Dame Nellie Melba at Coombe Cottage, November 1927 – full clip
Private footage of Australia’s ‘Queen of Song’ relaxing with her family at Coombe Cottage, her outer Melbourne residence in 1927.
Among those recognisable in the footage are Melba's son George, her daughter-in-law Evelyn (Evie) and much adored granddaughter Pamela (later ‘Pamela, Lady Vestey’).
The 9-year-old Pamela features heavily throughout the film, and is seen astride her horse, riding her bicycle and playing games with her beloved ‘granny’.
In one sequence, Melba humorously mock-chides her pet sulphur-crested cockatoo ‘Cocky’, sitting in his cage. Purchased by the singer sometime during the 1920s at Melbourne’s Eastern Market, several published eyewitness accounts from the early 1970s indicate Cocky was still a resident at Coombe, more than 40 years after Melba’s passing.
Also visible in the film are several staff, including Melba’s three women gardeners. We also see her entertaining several visiting friends making use of her grass tennis court.
This 10-minute film at Coombe Cottage represents the last known surviving moving images of Dame Nellie Melba in Australia. Only brief British Pathé footage in London the following year (17 December 1928), featuring her participating in a cake-making ceremony for the benefit of the Duke and Duchess of York, survives between the date of this film and her untimely passing at age 69 on 23 February 1931.
The unknown Kodak-appointed cinematographer who shot the footage has left us the longest single film of the internationally celebrated Australian soprano in existence.