I often warn friends: "Never ever stand between royalty, even minor European royalty, and republicans –especially Sydney republicans.
"If you do, you risk being knocked over in the rush."
I was reminded of this when a colleague told me about a report I had missed in the press.
It related to one Michael Lynch, who had been a general manager of the Australia Council and was general manager of the Opera House in 1998.
In the 1990’s he joined those prominent republicans who were willing to make all sorts of promises in a most receptive media about a republic and all sorts of warnings about the burdens of the monarchy.
He once claimed that the monarchy stifles artistic talent and prevents artists from fully expressing themselves (The Australian, 25 October 1994;Head of State, page 190).
…but I am the exception……
Apparently the monarchy only stifles other people’s artistic talent and only prevents other people from fully expressing themselves.
Readers will not be surprised to know this doesn’t apply to Mr. Lynch, who since 2002 has been the chief executive of the Southbank Centre, where he oversaw what is described in The Australian as the “acclaimed “ renovation of Royal Festival Hall, the city's premier concert hall.
Her Majesty The Queen had attended the original opening with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
She graciously agreed to re-open the hall in October 2007.
According to a report by Elisabeth Wynhausen in The Australian on 10 July, 2008 (“ Renovator's gong strikes right”) the normally “breezily confident” Michael Lynch admits even he was just a bit overawed at that re-opening .
"You're standing next to the Queen and they start singing God Save the Queen and Zadok the Priest,” he enthused.
“There were 2800 people there. They just turned to the box where we were and started singing."
His life, he said, had led him towards that triumphant moment.
Then he learned he had been recommended as a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to the arts.
He said he could almost hear people saying "but you're a republican".
He is a republican.
But that's in Australia, he says. And he does think of becoming Lord Mayor of Sydney.
…Sir George Dibbs, once a republican….
This saga recalls the story of the one republican at the nineteenth century conventions, George Dibbs, the Premier of New South Wales.
“This G. R. Dibbs was a stalwart man
Who was built on a most extensive plan,
And a regular staunch Republican.”
But when George Dibbs went to England something happened. After that visit Australians heard no more about republicanism from him.
Knighted, he had become Sir George Dibbs.
"Banjo" Patterson tells us what happened then:
“So he strutted along with the titled band
And he sold the pride of his native land
For a bow and a smile and a shake of the hand.
And the Tories laugh till they crack their ribs
When they think how they purchased G. R. Dibbs."
Plus ça change?