Samuel Esdaile
1858 - 1939


(John Humphries has provided the following text and research.)
The earliest reference we have to Samuel Esdaile is in the 1861 UK Census which dispassionately describes him as a boarder, aged three, in the home of Robert and Sarah Pine. His place of birth is described as unknown suggesting that the poor little soul was an orphan. The Pines lived at 18, Style Place, Hadlow, near Tonbridge in Kent and they were presumably fostering Samuel. While Style Place in the 1860s was best known as the location of a brewery, the village of Hadlow was also well known as an area much used by The Foundling Hospital, the great institution set up in the 18th Century by Thomas Coram and sponsored by Handel, for placing orphans with families. The Foundling Hospital would take in orphans, raise them and educate them, and many were then signed up for the army, often as band boys. As a Foundling Hospital boy, Esdaile would not have been his mothers name: it was the Hospitals policy to sever the link between mother and baby completely, right up until 1948. The children were given new surnames, though nobody knows how they were chosen. One theory is that they were allocated at random from street directories.

We next hear of him in the 1871 census in a huge list of 13 year-old scholars all of whom were listed as place of birth: unknown living at the Foundling Hospital in Grays Inn Road, London, and 10 years later, aged 23, he appears as a soldier, living at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow. During the next two years he must have met Mary, an Aberdeen girl the same age as himself, whom he married and with whom he had three children. The oldest, a daughter, was Sarah, born in 1883, who was followed by two boys, James and Charles. All were born in Aberdeen, which suggests that the family must at least partially have resided there, even though Samuel was starting to establish a reputation as a horn player in London. He was also beginning to attract attention in Aberdeen: From around the beginning of 1887, the music critic from the local arts magazine, the splendidly named Northern Figaro seems to have started to notice the horn player with the local (amateur) Philharmonic Society. Despite being an essentially amateur organisation, the Philharmonic had no local amateur horn players and would hire several efficient men from south awa. We hear that the horns did admirable service and he singled out the still-anonymous horn player for praise again on April 2nd. He was not anonymous in the Aberdeen Weekly Journal, however: three days earlier, on March 30th, their musical correspondent had pronounced that The favourite piece with the audience was Rossinis Semiramide, where the oboes and French horn came in with admirable effect, the latter being played by Mr. Esdaile, of Richter and Manns orchestras. Manns orchestra refers to the Crystal Palace Orchestra, which was conducted by Auguste Manns, while Richters Orchestra, conducted by the great conductor and former horn player Hans Richter, gave concert series in London 1879 until 1897.

The following season, on March 31st, 1888, the Figaro described the Philharmonics programme for April 3rd, writing then we have the horn solo by Mr Esdaile, well known in the Manns and Richters organisation. This was another success in the eyes of the man at the Figaro, who, writing on 7th April, felt that the horn solo, too, was in its way a treat, and gave one a good idea of how very mellow tone can be extracted from that very mellow instrument, the French horn. Mr Esdaile was loudly applauded for his efforts. Esdaile must have been a hit with other people too, because the following year, on March 16th, 1889, the Northern Figaro, when previewing the Phils concert on March 26 at the Music Hall, wrote that Mr S Esdaile, who has before been heard to great advantage at the Concerts will again be the solo horn player. The programme, which was printed in full, shows that he played a Nocturne by Cavalazzi in the first half and an Ave Maria by Laszlo.

By the date of the 1891 census, Esdaile and his family lived at 2, Sainsbury Road, Norwood, South London an address which was a stone's throw from Gypsy Hill rail station and thus very convenient for getting into Central London, and an easy walk from the Crystal Palace. In the cemetery at West Norwood, there is a grave for "Samuel Bently Esdaile", who was buried aged 2 months on 9 March 1893, who was possibly another son. After the tragedy of Mary's death in 1895, Samuel and his children moved to 50a Queens Road, Battersea. A band list of the Crystal Palace Orchestra in 1899 shows that Esdaile was no longer playing with them, so the need to live in Norwood had passed, but presumably the need to get into London and more importantly out of London late at night after concerts, necessitated living close to a railway station: Queens Road Battersea Station is just a five minute trip from Waterloo.
Happier times seemed to follow in 1904 when his daughter Sarah married, and Esdaile himself remarried in 1910. His playing career continued he was one of the 24 horn players who played at the concert held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1912 in memory of the victims of the Titanic disaster. He also seems to have played in the New Symphony Orchestra and to have provided regular professional assistance to the Amateur Orchestral Society. He died in the early months of 1939. His great-grandson, Derek William Morrison Pyne, comments:
The only memories I have about 'Pommy', as we called him, are that he was a French horn player and invented a reed to improve the capability of the instrument. He cleaned his teeth with soot from the chimney and had all his teeth when he died. I believe he is buried in Streatham Cemetery in London SW.

Four generation of Esdailes: Samuel Esdaile; his son James Esdaile, a cornet player; grand-daughter, Phyllis Esdaile Pyne, a pianist to high standard; and great-grandson, Derek William Morrison Pyne, later a drummer. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Derek Pyne)

Above, the grave of James Morrison Esdaile and his wife in Streatham Cemetery, London. Photographer John Humprhies reports that according cemetery records the grave of Samuel Esdaile should be the one adjacent but it actually has another name attached to it. The other grave close by and behind (see below) is missing its head stone and now has a tree stump growing from it. The cemetery office concedes that it is probably is that of Samuel Esdaile and has been moved from its original location. By a very unusual coincidence the grave of another horn player, Henri-Louis Vandermeerschen. about 50 yards away and on the same row, is.


The above essay is contributed by the noted horn historian, John Humphries. Special thanks, too, to Tony Catterick for providing the photo of Mr. Esdaile.



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