THE POLLARDS ... who were they?

Until now the achievements of the Pollard family have been little known, yet they are an extraordinary chapter in New Zealand and Australian musical, operatic and theatrical history.

Formed in Tasmania in 1880 as a troupe of talented children, for 30 years Pollard opera companies brought entertainment to thousands of theatregoers in cities and small settlements alike. Acclaimed productions of the latest operettas and musical comedies were continuously toured throughout New Zealand and Australia ... and beyond. The youngsters reached the top of their profession, but only after exhausting work, harsh opposition and much anguish. Brushes with cholera and smallpox mix with accustations of kidnapping and suicide; disastrous fires destroy scenery, costumes and music; bankruptcy looms; tumultuous storms at sea threaten to shorten their lives. Yet, through it all, the Pollards emerge unscathed, to act and sing joyously for their adoring public.

Throughout the western world the allure of child actors in adult roles seemed endless, but social disapproval eventually brought about their demise. But of the many teams of talented youngsters traversing the world at the end of the 19th century, the Pollard companies appear to have been the most enterprising and enduring of them all.

In this engrossing and profusely illustrated book, Peter Downes has uncovered a true, yet almost unbelievable saga that is an integral part of world theatrical history.