On This Day …

Saturday, 30th November, 1878

Today our national anthem was born. It was first performed in public at a St Andrews Day concert of the Highland Society.

Sounds Scottish? Well, the composer was Scottish born Peter Dodds McCormick who came to Australia in 1855. He worked as a school teacher and was very community minded and also involved in the Scottish Presbyterian church. He wrote many songs, but Advance Australia Fair became quite popular due to its patriotic flavour.

In 1901 at the inauguration Federation ceremony, it was performed by a choir of 10,000. The song was soon suggested as a fitting replacement for ‘God Save the Queen’ as our national anthem, but that didn’t actually take place until 1984.

Here, for your interest, are the original words, as composed by McCormick.

Australian sons, let us rejoice. For we are young and free. We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil, Our home is girt by sea. Our land abounds in nature’s gifts Of beauty rich and rare, In history’s page let every stage Advance Australia Fair. In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia Fair.

When gallant Cook from Albion sailed. To trace wide oceans o’er. True British courage bore him on. Til he landed on our shore. Then here he raised Old England’s flag. The standard of the brave. With all her faults we love her still. Britannia rules the wave. In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia Fair.

When other nations of the globe. Behold us from afar, We’ll rise to high renown And shine like our glorious southern star. From English soil and Fatherland Scotia and Erin fair. Let all combine with heart and hand To Advance Australia fair. In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia Fair.

Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast. Or dare a foot to land. We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore To guard our native strand. Britannia then shall surely know, Though oceans roll between Her sons in fair Australia’s land Still keep their courage green. In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia Fair.

Photo by Timo Balk

Don’t you love it? In his own words, a couple of years before he died, McCormick said ‘there has not been a note of it altered since.’ Some wording has changed a little, but the tune still reflects what he composed all those years ago.

What do you think of our national anthem? How does it make you feel when you hear it?

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Amanda, These verses are different to what I’ve come across elsewhere. Do you know if McCormick wrote the following verses as well?

    Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
    We’ll toil with hearts and hands,
    To make this Commonwealth of ours
    Renowned of all the lands,
    For those who’ve come across the seas
    We’ve boundless plains to share,
    With courage let us all combine
    To advance Australia fair.
    In joyful strains then let us sing,
    Advance Australia Fair.

    With Christ our head and cornerstone
    We’ll build our Nation’s might.
    Whose way and truth and light alone
    Can guide our path aright.
    Our lives, a sacrifice of love, reflect our
    Master’s care.
    With faces turned to heaven above,
    Advance Australia fair.
    In joyful strains then let us sing,
    Advance Australia Fair.

    • Hi Susan. It is interesting when you look into history what you discover! The verse beginning with ‘Beneath our radiant Southern Cross’ was written by McCormick and replaced the third verse in the early 1900s – all before he officially had it copyrighted. However the ‘Christ our head and cornerstone’ verse was not his work at all. It is said to have arisen in the 1930s in Tasmania and came to the foreground in the 1990s within the Christian movement. Contrary to what we are often told, it is NOT part of the original song.

  2. Thanks Amanda for the info’.

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