I recently made a rare find which is a great personal treasure. I will share it but I think first some explanation is required: So for reasons which will become apparent this blog is firstly a biography of a Great Aunt. Please take the time to read through before you click the link at the end.
My Grandmother often entertained me by telling me about the various branches of family history and this brought to life my enjoyment of looking through her collections of old photographs which went back to the beginning of that particular art.
When I began to learn the violin I naturally took a particular interest in one Great Great Aunt, who was my Great Grandfather's sister and had been a professional violinist. The family seemed to use favoured names for any number of children so they were often known by middle names so they didn't get mixed up. So although Christened Georgie she was known as Nelly to distinguish her from the other Georgiannas and Georginas and I knew her as Aunt Nelly Campbell, she was by then 90 and although she took some interest in my efforts of the violin she lived too far away to visit so her story was mostly repeated to me by Grandmother. In more recent years I have of course filled in and confirmed details but could well do more research in the future.
Born in 1875 and Christened Georgie Ellen Butler she had a brother and two sisters, all learned to play musical instruments but Georgie proved especially talented and earned LCV status, a performing diploma, from the London College of Violinists. At the age of 20 she left the family's then home in Carlisle and established herself as a violin teacher and performer based in Glasgow.
Georgie married a John Campbell in 1902 and in her publicity material was already quoting her telegraphic address as "Melodeons" Glasgow. John Campbell was a partner in the firm of Campbell & Co who were a large well know importer and manufacturer of musical instruments. The firm had been established in 1857 and was especially noted for its melodeons, and indeed was apparently a significant factor in the re-design of the instrument and its popularity in Scottish folk music.
During this early period in her marriage Georgie performed regularly on the Northern concert circuit. Judging from contemporary reviews I think she appeared in mixed cultural evenings, some music, some ballet and scenes from plays etc as well as giving recitals of her own. Her repertoire included all the well known violin virtuoso pieces but I suspect that her performances were often lighter music, I know that she played Scottish Airs and was noted for her elaborate variations on these tunes and I even found reference to a skillful imitation of the bagpipes.
Campbell & Co prospered into the 1920's and I can't see much evidence of Georgie's own performing career from that period, the couple were able to move into a substantial house in the Bearsden suburb of Glasgow and seemed to amass quite a collection of fine things. Campbell's had premises at 42 Sauchiehall Street and at 116 Trongate, opposite the Music Hall. However in 1930 the business partnership between John and his brother split, according to my Grandmother this was due to John's poor business mind but in reality I suspect the effect of the depression on Glasgow was more significant. John's brother maintained the business in smaller premises above shops at the corner of Trongate with an entrance on Candleriggs. Their Trongate shop was next to an alleyway and was replaced by a smaller post war building which is now surrounded by the controversial derelict site opposite the restored Britannia Music Hall in Trongate. I have been even less successful finding other traces of the Sauchiehall St shop, it seems to have closed after 1911 and the address is now part of a much more recent development. The company used the Trongate address on its catalogues, so I speculate that this was also the location of their warehouse.
Georgie and her husband moved to Southsea where she ran a small guesthouse, John died in 1958 and some time after that Georgie moved to a tiny cottage outside Canterbury, most of the collections of fine things were I suspect, sold. Unfortunately no sign of her Lupot violin ever emerged. I have one "treasure" which came from her which is a small vase ( I actually blogged that some time ago) but now if you have read thus far I will come to the real treasure which I recently found.
I can't pretend it has been a constant life long search but those records intrigued me, over the years I have tried to track down catalogue references, asked different societies if they have ever come across any. The dawn of the internet got me hunting again but nothing ever came up. I found references to Campbell's but never to my Aunt.
Then, after the best part of 40 years quite by chance I came across a mis-labelled transcription, the owner said it was Annie Laurie played on the Banjo by a Miss Georgie Butler, the beginning is slightly damaged so the start isn't clean and the label described the instrument as a Violin. I was almost afraid to listen to it but as soon as I did I knew what I had found. It is only a 7" 78 which lasts just over a minute, it is of course a mandolin, which is her other instrument, and the label described her as a violinist because that is what she normally played. The single verse of the song followed by a variation just fits into the time and it is exactly in character with the type of music Georgie played.
So I am probably the only person finding that record who could identify it and somehow I was steered in the right direction to find it. It is crude and scratchy but the charm and spirit of the music is there and most importantly it is the surviving trace of a lady who has always intrigued me. Hearing it for the first time was a most emotional moment which took me by surprise and left me weeping like a baby, I don't expect this quirky record to have the same effect on everyone but if you hit the link below then please listen with affection and share this very very special treasure. It will run as a video.
Thank you for reading and sharing this
Update: Since posting this a Facebook friend has steered me to a catalogue reference which proves she also recorded her party piece the "imitation of the bagpipes" so now the hunt is on to find it... another G & T 7" Single Side 78 recorded 1903 - hope it doesn't take another 40 years !
G & T Company 14-5-03
Cat. 7969 5378a Annie Laurie - Miss Georgie Butler - Violin (actually Mandolin)