Musicians and Singers (1800- 1860)

John Templeton,  1802-1886

Born at Riccarton, Kilmarnock, the son of Robert Templeton.  John had a fine voice as a boy and from the age of fourteen until seventeen, when his voice broke, took part in concerts in Edinburgh with his eldest brother. In 1822 he became precentor to the Rose Street Secession church. Then, intending to become a professional singer, he went to London and studied under Jonathan Blewitt, Thomas Welsh, De Pinna, and Tom Cooke.

Templeton made his stage debut at Worthing in 1828, appearing as Dermot in The Poor Soldier. After some time in the provinces he made a successful London debut in October 1831 at Drury Lane.  In 1832 he appeared as Raimbaut in the first British performance of Meyerbeer's Robert le diable. In 1833 he appeared at Covent Garden at five days' notice, taking the role of Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni.

In 1833 Maria Malibran chose him as her tenor for Bellini's La sonnambula, at Covent Garden, and he continued as her leading tenor until her death in 1836. Other appearances with Malibran included the Devil's Bridge, Marriage of Figaro, The Students of Jena, Fidelio and Maid of Artois. Templeton played the leading tenor roles in the first performances in English of Rossini's Le siege de Corinthe (1836), Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (1838), and Donizetti's La favorite (1843).

He visited Paris in 1842, with Balfe, before embarking on provincial tours, giving lecture recitals on Scottish, English, and Irish folk-songs. In 1845–6 he went on a tour of America with his ‘Templeton Entertainment’.

Templeton had a repertoire of thirty-five operas, in many of which he created the chief parts. His voice was of very fine quality and exceptional compass, ranging over two octaves. He could sustain A and B[flat] in alt with ease. His weakness was an occasional tendency to sing flat.

Templeton retired to New Hampton, near London, in 1852, and died at his home on 2 July 1886.

Links with Ayrshire:

It is known that Templeton appeared at the Theatre Royal and the Assembly Rooms in Ayr.  In  his later years, Templeton performed in concerts with other family members, in Kilmarnock and elsewhere in Ayrshire.


John Templeton (1802 - 1886). Based on an image reproduced in the book The Passing of the Precentor by Duncan Fraser, F.E.I.S.  Published at John Knox House, by W. J. Hay, Edinburgh, 1905. [Image in the public domain]   magnify   

John Orlando Parry,  1810–1879

John Orlando Parry, actor and singer, the only son of the instrumentalist and composer John Parry (1776–1851) and his wife, Maria, was born in London.  His father taught him singing, the harp and piano at an early age. He also studied the harp under Robert Bochsa, and appeared as a harpist under the name ‘Master Parry’ in May 1825.

His first appearance as a singer was in 1830 at a concert given by Franz Cramer, at the Hanover Square Rooms, London, when he performed Handel's ‘Arm, arm, ye brave!’ with great success. His voice was described as a baritone of fine and rich, though not powerful, quality.

After receiving lessons from Sir George Smart, in sacred and classical music, he was a regular performer at the Ancient and Philharmonic concerts.  Sigismund Neukomm composed ‘Napoleon's Midnight Review’ for him, and several other songs, but his voice was best suited to simple ballads.

By 1833 Parry was in Italy for teaching from Luigi Lablache in Naples.  At Posilippo he gave a concert in a theatre owned by the impresario Domenico Barbaja, the second part of which consisted of a burlesque on Othello; Lablache sustained the part of Brabantio, Calvarola took the Moor, and Parry was Desdemona, dressed in the style of Madame Vestris, and sang ‘Cherry Ripe’.

By now fluent in Italian, Parry returned to England in 1834. In July 1836 he gave his first benefit concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, when Malibran sang for him, and, demonstrating his comic talent, he joined her in Mazzinghi's duet ‘When a Little Farm we Keep’.

Having been persuaded to try the stage, he appeared at the St James's Theatre (which had just been built by his father's old friend, John Braham) in a burletta called The Sham Prince, written and composed by his father. He was well received, and later in 1836 he appeared in John Poole's Delicate Attentions and in a burletta, The Village Coquettes, written by Charles Dickens with music by John Hullah.

In 1837 he performed his ‘Buffo trio italiano’, accompanying himself on the piano, in which he successfully imitated Giuliz Grisi Ivanov, and Lablache. He accompanied his father on the harp at the latter's farewell concert in June of the same year, and in 1840 introduced his song ‘Wanted, a Governess’, with words by George Dubourg.

In 1842 Parry abandoned the stage for the concert room, and began singing, with Anna Thillon and Joseph Staudigl, in pieces by Albert Smith.  He then accompanied Camillo Sivori, Liszt, Sigiomend Thalberg, and others in a concert tour around the United Kingdom, showing his powers as a pianist and as a buffo singer.

Between 1850 and 1853 Parry undertook numerous of solo performances, but the strain of his schedule left him with fits of nervous hysteria, leaving him with no option but to retire from public performance. Having partially recovered, he later became organist of St Jude's, Southsea, and gave lessons in singing.

On 15 July 1869 a complimentary benefit was given for Parry by a distinguished party of amateurs at the Lyceum Theatre, and on 7 February 1877 he took a farewell benefit at the Gaiety Theatre, which included the appearance of all three members of the Reed family and raised £1300.

Links with Ayrshire:

It is known that Parry appeared in Kilmarnock at Simpson's theatre under the railway arches.  He also toured to Ireland and Central Scotland in 1841, in company with Franz Liszt.


John Orlando Parry (1810 – 1879), detail, by (George) Herbert Watkins.  [Image in the public domain]

John Orlando Parry ca. 1840 (1810 – 1879), by Daniel Maclise (1806 - 1870), oil on millboard.  [Image in the public domain]

John Wilson 1800 - 49

John Wilson, son of John Wilson, coach-driver, was born in Edinburgh on 25th December. 1800. At the age of ten he was apprenticed to a printing firm, and was subsequently engaged with the Ballantynes, where he helped to set up the ‘Waverley Novels.’

During the building of Abbotsford he was often chosen as one of the armed messengers who had to ride weekly to Tweedside with money to pay the workmen. He conceived an early liking for music, studied under John Mather and Benjamin Gleadhill of Edinburgh, and was a member of the choir of Duddingston parish church during the ministry of John Thomson (1778–1840), the painter.

For some time Wilson was precentor of Roxburgh Place relief church, where his fine tenor voice drew great crowds, and from 1825 to 1830 he held the same post at St. Mary's Church, Edinburgh. After this he devoted himself entirely to music teaching and concert giving. He studied singing in Edinburgh under Finlay Dun, and afterwards in London under Gesualdo Lanza and Crivelli, taking harmony and counterpoint lessons from George Aspull. 

In March 1830 Wilson appeared in Edinburgh as Harry Bertram in ‘Guy Mannering,’ and was subsequently engaged in other operas—notably in works by Balfe, in some of which he created the principal part—at Covent Garden and Drury Lane. His acting was, however, somewhat stiff, and he abandoned the stage to become an exponent of Scottish song; in that character he appeared before the queen at Taymouth Castle in 1842.

His Scottish song entertainments, both in this country and in America, were an immense success, and brought him a large fortune.

He died of cholera at Quebec on 8 July 1849.

Links with Ayrshire:

Morris reports that Wilson was a regular performer at the Theatre Royal in Ayr.


John Wilson (1800–1849), painted: c.1830 by Daniel Macnee.  Original in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  [Image in the public domain]  magnify  

David Kennedy 1825 - 86

Born in Perth, 15 April, 1825, Kennedy was the son of a weaver, who was also precentor of a united secession church there. At sixteen he was apprenticed to a painter; but he was trained by his father in music, and in 1845 became precentor of the South Kirk, Perth. During 1848 he worked at his trade in Edinburgh and London, and returned to Perth to set up in business.

Subsequently he obtained a precentorship in Edinburgh, and in 1859 began there a series of weekly concerts. Short concert tours in Scotland followed in 1860 and 1861, and in 1862 he made his first appearance in London, at the Hanover Square Rooms. Between December 1862 and May 1863 he gave a hundred concerts in the Egyptian Hall; and in 1864 and 1865 he was again in London, singing and reading parts of ‘Waverley.’

In 1866–8 he made a professional tour through Canada and the eastern sections of the United States, with his eldest daughter as his accompanist. In 1869 he went to San Francisco, by way of the Isthmus of Panama. The first railway across the continent was opened while Kennedy was at San Francisco, and he sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the inaugural ceremony.

After spending three years at home, in 1872–6 he made a tour round the world with his family, visiting Australia and New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and Newfoundland. From 1876 to 1879 he was engaged in tours in England, Scotland, and Ireland, including two seasons in London; in 1879 he visited South Africa, and in 1879–80 India. On his way home he spent several months in Italy, where some of his children were studying. In 1881 one of his sons and two of his daughters perished in the burning of a theatre at Nice. In 1881–2 he was again in Canada and the United States, in 1883–4 in Australia and New Zealand.

In March 1886 he appeared in London for the last time, and then left for Canada. He died at Stratford, Ontario, 12 Oct. 1886. He was twice married.

InKennedy possessed a rich tenor voice and good dramatic powers, along with a fund of humour, sometimes ‘pawky,’ sometimes broad. He was of kindly nature and marked religious feeling. In 1887 a movement was started by the Edinburgh Burns Club to raise funds for a monument to the three Scottish vocalists, Templeton, Wilson, and Kennedy.

[Based on an articie in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30, by William Dundas Walker.]

Links with Ayrshire:

Kennedy appeared in a Burns Anniversary Concert in Kilmarnock in 1877.


David Kennedy 1825 - 86 (Frontispiece from David Kennedy, The Scottish Singer by Marjorie Kennedy Fraser, Published by Alexander Gardner, Paisley and London, 1887.   [Image in the public domain]  magnify

David Kennedy, by W G Stevenson.  bas-relief 1894.   From a panel containing three bronze portrait medallions of John Wilson, John Templeton and David Kennedy sited on the steps leading from the end of Waterloo Place to Calton Hill, Edinburgh.. magnify

Durward Lely, 1852 - 1944

James Durward Lyall was born in Arbroath in Forfarshire. While still a child, his parents settled in Blairgowrie, where he received his school education until at age fourteen before entering the offices of Messrs Anderson and Chapman, solicitors in Blairgowrie. Lyall developed an appreciative taste for music and sang in the church choir under the direction of William Robertson and attended a singing class that Robertson taught at home.

It was apparent that singing was more important to him than the law and when a concert was organized to help a local charity, Lyall was asked to sing 'Ring the bell, watchman' a performance that drew a rave review from the Blairgowrie Advertiser; the qualities of his voice and style of vocal production drew very favourable comment.

This newspaper report was noted by Patrick Allan Fraser of Hospitalfield who asked Lyall to sing for himself and his wife, leading to an offer to finance a study program for him in Italy. Travelling to Milan he remained in Italy for five years, gaining experience in Italian opera and studying intensely under his teachers Trivulzi and Lamperti - the latter more especially for breathing. He also took lessons in acting and fencing. With opera so much a part of life in Italian villages, it was there that Lyall made his initial appearances.

At the end of five years, the young man returned to England in anticipation of a professional career. As a first step, he joined the Mapleson Opera Company in 1878 and as “Signor Leli” was just in time to be Don José in the British English-language premiere of Bizet’s opera Carmen at His Majesty’s Theatre.

[Based on an unpublished article by Charles A. Hooey, initial research by Ian Milne.]

Links with Ayrshire:

Lely performed a Hogmanay Concert in Largs in 1897, returning for a second concert in the spring of the following year.


Durward Lely as Richard Dauntless in Ruddigore 1887.  Photograph.  [Image in the public domain.]   magnify

Elizabeth Inverarity 1813 - 46

Elizabeth Inverarity was born in Edinburgh in 1813, the elder daughter of James Inverarity, a merchant.  She was great-niece of the poet Robert Fergusson (1750 - 1774) whose works were greatly admired by Robert Burns.

In 1828 she began singing lessons Mr Thorne, a bass singer from the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. Early in 1829 she transferred her studies to Alexander Murray, a violinist and singing teacher, also from the Theatre Royal.  She made her Scottish debut at a concert in the Assembly Rooms in April of that year, aged 16. In 1830, under Mr Murray’s guidance, she appeared in a series of concerts, principally for the Edinburgh Professional Society and appeared also at the Theatre Royal for the benefit evening of the tenor John Wilson, with whom she subsequently appeared professionally in London and on provincial tours.

With her increasing popularity and success, Murray persuaded her father that a course of study in Italy would be advantageous for his daughter and by the autumn of 1830 arrangements were in hand.  However, on her arrival in London, following an introduction to Sir George Smart the influential conductor and teacher, the Italian trip was postponed

Inverarity was engaged to take the place of the absent Mary Ann Paton at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in the title rôle in Cinderella, the Rophino Lacy adaptation of Rossini’s work. Preparations were made, including lessons with Domenico Crivelli, and a successful debut took place on 14 December 1830. 'All London', it seemed, including the Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess Victoria, flocked to see and hear the beautiful seventeen-year-old. Success was confirmed in March 1831 when there was a performance 'by Command of Their Majesties' King William IV and Queen Adelaide.

With Covent Garden success the young singer was much sought after to appear in concerts where she shared the bills with established musicians including John Braham, Giovanni Rubini, Luigi Lablache, Giuditta Pasta, Niccolò Paganini, Ignaz Moscheles, J. N. Hummel, John Field, Felix Mendelssohn and Théodore Labarre. A Philharmonic Society concert was a further notable event.

A run of Cinderella performances was broken by an equally successful new production in April 1832, Louis Spohr’s Azor and Zemira with John Wilson and Miss Inverarity in the title rôles. The 1830/31 season ended in June and before embarking on her first inter-season provincial tour she participated, together with Paganini, Hummel and others, in a concert for the Royal Family at St James’s Palace.

The provincial tour, with a repertoire of Cinderella, Azor and Zemira, Love in a Village (as Rosetta), The Maid of Judah (as Rebecca), The Barber of Seville (as Rosina), Guy Mannering (as Lucy), and Rob Roy (as Diana Vernon), visited Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Southampton.

For the season 1833/34 the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane were under the joint management of Alfred Bunn, with artists performing at both theatres as required.  In that season Inverarity’s performances included The Tempest (as Miranda), Twelfth Night (as Olivia), Henry the Eighth (as Patience), Macbeth (as a singing witch), and The Merry Wives of Windsor (as Mistress Ford).

In 1834 Inverarity married the bass-baritone Charles Thomas Martyn (1800 - 1871).  They left London at the end of the joint Covent Garden/Drury Lane season and returned to Scotland. Mrs Martyn, together with her husband and sister Barbara Inverarity (1814-1845), undertook a prolonged series of provincial concerts and opera performances supported by members of the stock companies in the major theatres in England and Scotland concluding in December 1835 with an extended period in Glasgow where they were joined by the tenor John Sinclair.

In 1839 the Martyns sailed to New York where they, together with a small group of London 'stars', were engaged to appear at the Park Theatre. They made their first appearance on 9 September 1839 in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Mrs Martyn as Leonora and Martyn as Rocco.

Physically and vocally exhausted the Martyns had settled, by mid-1843, in Newcastle upon Tyne where they became teachers of music. Elizabeth Martyn died on 27 December 1846, aged 33, and was buried in Jesmond Old Cemetery in Newcastle.

[Text based on material by Alexander Bisset and other published sources.]

Links with Ayrshire

Miss Inverarity toured extensively in Scotland and undertook seasons at the theatres in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. A playbill for a concert in Kelso is in existence but there is no available evidence of appearances in Ayrshire.


Miss Inverarity 1813 - 46, 1832.  Drawn on stone by W. Sharp (1803–1875) after William Booth. From The Musical Gem, London. 1832.    [Image in the public domain.]   magnify

John Templeton

John Templeton appears at Covent Garden as a supporting act for Paganini.

Templeton in New York, 1845

Templeton, a veteran of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, despite his luminous past, as an opera star, devoted himself in his later career to concerts of popular ballads of the British Isles, with an occasional opera aria thrown in for good measure.

Liszt and Parry on Tour

In 1840-1841, Liszt took part in two tours of the British Isles arranged by the young musician and conductor Lewis Henry Lavenu, accompanied by John Orlando Parry.

Wilson and the Perth Theatre Manager

To Manager Jones remains the credit of giving John Wilson, the great Scottish tenor, the opportunity to qualify himself for his future operatic work.

Wilson's Death

In 1849, accompanied by his wife and daughter, Wilson entered upon another American tour. While at Quebec, he was seized with cholera on July 7, and died two days later.

German Reed Entertainment and John Orlando Parry

. . . . from 1860 to 1868, the German Reeds were assisted by John Orlando Parry, a pianist, mimic, parodist and humorous singer.

Lely creates the role of Nanki-Poo

The first performance of The Mikado took place at the Savoy on 14th March 1885 with Durward Lely as Nanki-Poo . . . .

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