TWO BRISBANE BEAUTIES; EVIE DOYLE AND BLANCHE GREAVES

Brisbane circa 1900

Brisbane circa 1900

On April 2  1905,   the Brisbane Courier  published an article on two young women. The girls were close  friends, with a lot in common.  They were both  daughters of  Brisbane publicans, both  from Irish Catholic families, and both convent educated. They  also shared a love of music,  singing,  and the theatre.  The headline of the piece read;

BRISBANE’S TRIBUTE TO THE MUSES – TWO CHARMING GIRLS; MISS EVIE DOYLE, MISS BLANCHE GREAVES.

When the Stephenson Comedy Company leaves Brisbane this morning, it will be accompanied by two of Brisbane’s fairest and most charming daughters, in the persons of Miss Evie Doyle, daughter of the much respected licensee of the Ulster Hotel,  Edward Street, and Miss Blanche Greaves, la fille of the equally popular host of the British Empire. The young ladies, who are both bright,  handsome and accomplished, are smitten with a passion for comedy, and having successfully passed all the usual tests, have been received into Mr George Stephenson’s Company.  Miss Evie Doyle, a  graceful, classical featured girl with a powerful, well trained, mezzo soprano voice, refined accent, and especially charming manner, was educated at the Rose Bay Convent  at Sydney. She is at present full of enthusiasm for the life she has chosen.

Evie Doyle as a young mother.

Evie  Armstrong (Doyle) as a young mother.

 

Miss Blanche Greaves belongs to an old Brisbane family, noted for good looks and amiability. She has a sweet singing voice, good temper, and plenty of natural vivacity. The two young ladies being firm chums, expect to find much support and comfort in each others society, and anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting either of them will wish them much success and happiness in the profession which they have decided to give a trial. “Of course, if we find we don’t like it, there will always be a warm welcome for us at home,’ says Miss Doyle, and looking at her bonny face, and noting her frank, unaffected manner, who could doubt it?

The girls were off to Sydney to perform in a musical comedy called The Skirt Dancer.
 Audiences loved the show, with its thirty voice chorus  and sets featuring electric light, still a novelty in Australia.

From The Sydney Morning Herald

From The Sydney Morning Herald, May 1905

However,  it was Evie Doyle who was ‘noticed’, and who subsequently began a  solo career  as   a singer.  More importantly, in 1909 she was taken up by Dame Nellie Melba. The famous diva  had returned to Australia that year on  a sentimental tour.  Melba was enchanted by  the lovely Evie. When she returned to England, Evie Doyle accompanied her.  In fact, Melba had more than singing in mind for her  young protégé.  She  had decided  that Evie  would make the perfect wife for her only son,  the divorced George Armstrong.  The couple duly married and in 1918 they had a daughter, Pamela; the apple of her grandmother’s eye. Pamela would eventually inherit Melba’s considerable estate.

George Armstrong (far left) Nellie Melba (centre) Evie Armstrong (second from right)

George Armstrong (far left) Nellie Melba (centre) Evie Armstrong (second from right)

 

BLANCHE’S STORY

Blanche Greaves  had a more exotic beauty, with full lips and heavily lidded eyes.

Blanche Greaves as a debutante in 1903

Blanche Greaves as a debutante in 1903

After touring with The Skirt Dancer,  Blanche  returned to Brisbane.  In 1907 she married Victor Ratten, a leading Brisbane  dentist and all round sportsman.  He was considered the city’s most eligible batchelor.  Charismatic and ambitious, Victor  had recently returned from Chicago with a medical diploma. The couple’s  honeymoon was spent travelling to Tasmania, one of only two Australian  states where his US diploma was recognized.  Surprisingly,  after ten years as a rural GP,  Dr Ratten would  go on to become Surgeon Superintendent  of the Royal  Hobart Hospital. Blanche’s  life  would be as extraordinary  as  her friend Evie’s, though for very different reasons.

Here is another story about Dr Ratten and his family when they were living in the town of Parkes, NSW.

FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION TO SHARE ABOUT EVIE  OR  BLANCHE.  I AM CURRENTLY WRITNG A BIOGRAPHY OF BLANCHE’S HUSBAND, VICTOR RATTEN.    HE GREW UP IN THE VICTORIAN TOWN OF  PORT FAIRY,  AND  SUBSEQUENTLY LIVED  IN PARKES, FORBES AND WEST WYALONG BEFORE MOVING TO BRISBANE IN 1902.

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