LADY OF SONG: Gladys Moncrieff with flowers from her many admirers.
LADY OF SONG: Gladys Moncrieff with flowers from her many admirers. Contributed

Australia’s favourite operetta singer to be remebered

MEMORIES of Australia’s favourite operetta singer Gladys Moncreiff were being sourced for a commemoration centre to be built in Bundaberg.

Founding member of the Our Glad Association Leonie Egan said they formed a group earlier this year to raise funds and awareness in the Wide Bay region of the singer.

“In the first six months of this year we have held fundraisers where we celebrated the 40th anniversary of her death in 1976, her birthday on April 13 - we celebrated that - and recently, her wedding,” Leonie said.

Gladys Moncreiff was born in 1892 in Bundaberg and had her stage debut at six-years-of-age in the Queen's Theatre, Bundaberg, where she sang The merriest girl that's out.

She sang roles in Gilbert and Sullivan works, and was successful in the junior soprano section of the Charters Towers annual eisteddfod.

After leaving school Gladys toured remote North Queensland with her family to entertain isolated audiences with moving pictures, music and lantern slides.

She was billed as Little Gladys—The Australian Wonder Child and in 1908 at Townsville she sang the soprano lead in The Messiah.

Gladys also worked in picture theatres and on vaudeville stages before accompanying her mother to Sydney for further experience.

In late 1911 she was auditioned in the presence of Dame Nellie Melba by Hugh Ward, managing director of J. C. Williamson Theatres, who gave her a three-year contract.

Association member Leonie said they were looking for any memorabilia which people were “hanging on to and wondering what to do with”.

“I am desperate for people not to throw out their scrapbooks,” she said.

“We are looking for anything - programs, LPs, sheet music, scores of her musical comedies, photos.”

Leonie said they needed to create a centre for her.

“We are missing this wonderful opportunity to have a centre here where people can go in to have look at the memorabilia - the programs, the cds, the books and photographs and the story of her life,” she said.

“What I am trying to do is to raise awareness that this society is now functional and we are asking for the general public to support us.

“And if they are willing to donate to buy - there is several collections we have on hold - there is one in Sydney, one on the Gold Coast and another one here in Bundaberg.

“All wonderful additions to her memorabilia that we are collecting.

“We are also trying to get grants - we have applied and now waiting.”

An avid musician herself, Leonie is asking for financial help to enhance Gladys’ heritage.

“If there are any generous benefactors who like what we are trying to do, please contact us.

“There are people under 60 who don’t know who Gladys Moncreiff is, they know we have a Moncreiff Theatre.

“This centre would showcase her fantastic career.”

Leonie also mentioned the Gladys Moncreiff’s fan club.

“She had a fan club called the Gallery Girls - I’m desperate to know of them. If there are people in their 80s who still remember that time.

“The girls would turn up a give Gladys great bouquets of flowers and many a time she got so many ovations, they even had to stop the show while the audience would settle down.”

Leonie said the name of the association had been chosen because, in 1936, comedian Arthur Stigant had dubbed Moncrieff ‘Our Glad’ – a term of endearment with which the Australian public identified her from then on.

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