Charles Thatcher

(1852 - 1878 / Brighton, England)

Biography of Charles Thatcher

Charles Thatcher was the eldest son of a Bristol curio dealer.

Arriving in Melbourne in November 1852 in the Isabella, Charles tried the Bendigo diggings but soon became an entertainer. He joined the orchestra at the Royal Victoria Theatre, Sandhurst, and filled in between plays by singing new words to popular tunes. In these songs he described the troubles of the new chums, the excitement of rushes, fisticuffs, horse-racing, cricket, the nuisance of dogs around the township and other topical events. He soon attracted large audiences and in May 1854 was given top billing at the Shamrock Hotel, which remained his base for several years; he also toured other goldfields. Big, broad-shouldered and weighing some fourteen stone, he was considered handsome with his well-cut hair, clean-shaven face and drooping moustache. With a pleasant but slight voice, he sang 'in that jolly off-handed style that suits so well a rattling, rollicking bit of comicality'. Other singers were vocally superior but none could match his ability to write catchy local songs.

Aged 30, on 8 February 1861 at Geelong, Thatcher married a widow Annie Vitelli, née Day, a singer. In December they left via Hobart Town for Dunedin, New Zealand. They stayed in various parts of New Zealand until the latter half of 1866. Back in Victoria Thatcher performed on his own, appearing at the Polytechnic in Melbourne in November-December 1867. In June 1869 he returned to New Zealand, but about May next year rejoined his wife and two daughters in Melbourne and from there they went to England. He settled in London, collecting and selling curios from Europe and Asia. He died of cholera in Shanghai, China, in September 1878.

Fourteen of Thatcher's songs were sold as broadsides, many appeared in newspapers, but most were published as collections, including the Victoria Songster (1855), Thatcher's Colonial Songster (1857) and Thatcher's Colonial Minstrel (1859). Booklets of his New Zealand songs appeared after 1862 and his Adelaide Songster was issued in 1866. A few have been collected as Australian folk songs, others have appeared in books of reminiscence; he himself wished them to be 'regarded as a popular history of the time'. Recent historians have spoken of Thatcher as the vocal equivalent of the artist S. T. Gill.

Charles Thatcher's Works:

Dunedin Songster (1862)
Auckland Vocalist (1862)
Songs of War (1864)

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PoemHunter.com Updates

The New-Chum Swell

I’ll sing just now a little song,
For you must understand,
’Tis of a fine young gentleman,
That left his native land—
That bid his ma and pa farewell,
And started brave and bold,
In a ship of fourteen hundred tons,
To come and dig for gold.

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