Big Delegation visits
Scotland, 1928 - Reception by present King and Queen - Scottish delegation
visits Australia, 1934 - Society receives presidential chair - Second
delegation to Scotland, 1936 - "The Scot" closes down - Andrew Thomson's
achievement - Death of Gregor Wood - George Dickson's "Pageant of Empire".
Aside from the work of the
Royal Caledonian Society in an individual capacity, there were, during the
1920's and 1930's, various notable developments of a national character in
which the Society shared.
Outstanding among these
were the exchanges of Delegations between Australia and Scotland, under
the auspices of the Scottish Union.
The Union had been moving
along reasonably well in the period under discussion. It had organized
some big gatherings on St Andrew's Day (usually in the presence of either
the Governor-General or the Prime Minister); it had established a strong
post at the Burns Statue during the visit (in 1927) of the Duke and
Duchess of York, and, in addition to other activities, it had worked on
immigration in association with the New Settlers' League.
Possibly it was the
immigration activities of the Union that gave the President of 1925-26, J.
D. McInnes of Horsham, the idea of taking a Delegation of Australian Scots
to the Homeland. It seemed to him that such a visit might well be the
means of attracting many new settlers to Australia. Accordingly, with
hearty support from The Scot, as well as from ex-Presidents Burt Stewart
and Jim Yorston, he began to "sell" the idea to Victoria, and then, having
gained the blessing of the Commonwealth Government, he extended the
project to cover other States.
When the New Settlers'
League joined in the enterprise, and made available its secretary, Archie
Gilchrist, to serve as manager, the scheme soon became an actuality.
Eventually, no fewer than
650 delegates (each of whom was required to pay only £60 return for the
passage), booked up, and in April 1929 the liner Hobson's Bay, which had
been specially chartered, left Melbourne with its passengers from the
eastern States. Those from Victoria numbered 283. Thousands attended at
the wharf to see them off.
It is scarcely necessary to
say that the tour was completely successful. Delegates received warm
hospitality in all parts of Britain, and they, on their part, made
presentations of Australian mementoes in many centres.
Most memorable of the
greetings in England was a reception accorded delegates by the Duke and
Duchess of York -now the King and Queen - at St James's Palace. It is on
record that Ernie Yorston (who won the under-21-years' piping championship
of Scotland during the tour), played "The Road to the Isles" at the Royal
Reception, upon which the Duchess called him over and said, "How sweet of
you to remember my favourite tune," adding that she recalled his playing
of the same melody at a Government House reception in Melbourne.
Most of the delegates
returned to Australia by the end of the year, and a notable enterprise
concluded with thanks to the leader (J. D. McInnes), the deputy-leader
(Burt Stewart), and the manager (Archie Gilchrist).
Three years later
arrangements were made for a reciprocal visit. That project did not reach
fruition. Although an itinerary covering various States was mapped out-to
operate from 10th December 1931 to 18th December 1932-and although an
address of welcome was issued by the Prime Minister (Hon. J. H. Scullin),
Scotland found it impossible to send its Delegation at that time. But, of
course, the visitors were none the less welcome when they did arrive - in
The Royal Caledonian
Society joined cordially in the receptions given to delegates from
Scotland when they reached Victoria. President Ritchie (who was also
President of the Scottish Union at the time) greeted them at the Society's
rooms and also accompanied them in their travels through various parts of
the State. The visitors greatly enjoyed themselves. True, they were not a
large band-their total of 18 scarcely compared with Australia's total of
650 - but they were all very pleasant people and all were warmly
appreciative of the hospitality shown them.
A tangible token of that
appreciation remains with the Royal Caledonian Society. It is the large
and handsome Presidential chair, and it bears a plaque recording the fact
that it was presented to the Society by R. L. Callan, on behalf of the
Scottish Delegation, as a fraternal acknowledgment of the many courtesies
received during the Victorian visit of 1934.
Presidential chair blends well with certain other furniture possessed by
the Society, and which is said to have been imported in connection with
the Centennial International Exhibition of 1888, after which it was
acquired and presented to the Society by a leading member of the period.)
Two years later again
(1936) the international exchange was resumed-the Union arranged for
another Delegation to visit Scotland. This time the leader was Thomas
Ritchie, the deputy-leader J. Taylor, and the secretary A. Campbell. Those
three men were distinctly courageous, for of the 80 tourists under their
care 65 were women! Anyway, the adventure passed off very satisfactorily,
education and entertainment being agreeably mingled.
It was greatly to be
regretted that a sad ending marred the tour in Mr Ritchie's case. His wife
had been ill before leaving Britain and on board ship, and two days after
reaching Melbourne she passed away. Much sympathy was extended to Mr
Ritchie and his two sons.
In addition to the
Delegations to and from Scotland, a group of Australian Scots, led by the
Geelong stalwart William Plain, paid a visit to New Zealand early in 1934.
That excursion, like the more ambitious ones, was quite successful.
Delegations aside, the
Scottish Union and the Royal Caledonian Society continued to work closely
together. One token in point was that the two bodies shared the same
secretaryship and the same premises. Another was the fact that when, in
1931, the Union formed a Scottish Choir, the Society handed over all the
special music which had been used by its own Choir of other years, and
also "lent" the Union the services of Gregor Wood as conductor.
A further cementing factor
was that the Union gave the Society the care of the Stonehaven Cup, a
handsome trophy donated by the Governor-General of 1925-30 for the Pipe
Band Championship of the Commonwealth. It took its place beside the
handsome Angus Gillies Cup which the band of the Royal Caledonian Society
won at Maryborough (Victoria) in 1932.
Among other happenings of a
general nature about this time - that is, happenings affecting Scottish
interests generally - two were much to be regretted. One was the passing
of Geelong's Commun Na Fienne; the other was the winding-up of The Scot at
Hame an' Abroad.
With the coming of 1930 the
Geelong Society had been in existence for 74 years and was the oldest
Scottish society in the State, leading the Maryborough Highland Society by
one year. Some years previously its President for a lengthy period, Dr
John Small, had died, and when the Secretary of many years' standing,
James Galbraith, gave up in 1929 the Society began to lose much of its
drive. Anyway, it was a great pity that such an organization was allowed
to fall away and then dissolve.
The Scot also expired in
the early 1930's. Founded in 1902, it had given Scottish interests in
Australia admirable service for about 30 years, but at no time had it
received the full measure of support that it merited. In 1920 (when the
journal had run for 18 years) Jim Picken was forced to close it down; but
after a lapse of a couple of months it was revived by the T. H. Ould
Printing Co., Cheltenham. Four years later the Melbourne Press Agency took
it over, with Adrian Ball as Editor, and afterwards it was conducted,
until the end, by the Ball Publishing Company. National depression, of
course, was a factor in bringing about the closure of the useful little
journal. It died much mourned.
In its youth and middle-age
The Scot had been the medium for much work by two men in particular: Allan
Wilson, the Bard of Geelong (he died about 1920) and Allan McNeilage, that
extraordinarily facile writer of both humorous and serious verse and
prose, some in dialect, some "straight". McNeilage retired from The Scot
in 1923, shortly after going to live in Hamilton, and he died in 1937 at
the age of 87 years. His memory is preserved by his book and by a cot in
St Andrew's Hospital which was endowed by the Scottish Union.
Other deaths of the period
may be mentioned here. They included those of four leading members of the
Royal Caledonian Society.
Andrew Thomson died in
1933, at the age of 88. A foundation member of the Society, he had been
President on two separate occasions and had in general rendered stout
service. Indeed, practically all his time during many years had been
devoted to Caledonian and Masonic work, for after reaching Australia at
the age of 27 he had made within five years enough money on which to
retire. How, it may be asked, did a publisher's agent perform that
remarkable feat? The answer is: simply by selling copies of Family Bibles,
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Those were the
days! Could even a super-salesman approach that achievement now?
Soon after the passing of
Thomson the Society also lost its Treasurer, the much-esteemed Peter
Clark, and later it had to mourn two other veterans, namely, Dr Alex.
Steven, former Vice-President, and Gregor Wood, sitting Vice-President and
for many years one of the leading Scottish vocalists of Australia. Gregor
Wood in particular had left his mark in Caledonian circles: his rousing
tenor had been a feature of social life for half a life-time.
When Peter Clark died E. S.
McPhee took over the office of Treasurer again. Two other members who
afterwards were to serve in the same position, Alex. Maxwell and Jim
Sinclair, had seats on the Council at the time. So did another "modern" in
J. A. Woodard, who subsequently had a lengthy term as Vice-President.
It was in that period, too,
that Cup Eve socials were inaugurated, with Messrs. McPhee, Woodard and
Farndon giving service which they were to continue for many years.
Another councillor, George
Dickson, "hit the highlights" in 1931 with a Pageant of Empire which he
conducted for a week in Melbourne's Regent Theatre. A full pipe band and
60 national dancers formed the main part of a performance which captured
the imagination of the City. In particular, the clansmen's sword dance,
with 16 dancers functioning to the music of the band, was a unique and
spectacular feature. At the concluding performance the Society presented
each of the dancers with a token of appreciation, and Mr Dickson gave a
silver tea-service to each of the teachers, Misses Livingston, Sargent and
Taylor, who with Mrs George Hay were responsible for the training of the
Obviously, the Society was
still able to do itself justice with the public in spite of the economic
depression that prevailed at the time. There were, however, sorry days
ahead, for within a year or two members found themselves forced to sell
the home which they had laboured so long to acquire.