Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Francis Mowat Carter (1879–1956)

by Tony Mills

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Bryce Morrow Carter

Francis Mowat Carter (1879-1956) and Bryce Morrow Carter (1882-1939), musicians, were born on 17 June 1879 and 15 February 1882 in Melbourne, fourth and fifth sons of English parents Harold Richard Carter, merchant, and his wife Janet, née Morrow. Norman Carter was an elder brother. They were educated at Haileybury College. Frank took up the violin and Bryce at 14 began to learn the cello under George Howard in Melbourne. About 1899 the family moved to Sydney: Frank rapidly became prominent and his brother continued studies under the eminent Dutch cellist Gerard Vollmar and reputedly inherited his master's valuable instrument. In the early 1900s Bryce played with G. R. Allbress's string quartet and by 1907 he was considered one of the rising stars of Sydney musical circles: he was chosen as an associate artist in the Sydney concerts for Melba's tour that year; the programmes included cello sonatas with Una Bourne.

Frank Carter taught from 1904 and shared chambers with his brother from 1908. Bryce taught the daughter of the governor Lord Chelmsford and arranged musical evenings at Government House. In May 1908 the brothers attended the meeting of professional musicians which established a symphony orchestra and played with it throughout its existence. Frank was deputy leader and Bryce principal cellist; Bryce refused a solo role in one concert. They were members of Henri Staell's string quartet and appeared regularly as supporting artists in concerts by other local musicians but rarely, if ever, undertook solo recitals. In 1913 Frank was an associate artist for the tour of Dame Clara Butt and her husband Kennerley Rumford. On 9 September 1908 at Strathfield Frank had married Edith Anne Bunting, a musician twelve years his senior.

Bryce married Emily Christiana Josephson at Redfern on 25 January 1911. He was principal cellist with the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney's orchestra and in 1916 was appointed one of the first two teachers of the cello at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, but resigned in 1918. Both played with the State orchestra under Henri Verbrugghen but their lack of overseas experience now began to tell against them. Bryce, however, made solo and orchestral appearances and joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was originally principal but was soon reduced to second then third desk. In 1938 he retired with cancer and died at his Longueville home on 5 January 1939. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he was buried in the Northern Suburbs cemetery with the rites of the Catholic Apostolic Church. Frank Carter slipped into obscurity in the late 1920s; he probably played in the Prince Edward Theatre orchestra, and lived for many years in retirement while his wife taught the piano. Survived by her and a daughter, he died at Strathfield on 24 March 1956 and was buried in Rookwood cemetery with Anglican rites.

The Carter brothers were typical of the many musicians who provided the basis of the concert life of Australia in the period. Bryce was quite unusual in the standing that he achieved without overseas experience.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Herbert (ed), World's Best Music, (New York, 1907)
  • W. A. Orchard, The Distant View (Syd, 1943), and Music in Australia (Melb, 1952)
  • New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music, Prospectus, 1916-18
  • British Australasian, 23 Mar 1911
  • Splashes Weekly, 26 June 1913, 2 Apr 1914
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6, 7 Jan 1939, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, minute book 1908-10, T7/7 (Australian National University Archives)
  • programme files (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Tony Mills, 'Carter, Francis Mowat (1879–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 June, 1879
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


24 March, 1956 (aged 76)
Strathfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.