Eliza Wallace Bushelle

Opera Singer

Eliza Wallace Bushelle
from book by Terry O'Reilly Ballina
Ballina Centre.
Author's Personal Photo
Round Tower Killala.
Dublin Ireland.
Convent Garden, London.
St. Mary's Catheral, Sydney

Opera Singer / Professor of Music

This impressive young soprano toured England, Australia, Vienna plus the United States of America.  She held audiences spellbound in Australia.  She was also a professor of music &  a notable pianist.

Eliza Wallace was born in Ballina, Co. Mayo on 7th February 1820.  Her ancestors came to Killala with a group of Scots Presbyterians during the late 1600’s: they build a chapel there.  Rev. James Wallace acted as minister from 1709- 1720.  Her paternal grandparents Jacob Wallace & Margaret Lyons were married at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Killala during 1770.  Their children included Thomas born 1773, Susanna born 1776 (later another Susanna was born in 1778) also Spencer (Eliza’s father) born in 1789.  He was stationed at the Military Barracks in Ballina.  He continued the family tradition of militia musicians when he had enlisted at Clonmel during July 1804.  Her mother was Elizabeth Mc Kenna whom her father married in the Protestant Cathedral in Limerick. (he was stationed at Rathkeale at that time)  Eliza was the youngest child with siblings; Susanna, William & Wellington. [i]

Eliza Wallace was born in Co. Mayo Ireland on 4th February 1820.  She was  baptized in Kilmoremoy parish of County Mayo on 8th  February 1820.  Eliza was daughter of Spencer Wallace &  Elizabeth McKenna. [ii]


Not much is known of Eliza’s life prior to her singing career.  The siblings would have learned  skills from the readily available instruments from their father’s band in Ballina Militia.  By age ten years Eliza was proficient with difficult airs on the violin  She also possessed remarkable vocal ability.  While in London she studied under Santly & Garcia. [iii]

Journey’s Abroad

According to this site Eliza arrived (1) from Cork 31st October 1835 to Sydney in New South Wales on 7th  February 1836 as a bounty passenger on the ‘James Pattison.’  Departed Sydney New South Wales on 27th March 1847 (per Walmer Castle, for England)  / Arrived (2) Sydney New South Wales by a date of October 1863: https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

The Wallace family, Spenser Wellington (professor of music) whilst aged forty-one with his second wife Matilda twenty-eight years with their two sons also Eliza aged sixteen years & Spenser Wellington twenty-two years emigrated on ‘the James Pattison’  from Cork to Australia during February 1835; they arrived in Australia during 1836.  Elizabeth was listed as an actress & musician in the ship’s manifest. [iv]

Debut Concert

During her brother’s concert debut at the Royal Hotel in Sydney on 1st June 1836 Eliza performed three solo numbers; an aria in Italian, a Swiss air ‘The Springtime is Coming’ also an Irish song ‘The Minstrel Boy’ & a duet by Rossini.  An Australian reviewer was captivated; he reported that ‘We may venture to predict that she will become the first singer in this hemisphere.  Her voice is full and rich, and above all possesses that flexibility of intonation so indispensable to a perfect voice’  [v]


Eliza continued her career when she joined her brother during September 1836 at a major music event at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney featuring ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’  followed by a second such oratorio concert on the occasion of the fiftieth Celebration of the Colony.  It was noted that she ‘displayed much musical ability and that power of voice which has procured her the reputation of being the best professional female vocalist in the Colony.’   Eliza had the lead in the first Italian opera that was performed in Australia, Rossini’s Cinderella in 1843.  During 1847 she performed in Vienna in a Royal Concert for the Emperor & his Court.  She had been engaged by Mendelssohn to sing in the ‘Elijah’  at Vienna. [vi]


She left Australia during 1847 to 1863 to travel to England then performed in her brother’s opera ‘Maritana’ at Convent Garden.  They then travelled on to the U.S. also Brazil where she continued her performances. [vii]


Eliza met her future husband John Bushelle in Sydney.  He had been born during 1806 at Limerick in Ireland.  He was a bass baritone. (O’Reilly) [viii]

They married during May 1839: an newspaper article stated that ‘Miss Wallace, the talented vocalist, entered into an harmonious union, or, in other words, has been united in the sacred bands of wedlock, with the celebrated amateur who performed at the late grand concert with so much eclat.’  [ix]

Eliza married John Bushell at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, NSW on  2nd May 1839. [x]

The marriage was printed as An Harmonious Union  in The Colonist  on 15th  May 1839.  They had four sons.  (O’Reilly) [xi]

Husband’s Demise

Eliza was pregnant when John’s demise occurred while on a tour in Tasmania during 1843.  Her fifth son was born several months following her husband’s death while she was a young widow aged twenty-one years of age. (O’Reilly) [xii]

She left Australia during 1847 to 1863 to travel to England then performed in her brother’s opera ‘Maritana ‘ at Convent Garden.  They then travelled on to the U.S. & Brazil where she continued her performances. (O’Reilly) [xiii]

Soloist / Teacher

Eliza returned to Sidney in 1862.  She continued performances while she also became a fashionable singing teacher.  She gave her first grand concert where all the ladies & gentlemen were the pupils of Mme. Wallace Bushelle.  The concert was held annually.  For years it funded several local charities that included the Randwicke Asylum for Destitute Children.  She performed the entire piano accompaniments for these concerts while she also performed as a vocalist.  The talented pupils at her training college formed the core of that continent’s emerging young talent. (O’Reilly) [xiv]

It was recorded that Eliza composed at least two lost works: ‘The Gondolier’s Song’  (The Sydney Morning Heald) also the ‘Destruction of St. Mary’s’  (Empire 2nd August 1865)  Details appear of a ‘concert’ in The Sydney Morning Herald  on 3rd August 1865. [xv]

Eliza had failing health in later years but continued to teach at her home in Victoria Street, Sydney. [xvi]


Eliza Bushelle’s demise occurred on 16th August 1878 whilst she was aged fifty-eight years.  She is buried at the ‘Necropolis’  that is now the Rookwood cemetery. [xvii]

Eliza Wallace Bushelle’s demise occurred while she was fifty-six years in Sydney NSW on 16th August 1878. [xviii]


Several tributes to Eliza Bushelle were published in newspapers worldwide that also included The Sydney Morning News.   In a letter to the editor of The Melbourne Argus  J. H. B. Curtis stated that on June 2nd 1890 under the heading Melbourne stage in the Forties  that Eliza Wallace Bushelle could run up or down from E flat below Middle C to E flat above without any perceptible break. [xix]

A plaque was unveiled in the Military Barracks, Ballina by the local Wallace Society in Eliza Wallace’s memory on 16th Friday October 2015.  [xx]

Further Information

Several Irish databases (see also Lamb, Wallace, 2012, 3) record that Elizabeth Wallace’s birthday is 7th February.  Family Historians George Ryan (Dublin) & Steve Ford (Sydney) informed me that the original baptism record clearly reads the ‘Feb’y 4 th  twentieth century sources incorrectly referred to her as ‘Isabel Wallace’  thus created confusion with her sister–in-law Isabella Kelly (July 2018) [xxi]

Mrs. Bushelle’s concert was reported on 20th December 1839  in The Australasian Chronicle  (Sydney, NSW : 1839-1843) [xxii]

Skinner Graeme  University of Sydney has an online resource re the early history of music in colonial Australia titled  Eliza & John Bushelle & family (Australharmony) accessed 27 March 2022  at this link: https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

Frederick (Francis) was first cousin to the noted soprano Eliza Wallace Bushelle (1820-1878) also violinist, composer & pianist William Vincent Wallace (1812-1865) William Wallace is remembered for his 1845 opera ‘Maritana.’ (Loretta Barnard 4th August 2020) [xxiii]


[i] www.sydney.edu.au

[ii] https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

[iii] www.trove.nla.gov.au

[iv] https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

[v] Amazing Mayo Stories 2012

[vi]  Ibid

[vii]  Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] www.trove.nla.gov.au

[x] https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

[xi] Amazing Mayo Stories 2012

[xii]  Ibid

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] www.trove.nla.gov.au

[xvi]  Ibid

[xvii] Ibid

[xviii] https://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

[xix] www.sydney.edu.au

[xx] www.moyvalley.ie

[xxi] https://www.sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/wallace-family.php

[xxii] https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/31727070

[xxiii] https://australia-explained.com.au/music/frederick-ellard-and-his-family-a-glimpse-into-musical-life-in-mid-nineteenth-century-australia


Comments about this page

  • Thank you for your comment.
    Checked this site: http://www.sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony/bushelle-family.php

    Have adjusted the information.

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe. (15/06/2021)
  • May I just correct the article slightly. The age at her husband’s death would have been 23yrs if born Feb. 1820 as he died July 19th 1843.

    By jen Thompson (12/06/2021)

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