General Sir Ian Hamilton as
guest - His views of Japanese in 1914 - "I belong to the Caledonian
Society" - Harry Lauder covets the Peacock laugh - Sir Ronald
Munro-Ferguson as Patron - World War I breaks out - Prime Minister Andrew
Fisher attends St. Andrew's Dinner - Work for patriotic purposes - Society
WHAT better beginning to a
year's activities could any group of Scots have desired than that which
Melbourne Caledonians enjoyed in March of 1914? They had then as their
guest, in the Town Hall, General Sir Ian Hamilton, who had been brought
out by the Comonwealth Government to advise on Australia's defence.
General Hamilton was
accompanied to the function by the Prime Minister (Hon. Joseph Cook), the
Leader of the Federal Opposition (Hon. Andrew Fisher), the Premier (Hon.
W. A. Watt), the Minister of Defence (Senator Millen ), and the Chief of
the General Staff (Brigadier-General Gordon ). All were welcomed by the
Society's President, Mr Boyd, M.P.
Sir Ian Hamilton spoke with
some caution on military matters when acknowledging the cordial welcome
extended to him. He agreed with the Prime Minister that Australians were
likely to give a good account of themselves if an emergency arose; he
issued a veiled warning regarding the militaristic tendencies of Germany;
and he advised that care to be taken to understand the psychology of the
Japanese. The Japs, Sir Ian said, longed for war about as much as the
Americans longed for another San Francisco earthquake, but if their pride
was ruffled half a dozen earthquakes would not stop them.
As for Scots in Australia, their first duty,
Sir Ian Hamilton suggested, was to this country. Each man should say to
himself, "I am an Australian-and I belong to the Caledonian Society."
Hard upon the heels of Sir Ian Hamilton came
another Scot whose trade was very different: he was that international
merry-maker, Harry Lauder. James Boyd and his Caledonians entertained
Harry at dinner at the Oriental Hotel, where the visitor made a pawky
little speech of acknowledgement. The chief happening during the function
seems to have been an offer by Lauder to give away a small fortune-he
offered this to Sir Alexander Peacock in return for the copyright of his
uproarious laugh! (Had Harry Lauder heard Harry Chaffey, a member of the
Caledonians' Council in later years, he would probably have decided that
Peacock's laugh was not, in fact, the heartiest in Australia.)
Later in 1914 a third eminent Scot arrived,
namely, Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, new Governor-General. His Excellency
and Lady Helen were greeted first by the Scottish Union (at the Burns
Statue) and later by the Caledonian Society, which at once offered him the
position of Patron. Sir Ronald accepted gladly: he said it would be an
honour to occupy the same office as had the late Lord Hopetoun, and as did
Lord Rosebery and Lord Caimichael.
In the following month (August) World War
broke out, and after that all the proceedings of the Caledonian Society
during four years, and the activities of other Scottish societies as well,
were governed by the national emergency.
Soon after the War began Andrew Fisher had
become Prime Minister again. He was, of course, exceedingly busy, and yet
he found time to attend the Society's St. Andrew's Dinner in 1914, at
which members gave him a rousing welcome and applauded his declaration
that Australia would support Britain "to the last man and the last
Buchanan was now President of the Society (James Boyd had retired after
only a year of office), and Robert Kerr, of Essendon, had become President
of the Union. The chief obligation of both men was to raise money for
patriotic funds and to give farewells to members who were going abroad on
Entertainers of various types rallied well to the patriotic cause. Singers
now included Ida Fowler, Nelly Rouxel, Annie Ferrier, Betty Paterson,
Hilda Brewer, Winnie Fraser, Percy Blundell, and The Cayleys (George
Walker and Jessie Bunting), with Neil McInnes and Tom Angus reinforcing
the comedians. In addition, Danny McPherson and Louis McLennan were
strengthening the pipers and many good dancers were being turned out by
George Hay, J. M. Cousins, and James Williamson. Eric Fox was a favorite
With the aid
of some of these artists the Society turned its St. Andrew's celebration
of 1915 into a grand patriotic concert in the Town Hall, at which the
Governor-General was present and made a speech.
William P. Jarvie replaced George Buchanan as
President of the Society in August of 1915 and in the following year
Andrew Thomson, an earlier President, was given another term. Soon after
leaving office (November 1916) Jarvie died. He had been a dominating
figure in Victorian Scottish circles-a founder and for many years an
officer of the Scottish Regiment, first Secretary of the Scottish Union,
Secretary and President of the Melbourne Caledonian Society, and an
entertainer of considerable merit. His son was fighting in France at the
time of the father's death.
Another loss at the time was that of Hugh
Paterson, former councillor, Treasurer, and chief decorative artist of the
Society, and also Chairman of the Federal Art Advisory Board. He died in
1917 at the age of 61. Although relatively young, he was one of the
Society's oldest members, having joined at an early age.
Incidentally, Hugh Paterson had been a leading
member of the Melbourne Savage Club, where he was closely associated with
another talented Scot in the person of William Tainsh, plus David Dow, son
of J. L. Dow, an Ayrshire man who had been a foundation member of the
Melbourne Caledonian Society in 1884 and afterwards became a Minister of
Presidents were still changing from year to year: J. Hume Cook, M.P., took
office in 1915 and David Andrew ( Bendigo ) in 1916. Burt Stewart, still
fighting for proper recognition of the word "British", had become Imperial
Terms Correspondent and was busy in an argument on the subject with the
Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges.
Among the Society's functions of 1916 were a
farewell to the Treasurer, J. H. McConnell, who had enlisted, and a
reception to Colonel (later Brigadier-General) J. Campbell Stewart,
Colonel Wanliss and Major W. C. Chessar, each of whom had risen from
private to officer in the Scottish Regiment and who in the meantime had
given sound service to the Caledonian Society. (Today, the Society's
Honour Roll bears testimony to those and other stalwarts).
So it was during the rest of the War period
-practically all the work of the Society concentrated on the raising of
money for patriotic purposes and the entertaining of members of the
fighting forces. Indeed, at its St. Andrew's Dinner of 1917 the Society
pledged itself, through its officers, to conscription; and it did so in
the presence of the Lieut.-Governor (Sir John Madden), the State Treasurer
(Hon. W. M. McPherson ), and the Director-General of Recruiting (Hon.
Most of the directive work in those national enterprises fell on J. G.
Currie (who was Acting President for portion of 1916-17) and Robert
Buchanan, who served as President from 1917 to 1919. It was partly through
Buchanan's efforts that the Society raised £281 on Empire Day of 1918 and
considerable sums on other occasions.
Only at intervals did the Society turn its
attention from the war effort. One occasion was when a theatre party was
held in honour of Allan Wilkie and his wife. Another was when, early in
1918, a billiards Memorial Shield, given by Society members, was unveiled
in honour of James Denham, a one-time member of the Council who had risen
from a lowly beginning to a high position in the Tramway Service. A third
"break", of a more general nature, was a series of "literary and song
nights", arranged and contributed by members during 1918. Most of the
lectures were really very good.
An incidental development of the time was that
the Society had the pleasure of congratulating one of its members on the
attainment of a high and unusual honour: he was Sir John Forrest, and he
was raised to the Peerage.
The Scottish Union, too, did much patriotic
work. Under its auspices George Dickson produced in Melbourne Town Hall,
late in 1917, a spectacular play termed Bonnie Scotland, mostly an effort
by youth. Also, the Union raised nearly k2,000 for a Highland Relief Fund;
it took measures to arrange for repatriation of fighting men, and, by way
of variety, it sponsored the publication of a book of verse by that
"Australian Robert Burns", Allan McNeilage.
A feature of the Union's gatherings during the
year beginning September 1917 was the patriotic speeches of Burt Stewart,
who had again become President. He was succeeded in 1918 by a
representative from Brunswick, C. H. Skinner.
It need scarcely be added that neither the
Union nor the Society gained in numerical strength in this period. No
longer, now, was there an upsurge of new Scottish societies or of new
members in existing societies. The fact was, indeed, that the response to
the demands of war made by young Scottish-Australians was so cordial that
many societies found it difficult to continue.