Thursday, March 18, 2010


Around The World On A Mandolin

I find it strangely sad, or maybe it is sadly strange, that such a talented person as Louis Vasco/Vasco Louriero should pass away and leave so few traces. The State Library of New South Wales holds a collection of his drawings, The State Library of Victoria has some of his postcards from the "Tart" and "Boarding House" series, the Australian War Memorial holds some of his artist's needs (a shaving stick holder in which he kept coloured pencils, a tube with brushes, a wooden box with assorted drawing needs, water colour paints in a tin with brushes, a tobacco tin of paint tubes, and a rusty shaving mirror, which are listed in the personal articles sent home from the hospital {in the previous post}), a bar in California had its walls decorated with a collection of his caricatures of local people (recently published as a book), a few people have stated they have Vasco sketches of their grandfather dating back to World War One, he gets a mention in a book of two transcribed Great War diaries published under the title "Death Sat On A Pale Horse", and today I found 3 mentions of him in newspapers at the National Library of Australia. (Note: The illustration in the book dates from 1906, the subject also being a cartoonist before enlisting.)

An interesting reference was in the Argus of 6th August 1932, in an article entitled Bohemia in Melbourne: The Romance of Fasoli's by J Alex Allen. It appears that there was a time when did in Melbourne exactly what he did in California; sit in a bar or similar establishment and draw caricatures of other patrons for a price or a drink. The walls of Fasoli's, it seems, were covered with the sketches (just like the bar where he sat in California).

The Argus of  14th November 1904 (before Vasco departed for Sydney and then California) reports:
Mr Vasco Loureiro, a member of the Hawthorn Rifle Club, has designed a series of humorous pictorial post-cards in colours, entitled "Our Boardinghouse", which compare favourably with imported productions. Mr Loureiro is the son of Senhor Louriero, whose picture, "A Vision of St Stanislaus", hangs in the Melbourne National Gallery. Messers Prebble and Moad are the publishers.

The Argus of 7th September 1918 has, in its Australians on Service column:
LOUREIRO - Mrs Louriero, Toowoomba, Queensland, has received news that her husband, Vasco Loureiro (formerly of Melbourne), has died of meningitis in hospital in London. He enlisted two years ago in the 11th Field Company Engineers.

And that is it. But wait, there's the widow to be reckoned with.

Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 17th February 1925
He married in 1916, in Brisbane. The marriage registration states his name as Vasco Louis Loureiro, marrying Gwendolyn Sargent, whose death registration states Gwendoline Vasco, daughter of John Beckett Sargent and Elizabeth Mary Margaret Tregonning Cheynoweth (Tregoning Chenoweth - now there's a good collection of Cornish surnames!). So the names are very fluid in this family.

His wife, Gwendolyn sounds like an interesting character. She played the 12 string mandolin quite well, it seems. Much of the 96 pages of Vasco's war record is made up of correspondence within the Army and between the Army and Gwendolyn arising from her frequent changes of address in the first half of the 1920s. Evidently, from reports in the Darwin Newspapers, she formed the intention of going "around the world by mandolin". (Sort of puts you in mind of "Across the Andes by Frog" - Ripping Yarns.) I can find nothing that indicates that she went any further than Darwin, in 1925. In 1927, she was back in Melbourne playing her mandolin on the radio. (PS. Sorry, maybe a mistake. When I went back to look at the source, I find it was 1926. See comment for source.)

Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 17 February 1925:

It seems she left Darwin on or about 30th June 1925, on the "Bambra", Destination not stated, but presumably Perth as the "Bambra" serviced Darwin from Perth.

Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 3 June 1925:

Gwendolyn died in 1953, aged 76, and is buried in Lutwyche cemetery under the name Gwendolyn Vasco. (I was actually unknowingly looking at her grave the other day while driving out of the business that sells Daihatsu spare parts.)

11 April 2010: Even though Gwendolyn died in Brisbane, the electoral rolls place her in Perth in 1925, in Darlinghurst in 1930, 1937 and 1939, and in Penrith in 1943 and 1949. She had died by the time the next rolls were published, 1954.

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Broadcasting, Farmer's Service, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February 1926.

8:58, Miss Gwendolin Vasco, 12 string mandolin.
9:58 Miss Gwendolen Vasco.
(still with the fluid spelling!)

I have found a Feb 1926 article in the SMH which I will post shortly.
Thanks, Geoff!
Sorry, one more possibly dumb question - you say she was back in Melbourne playing the mandolin on the radio - how do you know it was Melbourne? Is this where the broadcasting studio was? It's just that the programme is announced in the SMH...

Please don't post this but you can contact me on
Cheers, Isabel
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