Wallace Brothers

Musicians / Composers

Sign on wall of Military Barracks Ballina.
Author's Personal Photo
Theatre Royal Dublin.
Bridge in London.
Sore for "Maritana."
Mr. Grieve'" sketch for Desert Flower".
W.V.Wallace bust outside Waterford Theatre
Wallace sculpture at Waterford Quay.

Musicians / Composers

The talented Wallace brothers Wellington & William of the north Mayo Military, the Royal 29th Regiment Ballina, Co. Mayo became world-famous for their musical compositions. Spencer Wellington was a professor of music, orchestral leader, violinist, flautist, arranger & composer.  His older brother William was famed as a musical prodigy, pianist, violist also a composer.  William Vincent Wallace’s musical arrangements ranged from popular home making music to highly difficult virtuoso works.  His operatic pieces of ‘Maritiana’ & ‘Lurline’ displayed a considerable ability in the creation of a dramatic sustained line.  He may have been the first composer of note to have used the flattened second degree of the Scale.  [i]

Musical Family

William Vincent was born in Colbeck Street, Waterford on 11th March 1812.  He was the eldest son of Spencer & Elizabeth (nee McKenna from Cork, her demise occurred during 1827)  Spenser Wellington was born in Tuam, Co. Galway during 1814.  They had two sisters Eliza also Susanna. (another Susanna later)  They were grandchildren of Jacob Wallace &  Margaret (Lyons)   [ii]


The Wallace family lived in Ballina, Co. Mayo as their father was bandmaster of the North Mayo Militia based in the town.  The Wallace family was fortunate in that they had the use of the military band’s instruments at their home from a young age.  (Their father played all instruments in the band)   (The North Mayo Militia established in 1793 had it’s headquarters in the Market Square / Pearse Street area of Ballina.)  Jacob Wallace with both Thomas & Spencer enlisted in the North Mayo Militia as private solders but participated in the musicians’ section at various locations.  As their father was often transferred the children stayed in Mayo with their mother.  [iii]


During March 1825 the two boys: William aged thirteen years & Wellington aged ten years, both enlisted in the 29th Regiment at Kinsale.  Spencer later bought his sons out of the regiment for twenty pounds.  [iv]


Following their mother’s demise he moved the family to Dublin.  By his teens William performed as a pianist & violinist at The Theatre Royal in Dublin.  He was leader of Anacreontic Society.  Wellington was a member of the orchestra at the Theatre Royal, Dublin as first violinist.  He was engaged to play the bassoon also 3rd flute at the Adelphi Theatre.  He made his debut as pianist on 3rd May 1845 at Miss Marie Billington Howe’s concert at Hanover Square.  [v]


During 1830 William secured an appointment as church organist at the R.C. Cathedral Thurles.  He taught piano lessons at the Ursuline convent in the town: he met Isabella Kelly there.  They married during 1831 then settled in Dublin.   [vi]


William emigrated with Isabella & son as free emigrants on ‘The Rachel’  ex Liverpool during July 1835 to Hobart in Tasmania.  They were followed by Isabella (as Governess) also her father with Wellington & his wife also with two children as bounty immigrants on ‘The James Patterson.’   The Wallace’s arrival in New South Wales was announced in The Sydney Gazette  on 14th January 1836. [vii]


William became known as ‘The Australian Paganini.  The brother’s debut concert was held on 1st June 1836 in the Royal Hotel Sydney.  Their younger sister Eliza performed three solo numbers at a major music event in September 1836 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney that featured ‘The Hallelujah Chorus.’    A second oratorio concert was held in late January / early February 1838 on the occasion of the fiftieth celebration of the colony.  They also gave performances in Parramatta & Windsor. [viii]

Music School

The Wallace family opened Australia’s first music school on Bridge Street in Sydney.  [ix]


Following the breakup of his marriage William Wallace with  Eliza sailed from Sydney to New Zealand then onto Valparaiso, Chile, the West Indies, Jamaica, Cuba then Mexico. He was director of music at the Italian Theatre in Mexico from 1841 / 1842.  During 1842 they made their debut in New Orleans then moved on to Philadelphia in 1842, Boston in 1843 then finally on to New York in 1844 where Wallace performed as a violinist.  He formed The New York Philharmonic Society. In 1857 the Wallace’s returned to Europe during 1844 prior to a move to London for three years.  They toured in Germany also Holland.  William Wallace made his concert debut at Hanover Square Concert Rooms on 8th May 1845.  On the 9th February 1846 he performed at a concert in the Rotunda in Dublin.  His opera ‘Maritana’ was performed at Drury Lane, London in 1847.  He performed in Dublin, Vienna also Austria.  He followed that work with ‘Matilda of Hungry’  during 1857.  His second opera, ‘Lurline’ during 1960, ‘The Amber Witch ‘1861, ‘Love’s Triumph’ 1862, also ‘The Desert Flower’  in 1863.  He toured throughout the U.S. [x]


He married Caroline Green on 4th November 1841 she was a soprano, vocalist & an actress.

During 1854 William Wallace became an American citizen: he married for second time in October 1850 Helene Stoepel a distinguished American pianist. [xi]


As William Wallace’s heart condition deteriorated (he had suffered a series of heart attacks from 1854) he was advised by his doctor in 1860’s to move to Paris from London.  He went to the Château de Haget Vieuzos France that belonged to Helene’s sister Marie-Therese & her husband The Baron of Saintegame.(his opera ‘Estralla’ left unfinished.) [xii]


William Wallace’s demise occurred when he was aged fifty-three years in France during 1865.  His epitaph reads ‘Music is an Art that knows no locality but Heaven.’  [xiii]


William’s brother Spencer Wellington moved from Sydney to Geelong, Victoria where it was reported in The New South Wales Advertiser  on 1st March 1836 that his performance of ‘Fantasia du Bravura’ also  his use of the violin ‘exudes wonder and enthusiasm.’  During 1852 it was reported that ‘The Masterly manner in which Mr. Spenser Wellington conducts his musical department renders the Geelong Theatre second to none in the Colonies, in point of interest or none.’   [xiv]


Spencer Wallace’s demise occurred on 15th August 1852 at Geelong. (It is unfortunate that no images of Spencer Wallace are available.)  [xv]


The New York Times tribute stated that William Wallace was the most popular composer, ‘He poured out the melodies of his soul, his smaller works may be counted in hundreds and songs and pianoforte pieces were constantly issuing from the press.’  During 1865 they stated that ‘William Wallace was and is the most popular composer that ever lived amongst us.’  Spencer Wellington’s demise was reported on ‘as a considerable loss to the Musical circles of the Colonies.’  [xvi]

The Friends of Wallace of Waterford erected a new headstone on his grave as it had been in bad deterioration. [xvii]

During the 1990’s a bust of William Wallace was erected outside Waterford’s Theatre Royal. [xviii]

A memorial service was held at the gravesite of William Wallace in London’s Kensal Green cemetery by Sydney born conductor Richard Barrymore in 2007. [xix]

Further Information

Joan Sutherland made a noted recording of the ‘Maritiana’  aria the ‘Senses that are the Brightest.[xx]

A pen-and-ink sketch of William Wallace (aged forty-two years) was reproduced in The Illustrated London News in November 1845. [xxi]

A water-colour portrait by Henshaw during 1853 is in the National Gallery, Dublin. [xxii]

During 2005 a Financial Services Centre named Maritana Gate was erected in Waterford in his honour.  A sculpture of him is in situ in the building’s atrium. [xxiii]

The music room in the Bishop’s Palace is dedicated to William Wallace. [xxiv]

A special medallion was commissioned of William Wallace by the British Mint by artist Weir (a side view cameo of his head ) with five copies struck (then the dye destroyed) They were presented to The Tsar of Russia,  the Emperor of Austria also the King of Prussia with one copy held in Buckingham Palace.  (W. V. Wallace kept one himself then later donated it to his publishers William. Hall & Sons in New York) [xxv]

Publications that reference this family may be viewed at the following links:

Boydell Barra 2013  Wallace, (William) Vincent in The Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland  edited by Harry White & Barra Boydell (UCD Press pages 1039-1040): www.ucdpress.ie

Phelan Robert 1994  William Vincent Wallace-A Vagabond Composer (Celtic Publishers Waterford): www.victorianoperanorthwest.org

Lamb Andrew 2012 William Vincent Wallace Composer, Virtuoso & Adventurer (Fullers Wood Press West Byfleet Surray): https://www.pdmusic.org/william-vincent-wallace/

Grattan Flood W. H. 1912 William Vincent Wallace-A Memorial:  https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-william-vincent-2769

Mackarras Catherine 1967 published an article on Wallace in The Australian Dictionary of Biography vol 2: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-william-vincent-2769

Please view this site for Wallace compositions: https://www.pdmusic.org/william-vincent-wallace/

On the 15th October 2012 Dublin City hosted a day of musical recitals with talks in celebration of William Wallace’s life. It tied in with a three-programmed radio documentary series ‘The Road to Maritiana’ on R.T.E.’s Lyric FM.  This event also coincided with the launch of a facsimile of a rare album for four hands written by Wallace & Hélène Stopel (brother of composer Robert) that had been published while they lived in the U.S. The fourteen-minute composition was called ‘Grand duo pour deux pianos sur L’Opera d’ Halevy L’ éclair.’: www.vctorianoperanorthwest.org

On the 22nd September 2012 a gala concert with festival exhibitions, talks & recitals occurred on the bi-centenary of the Wallace family in Ballina: www.vctorianoperanorthwest.org

On 16th October 2015 a plaque was erected to honour William & Eliza Wallace’s memory in Ballina’s Military Barracks by the local Wallace Society. (NBC)


[i] www.allmusic.com

[ii] Amazing Mayo Stories 2012

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid

[x] www.waterfordireland.com

[xi]  Ibid

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Amazing Mayo Stories 2012

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-william-vincent-2769

[xvii] Ibid

[xviii] http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/wallace_william

[xix] Ibid

[xx] Ibid

[xxi] https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-william-vincent-2769

[xxii] Ibid

[xxiii] www.waterfordireland.com

[xxiv] https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-william-vincent-2769

[xxv] Ibid

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