Frederick and Anna Elizabeth Logier.

South Africa’s ‘First Published’ Sheet Music

The first published sheet music in South Africa was by composer Frederick Logier from Co Cavan, second born son of Johann Bernhard Logier and his first wife, Elizabeth Willman; according to Nuala McAlister Hart in the Dictionary of Irish Biography, Elizabeth was the daughter of the English ‘bandmaster’ John Willman and sister of the ‘celebrated clarinettist’ Thomas Willman.


The musically talented Logiers lived for a period in Cavan Town where Frederick was born on April 25 , 1801. Johann Berhard Logier, was a music teacher, composer, and inventor born in Kassel, Hesse in 1777 and, although German by birth, had descended from a family of French refugees of Huguenot origin and both father and grandfather were musicians. In youth Johann was taught music by his father, an accomplished violinist.

Around 1791, Johann departed Germany for England, joining a band of the regiment of John James Hamilton, the Marquess of Abercorn: the Marquess had a considerable amount of Irish land, in Tyrone and Donegal. Johann was a flautist with the band, rising to musical director and with the bands removal to Ireland in 1796, he travelled many parts of Ireland and in the early 1800s happened to reside in Cavan.

In 1807, Johann resigned from the band, famously, going on to invent an instrument called a ‘Chiroplast’ an implement to assist in holding ones fingers in place while practising piano. The ‘Chiroplast’ was adopted by many well-known pianists and found its way across Europe, before reaching the United States of America.

Johann’s book, Practical thorough bass, helped expand his reputation and was even consulted by the composer Wagner as part of his studies.

Johann and Elizabeth’s three other children were Ellen, William and Bartholmew. Another extract from the Dictionary of Irish Biography, notes that a grandson of Johann, called Theodore Logier, (born to a son, from Johann’s second marriage), ‘taught music at St Patrick’s training college, Drumcondra.

Frederick Logier

Like his father before him, Johann spent many hours teaching music to Frederick and as a result, the son developed a fine mastery of the piano and organ. The launch of his father’s Logierian ‘teaching method’, was promoted in English universities by Frederick and his brother William who encouraged its use amongst academics. Thereafter, Frederick , William and Johann went to Berlin, giving demonstrations to the Germans before going to the Prussian states.

Frederick made an impression on Friederich Wilhelm III, king of Prussia having played an organ recital ‘in the royal court’ for which the king presented the Cavan-born maestro with a special ring as a token of gratitude.

South Africa

The next chapter in Frederick Logier’s career was spent in South Africa, having arrived in Cape Town on February 26, 1826, establishing a business partnership with an English musician Edward Knolles Green with whom the Logerian Academy was opened in ‘Green’s music shop’. The academy prospectus written both in Dutch and English promoted use of the ‘chiroplast’, logerian theory, and introduced the taught subjects of cello, harp and violin. However, the partnership ended abruptly when Green died two years later. By 1833, Logier was bankrupt and the academy’s very last ‘public examination of pupils was held that same year. Logier’s spiralling debts were so severe that he was forced to sell his Roos Street home and the next period of his life saw him become a music teacher: however, this was only in a modest capacity. Earlier in 1829, Logier married Anna Elizabeth Berning. They did not have any children.

To make money Logier sold sheet music for ‘pianos, guitars, and strings’ and composed a variety of ‘parlour pieces’, waltzes, ‘popular songs and hymns. In South Africa, he was celebrated for one particular musical composition, Jesus, de ware zondaars vriend, published in 1840, it was the first sheet music to have been published in South Africa. In his final years, he played organ and piano, assisting in churches, or was often requested to accompany foreign musicians on stage who came to South Africa.

In 1863, he assisted the ‘English painter and naturalist’ Thomas Baines who had an exhibition in Cape Town; both became friends and as a tribute, Baines named a South African river in honour of Logier. Frederick Logier died on October 12th, 1867, thousands of miles from his birthplace.


In 1873, when Mrs Mertz’s husband died, there arose a problem; what to do with the shops famous musical clock imported some years earlier for a nobleman. John Mertz’s watchmaking business in Main Street, Cavan Town, had purchased the clock as a gift to be presented to a ‘nobleman’, but the intended recipient unexpectedly died. Mrs Mertz placed a notice in this newspaper, advertising a draw for the shops ‘wonderful clock’, which originally cost £40 when bought. Tickets went on sale through the Rev E. Sheridan, E. Kennedy, J. Gannon and J.F. O’Hanlon, proprietor of The Anglo-Celt, Cavan; Rev. P. Teevan, Belturbet; and Rev. Jas Brady, and P. Murphy, Ballyjamesduff. The ‘time-keeping machinery’, as she called it, was described as ‘powerful, but exquisitely refined, admirably harmless with lyrical organism; whilst externally, a more superb masterpiece’, suitable to the most extravagant villa, or to sit upon the humblest of mantlepieces. For a few shillings, artisan, farmer, or shopkeeper could become the proud possessor of the clock.

The charm of each hour could be announced in an entrancing melody, or it might serve as an alarm bell, or be used to mark festivities, were some of the varied uses that the winning person might employ the object. The finance raised by the draw held on May 19, 1873, may have been required to help Mrs Mertz keep the business afloat and if so, she was successful; Mertz shop was still listed in a local trade directory four years later in 1877.


Cardinal O’Fiach and the Cavan historian