My sincere thanks to Angela Griffiths, a descendant of the Calvert family, for sending me the letter from Amy Sherwin that inspired this piece.
In 1928 the Orient shipping line celebrated their jubilee. To mark the occasion, the company organized a competition for export apples at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. The photo below shows the apples being loaded for England, where they were to be judged a second time.
Mr William Calvert, a grower in Tasmania’s Huon Valley, was the winner following judging at Covent Garden.
Calvert owned the Forest Home estate, childhood home of the famous Tasmanian soprano Amy Sherwin, known affectionately as The Tasmanian Nightingale.
News of Mr Calvert’s success was relayed to Amy, then living in Boston, by her niece, Miss Eleanor Propsting.
It prompted a generous response from the singer, now in her late seventies. She was clearly full of longing for her childhood home.
I was amused by her comment, ‘ I am in a country just now that is filled and running over with fruit & vegetables – but , they can keep all their apples – the taste of them only makes one long for an honest Newtown Pippin etc, etc, etc.‘
The irony is that the ‘honest Newtown pippins‘ mentioned were a very old American variety. To be fair, the Tasmanian soil probably infused local ones with a special flavour. 😎
The letter continued, ‘If you chance to have a photo of the old home I would be very glad to have one. – Tho’ if much altered I shall surely feel like tearing it down, & letting my memory always dwell on the quaint old place where I was born.’
Within a few years, Amy Sherwin was in very reduced circumstances. Her health had broken down and in May 1934 a fund was taken up in Tasmania to assist her. The letter of thanks she wrote to the Mayor of Hobart was as warm as ever, but incredibly sad;
‘I must crave your indulgence for not having acknowledged before, the last generous help sent by you on behalf of the kind friends who have so warm-heartedly aided me in my desperate plight, caused by my darling daughter’s sad state of health. As it happened, the kind donation, final instalment, sent by you, arrived on the eve of my being admitted to hospital as above for treatment, and which was too costly for me to obtain otherwise.
I hope to be out of hospital in a week or 10 days, but I cannot wait till then to thank you for your warm-hearted practical help in my disaster, and I send off this message from my sick bed hoping you will pass round the fact that I am most deeply touched and would write more fully, but that circumstances prohibit a longer letter.‘
Amy died on September 20 the following year.
FOR MORE ON AMY SHERWIN, CLICK HERE.