Portraits of Gladys Moncrieff that were hidden for three decades are now proudly on show in the foyer of the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre.
Gladys Moncrieff OBE was the Bundaberg-born Australian singer who was so successful in musical theatre that she became known as “Australia’s Queen of Song” and affectionately referred to as “Our Glad”.
The portrait collection was originally held by Don McPhee, the manager of Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney, and its fate was up for auction as individual pieces, which would have seen them spread all over Australia.
Our Glad Association president Leonie Egan said when she heard of the auction she was devastated, and she reached out with the hope that she could put a stop to it.
“These portraits have not been seen in public for many years but have been wrapped up and preserved, before being donated to the Our Glad Association by Don’s friend Stuart Greene of The State Theatre in Sydney,” Leonie said.
“They had been sitting in storage in Stuart’s house for many years until he donated them to us.”
In a tribute to Australia’s Queen of Song, Leonie worked tirelessly to have the collection relocated to the Bundaberg Region.
“Eventually transported up to Bundaberg and kept in our vice-president, and well-known identity, Mrs Nina Higgin’s storage room, wrapped up ever since waiting for a permanent home,” Leonie said.
Restoring some of the frames and cleaning the portraits has now provided the opportunity for the community and guests to view these captured memories of Gladys Moncrieff in the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre until the end of June.
“This is the culmination of five years of work,” Leonie said.
“Last year her 130th (celebration in honour of her birthday) was spectacular with a full concert of her life, this year her 131st was a special event also with a showing of these portraits at a charming morning tea function in the Moncrieff Theatre’s foyer.
“It marks the fact that the Moncrieff Theatre now has these permanently available to it.”
Council’s Arts, Culture and Events portfolio spokesperson Cr John Learmonth said it was pleasing to know the portraits of the theatre’s namesake were kept together to be shown as a collection.
“It really is brilliant to see so many portraits of Gladys all in one location,” Cr Learmonth said.
“Through the portraits you can take in the history and see the details of the life of Gladys Moncrieff.
“A big thank you to the Our Glad Association, which ensured this piece of history would be shared with the community of Gladys’ hometown during special occasions.”
A tribute to Gladys Moncrieff
Gladys Lillian Moncrieff OBE (1892-1976) was born in the Bundaberg Region, the youngest child of Melbourne-born parents Reginald Edward Moncrieff, piano-tuner, and his wife Amy, a professional singer.
Gladys attended school at Maryborough, Bundaberg and Townsville.
She made her stage début aged six at the Queen’s Theatre, Bundaberg, where she sang ‘The Merriest Girl That’s Out,’ her accompanist father had promised to reward her with one shilling if she got an encore – she did!
When she was 19, Gladys auditioned for JC Williamson’s and was given a three-year contract with Dame Nellie Melba’s approval.
After her marriage, she made her first recordings in London then returned to Australia to tour regularly with Williamson’s and had a stellar career in musical theatre and light operetta.
Gladys Moncrieff had a powerful, wide-ranging, rich soprano voice and excellent diction.
Perhaps her most notable role was as Theresa in The Maid of the Mountains, a role she performed more than 2800 times.
It was also her sense of fun and tender-heartedness that attracted her large following of “gallery girls”, women who queued for standing room and followed her movements with flowers and mail.
She became a legend in Australia in her lifetime, respected by her professional colleagues and loved by her devoted public.
The community is invited to learn more of the history and view the portraits of the Bundaberg-born musical powerhouse at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre, from April to June, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, and one hour prior to public performances.
- Other news: Community grant supports Step Up Step Down