knighted-Lord Rosebery presents gold Cup - `Uncrowned King of Scotland" -
567 members in two years - Hon. James Munro becomes President -
Testimonial to Secretary - Dr Cameron Lees visits "this noble City" - Lord
Hopetoun as Patron - "The Herd Laddie" and Donald Dinnie - First Smoke
Night and picnic.
MIDWAY in 1886 members of
the Caledonian Society rejoiced exceedingly over an honour achieved by
their President: he was knighted by Queen Victoria. Sir James MacBain, it
was generally agreed, richly merited this recognition, for he had served
the community admirably in many ways, and particularly as President of the
Legislative Council and President of the Melbourne Caledonian Society.
Again, in the same month,
members of the Society found further cause for rejoicing over an
announcement made by their President. Sir James stated that the Earl of
Rosebery, who had visited the colonies a few years previously, had written
asking whether the Caledonian Society would accept a Thistle Cup from him,
and on being assured that the Society would be honoured to receive such a
gift, had forwarded a very handsome gold cup, representing a branch of the
Royal Thistle of Scotland in full bloom.
The cup bore the
inscription: Offered in memory of all the happy associations connected
with its name to the Caledonian Society of Victoria by Rosebery: 1886.
At the time he honoured the
Society in that manner Lord Rosebery was Britain's Minister for Foreign
Affairs. Later (1894) he succeeded Gladstone as Prime Minister, and
incidentally became the only Prime Minister to win the Derby while in
office. Lord Rosebery was a great man. In his time the chief spokesman of
the Empire, he could sway even the most dour audience with the brilliance
of his speech. J. M. Barrie refers to him as "The Uncrowned King of
Scotland", and says that he was the only man, apart from Gladstone, who
could make Scots take politics as if they were taking a Highland Fling.
Once, when Rosebery was firing an Edinburgh audience almost to the point
of delirium, an old man in the hall shouted, "I dinna hear a word he says,
but it's grand, it's grand!"
It can be appreciated that,
as newspapers of the period report, members of Melbourne's Caledonian
Society were highly delighted to receive Lord Rosebery's gift, which they
resolved should be used only on special occasions. To this day members
feel the same way about it-the Rosebery Cup remains one of their most
treasured possessions and is still used only on special occasions.
So ended two years'
activities of the reconstructed Society: from June of '84 to June of '86.
In that period it had
acquired 567 members and funds totalling £1200. It had conducted a large
conversazione in Melbourne Town Hall, two sports meetings, two St.
Andrew's dinners, two concerts, a ball, and literary competitions. It had
launched a Scottish Choral Society. It had done much charitable work in
the community. In addition, its President had been knighted and its status
had been further emphasized by the gift of a handsome cup from the Earl of
Rosebery, who, incidentally, had joined Sir Henry Loch in becoming a
Patron of the Society.
In view of such a record of
achievement, it was natural that, at the Annual Meeting of '86, members
should raise the question of the Society obtaining a club-room of its own.
Sir James MacBain agreed with the representations made on this subject. He
promised that the Council would obtain such accommodation just as soon as
Sir James MacBain retired
from the Presidency at that stage-he declined to accept re-nomination
after two years in the Chair. His place was taken by the Hon. James Munro,
M.L.A., who within a period of four years was to be Victoria's Premier.
The last act of Sir James
MacBain, when vacating the Chair, was to hand the Rosebery Cup to his
Messrs D. R. McGregor and
Thomas Baillie were elected Vice-Presidents; Mr John Macdonald was
re-elected Hon. Secretary, and Mr James Fergusson was chosen as Hon.
Treasurer. The new Council included Sir Arthur Nicolson, Messrs. C. S.
Paterson, John Walker, C. M. Longmuir, and Wm. Macgregor.
Other personal items
negotiated by the meeting were the awarding of £ 100 to Mr Macdonald for
his work as Hon. Secretary, the voting of 50 guineas to Mr Robert Kennedy
for his services as conductor of the Society's Choir, and the recording of
cordial appreciation of Sir James MacBain's enthusiasm in re-organizing
It may be noted, by the
way, that a report of the proceedings of that Annual Meeting occupied
almost a full column, in small type, in the Argus of 28th September 1886.
Such recognition, in fact, was typical of the treatment accorded all
gatherings of the Caledonian Society by newspapers of the period.
The most significant
development in the early part of 1887 was the securing of rooms by the
Society (although only on a rental basis) one of them serving the purposes
of members generally and the other being used by the Choir. They were
situated in the City of Melbourne Bank.
An interesting amendment to
the Rules was made in this period. It provided that six members of Council
should be entitled to retain their seats without re-election, those six to
be members who had attended the greatest number of Council and general
meetings during the year.
At this time, too, Mr
Napier (now a Vice-President) returned to his attack against the
injudicious use of the words "England" and "English"-he succeeded with a
motion protesting against the word "England", instead of Britain, being
used in the illuminations of Parliament House in honour of the Queen's
birthday. (The desired change was made by the Government).
In August of '87 Melbourne
newspapers "spread themselves" very considerably over a banquet given by
the Caledonian Society in honour of the Rev. Dr. J. Cameron Lees, a
distinguished visiting Scot. Dr. Lees, in his speech, remarked jocularly
that Scotland had conquered England and it was a great joy to him to find
that it had also, in a large measure, conquered Victoria. At any rate, he
rejoiced to find Scots taking a leading part in the affairs of "this
great, noble, and progressive city", and he would look back with very much
pleasure on the period he had spent among them.
Mr Munro remained in the
Presidency only one year. He gave way to D. R. McGregor, who in turn was
succeeded by Sir Arthur Nicolson (1888-89) and James Richmond (1889-91).
Sir Arthur Nicholson, by the way, was an Adelaide-born baronet; he later
inherited estates in the Shetland Isles and, taking up occupancy, died
there in 1917.
Meanwhile (1887) John
Macdonald found himself unable to continue as Hon. Secretary and it was
agreed to advertise the position at £100 a year. Forty-eight applications
were received, and an exhaustive ballot resulted in the selection of
Robert F. Gow, a well-known artist.
Meanwhile, too, the Society
lost Sir Henry Loch from the office of Patron (he having finished his term
as Governor), and the position was taken in 1890 by the new Governor, the
Earl of Hopetoun, that popular viceregal representative who became
later-in 1900-the first Governor-General of the Commonwealth.
Patronage, of course, was
not all one-way traffic. While seeking the approval of the King's
representatives, the Society in its turn was often asked to bestow
Such a request reached the
Council in 1886 from "the Herd Laddie" (Andrew Wylie ) a Scot who had
risen from cow-tending to such remarkable eminence as a draughts-player
that it was said he could defeat skilled opponents with his eyes
blindfolded. Another request of the kind, made in '91, was from Donald
Dinnie, the sturdy Scot (son of an Aberdeen poet and brother of a
detective-inspector at Scotland Yard) who was probably the best all-round
athlete in the world of his time.
The Council "played canny"
in both cases: it agreed to give patronage to "the Herd Laddie" but
without accepting any financial responsibility, and it asked Donald Dinnie
for more information. Actually, Wylie seems to have done well enough
without the Caledonians' financial aid, for when he died, in 1901, he was
found to have left property valued at £447 in Victoria alone. Evidently
draughts paid in those days.
No less canny was the
Council's attitude when the promoter of a benefit concert for a man named
Ireland sought patronage. It was agreed to grant the request
"conditionally upon Mr Ireland being proved to be a Scotsman". Ireland, no
doubt, would have been on safer ground if, like a certain member of the
Caledonian Society, his surname had been Scotland!
Social functions were
continued by the Society during the late eighties and early nineties. The
first Smoke Night (of the reconstructed body) took place on 21st May 1888,
and was so successful that others soon followed. A picnic at Altona Bay in
December of '88 (on a steamer generously provided by one of the members,
John Blyth ) was much enjoyed, and so was another company outing, attended
by 500 and held at Beaumaris, in December of '89.
Yet another social
enterprise of importance was a visit to Ballarat by approximately 100
members and friends of the Society-a special train was chartered-for the
purpose of attending the unveiling of Percival Ball's fine statue of
William Wallace. That was on the Queen's Birthday (24th May) 1889.