Merri Merri - Home of the twin ArtsPat Dryden OAM
Research and writing of the book Merri Merri – Home of the Twin Arts has been a passion for Pat Dryden OAM over the past 5 years. It follows the lives of Melville and Yvonne Haysom and their property at the foothills of Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane. The twin arts refer to music and painting, and of the two, Melville said that music was the more sublime.
Melville Haysom and his wife Yvonne were born in Melbourne and both were members of the Royal Victorian Art Society. At the same time he was a musician. To escape the Great Depression, when offered the opportunity to play at Hoffmans Band at the Regent Theatre in Brisbane, he accepted the offer.
Not long after taking up this position he collapsed at work and it was discovered that his lungs were seriously damaged and he was urged to stop playing wind instruments and take up farming. His search for an ideal location culminated in their purchase of a disused dairy property known as Garson’s Flat, at the foothills of Mt Coot-tha. He named the property Merri Merri after Merri Creek in Victoria.
In 1935 Melville gained recognition with the painting of his wife which earned him the esteemed Godfrey Rivers Prize. This led to commissions for other works, the most notable being the portrait of Dr James O’Neil Mayne whose family provided the funds to purchase the land on which the University of Queensland stands. Portraiture was his forte and there are many illustrations in the book.
Melville created an art school at Merri Merri and used a barn for an art studio and accommodation for short stays by his students. He was well-known for large works of art and according to another renowned Kenmore resident, Rhyl Hinwood AM CF, he always had something large on the go. He taught at the Kelvin Grove campus and was Art Critic for The Brisbane Telegraph for many years.
Merri Merri – Home of the Twin Arts is not confined to art because Melville was involved in Scouting and two chapters are devoted to this pastime. Another chapter deals with his Army life which commenced when he was in Victoria in 1915. This early introduction to patriotism manifests itself in many paintings of war and one of his most outstanding is titled Australia at War.
Life was not easy for Melville and Yvonne at Merri Merri and a chapter deals with austere conditions at that time. They endured a lack of amenities such as water, electricity, transport, food supplies and rubbish disposal as well as calamities such as bushfires and floods. A chapter is devoted to their caretaker, Albert Boyer who took up residence in a building which was ultimately destroyed by the Tornado which swept through the area in 1973.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Melville and Yvonne and the Foreword is written by Melville and Yvonne’s grandson, Mark.