May 6

National songs and hymns

One of the really silliest claims in the referendum – and there were plenty – was that “if Sir Robert Menzies were alive, he would be a republican”.  This came from Senator Vanstone, who, as we reported in this column  on 2 September 2005, managed over a year ago to alienate many in Mr. Costello’s constituency party by a completely gratuitous insult concerning the Sovereign.  Ironically this was in the course of her lecturing her fellow republicans with a statement of the obvious – that it is counter productive to attack members of the Royal Family.  Some people walked out, many complained and Mr Costello was embarrassed by his guest speaker. 


In the last cabinet reshuffle, the Prime Minister relieved the Senator of her ministerial functions. The Senator then became the subject of one of those stories which seem to interest journalists but few others.  It seems that in addition to imagining that she could communicate with the late Sir Robert Menzies, she had spent six years writing a new Australian song.  For days, Australians were bombarded by the media with this news.  The text of her song can be found in the report by News Limited   on 4 February 2007.  This is to be sung to the tune of Land Of Hope and Glory, from Elgar’s Pomp And Circumstance.  Land of Hope and Glory is of course popular with older Australians, who associate it with the Second World War.  There seems to be some move in England to appropriate it as the English Anthem, especially for sporting contests where the team is English rather than British.  One republican commentator has long qualified monarchists as the ‘ Land of Hope and glory” set, so it is curious that a “passionate’ republican would set a proposed Australian song to this tune.

It was recently announced that Senator Vanstone has been appointed Her Majesty’s Australian Ambassador to Italy. This did notcome as a surprise, as it had been leaked to the media. Both sides appoint politicians to diplomatic posts, and some are very successful indeed. On one occasion when the opposition strongly objected to one appointment, the Leader observed  that it was the most extraordinary appointment since the Emperor Caligula appointed his horse to the Roman Senate.




on the matter of national songs and hymns, it is apropriate to note that at one of the 2007 services to mark the accession of The Queen, and also the first Christian service in Australia, the clergyman, the Rev John Bunyan, included a hymn written for the first clergyman known to have conducted a Christian service on Australian soil. It was written  by John Newton, who is best known to us for that wonderful hymn, “Amazing Grace”.



John Newton’s hymn reads:



“The Lord who sends thee hence will be thine aid:


In vain at thee the lion Danger roars;


His arm and love shall keep thee undismayed


On tempest toss-ed seas, and savage shores.





“Go, bear the Saviour’s name to lands unknown,


Tell to the southern world his wondrous grace;


And energy Divine thy words shall own


And draw their untaught hearts to seek his face.





“Many in quest of gold or empty fame


Would compass earth, or venture near the poles:


But how much nobler thy reward and aim


To spread his praise and win immortal souls. “




[Written by John Newton for Richard Johnson, the first Chaplain; tune: Woodlands ]






That first Christian service on Australian soil was held on 3 February 1788 on what is now

Richard Johnson Square

, a small square on the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets, Sydney.  In the presence of the Governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phililp, the assembled marines and convicts, the Reverend Richard Johnson chose as his text these words from Psalm 116: “ What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”



The Psalm continues:


“ I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”



The Rev John Bunyan also included in the service his own composition, God Bless Australia.  The tune is Waltzing Matilda, as the instructions say, “sung gently.”



“God bless Australia, set beneath the Southern Cross,


Land of the dream-time and pioneering toil,


By thy grace we can serve the Spirit of this great South Land,


Nourish its goodness, be truthful and loyal.




“God bless Australia, God bless Australia,


Guard her from danger, and guide us aright:


Dear God, join us together truly in one Common-wealth,


May we be thine and the lovers of light.”


          [© John Bunyan; tune Waltzing Matilda]


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