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LONGDEN, Archibald Duncan Munro (1905-1972)

LONGDEN, Archibald Duncan Munro (1905-1972)

'Archie' Longden, impresario, accountant and music lover, organized and sponsored the visits and tours of a select group of international musicians and performers from the 1930s onwards.

Enrolled at Geelong College on 5 August 1919 he was a day boarder leaving in December 1921. A son of former Collegian, Walter Campbell Longden (1858-1920) and Margaret Isabel, nee Munro he was born on 5 December 1905. His address at entry was listed as 51 Myer St, Geelong. He had previously attended Geelong Grammar School.

On 20 July 1940 at Toorak Presbyterian Church he married (No. 15455) Muriel Margaret 'Bais' McNicol, the daughter of William McNicol and Elizabeth Blanche nee Robinson), of Colac.

‘His RAAF papers indicate he was an accountant (Commonwealth Institute of Chartered Accountants), fluent linguist (French and Italian), and his specialty was music concert organisation. He enlisted (No. 251085) in the RAAF, and served as a Squadron-Leader in Administration & Special Duties and Equipment, travelling extensively by road, rail, and air to all points of Australia, and New Guinea and the surrounding islands (Lae, Bougainville and Finschhafen, Milne Bay, Dobodura, Lae and Finschhafen again, Tadji and Middleburg, Morotai, Labuan and Japan).

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) Collection includes a photograph captioned 'Labuan, North Borneo, on 4 February 1946, toiling in tropical heat, these men from 081 Fighter Wing RAAF Welfare Section packed hundreds of books, musical recordings, games and other recreational supplies for members of the RAAF Contingent of the BCOF in Japan; among those depicted is Sqn Ldr ADM Longden, of Toorak, in charge of welfare for the RAAF Contingent. As well, there are other photographs showing RAAF officers celebrating Victory in the Pacific Day in
Madang, New Guinea, on 15 August 1945.

Longden was reported seriously ill with coronary thrombosis on 28 March 1946.’
He was discharged from the RAAF on 12 June 1947.

‘The Argus' newspaper in September 1954 reported: ‘Melbourne impresario Archie Longden has no intention of convalescing gracefully in Adelaide's Repatriation Hospital, Springfield, ignored by his friends.

In July he took Nancy Weir to Adelaide to give a series of piano recitals, suffered a heart attack, and was rushed to hospital.

Now he is ensuring a steady flow of correspondence by having cards printed saying where he is, why he is there, and demanding a letter from the recipient. He is sending these cards to all his friends in Melbourne, and latest, reports indicate good results. In between times he is showing his gratitude for the treatment he has received by organising entertainment amenities for patients and hospital staff. This is old routine to him. He was an amenities officer with the R.A.A.F. for eight years.’

He died on 28 January 1972 in France.

An unsourced newspaper cutting, written by John Sinclair and probably from a Melbourne newspaper, reported his death: ‘By means of two small death notices in Melbourne newspapers last Tuesday, Australians learnt, that impresario Archie Longden had died in France. Those personal death notices expressed the grief of his relatives of course. They gave no hint of the sadness his passing will cause throughout the Australian music world.

Both as an impresario and as a man he had, over the last 40 years, made a unique and important contribution to music in this country.

A. D. M. Longden’s achievement could almost be measured by the number of Australians he brought home for concert tours after they had won acclaim overseas.

The list includes John Brownlee, Marjorie Lawrence, Florence Austral, John Amadio and Nancy Weir. He began with John Brownlee in 1932. Indeed it was Brownlee who persuaded Archie Longden to become an impresario.

It happened in Paris. Longden, then 27, was working as a public accountant. He spent his free nights at the Paris Opera, where Brownlee was already a star. They became close friends, and it was Brownlee who saw that Archie Longden’s innate love of music, his wide cultural interests, and his business training would make him an ideal impresario.

So Archie Longden entered the music business.

The Brownlee tour of 1932-33 was a great success. So was a tour by Florence Austral and John Amadio in 1934.

Archie Longden’s greatest success came in 1939 when he brought Marjorie Lawrence, then at the height of her fame, back to open an Australia-wide concert tour in her home town of Winchelsea. The tumultuous greeting Marjorie Lawrence received from her bunting-draped hometown was one of the big newspaper stories of the day. It was the biggest reception given to any singer in Australia since Melba.

But Archie Lawrence had no ambition to become a really big-time impresario.

He wanted to present the musicians he admired and he did so, exclusively.

And that perhaps largely explains why every artist he presented became, and remained his friends.’

His father, Walter Campbell Longden (1858-1920), was also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: The Argus (Melb) 8 September 1951 p4; The Age (Melb) 8 February 1972; ‘Geelong Collegians at the Second World War and Subsequent Conflicts’, 2010. compiled by J. Affleck. p331. (citing The Pegasus; Australian War Memorial; National Archives).
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