Thomas Bulch

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Thomas Edward Bulch (30 December 1862 – 13 November 1930), born in New Shildon, Durham, England, was a noted Australian musician and composer.

Biography[edit]

He was one of a family of thirteen children, living at 48 Adelaide Street, New Shildon. His father was a timekeeper at the Shildon Locomotive Works. On leaving school Thomas became apprenticed as a fitter at the same works. Both his father and uncles were bandsmen in local bands and it was not long before Thomas started to learn music. He started playing the piano, largely teaching himself, then with the help of his father moved on to brass instruments.

He showed a great aptitude for music in his early years and it was at the age of 12 that he joined a junior band formed by his uncle Mr. Dinsdale. The Dinsdale family, his mother's relatives, lived close to the Bulch Family in New Shildon. During this period with the junior band, Thomas started to compose music and at the age of 17 composed his first contest march, "The Typhoon". At the age of 19 he took over from his uncle, as bandmaster.

At the age of 21, Thomas migrated to Australia on the ship "Gulf of Venice". Friends had suggested he go there, as he would have good prospects in the music field. Thomas also had friends in Australia who finally influenced him to join them. It was further said that he came to Australia for health reasons.

Shortly after his arrival in Creswick, Thomas was asked to take control of the 3rd Battalion Band. It was with this band that he entered his first competition in 1886. This was at the "Creswick Miners Sports" where the band took first place. In about 1886 he was also bandmaster of the Ballarat Temperance Brass Band. Following a dispute with the Commanding Officer in 1886/7 Thomas resigned as bandmaster of the 3rd Battalion band. He then formed "Bulch's Model Band", a private band. Some of the bandsmen also resigned from the 3rd battalion band and joined him as members of the "Model Band".

Music[edit]

Thomas wrote music as a living. Apart from his need for income to support his family he had a great love for composing and spent much of his time at the piano working on his music. He wrote under many pseudonyms and it is difficult now to identify all his work. Some of the better - known names he used are Godfrey Parker, Henri Laski, Pat Cooney, Carl Volti, and Eugene Lecosta. These are but a few of the names used.

He wrote and dedicated compositions to all the female members of his family. These were: For his wife he dedicated the music and song “My Darling Wife” and a waltzMy Polly

His eldest daughter Adeline had the compositions titled “Little Dark Eyes” and “Adelina” written for her.

His daughter, Myrtle May had a waltz “Les Fleurs D’Australie” (Flowers of Australia) dedicated to her.

The names of Myrtle and Adeline were combined to name a waltz “Myrine”.

His youngest daughter Alice had her name combined with that of her husband Norman (Johnson) to title a waltz “Noralla” and a mazurka using her name as the title, “Alice Bertha”.

The composition “Craigielee” composed by Thomas using the name Godfrey Parker is said to have a connection with the music of “Waltzing Matilda”. It has been written that a Christina MacPherson heard it being played at the Warrnambool Races in 1894. She later played it from memory in Queensland and Banjo Paterson put words to it.

Thomas was in contact with his wife's grandmother Elizabeth Paterson during her lifetime. She had emigrated to Australia and lived at Inglewood in Victoria. Her maiden name was Craigie and he composed and dedicated the march “Craigielee” to her as a tribute using the name Godfrey Parker as the composer. Thomas had made a practice of writing and dedicating music to all the female members of the family. In discussion with Adeline Bulch several years after her father's death she mentioned the soldiers returning from France whistling a popular song that she said was set to her father's music. This she identified as “Waltzing Matilda”. She also said that a woman had written to her father requesting permission to use the music, as she wanted to put words to it. Thomas had replied that he no longer had copyright of the music. It is widely thought that Thomas based Craigielee on James Barr's setting of Robert Tannahill's poem “Thou Bonnie Wood o' Craigielee” (now commonly spelled as “Craigielea”). The tune of “Waltzing Matilda” is similar to Barr's melody and to Bulch's composition.

Thomas died on 13 November 1930 at his home in the Sydney suburb of Mascot.

References[edit]

A family history titled: “Thomas Edward Bulch. Musician, A Family History” has been published and copies are lodged with the NSW State Library and the National Library in Canberra, which gives a fuller account of his life and history.

External links[edit]