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y separately published work icon At Home with Tony Birch Melbourne : Bad Producer Productions , 2021 2021 single work podcast interview y
y separately published work icon Father's Day Tony Birch , Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009 selected work short story y
The Chocolate Empire Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Father's Day Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Tony Birch (a.k.a. Anthony Birch) b. 1957 (204 works by fr. 1978)

Dr Tony Birch was born in inner-city Melbourne, into a large family of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. His upbringing was challenging and difficult, and much of this is captured in his remarkable debut, the semi-autobiographical Shadowboxing.

An altar boy and exceptional student at his local Catholic primary school, in adolescence, Birch went 'off the rails' as a teenager. He was expelled from two high schools for fighting and found trouble with the police for the same reason. Although somewhat adrift following his expulsions, he remained a voracious reader – once, when he was arrested by police, all they found when they patted him down was a copy of Camus’ The Outsider, which remains his favourite book.

Returning to night school to complete his studies, Birch met his mentor, Anne Misson, whose credo was very simple: 'You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.' Birch still lives by this and applies it to everything including his passion for running, which is where his writing is created and shaped.

Studying as a mature-age student at the University of Melbourne, Birch holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and, a PhD in History, which won the university's Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in 2013.

Birch has been publishing short stories and poetry regularly since the 1980s, although his first collection, Shadowboxing, only appeared in 2006. Since this, he has published four more collections of short stories and poetry (Father's Day [2009], The Promise [2014], Broken Teeth [2016], and Common People [2017] and two novels (Blood [2011] and Ghost River [2015]).

Among his awards are the Scanlon Prize and the Prize for Indigenous Writing (Victorian Premier's Literary Awards). He has also been shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Steele Rudd Award (with both the original Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and the later Queensland Literary Awards), and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 2015, he joined Victoria University as the first recipient of its Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship. His role sits within the Moondani Balluk Academic Unit and is linked to the University’s creative arts and writing programs. He has also taught creative writing at the University of Melbourne for many years.

Birch’s work is widely read and loved including by those who might normally avoid books, particularly teenage boys. Through his outreach work, he visits many schools to speak to students, and takes particular pleasure in returning to the two schools that expelled him, as both of his previous books are on the syllabus.

In 2022, he was appointed as the third Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne, following Richard Flanagan and Alexis Wright.

The Ward Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Made to Measure Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Two Men and Their Dogs Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
The Emotional Lives of Men Julia Stirling , single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 5 December 2009 2009 (p. 27)
Cover Notes Lucy Sussex , single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Age , 1 November 2009 2009 (p. 21)
Cartography Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
The Last Time I Saw Cherry Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Place, History and Story: Tony Birch and the Yarra River Carolyn Masel , Matthew Ryan , single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 2016 vol. 31 no. 2 2016 2016
Gardening For Pleasure Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
The Day of the Hen Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Take Three Ian McFarlane , single work review
— Appears in: Sunday Canberra Times , 24 January 2010 2010 (p. 26)
Gifted Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
The Tern Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
How Sweet Is the Sound? Tony Birch , single work short story
— Appears in: Father's Day Melbourne : Hunter Publishers , 2009 2009
Ted Holland (a.k.a. Edward James Holland) b. 1862 d. 4 Sep 1914


During his forty-year career in the Australian variety industry, Ted Holland established a considerable reputation throughout Australia as a performer, manager, and entrepreneur. He first came to prominence in the mid-1870s as a member of Delohery, Craydon and Holland. In addition to being the most successful Australian male dance trio of the late nineteenth century, the three men also operated their own companies in association with other performers. After the partnership ended around 1902/1903, Ted Holland turned to full-time vaudeville management. He initially formed his own touring company, at one stage playing a five-month season in Brisbane (1903), before settling in the Queensland capital in 1904, where he leased the Theatre Royal from Harry Rickards. He later sub-leased the same theatre from Percy St John, and operated his own shows there for six years without a break. Until he set up his own permanent company in the Queensland capital, no vaudeville organisation had managed to remain there beyond a few months. Such was his dominance in Brisbane that even leading entrepreneurs such as Rickards, James Brennan, and Harry Clay saw no advantage in going up against him on a permanent basis.

Holland joined forces with Percy St John in 1911 to lease the newly built Empire Theatre. Although continuing to be billed as Ted Holland's Vaudeville Entertainers, their theatrical operations traded as Holland and St John Ltd. Two years later, they formed a leasing alliance with Brennan-Fullers, a move that gave them access to a wider array of performers, including international acts under contract to the Fullers' circuit.

Ted Holland died in early September 1914 after a long illness. He was survived by his second wife Eva (nee Wilson), who had formerly worked in variety as a serio-comic, and son Claude who went on to carve out a career in the entertainment industry as a variety performer, actor and radio producer. Holland and St John Ltd continued operating under the management of Percy St John until his death the following year, at which time the company was briefly managed by Edward and Dan Carroll. Holland and St John's leasing arrangements with Sir Benjamin and John Fuller eventually led to their organisation managing the Empire Theatre. Fullers Theatres Ltd eventually took control of the theatre, taking up a lease in late 1917 or early 1918. This effectively ended what until that time had been the longest and arguably the most successful vaudeville venture in Brisbane.


  • NB: For details regarding Ted Holland's career to ca. 1902, see Delohery, Craydon and Holland's AustLit entry.

1903-1906: After the disbanding of Delohery, Craydon and Holland, Ted Holland put together his own touring vaudeville company. One of his first successes was in Brisbane in 1903, where he played a packed five-month season at the Theatre Royal. In December the following year, he returned to the Queensland capital and set about establishing a permanent presence there by leasing the Theatre Royal from Harry Rickards. The Brisbane Courier records in 1911 that Holland's timing was fortuitous, as Brisbane had not at that stage built a reputation as a show town: 'As in the case of all young communities there had been a period in its history when Queensland had been practically the grave of many a sterling company, and it was left to Mr Holland to work out its salvation from the Thespians' standpoint. To this end he secured an extended tenancy of the Theatre Royal and there he started in 1904 with a vaudeville company which has continued an uninterrupted success ever since' (7 January 1911, p.13).

The timing of his venture was also an important factor. A number of entrepreneurs had previously attempted to establish permanent operations in Brisbane, but had failed due to a combination of factors, notably the city's smaller population, its isolation from the southern capitals and regional circuits, and the fact that none of the entrepreneurs (apart from Percy St John) had Holland's level of experience and reputation. In the first instance, Brisbane's rapid population growth over the past decade had by the early 1900s led to a increased demand for variety entertainment. The opening up of a permanent regional circuit by Harry Clay also provided a greater incentive for performers to go to Queensland, playing dates in Brisbane and then heading north to the lucrative mining centres and expanding coastal centres. His initial association with Rickards played a key role in helping Holland secure the type of artists that he needed to cement his reputation with Brisbane audiences. The 1911 Brisbane Courier article also notes that the two entrepreneurs made an arrangement under which Holland could secure the services of some of Rickards's acts, thereby allowing him access to a continuous stream of celebrity performers from around the country. When Rickards let his lease expire in 1905, Percy St John acquired the rights to the theatre, and subsequently sub-leased it to Holland. By that time, however, Holland had established the viability of his management to both the Brisbane public and the wider variety industry and, as a consequence, he continued to attract the best performers in Australia.

Ted Holland's entertainment invariably followed the minstrel format, with the first part semi-circle (led by the interlocutor and endmen), followed by the olio (second part specialty acts), and finally the afterpiece. The concluding section saw regular revivals of old favourite minstrel farces from the past two or more decades (many of these being stock routines known by most leading performers), mixed in with some new material written and/or adapted/localised by some of the more experienced performers engaged by Holland during the early 1900s. For example, among the more popular and perhaps best-known farces and burlesques staged between 1903 and 1906 were An M.P. for a Day, North-East Lynne, Ginger's Troubles, Dr Killall's Troubles, The Chinese Question, The Dengue Doctor, The Dual in the Forest, The Arrival of Casey, Over the Garden Wall, Tony the Tailor, Midnight Intruders, The Rehearsal, Faro the Banker, The Wise Woman, Jake Blow the Horn, The Wigmakers, Fun on the Wyandra, and The Christmas Goose (ctd. Djubal, 'What Oh Tonight,'. See Appendix E).

Although his long-term plan was to establish his operations as Brisbane's first permanent vaudeville company, Holland nevertheless sent troupes on brief tours throughout Queensland and, on occasion, down to northern New South Wales (see note below for details). He would also often provide short seasons of entertainment in nearby centres such as Toowoomba and Ipswich. Invariably billed as Ted Holland's Vaudeville Entertainers, the troupes did not consist only of performers. Few of the far-flung regional centres had access to new technologies or the products of popular culture enjoyed by their city brethren, and so travelling entertainment troupes would often bring artefacts from the city with them, including waxworks, cycloramas, the latest audio and visual inventions, and assorted technological displays. Holland's 1906 Queensland tour, for example, was billed as Ted Holland's New Vaudeville and Waxworks Company.

The Queensland tours were initially managed by Herb Moylan and comprised a similar (though not as lengthy) itinerary to Harry Clay's circuit. Although the rapidly expanding railway network allowed these early twentieth-century tours to access more and more centres over time, most troupes still required steamer transport to get them to many of the townships north of Bundaberg. Holland's tours would invariably head north to Gympie and then play seasons in the major coastal towns and mining centres through to Charters Towers. Key centres around this time also included Maryborough, Mount Morgan, Rockhampton, Mackay, and Townsville. Holland did not often travel with his touring companies, leaving the management entirely in Moylan's hands. He did on several occasions, however, send his wife to help oversee the operations.

As with Harry Clay, Ted Holland knew well the importance of engaging only quality performers for these tours and not allowing them to overstay their welcome. Both entrepreneurs had much experience with Queensland audiences and saw the state as a profitable on-going venture that increased their opportunities for attracting premium artists in a rapidly expanding and hence increasingly competitive industry. Describing the company's 1905 season in Charters Towers, the Northern Miner records, for example, that 'The house was full on the rising of the curtain.. . A show of good even quality and not a duffer amongst them was the verdict... The management announce that there will be continuous changes of programme every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and it is safe to predict another bumper house to-night' (6 March 1905, p.5).

Reviews published in the Brisbane Courier throughout 1905 indicate that each weekly change of programme filled the theatre. The 30 January edition records, for example, that 'Mr Ted Holland understands the art of catering for the public taste in vaudeville entertainments. This was evidenced on Saturday night at the Theatre Royal where every part of the house was full, and in the dress circle after the entertainment had commenced it was a case of standing room only' (p.7). 'Novelties and fresh faces is a motto which Mr Ted Holland has adopted,' wrote one critic in April the same year. 'Each week brings forward its new attractions and each week the public show their appreciation of the enterprise by attending in large numbers' (10 April 1905, p.2). An early December programme was similarly well attended, according to the Courier, which noted, 'The company appearing at the Theatre Royal under the management of Mr Ted Holland was faced by an enormous crowd on Saturday night' (4 December 1905, p.2). The Sydney-based Theatre Magazine also drew attention to Holland's continuing success, noting that even though he had no opposition, he still 'gives a rattling good show' (1 August 1905, p.6). Although Sydney based, the Theatre Magazine could not ignore the developments in Brisbane, reporting in its 1 May issue that 'Holland's Vaudeville Entertainers are booming... Happily the management know how to cater for local theatre-goers, and work in turns that are often absurdly funny, but that is what is demanded by a certain section of the public' (p.10).

The popularity of Holland's shows was very much a consequence of the skills he'd developed as a leading performer and manager during the previous two decades. His high and long-standing reputation throughout Australia and the connections he had made over the past two decades also guaranteed him access to top-quality artists, both local and international. Among the leading performers he engaged during his first four years were former partner James Craydon, American acrobat/comedian Albert McKisson (formerly of McKisson and Kearns), The Swifts English Comedy Trio, Fred Bluett, Ted Herberte, Harry Cowan (endman), Florrie and Stella Ranger, Arthur Morley, Wal Rockley, Sam Keenan Jnr, Tom Leonard, Clara Keating, Tom Edwards, Dave Warne and Lily Octavia, Joe Morris and Alf Wilson (acrobats), Dr Rowe (conjurer/illusionist), Walter Rivers and Nina Rochester, and Ida Berridge and Hal Linden. While Holland's decision to undertake an entrepreneurial career meant that his time was largely spent operating the business, he did not entirely retire from the stage, although his appearances in later years became more infrequent. During the Theatre Royal era, he often featured in the entertainment, primarily as a singer, but also on occasion in the afterpiece.

Also making regular appearances during these early years were his wife Eva (billed as Eva Wilson) and son Claude (billed as Little Claudie). One of Claude Holland's first stage performances was in 1905, when he joined his mother in the chorus of 'The Man in the Overalls.' The Brisbane Courier records that although 'Baby Holland [was a] little toddler who could not yet articulate properly', his effort was 'greeted with a round of genuine applause' (12 June 1905, p.4). A few weeks earlier, the paper's theatre critic had written of his mother, 'Miss Eva Wilson showed that she is still high in public favour and was given an enthusiastic reception in each of several comic songs' (29 May 1905, p.5).

1907 - 1910: Although the last four years of Ted Holland's operations at the Theatre Royal continued much as the previous three had, from late 1907 onwards he made some changes to his programmes that reflect the need for variety entertainment to not only provide continual personnel changes, but to also find new means of entertaining. The Brisbane Courier reports in early 1907, for example, that Holland had made a specialty of the vitagraph, the result being that 'for several weeks excellent pictures have followed each other across the screen at the theatre' (7 January 1907, p.5). Many of the moving pictures exhibited were billed as 'Edison's Very Latest' (Brisbane Courier 9 February 1907, p.2). He also brought north prominent thespians such as J. B. Atholwood to deliver recitations and scenes from classic drama, and increasingly engaged international acts, often straight from seasons with Harry Rickards or Williamson, Tallis and Ramicotti. One such act was Walter E. Deaves' Manikins, which staged a 'wonderful and stupendous production called Christmas pantomime.' According to advertising, Deaves came to Brisbane direct from King's Theatre, New York (Brisbane Courier 1 January 1910, p.2). Another feature of Holland's entertainments around this period were the illustrated songs: musical numbers performed in front of dissolving scenes or tinted slides.

As an entrepreneur in his own right, Holland was required to travel south, primarily to Sydney and Melbourne, to scout for new attractions (Brisbane Courier 21 February 1907, p.7). Although he still continued to arrange with Harry Rickards to send to Brisbane some of the Tivoli artists whose contracts had expired, by 1907 his reputation was such that most artists readily made themselves available for an engagement if an offer came their way. Holland, therefore, not only had the availability of international acts but was also able to provide employment opportunities for many of his fellow Australians, something he was justifiably proud of, and more so because quite a number were young Queenslanders. The Brisbane Courier records in its 20 July 1907 edition that upwards of 1,000 artists had been engaged by Holland during the past three years, and that salaries of £30 were not uncommon, a quite considerable amount for variety performers at that time (p.12).

Holland satisfied the demands of his patrons by not only providing consistently high-quality programmes but by also sustaining constant variety. The Brisbane Courier notes, for example, that the change of bill for 25 May comprised no fewer than twenty-five new turns (p.4). The newspaper also continued to report that Holland's programmes were attracting sell-out crowds each Saturday, while still maintaining large audiences during the rest of the week. 'The attendance in the evening,' wrote one critic, 'was enormous, many failing to secure admission. In fact this condition has become so chronic at the Royal that it scarcely calls for comment' (13 May 1907, p.6).

The first of his NSW operations is also believed to have been implemented in 1907, when he put together a No 2 company and opened in Newcastle in early March. The troupe comprised several members of the Brisbane company, along with some newly engaged artists (Brisbane Courier 4 March 1907, p.5). A report in the 1 April edition of the Brisbane Courier indicates that Holland had sent a second company to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley in mid-March, and that these tours were approximately a fortnight in length (p.8).

Some of the more significant artists engaged by Holland between 1907 and 1910 were Frank Herberte, Florrie and Stella Rangers, Mr Kilburn-Heron (vocalist), Stewart and Stirling (sketch artists), Will Wynand (eccentric comedian), Ted Herberte, Carden Wilson (impersonator), Lulu Eugene (serio-comic), Arthur Morley and Elsie Bates, Art Slavin, Emil Amiel (internationally acclaimed equalibrist, by arrangement with Harry Rickards), Joe Morris and Alf Wilson, Joe Rox, George Pagden, Post Mason, Tom Dawson, Carlton and Sutton, George Sorlie, Amy Blackie, the Phillip Sisters, Albert McKisson, Arthur Tauchert (McKisson and Tauchert were partners ca. 1910), Delavale and Gilbert, Yorkshire comedian Denis Carney, Ida Berridge and Harry Linden, the Driscoll Brothers (Bob and Alf), Hanco (Australia's 'handcuff king'), Clara Keating and Claude Golding, Phyllis Faye, Olga Pennington, Charles Fanning and Georgie Devoe (as Fanning and Fanning), Bert Desmond, Ted Tutty, Little Sadie Gale and her father Sam Gale, Jack Ralston (one of Australia's premiere baritones), Essie Jennings, Ward Lear, and Slade Murray. While few of these names are recognisable today, all were well known throughout Australia and New Zealand at this time, while all but a few continued their careers well into the 1920s. (Dawson, Blackie, Fanning, Golding, Mason, Murray, and Sam Gale all died during the 1910s, while Devoe is believed to have retired following the death of her husband Charles Fanning)

In 1909, Holland briefly operated a second entertainment venture under canvas. Situated directly opposite the Theatre Royal, it was called the Hippodrome Picture Palace (Theatre Magazine March 1909, p.9). The following year, Holland boasted a double strength company, along with the latest moving pictures (Brisbane Courier 26 March 1919, p.2). 1910 also saw the announcement of a new theatre to be built in Brisbane, which would be leased and operated mutually by Holland and Percy St John. Part of the reason for moving, according to Holland, was that it had become inceasingly difficult for companies to get dates with the limited accommodation that the Royal provided (Brisbane Courier 4 June 1910, p.12).

1911-1915: Holland ended his tenure at the Theatre Royal on 3 January 1911 and subsequently transitioned to the Centennial Hall for eleven nights, pending the opening of the Empire Theatre on 14 January. Situated in Albert Street, a few doors down from Queen Street, the Empire was promoted as 'one of the coolest, best appointed and most thoroughly equipped theatres in the Commonwealth,' reports noting that for its size there was nothing to equal it any other Australian state (Brisbane Courier 7 January 1911, p.13). The Empire was not small, however, seating as it did some 1600 people (ctd. Theatre Magazine June 1913, p.29).

1911 also saw Holland forced to compete for the first time in the city precinct against considerable opposition, when James Brennan's Vaudeville Entertainers, under the management of Queensland-born comedian J. C. Bain, opened for an extended season at the Theatre Royal. Having spent the past the previous six years virtually un-opposed, Holland was not surprisingly nervous about the situation and reportedly made an appeal to his loyal Brisbane public to continue supporting 'their own show' [see Historical Notes and Corrections' below for further details and the Theatre magazine's response]. Reports published throughout the year appear to indicate, however, that Holland and St John did not suffer any loss of custom, perhaps because Brisbane by then was able to support several variety establishments without undue pressure on each management. This is supported by the fact that Edward Branscombe also invested in the city that same year, opening up the Cremorne Garden Theatre on the opposite side of the Brisbane River. As his Costume Comedy Company offered a more refined entertainment, weighted more heavily towards singing and dancing than towards broad comedy, it attracted a more affluent class of patron to Holland's clientale, and hence neither establishment effectively competed with each other.

It is not clear whether Holland's leasing arrangement with Harry Rickards continued with Hugh D. McIntosh following Rickards's death in 1911. It is known, however, that Holland established a similar arrangement with James Brennan and the Fullers some time around April/May 1913. The Theatre Magazine reported on the 'amalgamation,' suggesting that it was advantageous to Holland and St John's patrons because it gave them the opportunity to see the 'best of the artists imported by the Brennan-Fuller firm' (June 1913, p.29). Among the better-known Australian performers engaged by Holland and St John between 1911 and 1915 were Courtney Ford and Ivy Davis (as members of the Vagabond's troupe), Sharratt and Lang, Maurice Chenoweth, the Two Driscolls (aka the Driscoll Brothers), Will Raynor, Sadie Gale and her mother Myra (as Sadie and Gale), Carrie Moore, Alf Lawrence, Les Warton, and Ernest Pitcher.

In May 1914, Holland and St John were taken to court by one of their employees, Charles Whaite. A former vaudeville performer who had been engaged by the firm as stage manager, Whaite claimed that he had been wrongfully dismissed, and asked for £100 in owed salary. The situation is believed to have come about after Whaite was accused by another of the company's employees of taking bribes from performers to have them placed in better positions on the Empire's programmes. Evidence given by Whaite before the court indicates that his complaint was directed largely at St John and not Holland, whom he described as a 'very considerate man' (Brisbane Courier 22 May 1914, p.4). Although the judge found in favour of the plaintiff, the amount he received was only £22/10, with the cost of the two-day trial paid by the defendants.

The court case and resulting publicity is believed to have created a great deal of stress for Holland, resulting in several months of ill health. Although reports published after his death indicate that his friends had become anxious about his failing constitution, his passing in the end was unexpected. Described as a most popular man and a keen sportsman, 'Jums' Holland was also well-known for his charitable nature and his love of horses (which he owned and raced). His funeral comprised one of the largest-ever gatherings of people for such an occasion in Brisbane, with many of Australia's leading variety figures in attendance, including his former partners Tom Delohery and James Craydon, Harry Clay, Dan and E.J. Carroll, George Birch, Percy Dix and Reuban Baker, Martin Brennan, J. C. Bain, and Wirth Bros. Numerous past and present artists from the Holland and St John stable also attended.

The Empire Theatre continued to operate for another year under Percy St John's management, until he passed away in October 1915. With both partners deceased, E. J. and Dan Carroll temporarily looked after the theatre while arrangements were made with both men's families. The leasing arrangement with the Fullers, not surprisingly made, their transition as managers of the Empire a smooth one. When the Holland and St John lease expired in early 1918, Fullers' Theatres took full control of the establishment, and it eventually came to be known as The Fullers' Empire Theatre.

While Ted Holland made provision in his will for his wife to buried with him, this did not eventuate. Eva Holland's (nee Wilson) whereabouts after 1914 are yet to be determined.