Mr. Peter Dodds - McCormick
Born the son of a seaman in Port Glasgow, Scotland,. Son of Peter McCormick and his wife Janet.( née Dodds).He arrived in Sydney 21st February 1855 (at that time the principal city of the British colony of New South Wales).
Details of his earlier years, prior to his arrival in Australia, are shadowy but it's thought he apprenticed as a joiner before he emigrated .
He spent most of his life employed by the NSW Education Department. In 1863 McCormick attended Fort Street Model School for a month before being appointed teacher-in-charge at St Marys National School. On 16 July he married Emily Boucher, who became sewing teacher at her husband's schools. They taught at schools closer to Sydney in 1865 but she died in March ; On 22nd December 1866 he married Emma Elizabeth Dening. McCormick was appointed to the Presbyterian denominational school at Woolloomooloo in 1867 and to Dowling (Plunkett) Street Public School in 1878 where he remained until he resigned in 1885.
30th October 1916
Peter Dodds McCormick was the composer of the Australian national anthem
Advance Australia Fair.
McCormick was heavily involved in the Scottish Presbyterian Church and was active in a number of community and benevolent organisations. He began his involvement with Sydney's St Stephen's Church as a stonemason, working on the now demolished Phillip Street Church (where Martin Place now stands). The Reverend Hugh Darling was so impressed with his singing on the job he asked him to join the choir. McCormick's musical ability led him to becoming the precentor of the Presbyterian church of NSW, which gave him the opportunity to conduct very large massed choirs. He was also convenor of the Presbyterian Church Assembly's Committee on Psalmody.
In 1896 he published a moral tale, Four School Mates. He gave religious instruction in public schools until 1916 and was remembered by A. R. Chisholm as 'a white-haired man with a red face … [who] remained imperturbable amid the tumult of the class-room, and was extraordinarily laconic'.
Both ultra-Scottish and ultra-patriotic, McCormick was honorary secretary of St Andrew's Benevolent Society, a founder of the Caledonian Society and, after its merger, of the Highland Society of New South Wales and of the Burns Anniversary Club. His greatest interest, however, was music. He was precentor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales and organized many church choirs. He conducted very large choirs such as the 10,000 children and 1000 teachers at the 1880 Robert Raikes Sunday school centenary demonstration, and 15,000 schoolchildren at the laying of the foundation stone of Queen Victoria's statue.
McCormick published about thirty patriotic and Scottish songs; 'The Bonnie Banks o' Clyde', 'Advance Australia Fair' and others became very popular. 'Advance Australia Fair' was first sung (by Mr Andrew Fairfax) at the St Andrew's Day concert of the Highland Society on 30 November 1878: the Sydney Morning Herald described the music as 'bold and stirring', and the words as 'decidedly patriotic'—it was 'likely to become a popular favourite'. As 'Amicus' he later had the music and four verses published by W. H. Paling & Co. Ltd. It was sung by a choir of 10,000 voices at the inauguration of the Commonwealth and played by massed bands at the naming of the Federal capital celebrations in Canberra. In 1907 the Carruthers government awarded McCormick £100 for his patriotic composition.
Survived by his wife, McCormick died childless at his home at Waverley on 30th October 1916 and was buried in Rookwood cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £52.
The Australian Government awarded McCormick £100 for for his patriotic composition which he registered for copyright in 1915.
After his death sporadic attempts to have 'Advance Australia Fair' proclaimed Australia's national anthem succeeded in 1974. Subsequently a descendant of John Macfarlane (d.1866) claimed that Macfarlane had originally composed the music and written the first verse. Some musicologists consider the tune to be based on a typical 'wandering melody', a theory given some credence by McCormick's ease and method of composition. It seems, however, that there is little doubt that McCormick was responsible for 'Advance Australia Fair'—certainly his contemporaries accepted his bona fides.
The Australian National Anthem
Information used on this page collected from various locations including the web links below.
My thanks to David Mooney for contacting me with some details.
This page last modified on Friday, April 02, 2010
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