Founding Patrons of the Tait Memorial Trust

The founding Patrons of the Tait Memorial Trust were Viola, Lady Tait AM, Dame Joan Sutherland AC OM DBE, John McCallum AO CBE and Googie Withers AO CBE.

The Tait Memorial Trust was formed in 1992 by Isla Baring OAM, in memory of her father, Sir Frank Tait and his four brothers. The Tait brothers ran the biggest theatrical group in Australia; called J.C. Williamsons, often referred to as, “The Firm”.

British Pathe tribute to the death of Sir Frank Tait

Manager of the ABC, Sir Frank Tait, Marion Anderson, USA Consul, Town Hall concert, Melbourne, 1962  Part of Lady Viola Tait collection
Manager of the ABC, Sir Frank Tait, Marion Anderson, USA Consul, Town Hall concert, Melbourne, 1962
Part of Lady Viola Tait collection

They owned theatres in all states and theatres in New Zealand,, their base of operations was Her Majesty’s ( or His Majesty’s for a period ) in Melbourne,. They employed local artists and international artists such as Pavlova, Chaliapin, Melba, Danny Kaye, Gracie Fields, Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike, Margot Fonteyn, Vivien Leigh, Percy Grainger and many more.

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They maintained offices in London and New York to ensure that they could book the best talent to come to Australia, JC Williamson’s famously acquired the Australian performing rights from the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company for all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

Dame Nellie Melba, Soprano
Dame Nellie Melba, Soprano

They put on most American musicals from Annie get your Gun to My Fair Lady. Sir Frank’s last enterprise, the crowning glory of his long career was the Sutherland-Williamson Opera Company in 1965. A company formed the previous year with no subsidy and brought opera to Australia, on tour. A true laurel in the crown of JC Williamson’s and Sir Frank Tait.

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Googie Withers AO CBE & John Macallum AO CBE, Founding Patrons of the Tait Memorial Trust

Viola, Lady Tait, the widow of Sir Frank Tait, wrote, ‘A Family of Brothers’, a wonderful book and vivid account of the growth of the Tait brothers theatre business culminating in the golden days of JC Williamson’s Theatre Company and the Sutherland-Williamson Co. of 1965. Viola, Lady Tait’s zest for life was inspirational. She was a champion of new and emerging talent, adjudicating numerous scholarships and awards both in Australia and overseas. As an adjudicator for The Shell-Mobil Quest in 1950, Viola Tait was famously instrumental in launching Joan Sutherland’s career.

Lady McKell and Viola Tait at opening of the ballet, ca. 1950 1 photograph : b&w ; 20.7 x 15.2 cm. Part of Lady Viola Tait collection [picture]. 1850-1976.
Lady McKell and Viola Tait at opening of the ballet, ca. 1950 Part of Lady Viola Tait collection 1850-1976. National Library of Australia Archive

It became Sir Frank’s ambition to present Joan Sutherland to the Australian public after her international acclaim. The Sutherland Williamson Grand Opera Company opened in Melbourne in 1965 heralding her triumphant return to her homeland. It was a season never to be forgotten. Joan Sutherland sang some of the best performances of her career while on this tour. She performed in five of the eight operas along with the young Pavarotti.

In Richard Bonynge’s words:

“Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.”

More information on the Trust history can be found on our website. www.taitmemorialtrust.org

Tait Memorial Trust website

©2013 Tait Memorial Trust • Registered charity 1042797

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