Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Garland, Canon David John, OBE
This Friday, at Kangaroo Point Cliff Park in Brisbane, there will be a ceremony to honour the work of Canon David John Garland, an energetic Dublin-born Orangeman who became known as the architect of Anzac Day. The 25th of April, which is now such an important part of Australian life, was shaped by an extraordinary energetic, public-spirited and organisationally gifted Anglo-Catholic priest 100 years ago.
David Garland migrated to Brisbane in 1886. While working in Toowoomba as a law clerk, he was influenced by another extraordinary man, Reverend Tommy Jones at St James Parish in Toowoomba. He converted from his strong Irish Protestant background to be part of the Anglo Anglican Church. In terms of the work that this man did—and that lives today—he developed the concept of the Anzac Day ceremony which continues, in many ways, in a similar way to this day. He saw that this ceremony should be an Australian All Souls' Day—a remembrance day that, whilst having elements of religion, was essentially secular and was able to appeal to Australians and to people from overseas to gather together to commemorate sacrifice, to remember loss and to join together in this feeling.
He also understood that this needed to engage with people of all religions. Again, at that time in Australia there were people who belonged to a number of churches, many of whom did not speak to each other. But, in particular, in the Anzac Day ceremonies that Canon Garland was involved in he was determined that there be a balance in the way that the acknowledgement of Anzac Day was done so that people of different theological backgrounds would be able to join together. In those days, there were particular concerns around sectarianism between Protestants and Catholics. The Protestants did not believe in praying for the dead; it was not part of their theology. The Catholics at that time were bound by a process which would not allow them to join in services run by other religions.
Canon Garland cut through this kind of behaviour. The organising committee for the first Anzac Day was a civic occasion brought together by the local political leaders at the local government level—the two mayors of Brisbane, as it then was—the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the various state ministers. They got together to proclaim that they would inaugurate an Anzac Day service in Brisbane. They were seated together in moving forward with the Anzac Day organising committee, of which Canon Garland was the secretary. A historical photograph shows the civic leaders and also the religious leaders of the community together making a public statement that they were going to establish a ceremony in Brisbane. On that stage were representatives of the key religious groups in Queensland—the head Rabbi, the Salvation Army, the various Protestant churches and, front and centre, Archbishop Duhig in all of his regalia. They were part of this grouping that was able to understand that the particular celebration, acknowledgement and remembrance of Anzac Day was something that brought communities together.
Canon Garland's previous activities actually showed the kind of passion, zeal and, as often quoted about the man, administrative abilities which were able to prepare him for this work that he took on to show the acknowledgement of whom he called 'our lost'. He served in the Diocese of Toowoomba and then in the Diocese of Grafton. He was ordained a priest in Perth in 1892. He then went to Perth and served in Western Australia for a decade, showing a real aptitude for administration and journalism. He then, for the first time, was working with troops when he actually went to look at the troops in Fremantle ahead of their deployment to the Boer War. I think this was his first meeting. This led to a lifelong dedication to 'his boys' and the acknowledgement that nothing was too good for the troops.
In terms of the personality of Reverend Garland, it is very clear that he was a man of strong personality. He had an uncompromising determination to succeed in any cause he espoused. This character led to frequent and bitter clashes with the hierarchy in various parishes and hierarchies in which he operated. If he could not work with a particular bishop—and that seemed to be regular in his clerical career—he resigned and moved to another diocese. However, in Perth, where he was first introduced to area of chaplaincy, he got deeply involved in the Bible in State Schools committee. This gave him a taste of the need to work within the community to advocate for a cause. Most particularly, this was perhaps the first time he worked as a regular political advocate. He worked—and I use the word absolutely deliberately—tirelessly with local parliamentarians in the area to ensure that work around Bible in State Schools would be successful. He then transferred after there was a serious fallout with the bishop in Western Australia. The bishop at that time wrote a statement about Reverend Garland:
He is very wilful and insubordinate, and in Queensland he is, in my opinion, far too deeply immersed in politics even to settle down as a quiet parish priest. What he needs, and what he professes to want, is a town parish, if possible among the poor. And further he needs to be in a sphere where there are other men of calibre. In Queensland he is a triton among the minnows.
Donaldson, the archbishop in Queensland, went on to say:
There is a lot of good in him: he is fearless, affectionate, sympathetic, and full of zeal, and withal a man of first-class ability.
These kinds of acknowledgements continued to follow Canon Garland throughout his career because he was able to turn his concentration and energy to a range of different civic causes. The Bible in State Schools committee in Perth, in which he was active, gave him a taste. When he moved to Queensland, he became very engaged in the process around the successful referendum in Queensland in 1911 around the Bible in States Schools committee in our state which he led and which he was actually acknowledged for. It was actually acknowledged that, to a large extent, the success of this process in Queensland was a result of Canon Garland's engagement and administration.
He then moved to New Zealand because of the fame he had acquired in his work in the Bibles in state schools committee there. He worked in similar ways in New Zealand. Whilst it did not have the same success, because the war was called and the political activity around the large-scale activity in New Zealand finalised, there was a genuine respect for his work—so much so that the New Zealand bishops wanted to show their appreciation by nominating him for a Canterbury doctorate. But, because of some of the personality issues with his Brisbane bishop, that was vetoed. The Queensland bishop believed that Garland was not worthy, as he only had a Dublin primary school education—not enough to qualify for an exalted academic accolade.
When he returned to Brisbane, the outbreak of World War I led to a real opportunity for his organisational talents: first, as the secretary of the state recruiting committee; then, as an army camp chaplain; and, after Gallipoli, as the secretary of the first designated Anzac Day commemoration committee in Australia. He campaigned for a closed public holiday that would have the date of 25 April, with a set liturgy. He insisted that, as I said, it was Australia's All Souls Day, with the concept that people would be able to have the opportunity to acknowledge the day in their own way.
The model for Anzac Day commemoration was very much set by the work that Garland did in 1916, when he established that there would be a process for people to attend their own religious services in their various groups during the morning, then they would gather for some form of public process that would engage with people across the community, followed by a way for people—particularly ex-servicemen who were around—to have some kind of public gathering and dinner. Again, this community spirit was the driving force of his process.
He also actively worked to ensure that the history of Anzac and the history of Australians at war was something that was engaged in Queensland and Australian schools. This model continues to this day with a process that we celebrate, where people go in, particularly from the local RSLs, and talk with children at schools so that the memory of ANZAC will never be forgotten. It is absolutely fascinating that this model of commemoration, which was determined by a group in Brisbane with the driving force of Canon Garland, continues to be the type of commemoration that we have across Australia and internationally around Anzac Day.
The process of having Anzac Day declared as a national holiday was one again which challenged Canon Garland's ability to advocate with politicians. He worked very hard to ensure that politicians at every level—local government, state government and federal government—were aware of the importance of commemorating the spirit of Anzac and the need to commemorate the deep loss of war. His view was that this should be a day of sober remembrance and, in fact, one which would not have any public celebrations, such as races, or stores being opened. This was the concept he had. It was a difficult one and it took many years across the different states to work together to come up with the common day of 25 April and the common model for service.
Towards the end of the 1920s there was a very deep rift about the ownership of Anzac Day, even in the Brisbane commemoration group, around whether it should be that of the chaplains and the community—the secular process—or whether it should be returned soldiers and what was then the precursor of the RSL. That was fought very, very strongly. Indeed, towards the end of the 1920s, there was a great split, and the more secular approach, with the community activity and moving away from the closed day, was in the ascendancy. However, we still have this memory of the model that Canon Garland set up.
He was also responsible, I think, for one of the more exceptional fundraising processes to support the work and to make sure that soldiers were remembered and looked after—Lavender Day. It raised extraordinary amounts of money during the 1910s and 1920s. This money was used to support soldiers and to set up support areas across Queensland, particularly, where soldiers could stay and recuperate after they returned from the front. When he received a special task by the then Minister For Defence, George Pearce, Canon Garland was sent to Egypt to work with the soldiers and see to their welfare in that area. That was a very important element, again brought forward by his political focus, because he was able to get this advice from the then defence minister.
His time in Egypt yet again reinforced that there needed to be support services for soldiers so that they did not go into the evils of drink and misbehaviour which were much talked about at that time. Again, Canon Garland actually serviced the spiritual as well as temporal needs of the young men, whom he truly loved. He actually worked with them as a priest but also as someone very practical, setting up discussion groups, cafes and places where people could stay in safety so that they would not fall into the kinds of habits and behaviours of soldiers overseas which were then being questioned by both the Australian hierarchy and, particularly, the Australian community.
There has been much written about Canon Garland and the work that he did. A very valuable book co-authored by John A. Moses and George F. Davis is now available at the War Memorial. It gives a history of Anzac Day and its origins across Australia and New Zealand. The role of Garland is clearly acknowledged in this book, and his passion and zeal to commemorate what he saw as the essential spirit of Anzac Day is very valuable for all of us to acknowledge now. We could learn from the commitment that he gave.
I do not believe Canon Garland was an easy man. As I said, he had an ability to focus on his goals and be extraordinarily capable in that area but fell to a number of personality conflicts in his career. I certainly read that in his work about raising the awareness of the need to support the war efforts in World War I:
He said even the "hysterical women", the suffragettes, who had "rendered the British Government incapable" before the war had returned to "the true ideals of womanhood" in time of crisis, supporting their King and Empire.
Perhaps that would be a discussion that I would not enjoy if I were there at the same time with Canon Garland. But I would actually value the spirit and the commitment he gave and also the inspiration and support he has given to people who are following after him, as we all are, in remembering the loss and the horror of war.
It is important that we now see the work of the Canon Garland Memorial Society, who have worked very hard to ensure that this man's memory is cherished and that the work that he has done for so many is remembered. So, on this Friday in Brisbane, I want to acknowledge their work, and I think that the efforts they have made to have the Canon Garland Memorial opened officially at Kangaroo Point on Friday morning attest as much to the man that they valued so greatly.
Canon Garland did receive the award of Member of the Order of the British Empire before he died, which was a very special moment for him. It was given to him for his services to church and Empire. In providing the award to him, the then Bishop—maybe we have not heard about any conflicts that Canon Garland had with that bishop—said: 'I want to ask the synod to pass this resolution in a very special way. I am stepping down on the floor of the house to convey to Canon Garland my personal thanks for the immense help that he has given me in the administration of the diocese during the last 15 months. It has been astounding to me how a man of his age can exercise such a wonderful energy. His influence has been most striking with all classes of thought amongst the clergy, the laity and the government of the state.'
Canon Garland was truly an amazing man. It is wonderful that we are able to commemorate his work and acknowledge that he has had a most striking impact with all classes of thought amongst the clergy, the laity and the government of our state.