Mosman Voices - oral histories online

Bob Moylan

Interviewed by Rosemary Christmas on 5 February 2001

Bob Moylan. The Mosman Musical Society had been going since 1900, and that was in 1935, and they did wonderful shows. Three a year, and they had an Australia-wide reputation because a lot of their artists went to J.C. Williamson’s and Leo Packer, and Molly Brown, and a lot of lovely people that got into The Firm and they worked professionally in J.C. Williamson’s shows.

One little girl –I can’t remember her name, but her brother was in the Air Force, and she was in a show called The Girlfriend, and that was at the Theatre Royal in 1942. I was on leave and I took my father to see this show. Marie Ryan her name was – a lovely artist. She was picked from the Mosman Musical Society’s chorus to go into J.C. Williamson and play the lead in The Girlfriend. Not many people know that.

The show I started off with was Hit the Deck, a British musical based on the Royal Navy, and we had to be sailors in the show. A friend of mine Bill Cross, he joined the Air Force the same time as me, and he went to England and unfortunately he was shot down over Germany at the age of 23 in 1943. He was one of my many friends that lost his life through the war. Bill and I were in Hit the Deck, The Student Prince, The Desert Song – wonderful shows.

Mosman Musical Society was a wonderful society because they went from 1900 until – well in 1941 they finished playing at the Orpheum Theatre because most of the chaps had joined the services, and there was nobody left there to…..

Rosemary Christmas. it didn’t continue during the war years?

Bob Moylan. No, it didn’t continue during the war, but the girls joined concert parties and then went out and played at different camps – the army, navy and the air force bases, and did shows. After the war it got going again. Bill Bergstrom and myself and Mavis Sykes, who was the ballet mistress – a well-known name. In this house now we’re making a broadcast about Mosman and the Society. They had a meeting and we got going. By October 1946 we had the Musical Society going again at Mosman Town Hall. We had no money to pay for the rent the first night, but the Council said we could pay later on. Anyhow, it was a big success; we played there for about two weeks, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights for about two weeks. That was our first effort at re-establishing the Mosman Musical Society, because they closed during the war.

Rosemary Christmas. What was your part in it?

Bob Moylan. I was in the chorus. Much later on they gave me a character role, I loved doing character roles, and I played in different shows, like the General Birabeau and The Desert Song, and The Student Prince, and I was in the chorus. There was a part I would love to have played, it was Tony the waiter, but I was a bit too big for the part – a friend of mine did it, because he was much smaller and I helped to tutor him in the part, because it needed a lot of pathos and understanding. It was only a small part, but it meant a lot in that beautiful show, The Student Prince.

Rosemary Christmas. Yes, there’s quite a lot of interest in the old musicals, they should all be available for people to see.

Bob Moylan. The Mosman Society is still going, but because with no Town Hall, they have to play at the Mosman RSL. They’ve been very good. On the first floor they’ve got an auditorium, they put up a bit of a temporary stage, and recently I saw a show they did – very good – very well – The Boyfriend. I played in that at the Orpheum Theatre with a different company after the war, with Bill and Fay Donaldson, they were both associated with J.C. Williamson, but they did a lot of amateur work too, helping different ventures in Mosman.

The show I was very happy to be associated with was Lindsay Bird’s production of The King and I. It was the first production in Australasia, in the Cremorne Orpheum Theatre – the Sydney Light Opera Company – Mary Cullen and Russell Smith, and Betty Cheal – a wonderful cast. I was in the show but I’m not taking any credit for that, I very happily played Sir Edward Ramsey, the British Ambassador. I’ll always remember it – beautifully done. On the opening night they had – J.C.W and an entrepreneur from Sydney interested in the show and they remarked on how well it was done, because it was played in a very fine theatre, the Orpheum. There was a professional orchestra with about 15 or 16 in it.

It cost us quite a bit of money to put it on, but we did that show for the Mosman Private Hospital – it was called All Saints Hospital in those days, it is now the Mosman Private Hospital in Ellamatta Avenue I think.