Peter Dodds McCormick

McCormick - Advance Australia Fair (Small)

Peter Dodds McCormick (1834-1916) who wrote ‘Advance Australia Fair’ had links with Five Dock.

Born in Scotland, Peter McCormick arrived in Sydney in 1855. A staunch Presbyterian, McCormick had a strong interest in music, particularly children’s choirs. He was employed for many years by the Education Department. In September 1865 he became the second Headmaster of the Five Dock School which at that time operated under the direction of the Trustees of St Alban’s Church, Five Dock.

In 1878 McCormick wrote ‘Advance Australia Fair’ under the pen name ‘Amicus’ (friend in Latin) after attending a concert which featured national anthems where he had been dismayed that ‘there was not one note for Australia’. In 1901 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia, it was sung by a choir of 10,000. In 1974, almost 100 years after its composition, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ became Australia’s national anthem.

A plaque commemorating Peter Dodds McCormick was unveiled in the grounds of St Alban’s by City of Canada Bay Mayor, Angelo Tsirekas on Sunday, 11 August 2013.

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Posted on August 5, 2013, in Five Dock and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Local historian, Joan Francis commented:

    Pleased to see a plaque to inform people that Peter Dodds McCormick was the second teacher at St. Alban’s Church school. He married as his second wife, Eliza Dening*, member of the pioneer Dening family of Drummoyne. I like to think that the ‘dour’ Scotsman (as my great aunt Eva Mudie called him) fell in love at the school. Anyway, he appeared to still have some regard for the school as he allowed the Five Dock School to use his tune as a basis for their school song (which wouldn’t win a prize even on the worst talent show).

    * The ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’ gives Peter’s second wife as Emma Elizabeth Dening but on looking up Births Deaths and Marriages I found that her name was ELIZA (as I was told originally). She was born in 1866 the daughter of John and Harriet B. Dening. Cert. 3669/1860.

    Joan wrote ‘A brief history of St Alban’s Church’ which is held by Local Studies at Five Dock.

  2. The tune of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was used for at least three locally written songs in the 1930s:

    ‘Jubilee Song of Concord’ (in Concord Jubilee, 1883-1933, page 187)

    ‘Jubilee Hymn’ (in Souvenir of the Five Dock Public School Jubilee, 1861-1936, page 3)

    ‘Mortlake School Jubilee Song’ (in Mortlake Public School Jubilee, 1887-1937, page 5)

    Doubtless there are probably others. If nothing else, it shows that the tune was well known in the community.

  3. Amicus Street in the Canberra suburb of Moncrieff has been named in honour of Peter Dodds McCormick. ‘Amicus’ was the pen name McCormick used.

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