. But an infection developed, so that by the time her homeward voyage had progressed as far as the Red Sea, she had erysipelas and was seriously ill. Not only was Dame Nellie in great pain from the incision on each side of her face, but she had a heart condition. She was specialised by a Sister of Charity and so strict were the rules of confidentiality that scarcely any other member of the nursing staff knew the nature of the complaint, even to this day.”

Percy Grainger, like Dame Nellie was also from Melbourne. As well as being an extremely talented composer and pianist he was fluent in 11 languages.

image of Percy found here

Grainger’s energy was legendary. In London, he was known as “the jogging pianist” for his habit of racing through the streets to a concert, where he would bound on stage at the last minute because he preferred to be in a state of utter exhaustion when playing. After finishing a concert while touring in South Africa, he then walked 105 km to the next, arriving just in time to perform.

image found here

In 1910, Grainger began designing and making his own clothing, ranging from jackets to shorts, togas, muumuus and leggings, all made from towels and also intricate grass and beaded skirts. The clothing was not just for private use but he often wore it in public.

jacket inspired by Grainger found here

A sado-masochist, with a particular enthusiasm for flagellation, Grainger extensively documented and photographed everything he and his wife did. His walls and ceilings were covered in mirrors so that after sessions of self-flagellation he could take pictures of himself from all angles, documenting each image with details such as date, time, location, whip used, and camera settings.

He gave most of his earnings from 1934–1935 to the University of Melbourne for the creation and maintenance of a museum dedicated to himself. Along with his manuscript scores and musical instruments, he donated photos, 83 whips, and a pair of his blood-soaked shorts.

a robust fustigation

According to London: The Wicked City by Fergus Linnane, there were brothels in 19th century England designed specifically for the gratification of women. Mary Wilson hosted an “Eleusinian Institution” divided into two sections, one for married women and their lovers, the other for women seeking sex.

ann margaret

Ann-Margaret (especially for UB)

Before making their choice, the women viewed the men through a window. When they saw one they fancied they would ring for a chambermaid and point him out. The woman could then “enjoy him in the dark, or have a light and keep on her mask. she can stay an hour or a night, and have one or two dozen men as she pleases, without being known to any of them….”


Mrs Wilson also specialised in flagellation. This interesting woman, who translated and published European erotic novels, wrote extensively about men’s addiction to flagellation, and classified the different types drawn to it:

those who like to receive a fustigation from the hands of a robust woman who wields the rod with vigour and effect


those who desire to administer birch discipline on the white and plump buttocks of a female


and those who derive excitement from being spectators of the sport

ironside's lone hand

Which one are you?

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 7:05 am  Comments (38)  
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