John Grainger: A Brief Biographical Background
by Percy Grainger, abridged from the John Grainger Display Legend
My father was born in London (England) November 30, 1855.* But he came from a Northumbrian family of builders, architects and engineers & he grew up in Durham (England). I have always been told that "Grainger Street" in Newcastle-on-Tyne was so-called because an uncle, or other relative of my father, had built most of the houses in the street.
At the age of 22 (1877) he came to Australia & became Assistant Architect & Engineer to the South Australian Government. The offices where he worked, in Adelaide, were next door to the "Prince Alfred" Hotel kept by my mother's father (George Aldridge) & my father got to know the Aldridges (my mother's family). Of that period there are gifts of books from my father, showing his fondness for poetry and other artistic subjects. He seems to have thrown himself wholeheartedly into the musical life of Adelaide, having heard much music in London before leaving England. He organised the first string quartet in Adelaide & when he and my mother, newly wed, lived at the "The Stowe Manse". I believe the string quartet (which consisted of Herman Schrader, J. Hall, Jules Meilhan & Frank Winterbottom) rehearsed in their rooms.
The construction of Princes Bridge brought my parents to Melbourne, where I was born in 1882. All seemed promising for the Grainger family. Yet only a few years later my father had lost his health and his prosperity.
When I was about seven years old my father became seriously ill & took a sea trip to England for his health. Our dear friend Dr R. Hamilton Russell (who, like ourselves, lived in Glenferrie at that time) said to my mother: "Jack will not live to see Columbo". But my father was always fond of the sea & by the time he reached Columbo he was taking part in all the shipboard games. On his return to Australia he settled in Adelaide (living for a year or so with my Uncle George & Auntie May - Mr and Mrs George Sydney Aldridge) and from then on he never lived again with my mother and me, though we always wrote to each other & sometimes met. Most of his water colour paintings (of which there are 10 in this museum) date from this second Adelaide period.
My father was Chief Architect to the Western Australian Government fron 1897 to about 1905, when he retired from that post owing to ill health. Later he returned to Melbourne, where he died in 1917.
*John Grainger was born in 1854, not 1855.