As we remember Australian singer Helen Reddy who died on September 29, 2020, few would know that she was a keen genealogist and made secret trips to Tasmania to research her family history. Her particular interest was a convict ancestor on her mother's side, but her father's family had direct connections to Launceston.
Helen Reddy's great-grandparents Edward and Emily Reddy came from Dublin, Ireland to Sydney in 1889 with their children Kathleen and Norman. Edward, a commercial traveller, became bankrupt in April 1892 and the family moved to Launceston.
Edward worked at the Daily Telegraph, followed by a stint at the Phoenix Printing Works and Bag Factory in Fairthorne's building in St John Street. From November 1894 Edward was the representative of the publications for the Tasmanian International Exhibition held in Hobart. By February 1895 he was working for Cox & Co. Mercantile and General Printers in Liverpool Street, Hobart.
The first newspaper reference found for Helen's grandfather Norman was in December 1893 when as a 16-year-old, he was one of a group of boys who tried in vain to save their friend William Deeks from drowning at the First Basin.
Nearly 10 years later Norman appears in the papers again during the 1903 small-pox epidemic as suspected of contracting the disease. He was living at 30 Margaret Street with his brothers-in-law Herbert and Vernon Cox who were both ill.
Norman Reddy, a hairdresser, married Edith Cox. He was the secretary of the Hairdressers and Tobacconists' Association and the West Tamar Athletic Club and played for the City Football Club. Edith was an accomplished pianist. Norman and Edith had five children between 1905 and 1916, with Helen's father Maxwell David born on January 18, 1914.
The Reddy children attended the Wellington Square State School. Max and his sister Kathleen both won prizes in Daily Telegraph crossword competitions in 1925. The family moved to Melbourne and Norman's mother Emily died there in May 1930. In 1931 Norman stole small items from Coles and Myer while drunk and had at least two short terms of imprisonment.
During this turbulent time Max began his stage career, appearing as a comedian in a vaudeville production at the Melbourne Temperance Hall. Max later joined Stanley McKay's Gaieties and met Stella Lamond while touring in New Zealand. Stella first toured Tasmania in 1923 and was well-loved by theatregoers. Max and Stella married quietly in Sydney in June 1939 and first performed in Tasmania together at the National Theatre in Launceston at the end of September.
Helen Maxine Reddy was born in Melbourne on October 25, 1941. Max and Stella entertained troops during World War II, became radio stars, and returned to Launceston in September 1945 to compere "A Star Night of Revelry" ball at the Albert Hall promising "a speedy breezy please-easy riot of whoopee!" During the 1950s Max Reddy's theatrical company regularly toured Tasmania.
- Connect with the past, visit Launceston Historical Society's Facebook page.