Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Shirley's piano lessons

My mother-in-law, Shirley Alford, grew up in the small farming community of Mologa in Victoria and, like many of her generation, learned to play piano. Nearly 90 years later she is still playing piano and organ in church. For many years Shirley taught piano to students in Kerang, in her home and at the local Convent school, and has taken a keen interest in the local eisteddfod.

Shirley Alford
In the late 1930s, when she was a teenager, Shirley started work at Mitiamo, a bigger town nearby. She used to ride her bike there each Monday morning and home again on Friday evening. Sometimes she would ride home mid-week as well if her parents needed her to help milk the dairy cows- by hand in those days. She boarded with the Methodist minister and his wife at Mitiamo and taught at the Mitiamo school each afternoon (they were called 'sewing mistress' in those days but taught much more than sewing). For two hours each morning she practiced piano in the home of Annie and Roy Phelan who owned a general store in Mitiamo. She sat for the Associate London College of Music piano examination (scales and pieces) in Bendigo and passed. Diplomas are offered at four levels: Diploma of the London College of Music (DipLCM), Associate of the London College of Music (ALCM), Licentiate of the London College of Music (LLCM) and Fellowship of the London College of Music (FLCM). These qualifications permit the holder to append the qualification's letters after their name. So Shirley had an ALCM after her name. When she was 17, in 1942, she did the Licentiate exam so she was entitled to use the letters LLCM.

By that time Shirley was teaching full time at Mitiamo school. She was there five years altogether and then taught at several other schools in northern  Victoria (Kotta and Woorinen North). 

In 1948 she married and had to leave teaching because that was the rule then. And who did she marry? All the time she was practicing on Mrs Phelan's piano there was a photo of their son, Neil, in a frame on the piano. He was serving in the Air Force. Shirley says she was very taken by his wavy hair! So when Neil went home after the war they must have become better acquainted:)

This post is in response to Sepia Saturday's theme photo in which there are several barristers wearing their robes. I selected a photo of Shirley wearing her LLCM robe and I suggest you see what others have chosen to blog about.


  1. A lovely portrait of your mother-in-law in her LLCM robe.

  2. I find that romantic and would like to learn more about their meeting!

    Good on Shirley for still playing!

  3. Yes, a fine portrait. And how romantic she married the fellow in the photograph on the piano! Because a singer needs an accompanist, I've known several excellent ones in my -so far - lifetime, & they have all been dedicated people who love music & playing. Like your mother-in-law, a good friend & accompanist played for, & directed, choirs and choruses well into her 80s . . . even to giving singular piano recitals on her 81st and 83rd birthdays! Quite a gal.

  4. I love the fact that she married the man in the photo on her practice piano...That's such a fun story!

  5. Interesting story about how she met her husband.

  6. Fine photo. I should have included one of my daughter in her law graduation gown.

  7. I’m glad you chose to pay tribute to Shirley in this way and I am delighted to hear that she is still playing the piano and organ.

  8. Impressive! Not just the list of letters but that she continues to play.

  9. That is a perfect post, a single image with an interesting story. A lovely string of qualifications. The only one I knew of was A.Mus.A - perhaps that is an easier one to get. - boundforoz

  10. My first reaction as I quickly scanned the photo was, "Oh, what a nice photo of the Queen." Sounds like she's a pretty royal lady.


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