Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Travelling from Europe

Pauline Seal places the beginnings of the Brisbane Band in London in 1854 when her father "attracted the notice of the famous tragedian G.V. Brooke and was induced to accompany him on his first visit to Australia". She refers to eight musicians who "accepted an engagement on the ship Pacific to play on an excursion trip out to Australia"

The Pacific is claimed to have left Plymouth on November 26 1854 and made its Australian landfall in Sydney on 27 February 1855. Brook and Seal were then supposed to have continued on to Melbourne to complete an engagement.

It is certainly true that the Pacific sailed from Plymouth in November 1854 and that when it arrived in Melbourne on February 23, Gustavus Vaughan Brooke and his party (including his wife Marianne Elizabeth Woolcott Bray, the leading lady Fanny Cathcart and Richard Younge, stage manager) were among the first class passengers to leave the ship. The ship continued on to Sydney and when it arrived on February 27, the crew were listed by the port authorities. They included four "bandsmen" whose nationality is given variously as Hanover or Germany.

The handwritten page of the crew list has apparently been bound and then cut loose at some point with the loss of some information on the left-hand edge. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to accept that (And)rew Sieghill and (Aug)ust ----------- (aged 23 and 31 respectively) are two of the musicians. One transcriber has interpreted the other names as (Fred)erick Schmidt aged 20 and (unknown) Smith aged 23. Although these are plausible readings, they are by no means the only ones possible.

What is clear is that none of the bandsmen were named Cramer. We can be certain because further up the page was written the name of the 4th Salon Steward, (Hen)ry Cramer aged 24, who I believe to have been our 3xgreat grandfather.

A possible explanation for the mismatch between the documentary evidence and the newspaper recount is that in passing on the tales of his voyage from the other side of the world to his daughters, Professor Seal (as he was styled in Brisbane) recalled his shipmate Cramer (the steward) but conflated him with one or other of the members of the Brisbane Band of the same name (although they had not been on the voyage).

That does not explain Pauline Seal's assertion that the musicians on the Pacific included "the Cramer Brothers (4)", but later instalments of our investigation may cast some light on that. It also does not explain why Erickson "edited" Pauline's claim to read "the Cramer brothers (at least two, but possibly four)" unless of course he regarded her version as simply too good to be true, which it has been shown to be.

While it was correct that Adreas and Augustus Siegel travelled to Australia on the same vessel as the Irish actor G V Brooke and that, given Brooke's proclivity to perform at the drop of a hat, they may have worked with him during the voyage; there is no evidence that Brooke played any part in encouraging them to migrate or that they ever appeared together in Australia. Brooke opened in Othello in Melbourne before the Pacific had reached Sydney and reports of his 200-performance tour are mainly in Victoria while the Siegels worked in Sydney before travelling north.

There is a terrible temptation to declare that in mixing up the Cramers in his stories, Andrew Seal was actually confusing Henry (on the ship) with his brother George (in the band). But to do so would be to fall prey to the same romantic fiction of which Pauline Seal was guilty. I need more hard evidence.

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