Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

Aileen Emma Estcourt


Pianist, music teacher

Personal Photo 1

Aileen Escourt was a resident of Queens Parade Clifton Hill for over fifty years and taught piano for much of that time. Her home and place of work was Viola, now number 193. In this street the majority of buildings are shops with an upstairs dwelling, built on the front property line, with a verandah over the footpath originally. However Aileen’s house, and the neighbouring one at 189, date from an earlier period, being residential and possessing front gardens. Later the owner built a shop to the side of Viola and a smaller one partly in front of it, which nowadays, combined into one shop, partly obscure the view of the cottage.

Born in East Prahran in 1897, Aileen never knew her father who died when she was an infant. She and her mother Maude lived briefly at 243 Johnston Street Abbotsford before settling in the cottage at 193 (then known as 191) Queens Parade. The house was owned and occupied by Thomas Vaughan whose wife died in childbirth in 1906.  It is possible that Maude was taken on as a housekeeper and nanny, though Vaughan’s infant daughter died a few months later, in early 1907. Whatever the connection or relationship between the two, Vaughan made a will in 1924 leaving all his property to Maude, and died in 1944. 

Aileen studied the piano and by 1917, if not before, began giving lessons. The first documented concert of Aileen’s pupils was held at the Northcote Town Hall in March 1917, in aid of the Austin Hospital for Incurables. The Northcote Leader reporter wrote ‘A splendid programme was presented and carried out by Miss Aileen Estcourt, A.L.C.M., and her pupils’ and went on to praise various performances of individual young pupils.

We don’t know with whom Aileen had studied as a young girl, but a good guess would be Otto Rohlk a well-known teacher in Clifton Hilloperating from his various residences until, on moving house to Canterbury around 1908, he  conducted his Clifton Hill School of Music at Viola, presumably renting a room in the house from Vaughan. His was a very well-known enterprise which had existed since 1891; he taught a variety of instruments and assembled orchestras from his extensive number of students.

Aileen furthered her studies at the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music, graduating with honours, having gained the Ormond  Exhibition in 1920 and 1921. In December 1920 she participated in a Conservatorium Students’ concert at Melbourne Town Hall in which she played the last movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in E Flat. A piano recital at Assembly Hall Collins Street on 29 April 1926, at which she was assisted by cellist Louis Hattenbach, was reviewed in some detail:

Miss Aileen Estcourt, a new pianist … challenged attention at the very outset by the excellence of her programme. Some genuine antiques, fragments by Scarlatti, Bach, Purcell, and Graun, were followed by the great Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue of Cesar Franke. In the second part, a Liszt Rhapsodie was preceded by some Chopin and the ‘Triana” of the Spanish composer Albeniz. … It speaks well ..that she was heard to the greatest advantage in the most distinguished music. Her playing of the Cesar Franck item had considerable animation and was characterised by a very welcome clarity. These virtues were indeed present in all her work, and this augurs well for her future progress. A certain baldness of tone and a general tendency to over-emphasis, combined with a rigidity in the matter of tone-values will need to be guarded against if the very considerable merits of Miss Estcourt’s playing are to result in work of the finest kind.

The Argus 30 April 1926 page 21

Aileen was an Associate of the London College of Music (ALCM) and between 1919 and 1951 prepared many of her pupils for the exams under the aegis of that body, a London-based independent music conservatory, recognised by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, London and by the British Ministry of Education. When not teaching, Aileen competed in various musical competitions such as the Fitzroy and the Brunswick and won the teacher’s cup for piano on various occasions.

A number of her students achieved honours results in music exams, while several went on to achieve considerable fame. In the 1930s she taught (Leslie) Keith Humble, later described by composer and critic, Felix Werder, as ‘without question the finest all-round musician this country has produced since Percy Grainger’.

Her pupil Leslie John Miers, who attended Northcote High School in the 1940s where he was very active in school music and performance groups, achieved an Ormond exhibition in 1949 and became noted as a concert pianist and conductor. He went on to teach many well-known singers and instrumentalists; known for his skill as an accompanist, he accompanied, among others, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Liberace and Henry Mancini.

In March 1960 Aileen who had been diagnosed with breast cancer made a will, carefully ensuring that her mother would be well-provided for and able to remain at 191 Queens Parade (which by this date belonged to Aileen) for as long as she wished, and that her friend Beryl Arroll could remain as a lifetime tenant of a house Aileen owned at 92 Michael Street North Fitzroy.  Aileen was now comfortably off, with over £3000 in bank accounts as well as the two properties. She left £1000 to Beryl, and £100 apiece to Leslie Miers and another student, Joan Bryant. The residue was gifted to the Lort Smith animal hospital in memory of her dog Laddie. The recipients of her Wertheim and Bluthner pianos were not specified.

The breast cancer spread to her liver and Aileen died in May that year. On the day of her death she was staying with Beryl who was a nurse (and later taught piano to writer Helen Garner). Beryl inserted a death notice in The Agedrawing from the moving poem by Rabindranath Tagore which is frequently set to music:

Aileen, beloved friend of Beryl Arroll. Peace, my heart let the time for parting be sweet. Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.

Maude was to outlive her daughter by 10 years and remained at Viola until around 1969 when the whole property was sold to estate agent Ray Davern, who had been occupying one of the shops since 1956. Maude was living in the After-Care Hospital in Victoria Parade Collingwood at the time of her death.

Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
10 April 1897 Prahran
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
193 Queens Parade Clifton Hill Extant
92 Michael Street North Fitzroy Extant
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
23 May 1960 Clifton Hill Melbourne General Cemetery

The Age; The ArgusNorthcote LeaderThe Herald; The Prahran Telegraph; Weekly TimesLeader.

Trove list: “Aileen Estcourt”

Yarra C231 Built Form Heritage Analysis GJM

Keith Humble by John Whiteoak

Northcote High School

Wan, Tew, Three, Faw by Helen Garner

Death notice


Upcoming Events

Follow Us

Share This