john elliot mallandaine + esther billing

John Elliot was born in Bloomsbury on 10 April 1838, the son of George Robert Mallandain and Jane Galer. His mother left the family for reasons unknown and his father later emigrated to South Africa with John’s three siblings. John remained in England and according to the family history, he was placed in the care of family friends.

He was a musician and composer and from his teens, he worked steadily in the musical theatre for 20 years. His first professional break came in 1860 when his uncle, famed operatic tenor Elliot Galer, sang John’s composition ‘I’d Rather be a Soldier’. Elliot Galer gave John his first opportunity in the musical theatre and later produced several of his little operattas.

In 1863, John’s first musical ‘The Haunted Mill’ was produced at the Polygraphic Hall followed by productions of‘Sylvia’ at Bristol and ‘Love’s Limit’ at the Royalty Theatre. By 1867, he was conducting Galer’s opera season at Sadler’s Wells.

On 14 April 1863, John Elliot married Esther Billing in Glasgow. She was the daughter of Reverend Joseph Billing but little else is known of her. Their first child, Ida Mary, was born on 15 March 1864 at 1 Nottingham Place, The Rectory in Marylebone. Family notes indicate that Ida also became a professional singer but there is no evidence of this in the references of the day.

In his heyday, John Elliot was a conductor at the Olympic Theatre, the Prince of Wales Theatre and the Royal Amphitheatre in Liverpool. He toured with the famous Grande-Duchese of Gerolstein company starring Mrs. Howard Paul and the highly successful The Princess of Trebizonde before turning producer to take Herve’s ‘Chilperic’ and rising star Emily Soldene on the road. However, John’s success in the musical theatre did not translate into financial success and he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1865. A notice in the London Gazette confirms the bankruptcy:

John Elliott Mallandaine, formerly of College-place, Camden Town, then of No. 10, Thayer-street, Manchester-square, then of No. 15, Gloucester-street, Camden Town, then of No. 1, Nottingham-place, then of No. 17, Great Ormond-street, all in Middlesex, then of Ramsgate and Margate, Kent, then and-now of No. 4, Howard-street, Strand, Middlesex aforesaid, Musician and Musical Composer, his wife being a Teacher of the Pianoforte and Concert Singer, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy, in London, on the 27th day of December, 1865, is hereby required to surrender himself to James Rigg Brougham, Esq., a Registrar of the said Court, at the first meeting of creditors to be held before the said Registrar, on the 24th day of January next, at two in the afternoon precisely, at the said Court. Mr. Edward Watkin Edwards, of No. 22, Basinghall-street, London, is the Official Assignee, and Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, of No. 10, Ely-place, are the Solicitors acting in the bankruptcy.

Rustic Dance
a composition by J.E. Mallandaine

By 1869, John and his family had moved to the north-east and settled in Liverpool but it appears they had not recovered financially from the bankruptcy. On 6 February, they placed two advertisements in the Liverpool Echo; John offered to give instruction in harmony and musical composition at their home on Oxford Street while Esther, listed as ‘Madame Mallandaine of the Conservatoire Paris and pupil of the late Signor Romani of Florence’, offered her services in teaching Italian, French and English singing.

The family appears in the 1871 Census living at 13 Elizabeth Street, Liverpool and John’s occupation was listed as Professor of Music. That same year, he obtained a lease for the New Royalty Theatre and produced his own substantial work ‘Paquita’ but it had indifferent success and he returned to conducting, leading the orchestra in opera-bouffe productions at the Opera Comique and dramatic productions at the Olympic, the Queen’s and the National.

In 1872, John entered into an agreement with Mr. H.L. Bateman, the manager of the Royal Lyceum Theatre to ‘conduct the orchestra and compose or arrange the music for the various pieces produced’ but the arrangement led to a dispute between John and Bateman that resulted in a summons issued at Bow Street. The case was covered in the London Times on 2 November 1872 and it was reported that ‘Mr. J.E. Mallandaine, conductor of the orchestra at the Opera Comique, Strand, was summoned before Mr. Flowers to answer a charge of breach of contract under the Masters and Servants Act.’ Mr. Bateman contended that shortly before the start of performance of Charles I, Mr. Mallandaine refused to allow his music to be played unless he was paid 10/ and he was forced to pay the demand so the should could go on as scheduled. Mr. Flowers ruled that he had no jurisdiction to rule on the case because a professional musician could not be considered a servant under the terms of the Act and that ‘it would be much better if the dispute could be settled in a more amicable way.’

His financial difficulties continued and a second bankruptcy notice appears in the London Gazette on 15 May 1877:

In the London Bankruptcy Court. In the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by John Elliot Mallandaine, of No. 40, Weymouth-street, Portland-place, Middlesex, Musical Composer aud Conductor. Notice is hereby given, that a First General Meeting of the creditors of the above-named person has been summoned to be held at the offices of Mr. Robert Charles Teass, of No, 11, Lincoln’s-inn-fields, Middlesex, on the 28th day of May, 1877, at four o’clock in the afternoon precisely. Dated this 9th day of May, 1877. R. C. TEASS, 11, Lincoln’s-inn-fields, Solicitor for the Debtor.

The Bothnia

The 1881 Census listed a J.C. Mallandaine, musician, as working on the ship the Bothnia out of Liverpool. Ships Passenger lists confirm that John travelled to America on board the Bothnia departing from Liverpool and after a stop in Queenstown, Ireland, arriving in New York on 16 March. Esther and Ida were living at 50 Abingdon Road in Kensington and Esther’s occupation was recorded as vocalist but it seems that her only appearances in the musical theatre were in her husband’s productions where she was billed as Mademoiselle Marini.

As with his early life, little is known of the last five years of John’s life. His last recorded professional appearance was in October 1881 when he conducted Emily Soldene’s production of Carmen at the Standard Theatre. There is no further record of John until his death from tuberculosis on 24 November 1886 at 11 Shaftesbury Terrace in Glasgow. His death certificate listed his usual address as 129 Gower Street, London and his occupation as a Musical Bandmaster. His death was reported in the Daily News on 27 November 1886 and in The Era on the same day. The Era notice stated that he died of ‘rapid consumption’ and left a widow to mourn but there was no mention of his daughter, Ida.

His widow, Esther, remained in Glasgow following his death however, financial difficulties continued to haunt the family and Esther was also forced to declare bankruptcy. A notice was published in the London Gazette on 3 February 1888 advising Esther’s creditors that her estate had been sequestered by the Sheriff of Lanark and a subsequent notice was published in the Glasgow Herald on 14 April 1888 confirming that she was to be examined by the Sheriff later that month.

Esther and Ida appear in the 1891 Census of Scotland still living at 230 West Regent Street in Glasgow. Esther’s age was listed as 44 years and her birth place as Florence, Italy although previous census returns list her birth place as London. Ida was recorded as being twenty-two years old although she was nearer twenty-seven and despite their earlier financial problems, they were able to employ one servant.

An advertisement in the Inverness Courier on 21 April 1893 confirms that Esther was supporting herself by giving singing lessons. The advert listed previous pupils and they appear to be members of the nobility including The Countess of Home, Lady Kensington and the Lady Ada Scott as well as Sir Charles Halle, an Anglo-German pianist and conductor who founded the popular Halle Orchestra.

It appears her daughter Ida was still involved in music as she is named in several London newspaper adverts in April and June 1894 for a vocal and instrumental concert at Crystal Palace. August Manns was conducting the Crystal Palace Orchestra and Ida was listed as the vocalist.

Both Esther and Ida seem to drop from the records in both Scotland and England and neither appear in the 1901 or 1911 Censuses. Ida was left a £200 legacy following her great-uncle’s death in 1901 but her whereabouts were not known as notices were placed by solicitors in London newspaper throughout 1902 asking for information. John’s brother, William Arthur, also attempted to find his niece and he commissioned J.J. Marshall to compile a family history and search for his niece. Marshall noted in his report that:

The compiler of this Report made strenuous efforts to come into touch with Mrs. Mallandaine and her daughter, making personal enquiries among the Music Publishers of London, obtaining an address in Glasgow to which he wrote. The letter, a copy of which is attached, was returned marked ‘not known’. After further considerable enquiry an address in Italy was obtained to which a similar courteous letter was sent. The letter never returned shewing that it must have reached Mrs. Mallandaine, but no reply has been received.’

Esther died at the Workhouse Infirmary on Union Road in Dover, Kent on 24 December 1916 and the cause listed on her death registration was ‘old age’. It does note that she was the widow of John Elliot, a musical conductor, and more importantly that she was a resident of Lugano, Switzerland. This aligns with information uncovered by JJ Marshall that Ida was living in Italy and provides an explanation as to why mother and daughter disappear from English records for more than 20 years. Lugano is only 40 miles north of Milan, Italy so it is possible they initially settled in Italy but moved north to Switzerland.

The reason for Esther’s return to England is not known but it appears that the long, difficult journey affected her health and she sought medical attention at the workhouse infirmary rather than at a private clinic or hospital because of financial reasons. The informant on her death certificate was the Master of the Infirmary, George W. Plews, rather than her daughter or another family member. As Ida was her only child and closest living relative, it seems unlikely that she would have left her daughter in Switzerland to return to London after such a long absence. Perhaps Ida died in Lugano and with no other relatvies or connection to the city, Esther decided to return home but until further records are found, the reason for her arrival in Dover remains a mystery.