A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SAINT ANDREW SOCIETY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
For 80 years, the Saint Andrew Society of Western Australia has been proudly helping to maintain Scottish culture in this state.
When the Society was formed in 1938, its specific purpose was to celebrate St Andrew’s Day – Scotland’s National Day. In those days, the celebration was a male-only affair, for which members gathered to enjoy a black-tie dinner and were joined by a list of distinguished guests that regularly included the Governor of Western Australia, the State Premier and Perth’s Lord Mayor.
With membership of the Australian armed forces represented by so many Scots, it is not surprising, particularly in the post-war years, that Major-Generals, Lieutenant Colonels, Air Commodores, and other senior military officers were prominent in the Society’s membership lists.
The Society experienced a major change in the 1980’s, when ladies were invited to become members for the first time. This resulted in the principal annual celebration changing from a dinner to the St Andrew’s Day Ball that we continue to hold to this day, on the nearest convenient date to 30 November.
Thereafter, the Society added a Burns Night supper, ceilidhs and other social events to the annual calendar, at all of which our national forms of dancing, singing and other entertainment have remained an important feature.
We are not, and never have been, a society just for those with tartan blood in their veins. Like other St Andrew Societies all around the world, we welcome anyone that wishes to enjoy themselves with us.
NOTEWORTHY PAST PRESIDENTS FROM THE EARLY YEARS OF THE SOCIETY
During the first years of the Society, the chief office bearer, now known as the Chieftain, was called the President. Many of the Presidents were leading figures in the Perth community and coming from a variety of backgrounds, made significant contributions to the development of what was back then, according to Eastern Staters anyway, still just a “big country town”! What they had in common, was their Scottish heritage.
Some of these early Presidents are described below.
Sir Robert Ross McDonald
The first President, and a founder Member of the Saint Andrew Society of Western Australia, was Sir Ross McDonald.
Born in Albany in 1888, the son of a bank manager, Sir Ross was educated at Scotch College in Perth and obtained a Bachelor of Law from Adelaide University in 1913 (there being no law school in Western Australia at that time).
Sir Ross served on the Western Front in 1918. Before and following the War, he practised law in Perth and was a founding member of the Law Society of Western Australia. He was honorary aide-de-camp to Governor, Sir William Campion (1925-31); a foundation member and President (1929-30) of Perth Rotary, and for twenty years, President of the local branch of the Victoria League. Although one of Perth’s most eligible bachelors, he never married.
Sir Ross was the Member of Parliament for West Perth from 1933-1950. He was Leader of the Nationalist party from 1938-1945 and then the new Liberal Party, which incorporated the Nationalists, until the end of 1946. When the Liberal-Country Party coalition took office in 1947, Sir Ross was appointed Attorney General and held other ministerial posts until late 1949. He was knighted in 1950.
Following his retirement from Parliament in 1950, Sir Ross continued to be active in public life. He was a trustee of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia from 1950 to 1958, a member of the Senate of the University of Western Australia (1950-61), and Chairman of St Catherine’s College from 1954 to 1956. He was also a director of numerous companies, Chairman of the Royal Perth Hospital Board (1956-60) and a foundation member of the State branch of the National Trust of Australia.
He died in Perth in 1964.
Professor Alexander David Ross CBE
Prof. A.D. Ross was the second President of the Society. He was a physicist and academic whose areas of study were the spectra of rare earths, magnetic properties of alloys and atmospheric physics. He discovered dysprosium in the solar spectrum.
Prof. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1883. His father was Rector of the Church of Scotland Training College. Prof. Ross studied externally at the University of London, then as an undergraduate and later researcher at the University of Glasgow, where he gained a Masters degree in 1906 and Doctorate in 1910. As a research fellow at the University of Göttingen, Germany, he ascended in a balloon to investigate atmospheric physics.
He moved to Australia in 1912, having been appointed the foundation Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the new University of Western Australia. An able administrator, Prof. Ross was Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1918 and a member of the University Senate from 1922 to 1939.
Prof. Ross was known for his teaching skill, his dapper style, vitality and wit, and to his students, for his pronounced Scottish accent (but is chiefly remembered these days, for the size of his sporran!).
He had wide-ranging interests and commitments, both within and outside of the Australian science and research community. He was Secretary (1924-43) and then President (1944-45) of the Australian Institute of Physics; three times President of the Royal Society of Western Australia; fellow, State President (1944-45) and national President (1948-50) of the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia; Western Australian Secretary of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science for many years; Chairman (1944-55) of the State division of the Australian National Research Council; and a member of the National Testing Authority. Yet he still found time to pursue scientific research.
He was a fellow of several learned societies overseas, including the Royal Society of Arts, which awarded him a silver medal in 1951 for his London address: Physical science’s contribution to Australian industrial development.
Prof. Ross loved music; he was on the University’s Music Advisory Board, was alternate delegate to the Australian Music Examination Board, and was President of the Perth Symphony Orchestra.
He was one of the founders of Perth’s Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) in 1915.
He was appointed CBE in 1949.
Prof. Ross married Euphemia Welch Murchie, whom he had met in Glasgow when she was studying physics and geology. They married in Western Australia in 1913. She was able to assist him in his work as a lecturer. She was also active in the local kindergarten movement and the Girl Guides Association, and was a foundation member of the Women’s College Fund. Mrs Ross shared her husband’s love of music, and the couple entertained musicians visiting Perth. They also assisted the young pianist, Eileen Joyce, and singer, Lorna Sydney. They had one daughter.
After Prof Ross’s retirement in 1952, he and his wife moved to Albany, from where he founded and promoted the Pan Indian Ocean Scientific Association.
He died in 1966.
Sir Hugh Lancelot (Lance) Brisbane
The President in 1946 was Sir Lance Brisbane, a leading Perth businessman and the general manager of H.L. Brisbane and Wunderlich Pty Ltd, now known as Bristile Roofing.
Sir Lance was born in Melbourne in 1893. His father, also born in Victoria, was an ironmonger. The family moved to Western Australia in 1894, and Sir Lance was educated at Fremantle Boys’ School and Perth Technical School.
After leaving school, he began an apprenticeship as a draughtsman with the building materials manufacturer, Wunderlich Ltd. He rose rapidly through the ranks, with an interruption during the first World War when he served in the Middle East, and had become State Manager before leaving the company in 1929 to become General Manager of H.L. Brisbane & Co. Ltd, formerly Westralian Potteries Ltd. In 1938 H.L. Brisbane & Co merged with the State branch of Wunderlich Ltd to form H.L. Brisbane and Wunderlich Pty Ltd, which became the State’s largest clay tile producer.
Over the years, Sir Lance expanded the company’s operations to include stainless steel products, clay pipes, porcelain and other building products. The company also produced ceramics under the name Wembley Ware, and highly crafted and decorated items of Wembley Ware porcelain have become prized by collectors.
Sir Lance placed great importance on the welfare, loyalty and enthusiasm of his employees, some of whom have described to his granddaughter how he would invite them to his house on a Sunday morning to sit on the verandah and chat over morning tea. In this way he was able to become aware of any issues his employees might be facing either in the workplace or privately.
Sir Lance was also active in the community. He was involved with the National Heart Foundation and Princess Margaret Hospital. He was responsible for restoring the Old Mill in South Perth and creating a folk museum there, which was and remains open to the public. A brick and tile display was also created to advertise the products of H.L. Brisbane & Wunderlich, which had funded the restoration work. The company created other product displays around Perth, including the Wishing Well and model Windmill on the corner of Albany Hwy and Shepparton Rd, Victoria Park and the miniature cottage in Adachi Park, Great Eastern Hwy, Belmont, both of which are still standing.
Sir Lance married and had two daughters. He was knighted in 1961.
He died in 1966.
David William Brisbane CBE
David Brisbane, older brother to Lance Brisbane, was President in 1951. Born in Melbourne in 1888, he was educated at Scotch College, Perth and Perth Technical School. In 1908 he joined the State Department of Public Works as an engineering cadet and by 1912 was an assistant-engineer there.
In 1919 he accepted a position as divisional engineer for the Federated Malay States Railways, then in 1923 became Managing Director of Fogden, Brisbane & Co., Singapore, a firm of consulting engineers, which undertook a range of major public works in Asia and the Middle East for the British Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry.
Mr Brisbane returned to Perth in early 1942 following the Japanese attack on Singapore. He became a skipper (sub lieutenant) in the Royal Australian Naval Auxiliary Patrol, which was charged with patrolling and safeguarding Australia’s inner harbours, ports, rivers and estuaries against enemy sabotage or attack.
During World War II Mr Brisbane was appointed Managing Director of the Midland Railway Co. of Western Australia Ltd, the State’s last privately-owned railway. He later worked with Sir Russell Dumas on the establishment of the BP Oil Refinery at Kwinana, which was completed in 1955. Mr Brisbane also chaired the Board of West Australian Newspapers Ltd.
He was appointed CBE in 1958.
Mr Brisbane lived at The Cliffe, a historic timber house overlooking the river in Peppermint Grove, which has now been heritage listed following disputes arising from proposals by recent owners to demolish it.
He was married and had a son and three daughters.
He died in 1960.
William Allan McInnes Green CMG
President of the Society in 1957, Allan Green was an engineer and the Perth City Council Town Clerk from 1944 to 1966. He was born in 1896 In Port Adelaide. His father was a riveter. Educated at Adelaide High School, he joined the South Australian Railways in 1914 as a draughtsman. Following two years on the Western Front during the Great War, he returned to his former employment while studying part time at the South Australian School of Mines & Industries and the University of Adelaide, gaining his Bachelor of Engineering in 1928.
After working as a designer for the City of Adelaide and assistant-engineer, architect and building surveyor to the City of Launceston in Tasmania, in 1937 he was appointed building surveyor to the Perth City Council and in 1945 became Town Clerk. At this time the area covered by the Perth City Council included North Perth, Leederville and Victoria Park, and extended west to City Beach.
Mr Green’s achievements as Town Clerk included his role in the development of the Perth Metropolitan Region Scheme (1963), which was derived from Prof. Gordon Stephenson and J. A. Hepburn’s Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle (1955); preparing Perth for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, held here in 1962, with the building of the Perry Lakes Stadium, the Beatty Park Aquatic Centre and the athletes’ village in City Beach; and the construction of Council House in St George’s Tce, which was opened by the Queen in 1963, and continues to serve as the headquarters for the City of Perth.
In 1963 he was appointed CMG. He retired in 1966.
Mr Green was married and had two daughters.
He died in 1972.
Justice Sir John Evenden Virtue KBE
Justice Sir John Virtue, was President of the Saint Andrew Society in 1959.
He was born in 1905 in Perth, his family having previously lived in Victoria and, before that, Duns in the Scottish borders. He was educated at Hale School, the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia.
Justice Virtue was a Supreme Court judge from 1951-1975. Prior to that he was a partner in the law firm Boultbee Godfrey Virtue, which later became known as Godfrey Virtue & Co. and is now GV Lawyers Pty Ltd.
Justice Virtue wrote A manual for Justices in 1935. Further editions of this manual for Justices of the Peace were published in 1949, 1962 and 1974.
He was knighted in 1975 as the Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
Justice Virtue died in Perth in 1986.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance provided by the following:
- J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History
- The Perth City Council
- GV Lawyers
- The West Australian newspaper
- and Lynn Male, granddaughter of Sir Lance Brisbane