KELLY, Frederick Septimus (1881-1916)

KELLY, Frederick Septimus (1881-1916)
oarsman and musician
son of Thomas Herbert Kelly, woolbroker, was born at 47 Phillip Street, Sydney, on 29 May 1881. He was sent to England and educated at Eton, where he stroked the school eight which won the Ladies Plate at Henley in 1899. He was awarded a musical scholarship at Oxford in this year, and proceeding to Balliol College, became president of the university musical club and a leading spirit at the Sunday evening concerts at Balliol. He was already an excellent pianist. He was also a leading oarsman and, taking up sculling, won the Diamond sculls at Henley in 1902. In 1903 he rowed for Oxford against Cambridge and again won the Diamond sculls. He was a member of the Leander crews which won the grand challenge cup at Henley in 1903, 1904 and 1905. He won the Wingfield sculls and the amateur championship of the Thames in 1903, on the only occasion on which he entered, and in 1905 again won the Diamond sculls; his time on this occasion 8 min. 10 sec. stood as a record for over 30 years. Kelly's last appearance in a racing boat was in 1908, when he was a member of the crew of Leander veterans which won the eights at the Olympic regatta.
After leaving Oxford Kelly studied the piano under Knorr at Frankfurt, and on his return to London acted as an adviser to the Classical Concert Society and used his influence in favour of the recognition of modern composers. In 1911 he visited his people in Sydney and gave some concerts, and in 1912 took part in chamber music concerts in London. On the outbreak of war in 1914 he joined the royal naval division and had distinguished service at Gallipoli, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant-commander. While serving in France he was killed in action on 13 November 1916.
Kelly was a beautiful sculler, a "master of the art" (R. C. Lehmann, The Complete Oarsman). T. A. Cook, in his Rowing at Henley, speaks of the "perfect action of his wrist and blade". He was an admirable pianist and did some very good work as a composer. At the memorial concert held at the Wigmore Hall, London, on 2 May 1919, some of his pianoforte compositions were played by Leonard Bonwick, and somec of his songs were sung by Muriel Foster; but his "Elegy for Stringed Orchestra", written on Gallipoli in memory of Rupert Brooke, a work of profound feeling, stood out from his other compositions, and made a deep impression. Kelly was only 35 when he was killed, a serious loss to British music.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 1881; The Times, 22 November 1916, 3 May 1919; Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, fourth ed.; Licensed Victuallers' Year Book, 1940, p. 280.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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