Caledonian Society of Melbourne
National work in wartime -
727 food parcels for Britain - More distinguished guests - Thomas Ritchie
as first Chief - Pipe Band wins Dewar Cup - Lord Montgomery autographs
drums - Society gives college scholarships - Warm Welcomes for New
Settlers - R. G. Menzies again Prime Minister.
IF it were possible to
assess the amount of money raised for charitable and patriotic purposes by
Melbourne's Caledonian Society, from 1858 to the present day, what an
imposing figure would be presented!
In the present record it
has been shown that "benevolence" was one of the objects of the original
Society, that a great deal of social service was rendered by the
reconstructed Society from 1884 onward, and that the Royal Caledonian
Society raised considerable sums for patriotic purposes during World War
I. Now it is to be indicated that much national work, of a social
character, was carried out by the Society during and after World War II.
Here are figures relating
to some of the Society's donations during a few years:
In the war years the
Society's benefactions went to such worthy causes as the Prisoners of War
Fund, the Red Cross Society, the Merchant Navy, etc. Later the Orthopaedic
Hospital at Frankston benefited to the extent of £135 and the Food for
Britain appeal was given £427.
But those figures, worthy
as they are, tell only part of the story. The other portion relates to the
work of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Society.
Formed late in 1940, mainly
for the purpose of working in aid of the Fighting Forces, this band of
loyal and devoted women did much valuable service during the war years.
With Mrs Dixon, Mrs Eddy, and Mrs Burgess acting in turn as president;
with Mrs Miscamble, Miss B. Dixon, and Miss M. Seed filling from time to
time the secretarial position, and with Mrs McPhee serving as treasurer
throughout, the ladies laboured long and earnestly in many ways, and as a
result they gave money or valuable gifts in kind to the Scottish Regiment,
the Limbless Soldiers' Association, the Merchant Navy, the Comforts Fund,
and other organizations.
Annual reports of the
Society reveal that in one period of three years the Auxiliary raised, by
its own efforts, £555 for national purposes.
With the ending of the war
the ladies took cognisance of the need to send food to Britain.
Accordingly, they concentrated most of their efforts on this work and
within a brief time they developed marked skill in the selecting of goods
and the packing of parcels.
Following the forwarding to
Britain-not to Scotland alone-of more than 100 parcels up to August 1947,
no fewer than 500 parcels were sent during the ensuing twelve months, and
more than 100 additional parcels went off within the next few months.
In brief, the ladies of the
Royal Caledonian Society were responsible for the buying of material, the
packing, and the posting of 727 food parcels to Britain between April 1946
and October 1948.
That, clearly, is a
remarkably meritorious record, and it need scarcely be added that hundreds
of letters expressing warm gratitude have been received by the Ladies'
Auxiliary from recipients of food parcels in all parts of Britain.
Members of the Society as a
whole, and the Council in particular, have long been sensible of the high
value of the Auxiliary, and on two occasions complimentary dinners were
tendered to these self-sacrificing workers, the leaders of whom were given
tokens of appreciation.
Soon after the war began
the Society placed all members of the Services on the honorary list, and
that privilege was continued for a considerable period. Also, the various
members of the Society who enlisted were entertained, and in other ways
the work carried out during World War I was repeated.
Functions of a general
nature continued to be held from time to time. They included the
celebrations of St Andrew's Day and Burns Day, Cup Eve socials (Messrs.
McPhee and Farndon were given a complimentary dinner for their valuable
work for charity at these socials), Christmas treats for children, and
competitions for the Heriot and Denham Shields.
An interesting interlude
was when, in September of 1941, the Society took part in a Cavalcade of
Empire, which was presented in the Princess Theatre for ten nights.
Officers of the Society who gave character studies included Messrs. E. W.
Cox (Prince Charlie), J. Burgess (Sir Walter Scott), and E. W. James (John
Knox ). It is alleged that on one occasion Mr James, having forgotten his
devotional volume, fell from Knoxian grace by using a race-book!
Proposers of the main toast
during the wartime period included Lieut.-General E. K. Squires,
Wing-Commander T. W. White, M.P., Major-General A. H. Ramsay (now Director
of Education), Mr C. M. Gilray (Principal of Scotch College), Mr J.
Stewart (President Canadian Bank of Commerce, Toronto), Hon. A. G.
Cameron, M.P., Messrs. Alex. McDonald, M.L.A. ( Ararat ), Hector McKenzie
( Echuca ), J. A. Wilkie ( Ballarat ), J. T. Picken (son of a former
President of the Society), Frank Mackie (formerly of Japan), W. A. Tainsh
and A. H. Chisholm.
Among the guests at the Cup
Eve socials may be mentioned General Sir Thomas Blamey and two Lord Mayors
in the persons of Sir Thomas Nettlefold and Sir Raymond Connolly.
Special speakers on other
occasions have included the Rt Hon. R. G. Menzies (present Prime Minister,
the Rt Hon. R. G. Casey (former Federal Treasurer and later Governor of
Bengal), Sir William Jenkins (formerly of India), Cr A. G. Coles (then
Lord Mayor of Melbourne), and Pipe-Major Forsyth (the King's Piper). When
Mr Menzies was leaving for Britain in 1948 he was specially entertained by
Developments of wartime
brought a number of international guests into the Society's fold. On one
occasion a group of American Army officers were entertained on their
national Day of Independence. Again, in 1944, members of the celebrated
Black Watch who were visiting Melbourne on duty became guests of the
Society during their stay. In addition (and this association was of a more
lasting nature) the Society welcomed in 1942 a number of Scots who had
been forced to leave Malaya, Japan, and Hongkong. These good
fellows-notably Messrs. Frank Mackie, Alex. McPhail, Donald Forbes, and
Colin Chisholm-soon adapted themselves to local conditions and became
distinctly useful members of the Society. They appeared to have found
their tastes entirely suited by Australia in general and two of its
features in particular: those two features being, of course, the Royal
Caledonian Society and the national code of football.
Inevitably, there were
losses as well as gains during the wartime years. Old members to pass away
included two former Presidents in the Hon. J. A. Boyd and Mr J. Glen
Currie, as well as Messrs. J. Lochhead (a former officer and entertainer),
and A. Cochrane. Other leading members who died were Harry Chaffey
(possessor of the heartiest laugh in Australia), Andrew Christie, R. L.
Duncan. C. C. MacRae, and a sturdy worker for many Scottish and other
useful movements, John Burgess.
In this period, too, the
Society lost a good friend by the death of the Rev. D. A. Cameron, and one
of its oldest associates by the death of the Scottish Union founder and
champion, J. Burt Stewart.
A notable development in
1944 was the decision of the Society to create the position of Chief and
the appointment of that hearty veteran, Thomas Ritchie, to the position. A
special gathering marked the occasion and the ceremony passed off very
Meanwhile, Mr Ritchie
continued as President and Mr James as Secretary, but changes occurred in
the offices of Vice-President and Treasurer. Vice-Presidents in recent
years have included Messrs. J. A. Woodard (he retired in 1948 after
lengthy and valuable service, to mark which he was given a presentation),
Alex. Maxwell, J. S. Yorston, A. H. Chisholm, and E. S. McPhee. Mr Maxwell
had been Treasurer for a time up to 1940, after which he was followed by
Messrs. J. H. Sinclair, F. S. Beckwith, and E. S. McPhee, the last-named
holding the position from 1941 until he became a Vice-President in 1948,
whereupon he was succeeded by Harold Staley.
One other personal item to
be noted is that in 1944 James Yorston was elected to life-membership of
the Society. The honour was fully merited, for, in addition to serving
well the interests of the Caledonians, Jim Yorston had been a leading
figure in the Scottish Union right from its inception.
In the following year
(1945) Alec Chisholm was given leave of absence from Council duties for
several months while serving as Press Liaison officer to the
Governor-General, H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester.
Another personal matter
meriting reference here is that in the postwar period many members of the
Society joined citizens generally in doing public honour to Donald
Cameron, who for several years had held the responsible position of
Director of Manpower for Victoria. Even in that position Mr Cameron had
retained, as he does still, a close interest in the affairs of the
Although weakened to some
extent by enlistments, the Pipe Band of the Society kept together during
the war and rendered much useful service. It had gained at Sydney in 1939,
under Pipe-major Hugh Fraser and Drum-major C. J. Fegent, a second "leg
in" for the Dewar Cup, and when the competition ceased because of the
national emergency it turned to the entertaining of Servicemen and
hospital patients. Unfortunately, Drum-Major Fegent died in 1940. His
place was filled by J. Davies and later by Len Byron. Meanwhile, Hugh
Fraser retired from the position of Pipemajor and his place was taken by
Danny Macpherson and later by Ernie Yorston.
The Dewar Cup competition
was resumed at Sydney in January of 1947, and away went the Band, under
pipe-major Yorston and Drum-major Byron, with Cr J. H. Sinclair as manager
and veteran Dan Macpherson among the pipers, to make an attempt to win the
coveted Cup outright. It scored a brilliant success over eight Interstate
On return to Melbourne, the
Band marched in triumph from the railway station to the Society's rooms,
where it was treated to a special reception and toasted very cordially. A
few days later the "conquering heroes" were entertained at dinner at the
Hotel Australia by George Dickson, that veteran of many piping and dancing
contests and the man who had formed the Society's Boys' Pipe Band many
A few weeks later again the
Society entertained the Band at a complimentary dance in Melbourne Town
Hall, and at that function the Dewar Cup and supplementary medals were
Another honour for the Band
was its selection (July 1947) to play at a welcome given Field-Marshal
Lord Montgomery by The Rats of Tobruk Association. So pleased was the
eminent visitor by the performance that he autographed the Band's drum-and
that skin, being removed from its setting, was placed among the Society's
More recent developments in
Band circles have included the appointment of Messrs. D. Fairweather and
L. Atkinson to replace Ernie Yorston and Len Byron (retired) as Pipemajor
and Drum-major, the retirement of Dan Macpherson to take over the forming
of a band at Scotch College, and the appointment of Piper W. Wallace (of
the Society's Band) to act as Pipe-major of the reconstructed band of the
Here it may be said that
the rejuvenation of the Scottish Regiment (5th Battalion) is typical of
the general activity manifested in Victorian Scottish circles subsequent
to the war. The Scottish Union, for example, has caused folk dancing to
become strikingly popular; it has set afoot a movement to establish a
Scottish House in Melbourne; it has fostered migration; it has held
several carnivals; and, not the least important, it has sponsored the
production of The Victorian Scot, a most useful little quarterly journal,
which was established in November 1947 by Mr W. J. Rose of Brunswick.
In all these movements the
Royal Caledonian Society, as a foundation unit of the V.S.U., has played a
worthy part. It has frequently given the Union the hospitality of its
premises, and it has done the same for various other Scottish groups,
including members of the Delegation of 1928, who have held annual
reunions. Also, the Society's Secretary (Mr James) has continued to serve
as Secretary of the composite body. Following an illness, Mr James had to
retire from the secretaryship of the Union in 1948, after nearly 14 years
of service, and the position-entailing at present the care of 29
societies-was taken by John McKerral.
Continuing its public
service, the Society established in 1944 two scholarships, each tenable
for four years, at Scotch College and the Presbyterian Ladies' College.
Both the institutions concerned warmly welcomed the scholarships and
subsequently reported satisfactory progress. Thus the Society carried
through the enterprise which had been attempted by the Scottish Union
nearly 40 years earlier.
In addition, the Society
struck a special medal and presented it for annual competition at the
Cowal Gathering, Scotland. Cowal authorities gratefully accepted the medal
and decided that it should apply to a World's Adult Dancing Competition.
Perhaps the most valuable
work to which the Society has set its hand in postwar years-aside from the
sending of food parcels to Britain-has been the reception and assistance
of new settlers. In this it has been following up the precedents
established by its predecessors in 1858 and 1884, and by the men who
worked in conjunction with the New Settlers' League in the 1920's. One in
particular of the Society's officers, Henry R. McKenzie (operating as
representative of both the Society and the Scottish Union on the State
Immigration Committee) has been assiduous in meeting ships and advising
In 1948 the Society was
chosen to represent all the Scottish bodies of Victoria on a newly-formed
Council of British Societies. In the same year it spent approximately
£1000 on improvement to its premises. And, for another thing, the Council
put in hand arrangements for the writing and publishing of the Society's
Notable events during 1949
were largely personal. Sadly, they included several deaths, among them
those of W. D. Leckie (one-time Secretary), George Downie (formerly
Secretary of the Pipe Band), Colin Chisholm (a Scot from Malaya), Fred
Dixon (former councillor), L. H. Caughey (an old and esteemed member), W.
Stevenson (another old member), and J. McSweeney (who died suddenly on the
On the other hand, members
had the pleasure of entertaining and making a presentation to a colleague
of long standing, Neil McPhee, in honour of his 90th birthday. An
additional item of interest was the entertaining of J. T. Picken on the
eve of his departure for Scotland; subsequently, in the course of a tour
of several months, he impressed Britain as a speaker on Robert Burns and
other Scottish subjects.
Several developments affecting officers occurred during the latter part of
the year. Early in August the Senior Vice-President, Alec Chisholm, left
Melbourne for Sydney to take up the position of editor-in-chief of The
Australian Encyclopaedia, and at the Annual Meeting soon afterwards James
Yorston was elected President, the venerable Thomas Ritchie having decided
to retire (though still retaining the position of Chief) after 20 years of
faithful service in the Chair. Messrs. Ritchie and Chisholm were given
presentations at special functions and Mr Ritchie was made a life member.
In the following month
Henry McKenzie, for several years an active Caledonian councillor, became
President of the Scottish Union in succcession to a country member, Donald
Gillies of Maryborough.
Meanwhile, a distinguished
friend of the Society, Robert Gordon Menzies, had become President of The
Melbourne Scots, and in December he achieved again the position of Prime
Minister of Australia. At the same time another good friend of the
Society, South Australian Archie Cameron (chief guest at a recent St.
Andrew's Dinner) was chosen to be Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mr Menzies, it may be
noted, is the fifth Prime Minister whom the Society has had the honour of
entertaining from time to time (the others being George Reid, Andrew
Fisher, Joseph Cook, and Stanley M. Bruce); and, of course, there has been
pleasure also in frequent association with three Governors-General,
several Governors, and a considerable number of Premiers.
Membership at the end of
1949 totalled 450. At the same date the Accumulation Account amounted to
approximately £18,600, including £14,500 in Commonwealth Bonds.
So the flag is kept flying.
The story of our organization, in all its facets, is one of national
significance, and it bears out the claim made by President Gibb, in 1903,
that "Melbourne's Caledonian Society has a history of which it may well be
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