WILLIAM VINCENT WALLACE (1812 - 1865)
William Wallace was born in Waterford on 11 March 1812. His father, a Scottish-born regimental bandmaster, gave the young Wallace lessons on the piano and the clarinet and these which were later supplemented by violin and organ studies. By the time he reached his late teens he was already an accomplished violinist and pianist in Dublin, where he played in the orchestra at the Theatre Royal. In 1830 he secured a post as church organist in Thurles where he met and married Isabella Kelly, with whom he settled in Dublin before emigrating to Australia in late 1835. Within five years, though, he deserted his family in Sydney and is said to have complemented his earnings from music with stints at, among other things, sheep farming and whale hunting before heading further afield. There are also tales of how he narrowly escaped being eaten by cannibals, was mauled by a tiger in India and caught in an earthquake in the South Seas, all of which he may have embellished. What is not in dispute is the extent of his travels during those years, an odyssey which took him all the way from the Antipodes to South America.
Back in Europe for a period of composing, including the completion of the music for Maritana, some of which had been in gestation since his time in Tasmania, and the beginning of Lurline (eventually finished in 1860), he was threatened by blindness and sent by his doctor back to South America for treatment. The following year, having survived the attentions of the Inquisition in Mexico and a shipboard explosion on route to North America (more fanciful invention?), he reached New York. In 1850 he became an American citizen and, in the same year, bigamously married the 23-year-old pianist Helen Stoepel. Returning again to Britain he settled in London where he lived for another 20 years before ill health forced him to head for the Pyrenees, where he died in 1865.