Monday, October 11, 2010

A Music-Hall Singer on the Goldfields

NB: This post is about a music-hall singer in the Victorian era. I wanted to write about Australian singers so I will include him.

Charles Thatcher has been described as 'the most acclaimed music-hall singer of the Australian goldfields'. This popular Englishman certainly led a successful and interesting life which varied from digging in the goldfields, singing, and importing.
He also lived in three different countries.

Born in Bristol in 1831, Thatcher was the son of a curio seller. When he was quite young the family moved to Brighton where his father ran a curio shop. Young Charles showed musical talent early - he learned the flute and played in London orchestras.

The seemingly easy fortunes to be made on the Australian goldfields attracted -Thatcher when he was only 21. He soon came to Australia on the Isabella. He quickly made friends and started digging. He was lucky enough to make one thousand pounds and decided to leave the hard labour of digging for gold.

Thatcher decided to become an entertainer in the music-halls. Although he apparently had a weak voice, he was handsome with broad-shouldered, clean-shaven looks. He also had a knack for writing humorous lyrics which he set to old songs. These qualities soon helped him become a success. He toured the goldfields with these songs.

The singer's lyrics concerned timely topics, such as the goldfields and cricket. He also sang political songs at times. Thatcher's comments about the gold commissioners and police were criticised. Thatcher regarded his songs as 'a popular history of the time'. He was nicknamed 'the Colonial Minstrel'.

When Thatcher was 30 he married a widow, Annie Vitelli, who was also a singer and entertainer. They had two daughters. The couple lived in Dunedin for some years where Charles continued to sing but they returned to Victoria.

They eventually decided to go back to England where Thatcher ran a successful curio shop, following in the footsteps of his father. He died of cholera in Shanghai, where he was on a business trip in 1878.

You can see a drawing of Thatcher here in the middle of the page:
Charles Thatcher

1 comment:

Hels said...

Living and working on the gold fields must have made for a lonely, boring life. I bet the diggers were delighted when a music-hall singer like Charles Thatcher turned up to their gold town, to break up the tedium.