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Dow, Alice (1843–1885)

by Les Hetherington

Alice Dow (1843-1885), was born in 1843 in Dundee, Scotland, the daughter of James Foot Dow and his wife, Jean (later Jane), née Taylor.

James Foot Dow, an engineer, left Dundee on 28 March 1843 and sailed to Australia from the port of Leith on 7 April on the barque, Camoena, arriving in Melbourne on 23 September 1843. He was appointed manager of the mechanical departments of the Port Phillip Foundry in March 1846. His wife and four daughters – Isabella, Margaret, Helen and Alice – joined him in early 1847, arriving on the Anne Milne on 4 January. The family settled at 154 Bourke Street west in a house reportedly pre-fabricated in Scotland.

Of the daughters who came to Melbourne and one, Elizabeth Jane, born in the colony in 1848, only Alice did not marry. The eldest, Isabella Ann, married David Mitchell, and among their children was a daughter, Helen Porter Mitchell, later Dame Nellie Melba.

Both David and Isabella Mitchell were musical. Isabella was the young Dame Nellie’s first music teacher. However, from the age of three or five (accounts differ) Dame Nellie’s aunt Alice, ‘who was passionately fond of the child’, took over her education, until she was fourteen, teaching her music, piano, singing, English and drawing. As one of Dame Nellie’s cousins later wrote, Alice Dow ‘laid the foundation of her musical education’.

James Foot Dow and Jane Dow died in 1874 and 1875 respectively. Alice died at the residence of her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth Jane and Thomas Barbour, the Crown Hotel, Yarraville, on 10 February 1885, aged only 41 years.

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Citation details

Les Hetherington, 'Dow, Alice (1843–1885)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 March 2023.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012