On Friday 19th January 2007, in the last great Gothic cathedral to be built in Australia and possibly the world, the nation bade farewell to the Honourable Sir James Killen AC KCMG. As the Prime Minister said, “Sir James loved God, his Queen and his Country.” At the conclusion of the State Funeral, preceded by candle bearers, a great processional cross, bishops and priests from the Anglican and Catholic churches, Sir James’s casket, draped in the Australian flag, covered in red flowers, and borne high on the shoulders of the pallbearers, processed sedately down the aisle of St.John’s Cathedral, Brisbane. As the organ comforted them with the sounds of Handel’s Water Music, Walton’s ‘Spitfire’ Prelude and Wood’s Homage March, the congregation of notables and rank and file Australians stood to attention in silence to honour this great Australian. The pall bearers included Sir James’ close friend, the broadcaster Alan Jones, as well as men from the armed services. Lady Killen, the children, and other members of the family, the Governor General, the Governor, the Prime Minister, the Premier and their spouses followed the casket. An honour guard from the Royal Australian Air Force saluted the deceased as his coffin came down to the waiting hearse. Later, as the cortege departed, the assembly stood to attention and the police and servicemen and women saluted Sir James Killen.
The funeral drew from those great treasures of his church, Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, and the King James Authorised Version of the Bible. Sir James, a parishioner of St. John’s, no doubt approved.
After the National anthem, and Samuel John Stone’s great hymn, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,” the Dean read this text: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Dean: The Lord be with you.
All: And with thy spirit.
Dean: Let us pray.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant James, and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Then, as if to read the lesson, Mr. Howard moved to the large brass lectern in the shape of an eagle with wings outstretched, the symbol of St John the Evangelist. His opening theme was that it could be truly said of Sir James: “He loved God, Queen and country.” In describing Sir James, he recalled a line from Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, “If”. This was “Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.” Always a model of courtesy and gentlemanly behaviour, Sir James never forgot how all men and all women should be treated, whatever their rank. Then followed William’s old and stirring Welsh hymn, “Guide me, 0 thou great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand: bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore, feed me now and evermore.”
As the third and final verse began, “When I tread the verge of Jordan bid my anxious fears subside; death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side:” a procession seemed to form around the Honourable Gough Whitlam AC, the ninety year old former Prime Minister of Australia, leading him up into the sanctuary. As the hymn concluded with the refrain, “Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to thee, I will ever give to thee,” Mr. Whitlam was gently installed in the bishop’s throne. It was therefore understandable that the ABC website on 19 January, 2007 should refer to him as “former Labor premier minister Sir Gough Whitlam.” But this procession and this apparent enthronement were not the result of some imperial elevation or ecclesiastical consecration. Rather they were to accommodate his increasing physical infirmity, which one suspects he allowed to be used to add to his celebrated grandeur. But his wit was and is in no way diminished. As an old and close friend of Sir James’s, he was the family’s choice to deliver the eulogy.
Mr. Whitlam observed: "His friendships and regard reached across the House and across the parties, to his jousting partners and peers in wit.” As an example, he recalled one occasion: “When he visited an ailing Bob Menzies in hospital in Melbourne, the former prime minister said, ‘You know, Killen, there was a time when I seriously doubted your judgment.’ To which Jim responded, ‘What a remarkable coincidence’."
When Mr. Whitlam had concluded the Eulogy, the Choir sang Handel’s verse:
“Lord I trust thee, I adore thee! Ah, thou friend of man restore me! On thy loving grace relying for the bread of life I’m sighing.
Quench my thirst and let my hunger cease, fill my heart with joy and endless peace. When the breath of life has left me may my soul be blended with thee.”
No doubt recalling Sir James service both in war and as defence minister, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AO AFC Chief of the Defence Force, was chosen to deliver a further tribute to Sir James. "I salute a capable and much-loved minister who presided over major strategic and organisational changes in defence…I salute a great Australian, a good bloke and a colourful, engaging character."
It was now time to read from the Bible, and one other text. Diana Killen began with Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help: My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” This choice was particularly poignant; it had been read at the sad funeral of Sir James’ daughter, Rosemarie. Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC, the Governor of Queensland, then read from a sermon preached by John Donne, the Dean of St. Paul’s as long ago as 29 February 1627:
"And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity."
After the German hymn by Joachim Neander, “ Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation,” Heather Killen read from the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, saying it remained unanswered. (One of the many anecdotes about Sir James was his informing the Turkish Ambassador that St. Paul had written to the churches in Ephesus, “about which there is no record of a reply.” The Turkish Ambassador had then defended the record of the Turkish postal service.)
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The homily was then delivered by the Right Reverend Adrian Charles
Then Budry’s powerful hymn, “Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Lord,” filled the Cathedral, although it seems modernists had been allowed too near the language. Sir James would have noticed, but no doubt forgave the Dean, especially when on the comforting final words, for the Lord is living, death has lost its sting… bring us safe through Jordan to your home above.”
Then followed the Prayers, the service sheet offering the Congregation the modern option of not kneeling. The prayers were in the traditional Anglican style, but led by His Grace the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend John Bathersby and the Reverend Fr Peter Dillon:
“In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant, we beseech thee, to thy whole Church in paradise and on earth, thy light and thy peace. Amen.
Grant that all who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection may die to sin and rise to newness of life, and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass with him to our joyful resurrection. Amen.
Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that thy Holy Spirit may lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days. Amen.
Grant to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind. Amen.
Grant to all who mourn a sure confidence in thy fatherly care, that, casting all their grief on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love. Amen.
Grant us grace to entrust James to thy never-failing love; receive him into the arms of thy mercy, and remember him according to the favour which thou bearest unto thy people. Amen.
Grant us, with all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, to have our consummation and bliss in thy eternal and everlasting glory, and, with all thy saints, to receive the crown of life which thou doest promise to all who share in the victory of thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.”
The Choir then sang: “Give rest 0 Christ to your servants with your saints where sorrow and pain are no more neither sighing but life everlasting. “ (Rupert Jeffcoat 1970- )
The Dean followed with this Commendation over the casket: “Into thy hands, 0 merciful Saviour, we commend thy servant James. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”
His Lordship, Bishop Williams, pronounced this blessing from the High Altar: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.”
The casket was then borne from the Cathedral accompanied by Handel’s ‘Hornpipe’ from the Water Music followed by Walton’s ‘Spitfire’ Prelude, and Haydn Woods’ Homage March.
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy wishes to place on record its deep appreciation for the untiring and constant contribution Sir James made to preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage: the constitutional system of the Commonwealth of Australia, the role of the Crown in it and our flag. On his departure from this world, we wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Lady Killen, to Sir James’ daughters, Diana and Heather, and to his grandchildren Dana and Amanda, as well as to all other members of his family. And as we observed in our obituary in this column on 13 January, 2006, a theme taken up by both Mr. Howard in his tribute and Mr Whitlam in his Eulogy, however apocryphal that same message once attributed to Sir Robert Menzies could not be more true: “Killen, you are magnificent”