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Picturesque Character Passes, Madamoiselle Cecile de Percevale.

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The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW), Friday 11 May 1934

Picturesque Character Passes


One of Armidale’s most picturesque figures for over half a century passed away on Tuesday in the person of Miss Jane Percival, better known to Armidale and district residents as Madamoiselle Cecile de Percevale.

For over 52 years the majority of Armidale folk have regarded the well known lady, in her quaint costume of a century ago, as either a French or a Spanish native, and surprise will be felt when it is stated that she was born of English parents, and had adopted the name of Mademoiselle de Percevale in her professional capacity as a teacher of music.

With her voluminous draperies, with the typical Spanish mantilla, and the over present sunshade, “Mademoiselle,” as she was familiarly known to generations of Armidalians, was a source of curiosity and speculation to all. She was of a very reserved type, and her friends were few.

The deceased lady, who was 83 years of age, came of an English family, and Her penchant for the draperies of 19th century France may have been encouraged by the fact that she received Her education in that country. She lived for some time in Munich, Germany, and also served as a governess in Spain. Her experiences gave her a remarkable knowledge of Continental languages and customs, and she was a brilliant linguist. She was best known in Armidale for her skill as a musician, her gifts in that direction being of a rare character. Her death removes the last remaining link with the establishment of the Ursuline community at Armidale. When, after their expulsion from Germany by Bismarck, the Ursulines were at their English haven, Miss Percevale became associated with the nuns destined to journey to Australia at the invitation of the late Bishop Torregianni, to open a branch of the Order at Armidale. In 1882, hearing of their departure for the new country of their choice, she decided to accompany them, and booked her passage by the same boat.

She joined the staff of St. Ursula’s College in its early days in Armidale, as a music teacher, and during that time was the accomplished organist of St. Mary’s Cathedral. For many years she was a visiting teacher of music at the College, and at De La Salle College, and was a private teacher of music in Armidale. She enjoyed an enviable reputation owing to her exceptional skill, especially with the violin.

Of late years her health failed considerably, although she was to be seen during recent months in the old familiar garb taking her customary afternoon stroll.

Her death occurred in the Armidale and New England Hospital, of which she had been an inmate for some weeks.

The only living relatives are said to be a sister, resident at Mill Hill, London, and a brother, in South Africa.

Written by macalba

February 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm

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