John William Driscoll Foley was born in Lonsdale Street East, Melbourne on the 12th July 1860. On the birth certificate his father William Foley is described as an equestrian performer, aged 34, and his mother, as “Maria” Foley, formerly “O’Neill” (should be O’Neil), aged 21.
For a number of years from the mid 1860s and through the 1870s, John and his sister Kate toured Australia and New Zealand with their father as part of the Magnet Troupe.
Like his father, John Foley was also an entertainer, although less seems to have been recorded about his performances.
Marriage to Laura Bloom
On the 3rd June 1886, John Foley aged 25, married Laura Sarah Bloom aged 24. Although the marriage took place in Hokitika, there is no other indication that they lived there for long. The marriage certificate records that John Foley as an actor and Laura Bloom as a pianist. Further details including Laura’s emigration from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales to Wellington are contained in the Bloom family page.
John and Laura had five children.
Apparently John Foley continued to live an itinerant life, and came and went from the household. After the birth of the youngest child, Eileen, it seems that he was banished by Laura once and for all. It is probable that John Foley returned to Australia, but no evidence of his location in later years has yet been found.
Laura and the children were involved in various forms of entertainment, and it seems that when the children were young they appeared on the stage with their mother.
Laura Foley ran a business in Newtown, at Victoria Hall, providing dancing lessons and costume hire, and she became well known in Wellington as Madame Foley. In the earlier years, Laura’s father Jacob Bloom managed a boxing ring within the same building. While these activities have been recalled by family and others, there only seems to be a very limited amount written about Victoria Hall or Madame Foley, and no readily locatable photos of the premises.
Past the [Tramway] hotel on the way to Newtown was the Victoria Hall (built by Mr C. Sweeny), a very popular dance place. It cost around one shilling and sixpence to get in and that included supper. A Madam Foley had a hiring out business near the Victoria Hall – costumes for balls, fancy dress, parties and weddings could all be hired from Madame Foley.
(Source: J.M and B.M. Kenneally; On the Edge of Our City – A Pictorial History, Colonial Associates, 1984. Ch. 7 Up Adelaide Road – Riddiford Street; Memories of Newtown (1920-1950) Mrs G. B. Leonard, p.27)
In 1933, Madame Foley & Co moved from 160 Adelaide Road in Newtown, to 80 Manners Street, in the city. In later years, Laura’s daughter Leonora continued the costume hiring business upstairs at 86 Manners Street.
Death of Laura Foley
Laura Foley died on 21 March 1925, at her daughter Leonora’s house at 156B Adelaide Road, Newtown. Her death notice and death certificate make reference to Laura as “Madame”, and her place of residence 160 Adelaide Road – Victoria Hall.
Laura Foley is buried in the Jewish section of the Karori cemetery, alongside her cousin Lily Boock.