John Edward (Ted) England – Queensland’s foremost basso

Windsor Musical Union concert program, 1927
In 2011, State Library received a donation of scrapbooks, programmes, newspaper clippings, photographs, notes and music scores which traced the performances and musical endeavours of leading Queensland basso and public servant Mr J.E. England (1887-197?).

J.E. England during World War One

John Edward England was born in England but immigrated to Australia as a child, and formed an early interest in choral music. His career as a singer began in 1911, and his fine and unique voice was in demand at state functions throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. As a chorister or featured soloist he performed in countless concerts of the Brisbane Liedertafel (later the Apollo Club), the Brisbane Austral Choir, the Toowong Male Choir, the Windsor Musical Union, the Queensland State and Municipal Choir and many others. While he was still singing publicly in the late 1960s, he was best known for outstanding performances in Handel’s The Messiah and Gounod’s Faust.

Mr England attended Brisbane Grammar School, and joined the State Public Service in 1903. During World War I he served with the A.I.F. in Egypt and France. In World War II he was Controller of Liquid Fuel and later chief administrative officer of the Allied Works Council. Mr England was the first Queenslander to be elected Australian chairman of the Federal Institute of Accountants, and he was, at one time, chairman of the Queensland State Transport Board. When he retired in 1952 he had been Main Roads Department secretary for 31 years. 

Among his other recreations was lawn bowls, and he was a foundation member, and in his later years patron, of the Hamilton Bowling Club. As an old boy of Brisbane Grammar School, he became chairman of Trustees of both the boys and girls’ grammar schools. The donation, and in particular the scrapbooks, provide a detailed picture of musical life in Brisbane in the first half of the 20th century.

Royal banquet 1920

Royal banquet, 1920

Robyn Hamilton

Queensland Music Coordinator