52 Ancestors #4 Alice Zenobia Campell (1870-1946)

Alice Lymburner nee Campbell & NormaInvite to Dinner is the prompt for this weeks 52 Ancestor challenge. Do I invite the whole family or just one person? I really would like to sit around the dinner table with my great grandparents Charles Norman Lymburner and Alice Zenobia Lymburner nee Campbell parents of my grandmother, Annie Norma Cripps nee Lymburner.

You see, I have a few questions to ask of them. This story is about Alice or Zenobia as she became known and what I know about her so far!

Alice Campbell was born 24th February 1870 in Auckland New Zealand, the second child of Neil Campbell and Ann Greene.

Birth of Alice Campbell

Her siblings are: Keturah (1869-1942), Neil (1873-), Augustus (1873-1915), Jessie (1876-) and Zeno (1879-1915). Step-sisters Ann Matilda Clinch (1853-1949), Emily Clinch (1860-1932) and step-brother George Frederick Clinch-Campbell (c1858-1942).

It is not known when Alice took on the name of Zenobia, however, it appears from future records that she became known as Zenobia Campbell and Zenobia Lymburner. Her youngest sister Jessie also has had Hypatia added as a second name and Zeno for a brother’s name is also very unusual.

Nanna (Norma Lymburner) would often tell us that her mother was a good singer and on talking to my Uncle Ernie Cripps, he remembered his grandmother singing around the house at Mumby when he was a young boy. She was a contralto singer, he said. I found several articles in the newspapers to confirm this. It was said that she sang at the opening of the Fremantle Town Hall, which is situated on the corner of High, William and Adelaide Streets, Fremantle, Western Australia. However, I’ve only been able to establish that she sang at the ‘first concert’ at the new Town Hall 26th July 1887. 

Zenobia was singing at the age of 15 in Ponsonby an area of Auckland, New Zealand. One article in the New Zealand Herald of 24th July 1885, mentioned her singing “When the Leaves begin to Fade” and “Lover and the Bird” at a concert in aid of raising funds for the Ponsonby Rifle Corps.

On the 19th August 1885, The Auckland Star writes that Miss Zenobia Campbell sang ‘Lover and the Bird’ and ‘Forget Not to Forget’ (Boccaccio), at a concert to raise funds for the Artillery Band.

Another article in The Evening Star 8th September 1885 mentions Zenobia singing at a social gathering of the teachers and friends of the Auckland Progressive Lyceum for the purpose of saying bon voyage to Mr J. Roper an energetic conductor of the institution.

An article in the Auckland Star of 20th April 1886 ‘Miss Zenobia Campbell’s songs were well sung and were loudly applauded when she performed at the Opera House in Auckland’. Interesting, as I do recall someone mentioning great-grandmother singing at the Opera House. Not in Sydney, but certainly in New Zealand.

Twelve months later, Zenobia and her family, were living in Fremantle, Western Australia. Newspapers from 1887 are filled with articles and advertising of the concerts that she and her sisters Keturah and Jessie and one of her brothers, listed as Master Campbell, organised to raise money for a grand piano and distressed families.

Les Clotches de CornvilleThe arrangements for the production of the opera “Les Clotches do Coraville” by  Messrs. Farmer and Imray are now complete, and the promoters anticipate a very emphatic success. The full cast is as follows : Germaine, Miss Keturah Campbell; Serpollette, Miss Zenobia CampbellManette, Mrs. Shanks; Gaspard, Mr. F.Imray; Le Marquis, Mr. A. J. Diamond; Le Bailee, Mr. W. Farmer ; Grenicheux, Mr. A. E. Colebrook; Gobo (Bailee’sclerk), Mr. W. Hobbs; Christophe, Master Campbell. The first performance will take place at the Oddfellow’s Hall, Fremantle., on April 5 next. It is understood that the opera, will be presented in Perth. It is to be mounted in a thoroughly realistic manner, the dresses being specially prepared, and, in addition to a full chorus, an efficient orchestra has been engaged.
Source: Mar 23 1887, The West Australian.


Last Monday evening Messrs. Farmer & Imray’s company produced the above mentioned popular opera at S. George’s Hall. The performance was witnessed by a very large audience, the hall being crowded in every part. The performance was quite equal, if not superior, to the representation given in Perth some months ago by the Stanley Opera Troupe. The premier part of ‘Serpolette’ lost nothing in the hands of Miss Zenobia Campbell ; she was in excellent voice and made the best of the opportunities afforded her, but Miss Keturah Campbell was perhaps not so successful in her delineation of the character of ‘Germaine,’ her voice not being powerful enough, for the part entrusted to her. Mr. Colebrook filled the part of ‘ Grenicheux ‘ to perfection, and both his singing and acting deservedly elicited loud applause. ‘Henri, Marquis de Corneville ‘ was entrusted to Mr. Diamond, but that gentleman slightly failed in his part through (no fault of his own of course) suffering apparently from the effects of a severe cold. As ‘Gaspard,’ Mr. Imray was fairly successful, although he rather overdid his part occasionally; while Mr. Farmer succeeded in exciting the merriment of the audience by his impersonation of the ‘Young Bailee.’ Mr. Hobbs made an excellent ‘ Gobo,’ and his by-play was really most amusing. The chorus sang rather roughly, and not quite in tune, although they, no doubt did their best. The orchestra,’ under the direction of Mr. L. Clifton, did their work well, and contributed in no small degree to the enjoyment of, the audience. No doubt if the company repeated the opera in the same building it would run much more smoothly than it did on Monday, but unfortunately that cannot be done. Taken as a whole the opera was very fairly rendered indeed.
Source: The Daily News Thursday 14 April 1887 from trove.nla.gov.au

To read the story behind this opera, check out Wikipedia and to give you a bit of an idea of the part of Serpolette played by Zenobia, watch this video on YouTube.

Zenobia is often described as ‘charming, though not as yet a finished vocalist.’ ‘looks very young is a little awkward on the stage, and loses much in her appearance by not holding herself erect. But she sings artistically and in a very pleasing through peculiar style, with the power of creating a great effect. She is exceedingly jolly looking, and promises to be a most popular singer’.

It’s not certain when the family left Western Australia, although The West Australian newspaper dated 20 April 1893, lists names of several performers including Zenobia who had ‘tendered their services.’ 

To break this story, I have created another post should the reader wish to continue reading about Zenobia and her life after marriage. Click this link to read more about Zenobia Lymburner.



About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in 52-Ancestors-52-Weeks, Blog, Campbell, Lymburner and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to 52 Ancestors #4 Alice Zenobia Campell (1870-1946)

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #34 – Family Legend – John Snook [1818-1887] | jenealogyscrapbook

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  4. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #7 Zeno Campbell | jenealogyscrapbook

  5. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #6 Keturah Campbell (1869-1942) | jenealogyscrapbook

  6. Helen carter says:

    Great story Jenny. Presumably , based on her singing at the Fremantle Town Hall opening Zenobia would have ? Met James Herbert or at least John Snook who was mayor of Fremantle at the time?

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      I’m sure Zenobia and the Campbell family would have brushed shoulders with John Snook and James Herbert. Not sure she was old enough to go to James’ Fremantle Hotel across the road for a drink though! I had a paragraph about her being there on that night and ended up taking it out when I couldn’t find that she did sing at the opening but was there for the first concert.

  7. tstatton says:

    I agree with ‘ottosvineyard’ in this being “like a serial and the next chapter is tantalising”. One has to get the setting sorted out, but golly the next part of the story is intriguing. Well done Jenny.

  8. It’s like a serial and the next chapter is tantalising. Great job, Jenny.

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