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The Payne family, 1888-89

A. Flegeltaub

albumen photograph on cabinet card (support: 16.4 cm x 10.5 cm, image: 14.6 cm x 9.5 cm)

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The Payne Family was one of the longest running and most successful of the early Australian handbell groups. Debuting in Ballarat in late 1886, they filled halls and theatres across Victoria with their variety performances, the group’s appeal owing in part to their being a genuine and entire family. The original ensemble consisted of father William Payne senior, a tenor and director of the group; son William J Payne, a baritone and flautist ‘of more than average excellence’; eldest daughter Lizzie, a violinist; and younger daughters Maud and Nellie. Maud was a contralto vocalist, pianist and violinist, and Nellie was a ‘serviceable’ violinist with light soprano voice ‘of pleasing quality’. Renowned for their singing, the family’s performances also included handbells and musical glasses. Nellie Payne died in Moonta, South Australia in June 1891. William senior died a year later. His widow took over as director and led the group on a tour of Victoria and Tasmania. By this time they were known as the ‘Payne-Steele Bellringers’ (Lizzie Payne had married one Ralph Steele-Wareham in early 1892) under which name they performed until 1907.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of John McPhee 2018

Accession number: 2018.147

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

A. Flegeltaub

William Payne (age 43 in 1888)

William J. Payne

Lizzie Payne

Maude Payne

Nellie Payne (age 16 in 1888)

Donated by

John McPhee (4 portraits)

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