MS 2294
Papers of Varney Monk


Creator: Monk, Varney, 1892-1967

Title: Papers of Varney Monk

Date range: c1907-1986

Reference number: MS 2294

Extent: 5.52m (17 boxes + 1 folio box)

Administative Information


Available for reference


The bulk of the collection was originally acquired by the National Film and Sound Archive (later ScreenSound Australia) in 1986, from Monk's daughter, Pam Evans. It was transferred from ScreenSound to the National Library in 1998. In 1969, 14cm of material relating to Collits' Inn was donated to the Library by Monk's son, Ian.

Scope and Content

This collection comprises mainly scores of musical compositions by Monk, the bulk of which relate to her two professionally produced musical comedies of the 1930s, Collits' Inn and The cedar tree. There are also compositions based on poems of Henry Lawson and Henry Kendall and a small amount of correspondence relating to her professional career. Correspondents include Angus and Robertson, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Howard Carr, Fred Kendall (son of Henry Kendall), Katharine Susannah Prichard and Colin Roderick.

The papers of Varney Monk provide a record of the pioneering role she played in promoting the use of Australian themes and settings in the performing arts at a time when overseas shows featuring overseas artists dominated the Australian theatre circuit.


The Library has arranged the papers into nine series and within each series, grouped like papers together. The papers relating to Collits' Inn, which were received by the Library in 1969, have been combined with those received from ScreenSound Australia in 1998.

Monk dated very few of the compositions in the collection. At the start of her career and before her marriage, she experimented with variations of her maiden name for use as her professional name. They include Varney Desmond, Isabel Varney and Varney Peterson, which she was using in c1904. Where she has used one of these variations, the name has been noted in brackets after the description of the work, as a means of roughly dating the composition.

Related Material

The Mitchell Library holds cutting books of Cyril and Varney Monk

Biographical Note

Varney Monk was a composer and pianist. She was born Isabel Varney Desmond Peterson on 18 January 1892 at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, the daughter of Ernest John Peterson and Miriam Jane (née Roberts). On 22 December 1913, she married the violinist Cyril Monk, with whom she had two children.

Monk composed her first song in her early teens entitled When roses fall, which was published by Palings, and in 1923 she won The Sunday Times song competition with her work 'The old bush track'. She went on to become a prolific composer, with the majority of her compositions being based on Australian themes. She felt very strongly that Australian history provided a rich wealth of material for plays, films and literature and that it was possible to give Australian audiences something which was different, but at the same time essentially their own. The appeal of Monk's work was the fact that it was fresh and original, and not a copy of overseas works.

In collaboration with T. Stuart Gurr, Monk wrote the first professionally produced Australian musical comedy, Collits' Inn. Staged by F.W. Thring and starring Gladys Moncrieff and George Wallace, the musical premiered at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne in 1933, where it ran for four months. This was followed by a Sydney season of three months at the Tivoli Theatre. The fact that the setting was not an exotic foreign location, but one based on Australia's colonial past had an enormous impact on Australian audiences of that time, and the production of Collits' Inn was described as the beginning of a new era for Australian stage productions.

Monk's second musical comedy, written in collaboration with Helene and Edmund Barclay and entitled The cedar tree, followed in 1934. It was also staged by F.W. Thring and, although warmly received and enjoying a three month run at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, it did not receive the same critical acclaim that had been afforded Collits' Inn.

During the course of her career, Monk produced over 150 songs. In addition to composing works with her own lyrics, Monk set to music the poems of several Australian poets, including those of Henry Lawson and Henry Kendall. In 1966 she won the Henry Lawson Festival Song Award at Grenfell for her song A world of wattle.

Varney Monk died on 7 February 1967.


Australian Dictionary of Biography
Bronwen Arthur, 'The Pub with no Peer, or Collits' Inn: the first Australian musical romance', in One hand on the manuscript: music in Australian cultural history, 1930-1960, ed Nicholas Brown (et al), Canberra, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, 1995

Series List

Series Title
1 Correspondence, 1948-1986
2 Collits' Inn, 1935-1951
3 The cedar tree
4 Musical compositions by Monk
5 Musical compositions for poetry
6 Henry Lawson poetry set to music by Monk, 1942-1966
7 Henry Kendall poetry set to music by Monk, 1935-1966
8 Biographical papers
9 Cuttings

Series Description

Series 1 Correspondence, 1948-1986

This series comprises a small amount of business correspondence relating to performances of Monk's works, mainly with the ABC. There is also correspondence with the HMS Endeavour Trust, regarding Monk's suggestion that it consider recording her song Australia as a fund raising project and with the Melbourne Bread and Cheese Club Composer's & Songwriter's Group (1948) regarding Monk's entries in its competition.

1 folder

Series 2 Collits' Inn, 1935-1951

In collaboration with T. Stuart Gurr, Monk wrote the musical comedy, Collits' Inn as an entry in a competition run by Natalie Rosenwax of the Opportune Club. A romantic comedy, it was based on the story of Pierce Collits and his wife Mary, who, it is claimed, travelled with Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth across the Blue Mountains in 1813. The Collits remained at Hartley Vale, where they opened the first inn on the western side of the range.

Collits' Inn was first presented as an amateur production by Natalie Rosenwax in the Mosman Town Hall. The show was offered to J.C. Williamson, who turned it down. It was F.W. Thring (Efftee Productions) who finally undertook to stage the musical professionally, in a bold attempt to provide an Australian alternative to the predominately overseas shows featuring overseas artists, which dominated the Australian theatre circuit at that time. The musical was a huge success, receiving enthusiastic reviews and delighting audiences with its portrayal of colonial Australian life.

With its premiere at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne on 23 December 1933, Collits' Inn became the first professional production of an Australian musical. Produced by Claude Flemming, the cast included Gladys Moncrieff, George Wallace and Robert Chisholm and after completing a four month season in Melbourne, the show moved to the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney for a three month season. The production was also notable for incorporating the first revolving stage ever used in Australia.

This series contains a large collection of papers, which relate mainly to the professional production of Collits' Inn. Included are orchestral parts, voice parts and scripts. In many cases there are several arrangements of the same work, including those by both Howard Carr and Hal Evans, and it is difficult to determine which is Monk's original work. There are also photographs and technical details of stage settings, lists of performers, wardrobe lists and designs for costumes.

A small amount of correspondence is included in this series, the bulk of which comprises letters from Howard Carr. There is also a letter from Monk to Sir Oswald Stoll in London (1935), broaching the possibility of the musical being produced over there.

Included in this series are the words and/or music for the following compositions: Aboriginal chant; Australia; Blue Mountains; Bushrangers' song; The chaperone; Corroboree ballet; Dangerous Dandy Dick; Drinking song; Duddawarra River; Happy with you; How I love you; I'll wait for my true love; Last year; Making memories; A laugh and a kiss; The man in the cabbage tree hat; Melos; My desire; My valentine; Next year; Only you; Outlaw's song; Overture; The Redcoats; The road song; The rouseabout; Sally at the sliprail; See what loves done to me; Some distant day; Square dance; Stay while the stars are shining; Sweet William; That's what love does to me; They're in love; This year; Waltz ballet and We're singing of Australia


1 Correspondence, 1935-1951 Newspaper cuttings and notes by Monk Photographs of stage sets and publicity photographs of George Wallace, Robert Chisholm and Claude Flemming

2 Melbourne and Sydney productions (1934-1935): wardrobe lists, lists of performers and technical notes regarding lighting, electrical requirements, switchboard and props

3 Original working script of T. Stuart Gurr Five watercolour costume designs by Pierre Fornari Pty Ltd

4 Ground plans of stage settings Manuscript and typescript of three songs, words by Ailsa Bosten and music by Hal Evans Loose pages of script

5 Scripts for the characters of Mary, Sally and Dandy Dick Rough set drawings and heavily annotated script (71pp)

6 Script (39pp) with notation 'Original script as used at Edgar Hall'

7-8 Eight copies of the same version of the script (28pp each)

9 Score (incomplete) with notation 'this was as it was sent in to Miss Rosenwax's competition and written out by my singer friend Phillipa Ashton'

10 Complete piano score with notation 'The original music as used in Princess Theatre' and 'edited by Howard Carr'

11 Score with notation 'All these are Howard Carr's corrections of my original manuscript'

12 Howard Carr's full score

13 Conductor's guide

14 Orchestrations of Hal Evans Three orchestral versions of the song 'Australia', one by Howard Carr and two by Robert Keers

15 Words and music: Australia and Blue Mountains (both published by Chappell & Co.), Drinking song; Duddawarra River, How I love you, Last year, A laugh and a kiss

16 Words and music: The man in the cabbage tree hat

17 Words and music: Making memories, My Valentine, Next Year, The road song, The rouseabout, stay while the stars are shining

18 Words and music: Sally at the sliprails, Some distant day; They're in love; This year, We're singing of Australia

19 Orchestral parts: Bass

20 Orchestral parts: Bassoon


21 Orchestral parts: Cello

22 Orchestral parts: Clarinet

23 Orchestral parts: Flute

24 Orchestral parts: Harp

25 Orchestral parts: Horns

26 Orchestral parts: Oboe

27 Orchestral parts: Percussion

28 Orchestral parts: Piano

29 Orchestral parts: Trombone

30 Orchestral parts: Trumpets

31 Orchestral parts: Tympani

32 Orchestral parts: Viola

33-34 Orchestral parts: 1st Violin

35 Orchestral parts: 2nd Violin

36 Orchestral parts: Aboriginal dance, Australia, Blue Mountains

37 Orchestral parts: The chaperone, Corroboree ballet

38 Orchestral parts: Dangerous Dandy Dick, Drinking song, Duddawarra River

39 Orchestral parts: Entr'acte preceding Act II, Entr'acte preceding Act III Scene I, Finale Act II, Finale Act III

40 Orchestral parts: How I love you

41 Orchestral parts: I'll wait for my true love

42 Orchestral parts: A laugh and a kiss, Last year

43 Orchestral parts: The man in the cabbage tree hat

44 Orchestral parts: Making memories, Melos

45 Orchestral parts: My desire, My Valentine, Next year

46 Orchestral parts: Only you, Outlaw's song

47 Orchestral parts: Opening chorus, Overture

48 Orchestral parts: The road song

49 Orchestral parts: The rouseabout, The redcoats

50 Orchestral parts: Sally at the sliprails

51 Orchestral parts: See what love's done to me

52 Orchestral parts: Some distant day

53 Orchestral parts: Stay while the stars are shining

54 Orchestral parts: That's what love does to me, They're in love, This year

55 Orchestral parts: Waltz ballet

56 Chorus parts: Australia, Dudawarra River, Outlaw's song, The redcoats

57 Chorus parts: Howard Carr's arrangements

58 Chorus parts: Hal Evans' arrangements

59 Chorus parts: master copy

60 Voice parts: duet, trio and quintette

61 Voice parts: characters of Carthew, Mistress Dale, Dandy Dick

62 Voice parts: characters of Kate, Keane, Lake

63 Voice parts: characters of Mary, Nell, Sally
Vocal line: Some distant day
Music - Ballet Mistress

64 Miscellaneous loose pages of unidentified music

Series 3 The cedar tree

F.W. Thring encouraged Monk to follow up the success of Collits Inn, leading to her second professionally produced theatrical work. The cedar tree, a musical comedy set in the 1830s, was based on the history of the cedar tree and the ship building industries in the Windsor district of New South Wales. Helene and Edmund Barclay wrote the play and Monk wrote the music and collaborated with Helene Barclay on the lyrics. Howard Carr did the voice arrangements and Carr and Willy Redstone the orchestration.

Thring premiered the play at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne in 1934 where it enjoyed a three month season. However, on transferring to the Criterion Theatre, Sydney it only ran for three weeks. Starring Gladys Moncrieff and Alfred Frith, the show was produced by Claude Flemming and conducted by Will Quintrell.

This series comprises papers relating to the production of The cedar tree and includes orchestral parts and words and music for songs, voice parts and the script.

Included in this series are the words and/or music for the following compositions: Australian bird ballet; Bush dance; The cedar cutters' song; The Cedar tree; Coo-ee; Cupid follows the mode; Drinking chorus; Every song of love; Finale; Following the sun around/Following the sun/We'll follow the sun; Forty miles from Sydney Town; Hawkesbury River Road; How I love you; I did not know; I'd love to be a statue in the park; I'm happy with you; It had to be; March of the pioneers/Pioneer's march; Marching song; Outcast; Overture; Pie song/The flying pieman's song; Shipwrights' chorus; Soldiers' march; Well, well - fancy meeting you; We never really meant goodbye; Wild emu/Why does the wild emu; Words, words, words; You're every song of love


1 Newspaper cuttings and notes by Monk
Scripts for the parts of Captain Grudgeon, Dianella Weston, Carvell Weston and Nitson
2 Early drafts of some of the songs
Original rough drafts of songs, with corrections by Howard Carr and Willy Redstone
3 Piano score
4 Words and music: Bush dance, The cedar-cutters, The Cedar tree, Coo-ee and Cupid follows the mode
5 Words and music: Following the sun, Forty miles from Sydney Town, Hawkesbury River Road, How I love you, I did not know, I'd love to be a statue in the park
6 Words and music: I'm happy with you, It had to be you, March of the pioneers, Outcast, Pie song
7 Words and music: Shipwrights' chorus, Well, well - fancy meeting you, Wild emu, You're every song of love, Words, words, words,
8 Words and music: We never really meant goodbye
9 Orchestral parts: Australian bird ballet, Bush dance
10 Orchestral parts: Cedar-cutters' song, Cedar tree
11 Orchestral parts: Coo-ee, Cupid follows the mode
12 Orchestral parts: Following the sun, Forty miles from Sydney Town, Hawkesbury River Road, Finale
13 Orchestral parts: I did not know, I'd love to be a statue in the park, I'm happy with you, It had to be you
14 Orchestral parts: March of the pioneers, Overture, Soldiers' march
15 Orchestral parts: Shipwrights' chorus, We never really meant goodbye
16 Orchestral parts: Wild emu, You're every song of love, Words, words, words
17 Orchestral parts for violin
18 Voice parts: principals
19 Voice parts: chorus
20 Musical score: ballet
Musical scores and notes for the rehearsing pianist
21 Miscellaneous loose pages of music and notes

Series 4 Musical compositions by Monk

During the course of her career, Monk produced over 150 songs. She believed strongly that her music should reflect Australian history, places and events and this is evident in the titles and themes of many of her compositions.

This series includes the musical scores for a number of Monk's works, listed alphabetically by title. Most of the works are undated. However, where Monk has used a variation of her name, indicating that they are early compositions, this name has been included in brackets after the title as an indication of the approximate date.


1. All I ask
At the Maryborough Ball
Autumn song
Baby ballads (music and words for nine short songs)
Babylon (Varney Desmond Monk)
Banana Festival Dance

2 Blue Australian sky
Broken Bay
Broken Hill (winning song at the Broken Hill Jubilee competition, nd)
Bush lonely
Coffs Harbour

3 Concerto, c1909 (Varney Peterson)
English dance (Varney Peterson)

4 From the obelisk to the carillon: songs of Old Sydney. A book which includes the songs: The bells of Bathurst (dedicated to the memory of Ben Chifley, who was born and died in Bathurst), In Macquarie Place, Martin Place, The Old Tank Stream, The road to Hartley, South Head light and Sydney now.

5 For violin
Grandfather's clock
Here to Montreal

6 He's here/She's here Homeward, words by Varney Monk, music by Beth Howell
Honeymoon land (Varney Desmond)
A honeymoon up in the sky (Varney Desmond)
Hungarian dance, 1907 (Varney Peterson)

7 I had a dream

8 I'm in the seventh Heaven
I'm singing of Australia
I'm so tired of crying about you (Varney Desmond)
Indian hawker

9 In Martin Place, published by Nicholson's, Sydney, nd
In May I only want a starry night and you (Varney Desmond)
I've been unlucky in love (Varney Desmond)
I've got an everlasting love for you

10 Journeys end (Varney Desmond)
Kiss me goodnight (Varney Desmond)
The Kookaburra's corrobborree, published by Nicholson's & Co., Sydney, nd
A lament, c1904 (Varney Peterson)
The lingering lullaby (Isabel Varney)

11 A little home where someone waits for me
Little Miss Victoria
A little street
The little winding stream (Isabel Varney Peterson)

12 Lochinvar - dedicated to Sister M. Angela, St Josephs' Convent, Lochinvar, NSW
The man in the band
The man with a million fans
A Mexican serenade Nullarbor

13 The old bush track (Varney Desmond Monk), published by Nicholson's, Sydney, nd
Only a mile to go (Varney Desmond)
Only just lonely (Varney Desmond)
Orange now

14 Over a wall in Mexico
Over the water
Over the water tonight
Pebble in a pool, published by Nicholson's Pty Ltd, Sydney, nd

15 Picking apples
Prelude - Impatience (Isabel Varney)
Prelude - To a lonely mountain (Varney Peterson), 1910
Raindrops (Varney Desmond)
Revonah waltz (Isabel Varney)
Same old words, 1958

16 Serena, published by Chappell & Co., Sydney, nd

17 Serenade (Varney Peterson)
So lonely (Varney Desmond)
So long Mareeba
Some day you'll be sorry

18 Songs of the South - a book of songs written when Monk was about 16 years old and calling herself Varney Peterson. Includes the following song titles: Down by the creek, In the hush of the bush, The little brown bird, A summer storm, Wattle bloom, Where the locusts drone and Wild rose

19 Spanish rose
Stepping stones
Sunshine of love (Varney Peterson)
Sur le toit (Isabel Varney)

20 There's got to be wedding bells
They're holding hands in Sydney
Three thousand years ago
Two hearts on a gum tree

21 Two little feet (Isabel Varney)
Two lovers enchanted again
Under the stars (Isabel Varney)
Up in the clouds
Waltz caprice (Isabel Varney)

22 A wandering little waltz
Wandering waltz
The way they get the ring (Varney Desmond)
We'll bring you cobbers back
We're so glad to be home, music by Joyce West
When love again comes smiling thro the door (Varney Desmond)
When the war is over

23 When the wattle's glowing golden
When you belong to me - arranged as a duet and orchestrated by Willy Redstone
Whisper one goodnight
Why did we fall in love
Winter silhouette (music)

24 Wishing room (Varney Desmond)
Won't you kiss me goodnight (Varney Desmond)
A world of wattle, published by Chappell & Co. Sydney, 1958/59
Written in the sky
Hurrah for the flying Doctor, words by Sarah Sheldon, music by Meta Maclean
Miscellaneous loose pages of music

Series 5 Musical compositions for poetry

As well as writing her own lyrics for her compositions, Monk also set the poems of a number of poets to music, including those of Adam Lindsay Gordon and Ian Mudie. Included in this series are the musical scores of a number of these works, listed alphabetically by title of the work, followed by the name of the author.

Most of the works are undated. However, where Monk has used a variation of her name, indicating that they are early compositions, this name has been included in brackets after the title as an indication of the approximate date.

1 Australia calls me home, Jack Macleod
  Beside the cypress pine, Jim Grahame
  A cradle song, W.B. Yeats
  A dedication, Adam Lindsay Gordon
  The exile, John Egan (Varney Desmond)
2 A fancy, Archibald Sullivan
  God speed, Will H. Ogilvie
  Horseflesh, Ian Mudie, c1954
  How we should sleep, Algernon Swinburne (Varney Peterson)
  I long to hear you call, Eva Rutherford
3 In the month of June, Helen Taylor
  Island reverie, John Wheeler
  Let the world go by, John Wheeler
  Love thoughts, Ruckert (Varney Peterson)
  May Day, John Quigley
  The old home, Jim Grahame
Requiescat, Rosamund Marion Watson
4 Salt Bay, Galway, Mary Fullerton
  Sandalled feet, Fred G. Bowles (Varney Desmond)
  Shepherd's song, Olive Ingall
  There's going to be good news, Helene Barclay,
published by Chappell & Co. Sydney, nd
  The songmaker, Sarah Teasdale (Varney Peterson)
  To a bunch of heather, Will H. Ogilivie
  What shall a man remember, Victor Daley
  The white room, Buckridge (Isabel Varney)
  Woodlands/A woodland idyll, Eva Rutherford (Isabel Varney)

Series 6 Henry Lawson poetry set to music by Monk, 1942-1966

Monk set to music some of the poetry of Henry Lawson (1867-1922). The music was very popular at the annual Henry Lawson Festival in Grenfell and was broadcast regularly on the ABC to commemorate the poets birthday.

This series contains musical scores for Lawson's poems Kiss in the ring, On the night train, The sliprails and the spur and When the world was wide. Also included is correspondence, notes, programs featuring performances of the works and cuttings relating to Monk's writing of the songs and her interest in Lawson. Correspondents include Angus and Robertson regarding permission to use the poems, the ABC regarding the recording of the songs, Colin Roderick and Katharine Susannah Prichard.


1 Scrapbook containing loose correspondence (1942-1961), notes, newspaper cuttings and programs, 1942-1966
2 Newspaper cuttings and notes, 1946-1965
3 Music books, each containing music for all four songs, dating from 1924
4 Musical scores for Kiss in the ring (includes orchestral and voice parts)
5 Musical scores for On the night train
6 Musical scores for The sliprails and the spur
7 Musical scores for When the world was wide
Folio 1 Cuttings relating to Lawson

Series 7 Henry Kendall poetry set to music by Monk, 1935-1966

Monk set a number of the poems of Henry Kendall (1839-1882) to music. Included in this series are musical scores, correspondence and notes relating to these works, which were in the form of a songbook entitled 'A singer of the dawn'. The songbook was dedicated to the memory of Mrs A.M. Hamilton-Grey, whose biography of Kendall entitled Kendall, our "God-made chief", "a singer of the dawn": a continuation of Poet Kendall, making a complete history from cradle to grave was published in Sydney in 1929.

Correspondents include Fred Kendall, son of Henry Kendall; E.J. Dolly of the Henry Kendall Cottage Committee; Joseph Fagan, whose family had befriended Kendall in Gosford when he was destitute and Maud Black, a one time lady's help to Monk, who had co-incidentally taken a job caring for Mrs Hamilton-Grey.


1 Correspondence, 1935-1966

2 Notes by Monk about Kendall and the poems she set to music

3 Songbooks containing compositions for 'A singer of the dawn'

4 Musical score for Bellbirds
Musical score for Lines to a young mother
Musical score for The muse of Australia

5 Musical score for Names upon a stone
Musical score for Rose Lorraine
Musical score for September in Australia

Folio 1 Script and music for a 45-minute performance of 'A singer of the dawn' and cuttings relating to Kendall

Series 8 Biographical papers

This series comprises a small collection of cuttings and notes relating to Monk's career.

1 folder
1 folio packet

Series 9 Cuttings

Contained in this series are a small number of magazine and newspaper cuttings on Australian historical subjects.
1 folio packet

Box List

Box Series Folder/Piece
1 1 1
1 2 1-7
2 2 8
2 3 1
2 6 1-2
2 7 1-2
2 8 1
3 2 9-18
4 2 19-24
5 2 25-30
6 2 31-36
7 2 37-43
8 2 44-50
9 2 51-58
10 2 59-64
11 3 2-9
12 3 10-15
13 3 16-21
14 4 1-8
15 4 9-20
16 4 21-24
16 5 1-4
17 6 3-7
17 7 3-5
Folio Box 1 6 Folio 1
Folio Box 1 7 Folio 1
Folio Box 1 8 Folio 1
Folio Box 1 9 Folio 1

May 2002.