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Prima Donna Helen Gordon Cunard joins the actors

May 1, 2019

The tradition of the footlights at the Old Colonists lived on with the arrival of soprano Helen Gordon Cunard in 1925.

She joined eight other actors living in the Old Colonists’ Homes when she moved in to Founder’s Cottage on the former Australasian Dramatic and Musical Association land in 1925.

The other actors were Alice Hydes, Ethel Maud Blannin, Mary Ann Greenwood, Madeleine Wilson, James Edwin Shepherd, William Smith, George McKenzie and Lucy Ely.[1]

Born in London in 1855, Helen and her family arrived in Victoria with her parents in 1860 on the Norfolk. The daughter of Melbourne surveyor Robert Russell, who also co-founded the Melbourne Cricket Club, Helen was one of the best-known prima donnas who trod the boards of the old Opera House in Bourke Street.

Helen married theatrical manager Archimedes Litherland Cunard in 1884.  She performed with Lyster Opera Company.  She made her debut on 10 May 1880[2]in the part of Maritana.

The Argus described her as ‘a young Melbourne lady of respectable family, and her first entry on the scene was welcomed with that effusive warmth on the part of the audience which indicated that a large circle of friends has assembled to welcome and support her’ Her voice was described as ‘of pleasing quality and fair range.’

She was transferred to the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, and died on 31 April 1944.

[1]10 June 1939, Historical Files, Old Colonists.
[2]The Argus, Monday 10 May 1880, page 6

Dorothy Clayton has felt very much ‘at home’ since she moved into Braeside Park nine years ago. Now, Dorothy, the village’s volunteer pastoral care worker, tries to ensure that others also feel a sense of belonging in the Berwick village.

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