Caledonian Society of Melbourne
ALTHOUGH this book is
essentially the history of one Scottish organization, reference has
frequently been made in the narrative to the activities of kindred
societies in Victoria. It has been thought appropriate, therefore, to
reach an end with a summary of the activities of Scots in Australia as a
The notes that follow are
far from being a complete review of their subject. While tracing in
outline the impact of Scots on Australia generally, and on the various
States besides Victoria, they possibly fail to do justice to several
useful movements and probably overlook many significant names. But, at
least, they give some indication of the strength of the link that has
bound Australia to Scotland during 160 years - from our civilized
beginnings to the present time:
Today there are 123
Scottish societies and 70 Highland Pipe Bands distributed throughout the
Commonwealth. The oldest continuous body of the kind is the Highland
Society of Maryborough, Victoria, which was founded by goldminers and
pastoralists in 1857. Aside from their basic object of fostering Scottish
culture and fraternity, the societies as a whole have a long record of
valuable national and international service.
Scottish hospitals and
kindred institutions, several of which obtain in Australia, are mainly
based on individual endowments.
Robert Burns is honoured by
six statues-in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Ballarat and
Canberra-more than those accorded any other person with the possible
exception of Queen Victoria. Shakespeare has only one!
Many place-names in
Australia are of Scottish origin. They include those of two capital
cities, one (Perth) commemorating a centre in Scotland and the other
(Brisbane) honouring a Scottish Governor. Victoria narrowly escaped having
an even more impressive example, for when Angus McMillan discovered its
beautiful eastern province, now known as Gippsland, he attempted to have
it termed Caledonia Australis.
An interesting suburban
example is Hunter's Hill, Sydney, a name bestowed by the Glasgow "martyr"
Thomas Muir, who was transported in 1794 on a trumped-up charge of
sedition. Another is Point Piper, which commemorates an Ayrshire man who
arrived in Sydney in 1792 and became a distinguished administrator in both
Norfolk Island and N.S.W.
The most widely distributed
of all Scottish names in Australian territory is that of Lachlan Macquarie
("the greatest and most beneficent Governor Australia has known"),
supported by that of his wife, Elizabeth Campbell, and followed by that of
the explorer Thomas Mitchell. Among Macquarie's "trophies" are two rivers,
two harbours, two towns, two capes, a range, a lake, a strait, a plain,
and an island.
Macquarie Island, an area
of 55,000 acres, lies 900 miles south of Tasmania. Farther south again is
Mac-Robertson Land, a large area of Antarctica, the name of which honours
a Victorian Scot (Sir Macpherson Robertson) who gave &20,000 for
exploration by Sir Douglas Mawson.
All those manifestations of
Scottish activities in Australia are founded on the fact that an influx
began with the First Fleet and not necessarily among the convicts! The
influx swelled to bulk supply when Macquarie brought with him in 1810 a
complete Highland Regiment, when in 1831 the Rev. J. D. Lang brought out
100 Scottish mechanics and their families, and when in following years
many migrants from Scotland arrived under their own impulses.
In the matter of
outstanding men given to Australia, Scotland's record, relative to
population, is quite remarkable. Especially is this so in regard to the
contributions from Ayrshire (Burns's native county), the Glasgow-Paisley
area, and Fifeshire. Scores of knighthoods have flowed from the services
of such citizens.
Three distinguished early
Governors (Hunter, Macquarie and Brisbane) were Scots, and so too were
Lieut.-Governor George Johnston, the forthright officer who led the troops
that deposed Governor Bligh and William Paterson, the administrator who
expelled both Bligh and Johnston. Later vice-regal Caledonians have
included four Governors-General (notably the first one, Lord Hopetoun) and
a liberal sprinkling of Governors.
Other early personalities
of Scottish origin included at least seven explorers (notably Cunningham,
Stuart and Mitchell), John Macarthur of wool fame (his father fought with
Prince Charlie in 1745); Robert Campbell the first merchant (he began
business in 1798); William Lithgow the first Auditor-General (1829-43);
Alexander Macleay and Edward Deas Thomson the distinguished Colonial
Secretaries (between them they filled the position from 1826 to 1856, thus
virtually ruling N.S.W. for 30 years); David Lennox the early
bridge-builder (his work remains in use to this day); John Rae the pioneer
Town Clerk of Sydney (he was also a competent artist and poet), and, to
mention only two others, John Dunmore Lang the fiery parson and Ben Boyd
the whaling adventurer.
Many of our pioneers in
pastoral and mining activities also came from the land of Bruce and
Wallace. In point of fact, the only early Australian "industry" in which
Scots attained very little eminence was that of bushranging. Even if, as
tradition alleges, the Highlanders of old were competent cattle-thieves,
their successors in Australia never attempted to rival the representatives
of certain other races in the ungentle art of highway robbery!
reflecting on the early days the thought arises that Sir Thomas Mitchell,
explorer in territory that is now three States, would have been much
gratified if he could have known that the fame of his surname was to be
carried forward by two other Australian personalities with Scottish blood:
namely, Helen Mitchell (who became Dame Nellie Melba), and David Scott
Mitchell (who in 1906 presented to the nation a priceless collection of
books and documents, together with £70,000, and so brought about, in 1906,
the founding of the great Mitchell Library).
Scotland's contribution to
Australian politics is impressive. It includes three Prime Ministers, at
least 25 Premiers, and a host of other Ministers. Victoria and Queensland,
in particular, have "specialized" in Caledonian leadership. Aside from the
over-all figure for Victoria (and Premier John Allan claimed in 1924 that
12 of his 27 predecessors were Scots), the Premiership from 1883 to 1890
was held by three Scots in succession, and had an Irishman and an
Englishman not inconsiderately intervened the line would have stretched
out (through another Scottish Premier) to 1900. As for Queensland, in its
first 50 years of government that area had 25 Ministries, and no fewer
than 12 of those were led by men from Scotland.
Departmental advisers of
Ministers have included from time to time, as they do still, a very
considerable number of Macs. Sir John McLaren has been secretary to the
Prime Minister's Department, official secretary of Australia House, and
Deputy High Commissioner in London. Daniel McVea has been secretary of the
Department of Supply and Development, Director-General of Civil Aviation,
and Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. For another example, should
you chance to have hoarded any Australian currency you will find each note
endorsed by Stuart Gordon McFarlane, Secretary to the Treasury.
Scottish journalists, too,
have assisted to keep Scottish politicians on or near the right track. One
(George Stevenson) was the first newspaper editor in South Australia.
Another (James Harrison) served with Fawkner on the Port Phillip Patriot
in the 1830's and founded the Geelong Advertiser in, 1840. Scots also were
dominating figures in the development of the Melbourne Age (David Syme),
the Melbourne Argus (Lachlan Mackinnon), and the Sydney Bulletin (W. H.
Traill, William Macleod, James Edmond).
Literature has felt the
same type of influence. Mary Gilmore, Hugh McCrae, and Dorothea Mackellar,
each a poet of high significance in Australian records, all have Scottish
ancestry. (Dame Mary, by the way, was a Cameron). And Andrew Barton
("Banjo") Paterson, author of many popular bush ballads that include "The
Man from Snowy River", "Clancy of the Overflow", and "Waltzing Matilda",
had that propitious parental combination, a Scottish father and an
In the field of science the
impact has been very strong. It began in 1801 with the arrival of Robert
Brown ("father of Australian botany"), and has continued along the years
to the present day.
Australia's art and music
have both been considerably strengthened by men and women of Caledonian
heritage. Our first artist from Scotland appears to have been Thomas
Watling, a limner of Dumfries, who reached this country (under compulsion)
in 1792 and here became a competent painter of birds, beasts, fish,
insects, shells, flowers and scenery. In later years the most
distinguished of Scottish-Australian artists was undoubtedly Hugh Ramsay,
a brilliant youth from Glasgow, who died in 1906 at the age of only 29.
Among his paintings are portraits of the great singer Dame Nellie Melba
and her Scottish-born father, David Mitchell. Eminent sculptors in the
same category have included James White and Sir Bertram Mackennal, both of
whom have left indelible marks on Australian culture.
Education has received
special support from Scots. The Rev. James Forbes (native of Aberdeen),
known to history as Victoria's first public educationist, was the founder
of Melbourne's Scotch College. Sir Walter Hughes (from Fifeshire ) founded
the University of Adelaide. At least seven Scots have been Chancellors of
various Australian universities. Another launched the medical school of
the University of Sydney. Others again have been (as some still are)
Directors of Education or distinguished schoolmasters.
The story moves on through
other cultural pursuits, and through primary production and business
(notably shipping), to service in the armed forces.
Admiral Sir William
Creswell, founder of the Australian Navy, was a sprig of the Clan Fraser.
Major-General Sir William Bridges, organizer and commander of the First
A.I.F., was a native of Greenock. Lieut-General Sir Iven Mackay, G.O.C.
Second Australian Army in World War II, is the son of a forthright Free
Kirk parson. The parents of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, fighting and
path-finding aviators, were both Scottish-born. And, of course, very many
other ScottishAustralians have distinguished themselves in each of the
three Services: quite a number have won the Victoria Cross and at least
one holds the George Cross.
One other feature of the
Scottish impact on Australia demands emphasis. That is the matter of
benefactions. Here is a list, containing just a score of names, of
Australians of Scottish birth or parentage who have each given from
£20,000 to £550,000 to universities, libraries, churches, hospitals or
other public institutions in Australia:
Sir James Burns (N.S.W.),
John Darling (S.A.), Sir Hugh Dixson (N.S.W.), Sir Thomas Elder (S.A.),
Sir Robert Gillespie (N.S.W.), Sir Walter Hughes (S.A.), Sir Alexander
MacCormack (N.S.W.), Sir William Macleay (N.S.W.), Sir Frederick McMaster
(N.S.W.), Sir William McPherson (Vic.), David Scott Mitchell (N.S.W.), Sir
George Murray (S.A.), Francis Ormond (Vic.), Sir Arthur Renwick (N.S.W.),
Sir Macpherson Robertson (Vic.), Sir Peter Nicol Russell (N.S.W.), Robert
Barr Smith (S.A.), Sir Josiah Symon (S.A.), Peter Waite (S.A.), Thomas
In cash alone the national
donations of those twenty men total rather more than £2,000,000; and, of
course, the figure would be greatly increased-it would rise to at least
£3,000,000 - if value were placed on gifts of books, land, etc., and if
the benefactions of other Scots (some anonymous) were included. It is a
healthy record on the part of representatives of a race that is popularly
supposed to be "canny".
In concluding this
all-Australian summary, reference should perhaps be made to the fact that
Peter Dodds McCormick, who came from Glasgow to Sydney in 1855 (he was at
first a carpenter and afterwards worked in the Department of Education),
paid tribute to his adopted country by writing a song. That song lives on.
It is, if you please, "Advance Australia Fair".
Scots wha hae! Even if we
forget for the moment that Dame Nellie Melba had a Caledonian father,
there is something rather heady in the reflection that a Scot and the son
of a Scot gave to our nation both of its "theme-songs"-"Advance Australia
Fair" and "Waltzing Matilda" - to say nothing of those famous figures of
bush folklore, "The Man from Snowy River" and "Clancy of the Overflow".
NEW SOUTH WALES
Because of the seniority of
N.S.W. in Australian history, the achievements of many pioneering Scots
have been mentioned in the continental summary given above. Here it is
desirable only to indicate how the examples of the pioneers have been
followed by their successors.
In the "middle ages" of
N.S.W. two Stuart knights (Sir Alexander and Sir Thomas) were
personalities in Sydney, one as Premier and the other as founder of the
University medical school. Sir John Hay (from Aberdeen) achieved the extra
ordinary distinction of being variously a Minister, Speaker of the
Assembly, and President of the Legislative Council. Sir George Reid (also
Scottish-born) did even better by being Premier of N.S.W., Prime Minister,
High Commissioner for Australia in London, and finally member of the House
of Commons. In 1896 Sir Henry McLaurin (Fifeshire-born
physician-politician-financier), began his 16-years' reign as Chancellor
of Sydney University, a position, by the way, in which he had been
preceded by another Scot, Sir Edward Deas Thomson, and was to be followed
by two others, Sir Mungo MacCallum and Sir Robert Wallace.
In the "middle years", too,
N.S.W. began to feel, as it still feels, the benefit of the generosity of
those open-handed Scots, Sir James Burns, Sir William Macleay, Sir Peter
Nicol Russell, and others. Scotland itself shared in the benefactions, as
for example the gift bestowed in 1890 by Sir John Hay (not the Premier of
that name )-he inherited P1100,000 from the estate of David Berry and gave
the whole of the money to the University of St. Andrew's in his mother
The influence of such men
will continue indefinitely. So, indeed, will that of other competent and
public-spirited ScottishAustralians of more recent years, among them Sir
Alexander MacCormick, Professor T. P. Anderson Stuart, Professor J. T.
Wilson, Duncan Carson, Sir Jarvie Hood, Sir Charles Mackellar, Professor
W. A. Haswell, Thomas Walker and his generous daughter (Dame Eadith
Campbell Walker), Sir Frederick McMaster, Sir Francis Anderson, and that
path-finder of today, Donald Mackay, "last of the explorers".
The history of early
Scottish societies in N.S.W. is lost. Many developed from time to time,
had their day, and ceased to be. Now the oldest body of the kind is the
Highland Society of N.S.W., which arose in 1877 from the amalgamation of a
Caledonian Society and a St. Andrew's Scottish Benevolent Society. Its
membership is approximately 1000. In its time the Highland Society has
done much valuable work, including the building and donating of Novar
House (named after a Scottish Governor-General) to the Burnside Homes, the
equipping of the Burnside Pipe Band, the raising of funds for statues of
Robert Burns in both Sydney and Canberra, and the equipping of the first
30th Battalion, Scottish Regiment. A Highland gathering is conducted each
New Year's Day and many other functions are held during the year.
N.S.W. has approximately 56
Scottish societies (36 metropolitan, 20 country) of which about 85 per
cent are affiliated with the Highland Society. The number of Pipe Bands in
the State is 20, the same as that of Victoria. A monthly journal, the
Scottish Australian, is published as the official organ of the Highland
Society and affiliated bodies.
Perhaps the most
distinguished Scottish name in the early history of South Australia is
that of John McDouall Stuart, a Fifeshire native, who in 1862 carried out
the monumental feat of crossing the continent from south to north. That
achievement caused him to be given (like Robert Burns) a statue in
Other notable explorers on
the South Australian list are David Lindsay, John McKinlay, and Francis
Cadell, and to their names should be added those of other Scots such as
Sir John Cockburn, Sir John Lancelot Stirling, Sir John Gordon, Sir Josiah
Symon, Sir William Milne, Gregor McGregor, John Darling, and Alex. Hay,
all of whom were distinguished legislators. Stirling (athlete, lawyer,
pastoralist, and president of the Caledonian Society) was in Parliament
for the record term of 51 years. Symon held ministerial office in both the
State and Federal Parliaments.
Symon was also a public
benefactor, and so too were four other Scottish-born South Australians,
namely, Sir Thomas Elder, Robert Barr Smith, Peter Waite (all associated
with the pastoral firm of Elder, Smith and Co. ) and Sir Walter Hughes.
Between them those five men gave cash and property to the value of about
£500,000 to public institutions. Incidentally, Elder (son of a Kirkcaldy
merchant) was said at one time to have held a pastoral area greater in
extent than the whole of his native country.
In later years the work of
the early Scots has been carried forward admirably by such good citizens
as Sir David Gordon, Sir George Ritchie, Charles B. Anderson, J. G.
Duncan-Hughes, Alex. J. McLachlan, the Macleay brothers, Duncan Menzies,
and that resolute patriot Andrew Small. Sir William Mitchell (a native of
Banffshire) has been Chancellor of the University of Adelaide since 1942.
South Australia has had,
too, various Scots as Governors. Sir James Fergusson (1869-73), brought
with him from Edinburgh a fondness for golf and in 1870 he laid down the
first course in Adelaide. The Earl of Kintore (1889-95), Sir Alexander
Hore-Ruthven (1928-34), later Lord Gowrie, and Sir Malcolm Barclay-Hervey
(1939-44), were all able and popular administrators.
Scottish societies in South
Australia now number ten (two metropolitan, eight country) and in addition
there are seven pipe bands. All of the societies are affiliated with the
senior body, the Royal Caledonian Society of South Australia, which was
formed in 1881 and obtained the Royal Charter in 1946. Like its opposite
number in Melbourne, the senior South Australian. has in recent years done
much fine work in supporting wartime funds and charitable institutions, in
sending food parcels to Britain, and in assisting migrants.
As befits an area having on
its list of explorers at least three Scots (Cunningham, Mitchell,
Landsborough ), and having a capital city named after a native of Ayrshire
(Sir Thomas Brisbane), Queensland has always had a strong leavening of
Caledonians among its public men. Names that remain in history include
those of Andrew and Tom Petrie (famed as friends of the aborigines),
Thomas Archer of Gracemere, Robert Christison of Lammermoor, and Donald
Cameron of Barcaldine (all path-finding pastoralists ), Sir James Burns of
shipping fame (he was at Townsville from 1862 to 1877), Sir William
McGregor (Governor), and Brunton Stephens the poet.
Perhaps it should be noted,
too, that Scots have been leading figures in Queensland's mining industry.
John Moffat, who reached Brisbane as early as 1862 and first settled on
the Darling Downs, became in later years the founder of the tin-mining
industry in northern areas; and Dr Robert Logan Jack, geologist and
geographer, was for many years the State's chief authority on his two
subjects. Both Moffat and Jack were natives of Ayrshire. (Moffat, by the
way, was a model employer, generous to a fault, and the story is told that
children of the mining town of Irvinebank used to end their prayers with:
". .. and God bless Mr Moffat, too.")
As for legislators, it was
Queensland that sent to the Commonwealth Parliament a miner from Ayrshire,
Andrew Fisher, who was to become three times Prime Minister of Australia;
and from the same State came those well-known soldier-politicians, Sir
Donald Cameron and Sir T. W. Glasgow. Cameron (member of a noted pastoral
pioneering family) succeeded another Scottish-Australian, W. F. Finlayson,
as representative of Brisbane. In domestic politics, too, the record is
impressive. Premiers have included such dyed-in-the-heather Scots as
Arthur Macalister, Sir Robert McKenzie, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, Sir Hugh
Nelson, William Kidston, Sir Robert Philp, and William Forgan Smith. The
last-named has been since 1944 Chancellor of the University of Queensland.
Scottish-Australians of eminence include Sir Fergus McMaster, grazier and
leading figure in aviation; Lewis Macgregor, who became Australian
Minister to Brazil, and John McCracken, Public Service Commissioner and
formerly Director of Civil Defence.
There are at present four
Scottish societies and four pipe bands in Brisbane, and some nine or ten
societies and as many bands in country areas, including the modern mining
settlement of Mount Isa. The Brisbane Caledonian Society and Burns Club
(established 1892) is particularly strong, having a membership of 450, a
valuable city property, and assets over liabilities (at last report) to
the extent of £18,000. Its social gatherings are frequent. All societies
and bands collaborate on national occasions, such as Burns Day.
Brisbane's Burns Statue is
in Centenary Park, where trees and shrubs are somewhat prolific, and it
has recently been said that if growth continues the Scots will not be able
to find their memorial without the aid of a blacktracker!
This great area gained "a
flying start" from the Scottish viewpoint by having Sir James Stirling, a
native of Lanarkshire, as its first Governor (1829-31) and by having its
capital city (Perth) named after a centre in Scotland. Its most
distinguished son, Sir John (later Lord) Forrest, explorer and statesman,
was born at Bunbury, but his father came from Stonehaven, Kincardineshire,
and so "Big John" took a keen interest in all Scottish activities,
including those of the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne. Many other
public men in W.A. have boasted either Scottish birth or descent,
consequently national activities in various parts of the State have always
Today there are in Western
Australia eleven Scottish societies, the oldest being the Fremantle
Caledonian Society (founded 1886) and the Perth Caledonian Society. Pipe
bands number seven. All of the societies and the bands as well are
affiliated with the Western Australian Scottish Union, and all do much
useful public service in both city and country.
Organizing is going forward
for the erection of a statue to Robert Burns, which when accomplished will
bring the number of such statues in Australia to seven.
A search through the
historical records of Van Diemen's Land would probably reveal that Scots
were among those present from the time that David Collins began his
overlordship of the Island in 1804. At any rate, Collins had much
assistance in his first year from the celebrated botanist Robert Brown,
who was a native of Montrose.
An interesting development
a few years later (about 1811) was the arrival at Launceston of a man
giving the name of McHugo, who claimed to be entitled to royal privileges
as a descendant of Earl Bothwell and Mary Queen of Scots. The commandant
at Launceston, one Major Gordon, was so impressed by the claim that he
actually surrendered his command, whereupon other officers intervened and
arrested the "Pretender".
During the 1860's Tasmania
had two Scots (James Whyte and Sir James Wilson) as Premier, and in the
same period Sir William Milne, a son of Glasgow, was President of the
Legislative Council for eight years. Anthony Trollope the novelist
recorded that he had not met in the whole of Australia a sounder
politician than Wilson.
The Island has also had a
Scottish leavening amongst its Governors, as for example Sir Robert
Hamilton (1887-93) - he was born at Bressay in the Shetlands, the spot
that after wards presented Australia with James Yorston, present President
of the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne.
As elsewhere, Scottish
societies have risen and declined in Tasmania over the years. Today there
is one, as well as a pipe band, in each of the cities, Hobart and
Launceston. Pipe bands from the mainland often take part in competitions
A strong and active
Highland Society and Burns Club exists in the Federal Capital Territory
(with Mr A. Stuart as president and Mr G. McIntosh as secretary) and it
has the support of a pipe band-one which has been known to give Scottish
tone to a St Patrick's Day gathering! Prized exhibits under the society's
care are the Burns Statue and a rowan tree which, complete with a bucket
of Scottish soil, was presented to the Rev. John Walker by some Edinburgh
The Burns Statue occupies a
strategic situation, and as a result visitors have been known to imagine
that there are three statues in the area-the tricky layout of the roads
has them running round in circles and finishing up each time at the feet
of Robert Burns!
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