GLADYS MONCRIEFF: Leoni Egan with the display cabinet at the Botanical Gardens, Bundaberg Historical Museum; Bundaberg opera singer Gladys Moncrieff, after whom the Moncrieff Theatre was named, performing in the 1930s (courtesy of the National Library of Australia); and Gladys Moncrieff with flowers.
GLADYS MONCRIEFF: Leoni Egan with the display cabinet at the Botanical Gardens, Bundaberg Historical Museum; Bundaberg opera singer Gladys Moncrieff, after whom the Moncrieff Theatre was named, performing in the 1930s (courtesy of the National Library of Australia); and Gladys Moncrieff with flowers. Paul Donaldson SEW020217OURGLAD4

'Our Glad': 125th celebration of Queen of Song's birthday

BUNDEBERG'S 'Our Glad', also known as Australia's Queen of Song, will make a comeback according to her biggest fan.

Leonie Egan loves the voice of Gladys Moncrieff who was born just outside of Bundaberg in April 1892, and has been looking for memorabilia and information since she moved there five years ago.

Gladys had a powerful, wide-ranging, rich soprano voice and toured Australia, New Zealand and found success overseas throughout her 60-year career.

A young Gladys was never shy of performing in front of people after staging many concerts on the back verandah of her childhood home with her three siblings who played musical instruments and parents who sang.

It has been said her father would pay her a schilling if she could get an encore.

With that as a stepping stone, the six-year-old singer made her debut at the Queens Arcade Theatre building, where a plaque has been erected.

These and more stories are the reason for Leonie's passion and desire to have a museum dedicated to Gladys.

 

Gladys Moncrieff with flowers.  Photo Contributed
Gladys Moncrieff with flowers. Photo Contributed Contributed

Leonie was also a singer and found Gladys' songs suited her voice and performed them at concerts with her late husband in Sydney.

When she moved to Bundaberg she went looking for the elusive Gladys only to find scant remnants.

Leonie has since founded the Our Glad Association which recently became an incorporated registered body.

"I want the people in Bundaberg to accept that she is their heritage," Leonie said.

"This year is the 125th celebration of her birthday in April 1892.

"The whole year we will be doing certain things to celebrate her birthday."

Leonie said they didn't have a centre yet for Gladys in Bundaberg.

"The Moncrieff Theatre has been wonderful - it was actually called The Gladys Moncrieff Entertainment Centre," she said.

"The theatre are offering to put a permanent showcase in their for us - with luck it will be in this year for the celebrations of her birthday.

"The National Film and Sound Archives have got so much material on film and I would like to get that all put together so we have got a running movie of her life.

"June 19 will be a concert at the Moncrieff Theatre with a 30-minute film on her life, and of course her voice is well recorded, so we can put something together."

Our Glad Association was not only desperate for new members but were asking people if they had any memorabilia of Gladys stored away or even on display.

"It was interesting the things that people got out of boxes - they sent me scrapbooks, stamps and things like that - it was quite amazing," Leonie said.

"People think well that's not needed I can throw that out - really I need older people to not throw out those things.

"Anything relevant like a concert or program that she was involved in - have it sent to me - I would love it - especially originals."

We have been lucky - I have books - there was a lovely book written by the Victorian government for school children and it's very well written - I bought all the copies of that off ebay.

 

ORIGINALS: Programs, records and photos of Gladys Moncrieff are on display at the Botanical Gardens, Bundaberg Historical Museum.
ORIGINALS: Programs, records and photos of Gladys Moncrieff are on display at the Botanical Gardens, Bundaberg Historical Museum. Paul Donaldson SEW020217OURGLAD7

Gladys has an autobiography called My Life in Song.

Of course she left a lot of things out as you do in an autobiography, but I would like to, a bit down the track, rewrite that and fill in the spaces.

There are so many interesting things she did all round Australia and the work that she did that are only lightly covered in her book.

We will also have a function on her birthday in April.

The showcase will held in the

The association has a couple of collections on hold with one in Sydney having one of her dresses which will go on show at the Moncrieff Theatre.

Until we get an actual centre the theatre will be supporting us and putting up a permanent showcase this year.

Leonie said they had applied for grants and were hoping for people to sponsor or donate.

"We have had a couple of people donate - not enough yet to put the collections together but we are working towards it very hard.

"The Victorian Performing Arts have a dress, the Power House Museum in Sydney have a dress - I want to get all these things, but it will take time and of course money.

"I would be very happy for a sponsor or donor."

Leonie said a lot of memorabilia was given to Victorian Performing Arts by Elsie Wilson.

"Gladys' companion of 40 years Elsie Wilson was not only a close friend but was in fact what you would call today an executive assistant, making all the business arrangements for Gladys - all Gladys had to do was get dressed and sing.

"She and Gladys had a platonic relationship.

 

Bundaberg opera singer Gladys Moncrieff, after whom the Moncrieff Theatre was named, performing in the 1930s. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia
Bundaberg opera singer Gladys Moncrieff, after whom the Moncrieff Theatre was named, performing in the 1930s. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia Courtesy of the National Library

"I heard word going around that it wasn't and I have contacted with Elsie's relatives, who are still alive and living in Sydney, and they have written to me very strongly that anything other than that is scurrilous bit of history and it's not true.

"Elsie left everything she had about Gladys to the Victorian Performing Arts, which I have yet to get down there and see."

Leonie's journey has not been easy.

"I've been searching eBay all last year and I have collected a lot of stuff for her, but I haven't yet got a room to put it in,

"I want tourists to be able to walk in and see our Glad, just like you do with Bert Hinkler.

"I am bringing her back to mind - why she was so popular was because her voice was strong, was well trained and she had a 60-year career.

"To listen to her - she caught your heart."


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