Henrietta Willmore

Henrietta Willmore was born on 27 March 1842 in London, daughter of Raymond Percival, literary editor, and his wife Henrietta, née Street. Lacking formal musical training, she overcame this handicap and emerged as a proficient pianist, much in demand in musical circles. At Chester on 25 September 1862 she married Alfred Mallalieu, a property-owner; with their infant daughter, they arrived in Brisbane in the Prince Consort on 12 May 1864.

From 1866 Brisbane audiences responded enthusiastically to Mrs Mallalieu. As an accompanist or soloist in numerous concerts, she introduced a widening repertoire of classical music. Her long teaching career began in 1867 through economic necessity when her husband's attempt to establish a printery ended in insolvency. Henrietta became music mistress at Mrs Thomas's Academy for Young Ladies. She later taught at other schools and, after her husband's death, increased her private classes. Dedicated and determined, she often took promising pupils without charge and gave freely of her skills and organising ability to further the cause of music.

Undeterred by popular prejudice, she decided to become an organist. Her teacher was Walter Graham Willmore whom she married in All Saints Church, Brisbane, on 28 December 1885: they were unhappy and eventually parted. Henrietta was organist at St John's Pro-Cathedral from 1882 to 1885, at Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church and at other churches, and pioneered organ recitals and organ-based concerts in Brisbane. The vogue for such entertainments did not last and her fund-raising concerts to retain the Exhibition Building's Willis organ were considered overly classical and met with a cool reception. In contrast, her recitals in Sydney in 1890 proved successful, her pedalling being judged remarkably fine. On a visit to South Africa in 1896 she won praise for 'preserving a calm dignity and firm seat at the instrument while attacking all difficulties'. Her final appearances were chamber music recitals in Brisbane in 1911 with members of the Jefferies family and her protégé Percy Brier.

Willmore believed in women's political rights and responsibilities. She served on the executives of the Queensland Women's Suffrage League and the Woman's Franchise Association of Queensland; a founding member of the Brisbane Women's Club, she was president of the Queensland Women's Electoral League's Toowong branch and, during World War I, of the Belgian Relief Fund for which she was awarded the medal de la Reine Elisabeth. The Willmore Discussion Club was formed in 1931 in her honour.

Survived by two daughters and one son of the five children of her first marriage, she died at Wynnum, Brisbane, on 22 August 1938 and was buried in Bulimba cemetery with Anglican rites. There is a Henrietta Willmore memorial chair, carved by L.J. Harvey, in Women's College, University of Queensland; Mallalieu Home (her former house at Toowong) is a hostel for female music students.

From an article by Betty Crouchley in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au.  Photo with thanks to Simon Pierce.