Practitioners [O]



aka Eliza Miles / Miss Hartland / Mrs Alfred Oakey / Mrs John Felix

(1825-1912) Singer (soprano), actress, hotelier. [Born Eliza Miles in Dorset, England; Died Malvern, Victoria]

Eliza Miles arrived in the colony of Victoria in 1851 and soon afterwards established herself as Melbourne-based singer Miss Hartland. She and music director Alfred Oakey married in 1855, and spent the next eight years playing concerts, variety entertainments and theatricals in Melbourne and in numerous country towns. She is known to have originated several of her husband’s songs – including “Song for the Bush,” and by 1859 had come be known as “the Ballarat favourite” through her many appearances in that town. The Oakey’s spent much of 1861 in Melbourne preparing a scripted burlesque especially developed for Eliza called Masquerade. In this she portrayed multiple characters. The show began touring in 1862 but likely contributed to Alfred becoming insolvent the following year, as well bringing their marriage and her professional career to an end.

1. Miles, who arrived in Victoria as an assisted immigrant gave her age as 22, some four years short of her actual age.
2. Miles and Oakey have been connected as early as July 1853, when both were employed at the New Music Room of Melbourne’s Dixon Hotel (she as Miss Hartland). When Oakey secured his first big contract as music director for Rowe’s Circus in November 1853, Hartland was also on the bill. Their names continue to be linked up until shortly before their marriage, after which she was known as either Mrs Alfred Oakey or sometimes Eliza Oakey.
3. Little is known of Miles/Oakey’s life and career between 1863 and 1868, at which time she re-emerges as Mrs John Felix, “a popular amateur vocalist” of Woods Point in regional Victoria. Her husband was a local hotelier. She died on 14 February 1912, aged 87.



Singer, character impersonations, actress. [Born Frances Octavia Adelaide Beatrice Malley]

Lily Octavia appeared with the Montague-Turner Opera Company in England in the late 1880s before coming to Australia in 1890. By 1893 she had established her reputation as a character impersonator, singer and actress, and over the next ten years worked as both a solo variety entertainer and dramatic actress. Sometime around 1903/04 Octavia teamed up with comedian Dave Warne to a present a comedy sketch act. The pair toured Australia for various managements until at least 1912. After the partnership ended Octavia performed largely in Melbourne. Her whereabouts from 1915 onwards are unknown.

  • See also: Octavia & Warne [below]
Octavia was married at least twice – first to William Green (1887-1894). Her second married name is believed to have been Poole (ca. 1910s).



(1904-1912) Society and comedy sketch act.

Shortly after his stage partnership with Alice Davenport ended in late 1903 or early 1904, minstrel comedian Dave Warne (bones) put together another eccentric musical comedy sketch act with singer/character impersonator Lily Octavia. The pair has been associated with such managers/firms as F.M. Clark and Harry Shine, Harry Rickards, Tom Perman, Leonard Davis (Perth), Ted Holland (Brisbane), A. Brandon-Cremer, Marino Lucas (Tasmania) and James Brennan until at least 1912. After the partnership ended Octavia performed as a solo entertainer in Melbourne for several years. Warne continued his involvement with the variety industry up until the mid-1920s.



Odiva's Seals [FN 11 Feb 1922, 9](1914-1915, 1922-1924) Aquatic act.

US animal trainer, Captain Adams, brought English-born, Samoan-raised swimmer Odiva and her seals and sea lions to Australia for the Tivoli circuit in December 1914. The hugely popular act comprised a short lecture by Adams, a demonstration of various tricks performed in a sea shore setting, and a water tank performance by Odiva and the seals. The pair returned to the Australasian  region in 1922 for Fullers’ Theatres, initially touring New Zealand before making their Australian debut in the company’s 1922 revival of Dick Whittington and His Cat (see 1921). The Odiva show continued touring the region until 1924.

Odiva [U of Washington]

Images: Top – Fuller News (Sydney) 11 Feb. 1922, 9; Bottom – ca. 1911, University of Washington Library.



New Zealand-born singer, comedian, actor, compere, manager, writer, music arranger, radio personality

okeefe-cliff-cuckoo-court-slnswBest known as a member of the Big Four (1923-1933), one of Australia’s greatest lyric male quartets, and as the Judge in 2SM’s long-running quiz show Cuckoo Court (between 1938-1948), Clifford O’Keefe came to Australia in 1910 under contract to J.C. Williamson’s (Grand Opera Company). By 1916, however, he was on the vaudeville stage. Over the next five decades O’Keefe secured work with such firms as Fullers’ Theatres (including Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Co), Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville, Clem Dawe, Graham Mitchell, Bert Lennon, and the Tivoli circuit. He moved into radio in 1935, joining the staff of Sydney station 2SM, but remained active on stage well into the 1950s. In 1953 he toured with Stanley McKay’s Gaieties.

See also: The Big Four (aka Cliff O’Keefe’s Big Four)

1: During his career O’Keefe’s vocal range has been described in various newspapers and magazines as tenor, baritone and basso. The most common appears to be baritone. It is possible that bass-baritone would have been the most apt descriptive.
2: O’Keefe’s association with 2SM appears to have been largely carried out between 1935 and 1948. He rejoined the station in 1954 and returned to Cuckoo Court (it is presently unclear for how long, though). His name has also been linked to 2CH (as a performer in The Big Parade musical revue series, 1944). The National Film and Sound Archive also identifies him as the compare of 2UE’s Stairway to the Stars series in 1944 (see Australian Radio Series: 1930s–1970s).
3: O’Keefe’s late-career stage work also included performing in Japan in 1948 with an entertainment unit.
Image source: Hood Collection, State Library of New South Wales


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Published on June 2, 2013 at 3:10 am  Comments Off on Practitioners [O]