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Frances Lillias (Amy) Sherwin

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Frances Sherwin

Awarded for service to the Arts

Born: 1855

Died: 1935

Entered on roll: 2005

Amy was born near Judbury in the Huon Valley. She made her professional debut in May 1878 at the Theatre Royal in Hobart in the Royal Italian Opera Company production of Don Pasquale. In June 1878, Amy appeared at the Opera House in Melbourne with the Royal Italian Opera. Her outstanding success saw her become known as 'The Tasmanian Nightingale'.

She married during her 1878 tour of New Zealand. In 1879, Amy left the Italian Opera Company and sailed for America with her husband. She joined the Strakosch Company making her American debut at the Grand Opera House in San Francisco. Amy spent several years in America combining performances with further professional study. She finished her musical education in Europe, studying oratorio, opera and deportment. Her son was born during the early 1880s. In 1883, Amy made her London debut at the Drury Lane Theatre.

Amy was one of the greatest sopranos of her era, and travelled more widely than any of her contemporaries. She visited Tasmania three times during her career, and travelled throughout the State including the Huon, West Coast, Midlands and Launceston.

Amy toured Northern America and Canada in 1887 to wide acclaim. Returning to Melbourne, she performed at the Queen's Jubilee Celebration Concert. Amy returned in triumph to Hobart in July 1887 and was given a civic reception followed by an enthusiastic welcome from the crowds who are said to have unharnessed her horses and pulled her carriage through the streets of Hobart.

In late 1888 Amy embarked on a tour that included India, Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. She returned to Europe in 1889, performing regularly until the birth of her daughter in 1894.

In 1897, Amy again toured Australia and in January 1898 she gave a concert in Hobart’s Wesleyan Church in aid of the Fire Relief Fund for Tasmanian bushfire victims.

She returned to England in 1899 and now made it her home. During her last Australian tour in 1906-07, she conducted workshops to tutor promising singers. She retired from the stage in 1908, restricting herself to teaching.

In her later years, Amy experienced financial hardship caring for her invalid daughter. Becoming ill in 1934, Amy entered a charity ward in a London Hospital. An article in The Mercury detailed her impoverished circumstances and an appeal launched by the Lord Mayor raised 200 pounds towards the cost of her treatment. Amy's letter of thanks was printed in The Mercury in September 1934. Amy died on 20 September 1935 in London. A wreath was sent from the Tasmanian Government with the inscription ‘A tribute to the memory of a famous Tasmanian’.

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