The John Riley/Fred Hailes Scrapbook contains theatrical and musical items including engravings, photographs, newspaper cuttings, and entrance tickets. The scrapbook was compiled between the 1830s and 1917 by at least two people, circus performer John Riley (c.1819-1911), and journalist Fred Hailes (c.1852-1917). The ‘scraps’ are pasted on 309 pages of an international trade book.
Theatrical scrapbooks like the John Riley/Fred Hailes Scrapbook are a useful source for the theatre historian. Sometimes they contain items that cannot easily be found elsewhere. These can be photographs, cuttings from ephemeral magazines or old newspapers some of which still exist but otherwise would be difficult to find. Cuttings from old programmes, flyers and show business reports from newspapers, even theatre tickets are also of great help.
It seems that several people contributed to the 309 page scrapbook. Pasted on the fly-leaf is a note written by Frederick Hailes about its provenance:
The contents of pages 1- 60 were originally in an old Scrap Book collected by Mr John Riley and given to me on the occasion of a visit I made to Mr Matthew Ryan at the Old Colonists Home in May 1910. Mr Ryan had witnessed most of the performances mentioned by “Autolycus” on pages 158-168. Pages 63-158 contain Melbourne and other items to the “Canterbury Times” NZ. “The Mummer Memoires” are from the pen of Mr J.M. Forde of Sydney.
On another page is a photograph of John Riley who died 17 December 1911 at the ‘Dramatic Homes’ (Old Colonists Homes) aged 92. Riley had been a variety and circus performer. On page 309 a cutting from J.M. Forde announces the death of Frederick Hailes aged 63 in May 1917. It is not known who pasted these last scraps into the book but it seems to have passed to other Old Colonist residents until 1970 when it was acquired by the former owner, a dealer who specialised in clearance of deceased estates. As well, many of the margins are filled with hand-written comments and elucidations (many probably by Fred Hailes).
The Fred Hailes scrapbook came into Mimi Colligan’s hands in 2006 when the then owner offered it for sale after hearing her appealing for theatrical memorabilia during a radio interview. The then owner’s occupation was clearing deceased estates, in this case a former resident of the Old Colonists Homes in North Fitzroy, founded by George Coppin and others. After some negotiation the book was purchased by Mimi Colligan and Frank Van Straten.