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Digitised@SLQ: Grand English Loyalist Demonstration and National Concert

By JOL Admin | 4 March 2014

Queensland servicemen returned home from the battlefields of Europe to discover a state of civil unrest, characterised by strikes, unemployment and strong public opinion both for and against the war effort. Men were wounded, traumatised and disillusioned, and as they tried to assimilate back into civilian life, many sought the support and safety of returned services organisations, and clung to their politically conservative, Anglophilic and  monarchist ideals. Loyalist sentiment flourished as returned soldiers' organisations recorded substantial membership increases, including the RSSILA (Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League of Australia), whose membership increased by 82% in 1919. Societies such as the Royal Society of St. George also played a part, espousing traditional English values, and reinforcing patriotic allegiance to the British Empire.  

This souvenir programme for a concert on St. George's Day, 23 April 1919, is a typical example of post War loyalist sentiment. The concert was held at the Brisbane Exhibition Hall, and is a who's who of Brisbane musical accomplishment.  Pre-concert entertainment was provided by the Australian Army Reserve Band  (No.1 Military District) led by bandmaster S. Rowlands.

The Procession into the Hall included not only The Royal Banners of St. George, His Excellency the Governor and Lady Goold-Adams and distinguished guests, but also Shakespearean characters in costume. Organist Victor E. Galway played God save the King, and after opening remarks by the Governor, the Brisbane Amateur Operatic Society and Austral Choir, conducted by the excellent Mr E.R.B. Jordan, commenced the concert with a chorus of 'The Yeoman of England' from the Edward German opera Merrie England.

Speeches, and vocal and instrumental solos followed, as well as Act IV, scene III from Shakespeare's Henry V performed by the Brisbane Shakespearean and Dramatic Society. In honour of fallen Englishmen, buglers of the A.I.F. played the Last Post, and the audience was requested to join in the chorus of Rule Britannia!

The concert was as much a recruitment drive for the Royal Society of St. George as it was a musical event. The programme is overflowing with English patriotism, full of verses fervently expressing loyalty to the Empire and love for the Motherland. Australia as a separate nation to Great Britain is not considered at all:

"England, O England, dear land of our birth, Land of the fair and the brave and the free; England, dear England, the first of the Earth, Some pride is forgiven in singing of thee."

Robyn Hamilton - Queensland Music Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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