Nellie Stewart 1858-1931

Nellie Stewart

Nellie Stewart

In March 1931 Stewart recorded an ‘Address to Her Public’ and three scenes from Sweet Nell.

Two months later, Nellie Stewart was dead. She passed away peacefully in the arms of her daughter on 20 June 1931.

 

In March 1931 Stewart recorded an ‘Address to Her Public’ and three scenes from Sweet Nell, in which she was joined by her daughter, Nancye, and her son-in-law, actor Mayne Lynton. These old 78s demonstrate unquestionably her perennial youthfulness. Her very last appearance was – typically – for charity at the Mosman Town Hall in April 1931.

Two months later, Nellie Stewart was dead. She passed away peacefully in the arms of her daughter on 20 June 1931. Her ashes were interred in the family tomb at Boroondara Cemetery in Melbourne. A scroll at the base reads: ‘Think of me as withdrawn into the dimness’. Above is a kneeling angel, modelled on Nellie Stewart herself.

After her death, the Nellie Stewart Old Drury Club was founded by hundreds of grieving friends and fans. For many years it continued her selfless tradition of supporting worthy charities. It also funded the Nellie Stewart Garden of Memory, with its 2,500 rose bushes, in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens. The garden is long gone, but at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne, where she had so many successes, and where she first played Sweet Nell of Old Drury, the confectionary shop is named ‘Sweet Nell’s’ in her honour. In 2001 the Victorian Arts Centre in Melbourne mounted a major exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of Nellie Stewart’s death.

Nellie Stewart was a woman of skill and courage, talent and dedication. She worked hard in the service of her art and for the benefit of others. Her grace and generosity were boundless. She inspired countless others, on stage and off, to do their best – not least her daughter, Nancye, who enjoyed a notable stage career in Australia and in Britain, where she appeared frequently with the Old Vic and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company. She married actor and broadcaster Mayne Lynton. Nancye Stewart died in 1973.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

Biographical references

Ross Cooper: ‘Nellie Stewart’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 12, Melbourne University Press
Richard Lane: ‘Nellie Stewart’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Hal Porter: Stars of Australian Stage and Screen, Rigby, 1965
Marjorie Skill: Sweet Nell of Old Sydney, Urania Publishing, 1974
Nellie Stewart: My Life’s Story, John Sands, 1923
Frank Van Straten: ‘Nellie Stewart – Fated for the Theatre’, in Stages, June 1991