Caledonian Society of Melbourne
Sir T. Gibson Carmichael
farewelled - Reception to young Marquess of Linlithgow - Prime Minister
Fisher again with fellow Scots -W. D. Leckie becomes Secretary-New rooms
at Queen's Walk - Dr Taylor Downie's "house-warming" - Progress by "leaps
and bounds" - "Clearing sale" for hackneyed songs - More new societies -
Fatal accident to Alex. Dick.
entertained by the Society during 1910-13 included Sir Thomas Gibson
Carmichael (retiring Governor), Sir John Fuller (new Governor), the
Marquess of Linlithgow, the Hon. Andrew Fisher (Prime Minister), the Hon.
W. A. Watt (Premier), and Cr. D. V. Hennessy (Lord Mayor of Melbourne).
Sir Thomas Carmichael had
been a good friend to the Society and members were sorry when, in 1911, he
had to depart. They were somewhat consoled, however, by the knowledge that
the retiring Governor had agreed to continue to serve as Patron of the
Society, and by the fact that he had generously offered to present the
Society with a special Cup.
This gift was duly made.
Engraved upon it is the following inscription, with the donor's signature
This Cup is given to his
fellow-members of the Melbourne Caledonian Society, in grateful
remembrance of many kind nesses, by Thomas W. Gibson Carmichael, Governor
of Victoria 1908-11.
Today, the Cup presented by
Sir Thomas Carmichael (who later became Lord Carmichael ) ranks with the
Cup presented by Lord Rosebery as one of the treasures of Melbourne's
The youthful Marquess of
Linlithgow was received by the Society with mixed feelings: members were
glad to see him, of course, but his presence (in June of 1911) was a
poignant reminder of the loss sustained in 1908 by the death of his
father, who as Lord Hopetoun had been such a warm supporter of the
Society's activities. However, it was pleasant to have the young Marquess
join in the passing round of the Rosebery Cup, and it was stimulating to
hear him declare, in the course of an admirable speech, that the best
years of his parents' lives were those which they spent in Australia. (A
few days previously the Marquess had attended, with Sir John Fuller,
Governor, and Mr W. M. Hughes, Acting Prime Minister, the unveiling of a
statue to his father in St. Kilda Road.)
Prime Minister Fisher's
speech, made when he was about to leave for the Coronation of King George
V, was also notable. Acknowledging an illuminated address from Victorian
Scottish societies as a whole, he linked Scotland and Australia in a warm
apreciation. If, he said, he was rather more radical than most Scots, that
was because he had spent his boyhood in the place where Burns wrote, "Man
to man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that".
Yet another farewell
function of the period was one given Professor Gilruth, a frequent speaker
at gatherings of the Society, when he was appointed Administrator of the
apointment caused the Society to lose its Secretary, Captain R. J. Lewis:
he went off to join the administration in Darwin in 1912, after serving
the Society well for two years. James Clark, who filled the vacancy,
lasted only about nine months as Secretary: he was replaced in March of
1913 by W. D. Leckie.
A native of Stirling,
William Leckie had worked for ten years or so with a firm of printers and
publishers in Glasgow, and he followed the same ocupation after reaching
Melbourne in 1900. Here, by virtue of his talent for organizing, plus the
fact that he was a dyed-in-the-wool Scot, he became an efficient Secretary
of the Essendon Caledonian Society, and now he was to begin years of
service with both the senior Caledonian Society and the Scottish Union.
While changing its
Secretary the Society also changed its address: it left Queen Street in
June of 1912 and set itself up on a better basis in Queen's Walk, Swanston
Now, at last, members were
witnessing the fulfilment of an ambition that some of them had cherished
for years ever since the days of Sir James MacBain about a quarter-century
earlier. True, the premises were not the Society's own property, but,
being "spacious, well-lit, and furnished with good taste", they were the
best of the many meeting places which had been rented from time to time.
Also, as Wullie Leckie announced to the world (through the columns of The
Scot) the premises were equipped with a good library, billiard-room,
facilities for cards and draughts, and, perhaps not least important, "an
elegantly-appointed bar with supplies to suit all tastes".
In short, the Society had
achieved at last the atmosphere of a Club, and so The Scot seemed
justified in expressing, as it did, the belief that the new premises would
become a focussing-point for Scots from all parts of Victoria, and perhaps
from Australia in general.
Members rallied round
cordially when Dr. Downie gave a "house-warming" party. During the evening
it was announced that Mr A. Dick (one of the Vice-Presidents) had donated
a first-class piano to the Society and had also given about 200 books to
form the basis of a Scottish library. Following that example, and the
example of President Downie, members "shelled out" to some purpose when it
was mentioned that a billiard-table was needed-they contributed k130 in
half an hour.
Professor R. S. (later Sir
Robert) Wallace, of the University of Melbourne (and afterwards
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney) was caught out nicely when,
on being invited to address the company, he produced an old Scottish poem
and offered £5 to the Society's funds if anyone present could prove that
he understood the verses thoroughly. Within a few minutes it was revealed
(a) that Alex. Dick, donor of the piano, had recited the poem as a youth,
and (b) that pretty well every one in the room had a good idea of what it
was all about. Upon this the professorial son of Aberdeen, as gratified as
he was astonished, paid over k10-double the amount he had promised.
When the new rooms had been
in occupation a year, the Society was reported to be "progressing by leaps
and bounds". Dr. Downie, therefore, had reason to be content with his two
years of service in the Chair, and so did not seek re-election in 1913.
His place was taken by J. A. Boyd (by this time a member of the Federal
Parliament), who had been President in 1910-11.
James Boyd was to be kept
very busy during his second term of office. Within a few weeks of taking
over he conducted a Ladies' Invitation Night that filled the premises to
overflowing, and at the St. Andrew's Dinner which followed he had many
guests to entertain, including that loyal Scot Andrew Fisher (ex-Prime
Minister), Lord Mayor Hennessy, and three notable Presbyterian ministers.
Concerts, smoke socials,
etc., continued to be promoted for the entertainment of members. The
number of Scottish vocalists still at hand was somewhat remarkable, among
them being Mabel Mattingley, Lillian Adams, Lena Conly, Minnie Paton,
Jessie Cromb, Dorothy Humphreys, Mary Stirling, and Gregor Wood and wife.
For light relief there was a choice between Ad Cree, Arthur Douglas,
George Harvey, and Albert Durand. And, of course, pipers and dancers were
With so many women singers
functioning, it was perhaps inevitable that some of the old songs should
be drawn upon pretty heavily. Eventually a protest on the point was
launched by a bored Melbourne secretary: he suggested that songs such as
"Mary of Argyle", which had been worn threadbare, should be made the
subject of "a clearing sale".
On this point, by the way,
a diverting tale is told by Mr H. J. MacLennan as a reminiscence from the
secretarial period of his father. Meeting one day a member whose Scottish
blood was overlaid by the surname of Patrick, Hector MacLennan inquired
why he didn't attend any concerts. "Because", said Patrick, "I can't stand
that damned `Bonnie Mary"'. Hector had just then prepared a programme for
another concert, and he offered the assurance that "Mary" would be
missing, upon which Patrick agreed to attend. Alas! the first item the two
men encountered, on meeting at the hall, was a band fantasia of Scottish
airs that included "Bonnie Mary". A few minutes later, in the first part
of the programme, Signor Manzoni played a medley on his mandolin, and
again "Mary" got a hearing. Soon afterwards W. G. Barker rendered the
self-same song as an encore; and before Patrick had recovered his poise he
was listening to a Zelman violin fantasia in which the irrepressible
"Mary" again bobbed up. Then, to round matters off, Gregor Wood took a
band-having been absent at another concert when Barker sang, he was in a
state of cheerful ignorance, and so, when an encore was demanded of him,
he too lifted up his voice in "Bonnie Mary".
Imagine it!-five times did
the undeniable "Mary" enter a programme from which she was supposed to be
banned. No wonder that the unhappy Patrick, with all that repetition
ringing in his outraged ears, swore forever afterwards that the programme
had been "rigged" for his benefit!
The abundance of concert
performers during 1910-14 was a reflex of the prosperity of Scottish
societies generally. In the metropolitan area the groups of Prahran,
Brunswick, Richmond, and Essendon were doing particularly well, and so
were most of those in the country. A curious exception was at Hamilton:
although strong and argumentative earlier the Caledonian Society of that
town faded out in 1913 -and it was not to be revived until 1926. On the
other hand, new societies were increasing the lengthy roll-call,
especially in the Mallee region. Those born during 1911-12 included Ouyen,
Donald, Rainbow, Woomelang, Telford, Trafalgar, Brunswick - Coburg, and
the Clan Macleod Society of Australasia (Melbourne).
That gives a total of 39
new Scottish bodies, in Victoria alone, during ten years.
Pretty well all of the
societies were enrolled under the banner of the Scottish Union, which on
its part was making satisfactory progress. It had not succeeded in
launching its scheme for scholarships (essay competitions were
substituted), but it was doing useful work in other ways, and, between
whiles, it was testing out a proposal to establish a Federation of
Scottish Societies throughout the whole of Australia.
In 1911 J. B. Leitch (Geelong)
replaced Andrew Thomson as President of the Union, and he in turn was
followed in 1912 by W. C. Willmot (Prahran) and in 1913 by Wm. McDonald
(St. Arnaud). Meanwhile, James Milligan resigned the secretaryship: he had
to give up, following frequent illness, in March of 1913, and he died a
few months later. Milligan had been a highly efficient Secretary of the
Caledonian Society of Melbourne for three years and of the Scottish Union
for seven years, and members of both bodies were very sorry to lose him.
Thus, W. D. Leckie became
Secretary of the Union soon after taking office in the Caledonian Society.
He was to continue in both positions for lengthy terms.
Members of the Society had
further cause for mourning soon after the passing of James Milligan. Their
former VicePresident, Alex. Dick, was killed near the Flinders Street
railway station when struck by a runaway horse and phaeton. A former
gold-seeker who had reached Australia in 1853 (he had seen the Eureka
Battle in 1854), Alex. Dick afterwards became a successful business man,
and in that capacity he had been most helpful and generous to the
Caledonians, as witness his gifts of a piano and a library to the
Society's new headquarters.
Later in 1913 two Scottish
developments of some significance occurred: Geelong's Commun Na Feinne
treated itself to a new hall at a cost of £ 1600 and the Scottish Regiment
Association was formed.
It was events such as
those, coupled with the upsurge of new Caledonian bodies all over the
countryside, that caused the President of Melbourne's St. George Society
to break into public lamentation-he desired to be told why it was that
societies of Englishmen were afflicted by apathy while Scottish societies
were springing up like mushrooms after rain!
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