Chapter Seven 4

Hey Ho Raggedy-O

Chapter 7 – page 5

Barlow’s Apollonian Philharmonic Music Hall Hotel

That covered the entertainment needs of the diggers. He named the spot, right in the heart of the goldfield, The Apollonian Vale. The building included a dwelling for the family. The hotel was fully stocked with wines and spirits, glassware, and kerosene lamps. There was a fully equipped kitchen, and there were bedrooms and sitting-rooms.


The concert hall seated three hundred people, and had a supply of scenery and props. Within its walls, Barlow gave elaborate entertainments of variety and music, and also held dances and balls. He was no longer dependant on a fickle press for his promotion, no longer concerned with competition. It was a dream fulfilled by the use of his musical talents. The pot of real gold at the end of the rainbow.

He performed in Brisbane during 1868 too. There is a program from Brisbane’s School of Arts where he was presenting a three-part show.

A long sigh of contentment? A peaceful happy-ever-after ending for the wanderers? No indeed! Inexplicably, Barlow sold everything. The whole property, and all within it right down to the music-books, was hastily auctioned off on the 20th of March 1869, a short seven months after the opening. A resident of Gympie, who was a contemporary of Barlow’s, said in her book:

“… His daughter (Barlow’s) had married Adam Black who was then a man of substance and Barlow’s social philosophy deemed it an indignity to his daughter for him to be a public entertainer in the same town….”

From A Woman Faces the Hardships, by Mrs. A. Cockburn.

Barlow and his wife Jane set off almost immediately on another tour. The new owner renamed the hotel and music hall Taylor’s Apollonian Music Hall Hotel, and life in Gympie went on much as before. Taylor, and the next owner, Cox, may have been the entertainers who performed on some of the same programs as Barlow in New Zealand. Four days before the auction, the Barlows’ only daughter was married to a young Scotsman called Adam Black. He had arrived in Gympie from New Zealand with three friends in 1868. Had the Barlows and Black known each other there? I believe it’s quite likely. The four friends found gold soon after their arrival, became instantly very wealthy, and managed Gympie’s most valuable mine for the next six years or so. Adam Black, according to the Gympie Times,
“spent his money freely and generously being a man of most liberal disposition.” When he died from cancer, in 1902, his long obituary made no mention at all of his wife Jane Margaret, who had died a year before him. Five sons and two daughters were referred to almost as a footnote, and are unnamed. Whatever the reason for Jane Margaret’s sudden marriage, and Barlow’s equally sudden sell-up and departure from the palace of his dreams, it will remain as just another loose end in the Billy Barlow story.

The year of 1869 was when one resident of Castlemaine, Victoria, remembered Barlow and the old days, with a colourful nostalgia. She wrote an unsigned article for Castlemaine’s Daily News:

“Forest street was a great promenade then. There was Uphill and Burnett’s shop, the fashionable drapers; Goldsmith and Gale’s, the general store, where 9d per lb. for potatoes and 1s. 6d. per lb. for onions was the current rate for a period. There was Albert Hotel, Collyn’s store, Joshua’s store, and Butterworth’s store. Alas! where are they now? All that’s bright must fade, and people can’t expect to make a hundred and fifty per cent for ever. What crowds there were then! What motley costumes! What brilliant red and blue shirts! What tremendous boots! What wonderful Panama hats; what fearfully dirty cabbage-tree hats; the dirtier the better! And the few women there were; from whence did they procure the extraordinary dresses and bonnets they wore. Hats for the ladies were not in vogue then, and straw bonnets and cotton hoods were the head gear.

The Albert Hotel boasted a concert room, and here the inimitable Barlow had crowds to hear him — crowds who paid high prices too, and secured by the minimum of outlay in the shape of advertisement, a placard, announcing a performance outside the door, and the services of a bell-ringer, being sometimes all the notice given.”

From The Daily News– Castlemaine –23rd. Feb. 1869

Barlow and Jane continued their wandering life. In Melbourne, in 1870, Barlow sang for the Duke of Edinburgh and lent “the finest pair of horses in the city” to him for his stay. In 1871 they again toured in New Zealand. Several articles refer to “Barlow’s Troupe”. Barlow must have formed a troupe for the New Zealand tour. Reviews of the shows this group gave claim Barlow to be the star of the show. Audiences enjoyed the performances of the other members, but it was Barlow they came to see, and Barlow’s talent they admired. In August of that year, Barlow formally removed his name from the group. He dissolved partnership with Bromley, Buckley, and Holly. These three men were among the many performers in Melbourne and Central Victoria during the late 1860s. Whatever the reason, Barlow declared that his name was to be used, “… only by myself in my single handed Entertainments which it is my intention to resume heretofore”.

After the break Barlow continued on alone. The other men stayed together and also continued to tour New Zealand. Barlow’s tour of New Zealand was a small part of another world tour, about which nothing has so far become available.








A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon
(written by Joy Hildebrand)


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