The Madras College Archive


Professor Newnham Prize and Scholarship


This Prize and Scholarship are named for Frederick Laurence Newnham, known as Fred Newnham. He came to St Andrews for a few days in October 1982 in order to give Madras College 1000 to set up a scholarship for music. He wanted it to form part of the 150th anniversary celebrations which were to take place in the following year. Let us give some details of Fred Newnham's life.

He was born in Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, on 3 April 1901. His parents were William (born about 1870) and Emma Newnham (born about 1872). Frederick was born at 3 Elm Cottage, Ryde, the home of his maternal grandparents William and Harriet Dyer. Frederick had an older brother William George Newnham, born in Ryde on 25 May 1892. William George Newnham was educated at Royal Hospital School, Greenwich and joined the Royal Navy. By 1911, Frederick was ten years old and living in St Andrews with his parents William and Emma. His older brother was, at this time, an Able Seaman living in the Royal Naval Barracks, Edinburgh Road, Portsmouth.

 Frederick Newnham attended Madras College, entering the school in 1913 and leaving in 1916 when he was 15 years old. He was second in Drawing in Class I in 1915-16 but, perhaps rather strangely given his stunning musical career, he appears not to have won any music prizes at Madras. On the 15 July 1916, Frederick's brother William George died when the submarine "H3" that he was serving on was mined in the Gulf of Cattaro in the Adriatic. At this time Frederick and his parents were living at 5 North Street, St Andrews. After leaving school in 1916, Frederick enlisted and served for the rest of World War I in the Royal Navy. (Since he was only 15 years old, I assume he must have lied about his age.) From 1922 to 1925 he attended the Royal Academy of Music where he studied organ, piano and conducting. He was awarded an ARCM, Associate of the Royal College of Music, in 1928 and a LRCM, Licentiate of the Royal College of Music, in 1929. His parents continued to live in St Andrews, at this time at 105 South Street. In 1928 and 1929 Newnham gave 'Fred Newnham, 105 South Street, St Andrews' for his address as a member of the Madras College Club. It appears that '105 South Street' was, before this, the address of the Conservative Club, and it is close to where Andrew Bell was born. Now Newnham's parents lived the rest of their lives in St Andrews. His father William Newnham died in St Andrews in 1936, and his mother Emma Newnham died in St Andrews in 1969 at the age of 97.

In 1927 Frederick Newnham was appointed head of the voice department and assistant professor of organ at Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. There are many references to performances that he gave during his time at Acadia. For example in May 1929 there is a report: "On Friday evening, students of the School of Music of Acadia University gave a delightful recital in University Hall. Professor F L Newnham of the staff of the music department assisted in the program with two solos." He returned to Britain during the summer of 1929. He returned to Canada by sailing from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia on 6 September 1929. He travelled First Class on the ship the Newfoundland. He gave his last address in the UK as '105 South Street, St Andrews'. In 1930 he changed his address as a member of the Madras College Club to Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. He remained at Acadia University until 1933 when he resigned to take up a position as organist and choirmaster of St Paul's Church, the oldest Anglican church in Halifax. He was head of the voice departments at the Halifax Conservatory of Music 1933-4 and the Maritime Academy of Music 1934-5. He was also appointed to the Halifax Ladies' College and Conservatory, Halifax in 1934. During a holiday in 1934 he sang at the Wigmore Hall in London. He was awarded an ARAM, Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, in 1934. He was music director at the Western Ontario Conservatory 1935-8. He appeared in 1936 as the Narrator in the Canadian premiere of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast.

In 1938 Newnham went to the University of Western Ontario as head of the Department of Music. He then returned to England to sing for the BBC and in July 1939 was appointed principal baritone and chorus master of the Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company of London. At this time he lived with Messrs. Ibbs and Tillet in Wigmore Street, London. In March 1940 he went to Montreal as organist and choirmaster of the Church of St Andrew and St Paul. As a singer, Newnham toured England, Scotland, the United States and Canada. He worked in Winnipeg as an organist-choirmaster and singing teacher from 1946 to 1950. He was president of the Central Alberta Music Festival in 1946 and of the Alberta Music Festival in 1948. He served for 23 years, 1950-73, as the head of the voice and organ departments at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington. He lived in Calgary from 1973 to 1977, and then returned to Tacoma where he died on 11 August 1986.

As a singer, Newnham toured England, Scotland, the United States, and Canada. He conducted several Canadian choirs, and held other organist-choirmaster posts at churches in Great Britain, Calgary, and Tacoma. During the 1960s and 1970s he was chairman of the adjudicating committee for the northwestern regional auditions of the Metropolitan Opera. He taught throughout his career and several of his pupils gained international recognition. In recognition for his distinguished career, Newnham was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, FRAM, in 1962. By this stage he had many letters after his name:

Frederick Newnham, ARCM, LRAM, ARAM, FRAM.