Isabella, Melba’s favourite sister, travelled with David Mitchell and the Armstrong family to England in May 1886 on board the RMS Bengal.
Later both Bella and Ann also travelled to Paris in 1889 where they lived with Nellie and George. (1)
Bella married Thomas Alexander Patterson and they lived at Kew.
Thomas was a well-known auctioneer and real estate agent in Collins St and was secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria for years.
The Pattersons had five children – Gerald, Helen, David, Thomas and Mary.
- Gerald Leighton Patterson was born at Preston in 1896 and died at Mornington in 1967 aged 71 years. In 1922 he married Ethel Orme Manson Riggall who died at Melbourne in 1985 aged 87 years.
- Helen Melba Patterson was born at Hawthorn in 1898 and died at Toorak in 1979 aged 81 years. She did not marry.
- David Mitchell Patterson was born at Kew in 1901 and died at Richmond in 1954 aged 52 years. In 1935 he married Jessie Doane Spencer.
- Thomas Mccarthy Patterson was born at Kew in 1905. In 1935 he married Jan Morish Tolley.
- Mary Isabel Patterson was born at Kew in 1909. In 1928 she married William David Barr.
Bella was always on hand when Melba needed her.
Despite having three young children, to help overcome Melba’s loneliness in 1901 Bella and two of her children sailed to England and kept Nellie company during the English summer. They stayed with Melba at Quarry Wood Cottage on the Thames.
It was this visit that made Melba realised how much she missed Australia, her family and friends and immediately plans were made to return home. By September 1902, Melba was back in Australia – the first time – since 1886. (2)
Drawing on his knowledge and experience, Tom Patterson helped with the arrangements for Melba’s 1902 Australian tour. (3)
Gerald Patterson was the Wimbledon singles tennis champion in 1919 (defeating Norman Brookes) and 1922 and was a member of Australia’s Davis Cup team.
In 1919 Gerald teamed with Norman Brookes to win the US men’s doubles title.
In 1920 he won the Wimbledon mixed doubles crown playing with Suzanne Lenglen.
Norman Marshall Archivist Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club provided the following information for the website on the tennis career of Gerald Patterson:
Dame Nellie Melba has a largely forgotten claim to fame as the aunt of Gerald Patterson (1895 – 1967), one of Australia’s greatest ever tennis players. In 1919 Gerald, the son of Tom Patterson, the husband of Nellie Melba’s sister Isabella, won the first Wimbledon singles title to be held after the first World War I.
He was awarded the Military Cross as a member of the Royal Field Artillery for bravery at Messsines in 1917 and as a completely unknown player to the English public caused a sensation in 1919 with his tremendous serve and smash. Melba claims that during the fortnight of the tournament she kept boasting to everyone she was the aunt of Gerald Patterson!
A few months later Gerald and Norman (later Sir Norman) Brookes won the American doubles championship, becoming the first Australians to win an American national tennis title. The following year Gerald won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with the legendary Suzanne Lenglen and in 1922 won the Wimbledon singles title for a second time.
He represented Australia in Davis Cup competition from 1919 till 1928 and in 1927 won the first Australian singles title to be held in the recently constructed Kooyong stadium. He also won a record eight Victorian singles titles between 1919 and 1927.
By the time he had retired from tennis Gerald had embarked on a successful business career. In late life Melba is reported to have considered Gerald as “her best friend”.
The 1928 Australian and French Davis Cup teams
Back row: Harry Hopman, Jack Crawford, -, -, Christian Boussus (Fr) Front
row: Jacques Brugnon (Fr), Gerald Patterson (Captain), Jean Borotra (Fr)
Courtesy: Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club Archive
The Patterson family home and tennis court at 15 Barry Street, Kew where Gerald learnt to play tennis.
A frequent visitor to the home was Norman Brookes and other famous players who were a great influence on the young Gerald. Brookes later described the court as a ‘perfect surface” in his chapter on tennis in Dame Mabel’s book “Crowded Galleries”.
Photos Courtesy: Norman Marshall whose family purchased the property in 1934.
Gerald played a big part in the management of the David Mitchell Estate when it became a company.
He was the managing director of the sporting goods company A.G. Spalding & Bros by 1935; Chairman of the Darley Firebrick Company and a director of other companies.
Gerald was the only one who had the real business knowledge to do the job at David Mitchell and he did a wonderful job until he died.
His son Bill Patterson became a racing driver and established Bill Patterson Motors.(4)
For more information about Gerald Patterson go to the Australian Dictionary on Line at www.adb.online.anu.edu.au
1. A Child of Cave Hill p24
2. Family Memoir p54
3. A Child of Cave Hill p24
4. Family Memoir p28