David Mitchell (1829 – 1916) builder, contractor and businessman
David Mitchell a Presbyterian was a long-time member of Scots Church choir. His musical interests included playing the violin at home and encouraging the talents of his daughter Helen, later known as Dame Nellie Melba.
David Mitchell, builder, contractor and businessman, was born on 16 February 1829 in Scotland. He arrived in Melbourne on 24 July 1852.
The next forty-five years saw his active and successful participation in a variety of business ventures. Work had been started in 1850 on rebuilding St Patrick’s Cathedral, Eastern Hill, and in April 1856 Mitchell won the tender for the masonry work for £7760.
By 1859 Mitchell had a factory for steam-made and pressed bricks at Burnley Street. In 1874 he became a shareholder in the Melbourne Builders’ Lime and Cement Co., formed to break the monopoly of the Geelong limeburners. By 1878 he had bought Cave Hill farm at Lilydale and began working its limestone deposits, later also handling the distribution. In 1888 his extensive workshops at Richmond were destroyed by fire. He rebuilt the works and added two new ventures, the production of ‘Adamant’ plaster and in 1890, with R. D. Langley as a partner, a Portland cement factory at Burnley using materials from Lilydale.
In 1890 Mitchell formed a company to mine a channel and tunnel on the Yarra River at Pound Bend, Warrandyte, and employed gangs of Chinese to work three miles (4.8 km) of riverbed for gold. By 1894 he had cheese, butter, bacon, ham and soap factories at Cave Hill, housing them in a complex of well-designed brick buildings. In 1888 his dairy had operated the colony’s first mechanical milking device. By 1900 he owned vineyards and wineries at Yeringberg, Coldstream and St Hubert’s.
Among his many large structures Mitchell built the Menzies Hotel in William Street (1857), the Paterson, Laing & Bruce warehouse, Flinders Lane (1871), Scots Church, Collins Street (1873-74), the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, East Melbourne (1874), Prell’s Buildings (1887), the Masonic Hall, Collins Street (1888), the Equitable Insurance Building (1893), the National Bank and the New Zealand Loan Co.’s wool and grain warehouses at Kensington.
His grandest venture was the Exhibition Building, which employed 400 men and was opened in 1880.
Mitchell had given support to the eight-hour movement in 1856 but was not very active in public affairs. He was a member of the Council of the (Royal) Agricultural Society and of the Builders’ and Contractors’ Association.
As a Presbyterian he was a long-time member of Scots Church choir. His musical interests included playing the violin at home and encouraging the talents of his daughter Helen, later Dame Nellie Melba, but even when she became world famous his natural reticence prevented him from openly praising her singing. Predeceased by his wife in 1881, he died on 25 March 1916.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A050296b.htm
Dame Nellie Melba
Dame Nellie Melba was born in Richmond, Melbourne, the daughter of David Mitchell, a successful building contractor. She attended the Presbyterian Ladies College where she took singing lessons, and later studied under the retired Italian singer, Signor Pietro Cecchi.
In 1885 this protestant, married and separated mother of one was engaged as the principal singer at St Francis’ Catholic Church in Melbourne. Shortly afterwards she travelled with her father and young son George to London, and then on to Paris to learn singing under the famous teacher Mathilde Marchesi, who declared her to be a star.
In December 1886, at a concert given at her teacher’s home, she sang for the first time under the name of Madame Melba, in honour of her home town.
Despite going on to fame and fortune among the sophisticates of Europe and America, Nellie maintained her love for, and loyalty to, the country of her birth. She returned to her homeland for a triumphant tour in 1902, when the new nation was barely a year old. From 1909 she divided her time between Australia and Europe. During the war years she raised some £60,000 for the Red Cross by her efforts.
She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1918, and a Dame Grand Cross in 1927. In May of that year she sang the national anthem at the opening of the first parliament house at Canberra.
Dame Nellie Melba reached for the world stage to fully realize her talent and develop her ability. Her international success was a source of great pride for her fellow countrymen and her country was a great source of pride for her.
Further – Dame Nellie Melba :
Influential Australian Christians depicted on Australian notes and coins
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