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Bellew, Harold Kyrle Money (1850–1911)

by Julie Mills

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Harold Kyrle Money Bellew (1850-1911), by Falk Studios, 1896

Harold Kyrle Money Bellew (1850-1911), by Falk Studios, 1896

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H84.303/10

Harold Kyrle Money Bellew (1850-1911), actor, was born on 28 March 1850 at Prescot, Lancashire, England, son of Rev. John Chippendall Montesquieu Bellew, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Eva Maria, née Money. His father was later converted to Catholicism and became a popular preacher. Kyrle was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Lancaster, then was apprenticed in the training ship Conway. He joined the merchant navy and about 1869 reached Victoria, where he worked as a labourer, goldminer, station-hand and signwriter.

In Melbourne in 1871 Bellew was engaged by George Coppin to read W. H. Russell's letters to The Times as a lecture accompanying a panorama of the Franco-Prussian War. He became known as a journalist by his court reports in rhyme and graphic sketches for the Melbourne Herald and Daily Telegraph. On 27 October 1873 at St Patrick's Cathedral he married Parisian-born actress Eugènie Marie Séraphie Le Grand, who bore him a son. Next year he acted at the Solferino diggings in New South Wales. Although advised to shun the stage by a committee of pressmen, including Charles Bright, Marcus Clarke and F. W. Haddon, he returned to England in 1875, without Eugènie, and succeeded as an actor. He was associated with the Bancrofts and (Sir) Henry Irving, and in 1885-87 was with Wallack's Theatre in New York, playing romantic comedy roles.

Bellew returned to London and in 1887 formed a touring company, with the American actress Mrs Cora Brown-Potter. They visited Australia in 1890 and opened at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, on 1 March in Camille. The press savagely criticized the couple and their engagement was reduced to six weeks. The Sydney newspapers were more encouraging and their season there was extended. After seeing Bellew's performance in David Garrick, Bright admitted that he 'could act, in spite of the opinion to the contrary of his earliest critics'. They gave dramatic recitals at Newcastle, Maitland, Ballarat and Adelaide before leaving in December for England via the Far East and India. The company toured South Africa, the United States of America and England and visited Australia again in 1896, opening in Sydney in V. Sardou's La Tosca. He adapted several works for the stage including Charlotte Corday, which was seen by Australian audiences. His partnership with Mrs Brown-Potter ended in 1898.

In 1900 Bellew returned to Australia to speculate in gold-mining leases on the Palmer diggings in North Queensland for several overseas syndicates, and he applied to the State government for permission to complete the railway-line from Cooktown to his leases. However his enterprises were never floated. Apart from brief appearances in London he spent his last years in America, where he rejoined Wallack's Theatre.

Bellew died of pneumonia on 2 November 1911 at Salt Lake City, Utah, and was buried with Catholic rites in New York, survived by his son. With a classical Greek profile, windswept hair and romantic good looks, he had popular appeal: 'his manner was ingratiating, his voice penetrating and pleasant, his style forcible and picturesque'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Wallack, Memories of Fifty Years (New York, 1889)
  • M. Bancroft, The Bancrofts: Recollections of Sixty Years (New York, 1909)
  • P. McGuire et al, The Australian Theatre (Melb, 1948)
  • A. Bagot, Coppin the Great (Melb, 1965)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1900, 3, 873, 1901, 4, 323
  • Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1902, 1st S, 3, 340
  • Argus (Melbourne), 22 Feb 1890, 5 Dec 1911
  • Sydney Mail, 15 Aug, 12 Sept 1896
  • New York Times, 3, 5 Nov 1911
  • Bulletin, 11 Mar 1882, 8, 15 Mar, 17 May, 6 Dec 1890, 15 Nov 1902, 18 Jan 1912
  • ‘Mummer memoirs’, newsclippings, vol 23, p 85 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Julie Mills, 'Bellew, Harold Kyrle Money (1850–1911)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bellew-harold-kyrle-money-5198/text8745, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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