Irene Jean Bathgate Kilroy

1906 - 2007

Jean Kilroy, a well-known alto singer and teacher in New South Wales, Australia, studied piano and voice while growing up in Wellington, New Zealand. At age eighteen, she went to work at the Sanitarium Food Factory in that city and a year later moved to Christchurch where she continued to work for the same company.

While working there, she met John Walter (Wal) Kilroy, who also sang and shared in her love of music. Following their marriage in 1930, they moved to Cooranbong, site of Australasian Missionary College, now Avondale College. Both Jean and Wal, a tenor, sang frequently as soloists and in duets. They also sang in the college choir, first under Noel Clapham and later under George Greer.

When George Greer came to the college in 1947, his gentleness, vocal concepts, and instruction inspired Jean. When he formed the Avondale Symphonic Choir in his first year, the Kilroys were among the first to enroll.  She became his principal alto in the choir and also taught voice lessons at the college.

Jean taught voice at Avondale until 1971, when she retired at age 65. Known affectionately as "Madame Butterfly" by the college students and community, she continued as a soloist in the area and at many oratorio performances on the college campus.

Wal, who served for a while as conductor of the Avondale Village church choir and later as a member, died in 1987 at age 83. Jean died in Sydney, NSW, in December 2007 at age 101.



Source: Summary of biographical details provided by Robb Dennis based on interviews and articles he conducted and researched; Obituary for John Walter Kilroy, Australasian Record, 12 September 1987.