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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Wallace, William Vincent

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Wallace, William Vincent, the eminent musical composer, was the son of Samuel Wallace, bandmaster of the 17th Regiment, with which he was for some time stationed in Sydney, N.S.W. The future musician was born at Waterford, Ireland, on March 11th, 1815. He was placed in the orchestra of the Hawkins Street Theatre, Dublin, when he was fourteen, and took the direction when he was sixteen. In 1835, being in delicate health, he went to Australia, with the intention of abandoning music, and turning his hand to the hard work of colonial pioneering. He spent some time in the New South Wales "bush," to the west of Sydney, but ultimately decided to give a concert in the metropolis, for which he secured the patronage of the then governor, Sir Richard Bourke. It was given in aid of the building fund of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and its success may be judged from the fact that £1000 was realised for the object desired. Mr. Wallace now applied himself vigorously to composition in private, and violin playing in public. He also gave lessons on the latter instrument. He travelled professionally through the Australasian colonies, and, as narrated by Mr. Hogan, was made prisoner in New Zealand by a band of Maoris, who would have promptly murdered him but for the interposition of the chiefs daughter. He also went on a whaling voyage with a native crew who mutinied, when he had another very narrow escape of losing his life. Subsequently, his health having in the meantime improved, he proceeded to India, South America, Mexico and the United States, returning in 1845 to London, where he completed his opera Maritana, a great part of which had been scored in Sydney. This opera was produced with great success at Drury Lane Theatre, and his fame as a composer was established. He afterwards wrote Matilda of Hungary, Amber Witch, Lurline, Love's Triumph, and The Desert Flower. In 1864 he went to Paris, and died on Oct. 12th, 1865.