Samuel McBurney Homepage Biography Publications Articles Photographs
© Robin S Stevens 2017
Biographical Summary
Dr Samuel McBurney (1847-1909) - Music Educator, Composer and Tonic Sol-fa Advocate
propagate the method in music education. In 1878 he founded the Victorian Tonic Sol-fa Association and in 1883 organized its first Intercolonial Conference at Geelong. From 1884 he began publishing articles on teaching the system in the Australasian Schoolmaster and writing letters to the press in an attempt to persuade the Education Department to recognize the method. In 1887 he toured the eastern colonies of Australia, conducting lecture-demonstrations and forming associations in New South Wales and Queensland. He also collected material on colonial peculiarities for Dr A. J. Ellis, On Early English Pronunciation, pt 5 (London, 1889). McBurney and his wife continued their lecture tour in New Zealand and North America, and then returned to England. To demonstrate the advantages of the system, McBurney passed the Mus. Bac.n and Mus. Doc.examinations at the University of Dublin (1890). The next year he was elected a fellow of the Tonic Sol-fa College, London (F.T.S.C.). On his return to Victoria in 1891 McBurney was given a temporary appointment as inspector of music with the Education Department and continued his advocacy of the system by giving lectures, offering postal courses and holding Tonic Sol-fa Summer Schools. Victoria's worsening economic situation led to retrenchments and McBurney's post in the Education Department was among those abolished. In 1894 with his wife he opened a Ladies' College at St Kilda and also began teaching music based on the Tonic Sol-fa system at the Blind Institute, St Kilda Road, using a Braille raised-type notation which he had devised. In 1898 he was appointed an examiner in the University of Melbourne (Mus. Doc., ad eund., 1901). In 1902 he was appointed to the staff of the University Conservatorium of Music as teacher of sight singing and ear training. McBurney was a prominent figure in education as scholar, teacher and author of many articles and books. He was widely travelled and interested in languages and dialects, serving for a time as secretary of the Esperanto Society in Melbourne. His compositions, although few and chiefly choral, include cantatas, part-songs and Australian patriotic songs. Aged 62 he died on 9 December 1909 at Melbourne, survived by his wife. Source: Robin S. Stevens, 'McBurney, Samuel (1847–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcburney-samuel-4064/text6479, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 31 July 2017.
Samuel McBurney (1847-1909), educationist and music teacher, was born  on 30 April 1847 in Glasgow, Scotland, eldest of the five children of Isaiah  McBurney, LL.D., and his wife Margaret, née Bonnar. His father was classics  master at Glasgow Academy and later principal of a school at Douglas, Isle  of Man; he published a work on Ovid in 1854 and was co-editor of the  Cyclopaedia of Universal History (London, 1855); he went to Victoria about  1881 and died there on 5 July 1896. McBurney’ss early education included musical training through the Tonic Sol- fa method. In 1864-66 he attended the University of Glasgow, becoming a  prizeman in humanities. He migrated to Victoria in 1870 and taught classics  and mathematics at schools in Kyneton, South Melbourne and Sale. He  moved to Portland in 1875 and returned to England in 1876, intending to  enter the Order of Benedicts, but a year later married Marie Louise  Accleston. After a visit to Germany he returned to London to specialize in the Tonic Sol-fa method of teaching music, passing all examinations of the Tonic  Sol-fa College, London, and becoming a friend of the founder, John Curwen  (1816-1880). McBurney returned to Victoria where in 1877 he was appointed principal of a  Ladies' College in Geelong. During almost a decade at the college he was  an active member of the local 'Shakspere' Society, he published textbooks  on  English, geography and music theory and began  his crusade to
Portrait by Eden Studios, Melbourne, c. 1900