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:: From the Archives

(above) From the Dingley Dell collection, Douglas Sladen, like Gordon an old Cheltonian. Sladen was Chairman of the London Gordon Memorial Committee and chief instigator behind the bust at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey



Order of Ceremony at the unveiling of the Memorial to Adam Lindsay Gordon in the Poets' Corner, on Friday, May 11th, 1934, at 12 noon.


Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York will arrive at the West Cloister Door and be conducted to their places in the stalls. When the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Clergy and the Choir have taken their places there will be sung the Hymn "Let the Whole Creation Cry.

During the singing of this Hymn their Royal Highnesses and others who are to take part in the Ceremony will be conducted to places provided in The Poets' Corner.

The hymn ended the Dean will request His Royal Highness the Duke of York to unveil the Bust. Having done this, His Royal Highness will present the Memorial on behalf of the People of the Commonwealth of Australia, and will commend it to the safe keeping of the Dean and Chapter.


A short voluntary specially composed for the occasion by the Abbey Organist, Dr Bullock, on "The Flowers of the Forest" will be played while their Royal Highnesses are conducted to places provided for them in the Lantern and the Dean will proceed to the Sanctuary.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will then address the people on Gordon. Then will follow the National Song "Advance Australia Fair." The Hymn ended, the Precentor will then say the following prayers:

Almighty God, Who rules in the kingdom of men, and hast given to our Sovereign Lord King George a great Dominion in all parts of the earth, draw together, we pray Thee, in true fellowship the men of divers races, languages and customs, who dwell therein, that bearing one another's burdens, and walking together in brotherly concord, they may fulfil the purpose of Thy providence. and set forward Thine everlasting Kingdom. Pardon, we beseech Thee, our sins and shortcomings: keep far from us all selfishness and pride: and give us grace to employ Thy good gifts of order and freedom to Thy glory and the welfare of mankind; through Jesus Christ Our Lord, to whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be all glory and dominion, world without end.


Oh God, who by Thy Spirit in our hearts dost lead men to desire Thy perfection, to seek for truth and to rejoice in beauty, illuminate and inspire, we beseech Thee, all thinkers, workers, artists and craftsmen, that in whatsoever is true and pure and lovely, Thy name may be hallowed and Thy Kingdom come on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


And the Dean will pronounce The Blessing.

The National Anthem

 (above) On the Bust itself:


 The Inscription underneath:

" 'The Memorial Bust of Gordon, by Lady Hilton-Young, erected in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, and unveiled by H.R.H. The Duke of York, on May 11th, 1934.' Exhibited in the Royal Academy, 1934."



 The Gordon Memorial Committee

 Mr. J.G. McLaren Acting High Commissioner of Australia.
Sir Edward Knapp-Fisher Receiver General of Westminster Abbey.
Mr. Douglas Sladen Official Organiser.

The Centenary of Adam Lindsay Gordon fell on October 19th, 1933.

A petition was presented to the Dean by Mr. Douglas Sladen praying that this should be commemorated by a memorial of the Empire Poet in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

The petition was supported by letters from:

Sir J.M. Barrie, Bart.
Mr. Rudyard Kipling.
The late John Galsworthy.
Sir Phillip Gibbs.
The Professor of English Literature at Oxford (Prof. D. Nichol, Smith.)
The professor of English Literature at Cambridge (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch)
Sir Charles Hagberg Wright (Head of the London (Library.)

among others, and had the approval of
The Prime Minister.
The Rt. Hon. Stanley Baldwin. P.C., M.P.
The Rt. Hon. S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner of Australia.

In The Times of August 4th, 1933, the Dean announced that the Petition had been granted, and on the next day the leading article printed below, which sets forth the qualities which have won for the Poet the outstanding honour which has been accorded to him, appeared in the Manchester Guardian, August 5th, 1933

"The centenary of Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australia's most famous poet, could have no higher celebration than a memorial in Westminster Abbey, and that this national recognition is to be given him should strengthen the bond between the two countries. For above all things it is a tribute to the spirit of Australia. Gordon's title to the position of representative poet of his adopted continent does not rest on the absorption into his poetry of the country's characteristic flora and fauna, or the distinctive features of its landscape and its seaboard. It does not rest even on the achievement in pure poetry. If he is the poet of the Australian people's own laurelling, it is because his poetry embodies the qualities that have made that nation what it is. He wrote as he lived. He lived adventurously, dangerously. He faced life with a daring and a gallantry, a passion for the new land's freedom and a love of its beauty; and equally with a heart in noble conflict with vast and formidable natural forces, with malign circumstance, and with hereditary melancholy in his own soul. His poetry was the poetry of action, of joy in movement, of glory in the strength of man and the swift grace of a horse. It had the kinetic quality of poetic vigour rather than the dynamic of poetic energy. Its own movement, though eurhythmically and musically ordered, was largely derivative. The dedication to Whyte-Melville is pure Swinburne. But it had no great breadth of humanity, it had a personal fire and force, a native dignity and pride, and an unconquerable courage that went straight to his people's heart. That it has found the heart of our own people, too, the Poets' Corner will now testify".

The Sydney Morning Herald, October 14th, 1933. (Opening Lead Story) Towards the Unveiling of a Tablet in Memory of Gordon in Westminster Abbey On October 19th 1933

"On October 19 a tablet to the memory of Adam Lindsay Gordon is to be unveiled in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. The date is the centenary of the poet's birth, but the tablet marks something more than that- it is a new landmark in our Empire history. Gordon is the first of the poets of the overseas dominions to be thus honoured. When the late Lord Forrest, Australian explorer and statesman, was called to the Peerage some criticism arose. But we realised, in a way we had never realised before, that we were joint heirs with Britain in the common heritage of the Empire, that not only did we share in all the glorious traditions of the past, but that there were no honours to which the sons of Britain overseas might not aspire in common with those of the Homeland. The Gordon Memorial brings this home to us in an even more striking manner. Gordon, as Henry Kendall wrote in his Memorial Ode, was a poet and a

A shining soul with syllables of fire
Who sang the first great songs this land can claim
To be their own; the one who did not seem
To know what royal place awaited him
Within the Temple of the Beautiful.

But Kendall did not dream that such a royal place awaited his friend as the famous Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. If Australia claims Gordon as her own, England claims him also. As it is with material things, so also is it with things of the mind and spirit; and this Westminster ceremony is but a manifestation, in all its fullness, of the "oneness" of the Empire. Not only has England a right to claim him on that ground, but Gordon (though he was born in the Azores) was educated in England. He was known as a rather wild youth, and his escapades make interesting reading, but the old Cheltenham school honours his memory and is celebrating the centenary of his birth with pride, even as we in Australia are doing."




Adam Lindsay Gordon, the Poet of Australia, who so loved the sea, and had the breath of it in his poems, was born, most felicitously, on an islet in the Atlantic, on the high road between England and Australia.

He had great blood in his veins; he was a lineal descendant of the 2nd Duke of Gordon and the 2nd Earl of Aberdeen, and, through them, from the original Adam o' Gordon who founded the mighty Gordon Clan in the Highlands of Aberdeenshire. His Godmother was the Lady Anne Lindsay who wrote the famous song "Auld Robin Gray," and, as Lady Anne Barnard, was an Empire-maker in South Africa.

Lady Hilton-Young's Memorial Bust, whose unveiling we are assembled to witness, brings out his high birth as well as his fighting manhood and his poetic soul. There is not a Memorial in the Abbey which brings out the personality of the illustrious dead more vividly than this bust of Adam Lindsay Gordon. We can ken the man who wrote the poems.

Before he was 8 years old his parents settled in Cheltenham and sent him to Cheltenham College on the day that it was opened, and Cheltenham was his home till he left it for Australia on August 7th 1853. He was educated at Cheltenham, Dumbleton, Worcester, and for 3 years at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he and Khartoum Gordon were classmates and pals.

We hear less of his education than of his schooling himself in the boxing saloon of a champion prize-fighter and the training stables kept out at Prestbury by Tom Oliver, who thrice rode winners in the Grand National. He and George Reeves taught Gordon how to ride in steeplechases, and he encouraged Gordon to recite his favourite poems to him, and to write himself. It was with him that Gordon saw the celebrated steeplechase at Noverton close by, which he immortalized in "How We Beat the Favourite."

Gordon landed in Australia on November 14th, 1853, and, scorning his introductions, found a congenial profession in the South Australian Mounted Police in the days of gold-escorts and Bushrangers. For two years he remained in it, acquiring colonial experience and knowledge of the country. He then resigned and for seven years 1855-1862 made his living by horse-breaking.

During this period he began with considerable success to ride in races on his own horses. Throughout this period he enjoyed the friendship and literary advice of Father J. E. Tenison Woods, the Roman Catholic Mission-Priest to a block of 22,000 square miles on the Victorian and South Australian border.

They met in 1855. Woods used to lend him books and give him literary advice. Gordon was in the habit of reciting to him his favourite poems by the great masters, and, eventually, his own compositions. Woods listened to everything patiently and offered him criticism and encouragement. There is no doubt that he was Gordon's poetical Godfather.

In 1862 Gordon married Maggie Park and settled down in a cottage at Robe, on Guichen Bay.

Throughout his life he had a passion for being near the sea. Here he worked on quietly until 1864, when he received a legacy of £7,000 from his mother's estate, and accepted an invitation to stand for the Victoria District in the South Australian Parliament, to which he was elected on March 16th, 1865, with his life-long friend John Riddoch as colleague. He took his seat in May, but resigned on November 20th, 1866. He had in the interval won the big race at the Adelaide Steeplechases on his own horse Cadger, and at Ballarat on his horse of that name, but he failed to win any event in the New Year's Day races at Melbourne, which he visited for the first time in 1866.

His investments in Station property had turned out disastrously, so he hoped to make an income by literature. In August 1866, "Bell's Life" in Melbourne had published one of his best racing poems "Visions in the Smoke," and this was followed in October and November, 1866, by seven Fyttes of the series called "Ye Wearie Wayfarer," the sporting poems with an English background, full of Gordon's picturesque and proverbial sayings, which are more quoted than anything he ever wrote, such as the quatrain in the Fytte called "Finis Exoptatus," which all the Empire knows:

Life is mostly froth and bubble:
Two things stand like stone-
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.

In 1867 he published his first volume, "Sea Spray and Smoke Drift," which reprinted "Ye Wearie Wayfarer" and "Visions in the Smoke," and gave to the world for the first time a few of his great poems like "Roll of the Kettledrum," "The Last Leap," "Podas Okus," "The Song of the Surf" and "From Lightning and Tempest."

Only about 100 copies of it were sold, and a few months later he published "Ashtaroth, a Dramatic Lyric," which had no sale at all and was not worthy of him.

In the same year he took the livery-stables ar Craig's Hotel, Ballarat. He only kept them about a year, but long enough to incur further losses and injure himself permanently by an accident to his head.

In 1868 the great period of his life began. He moved to Melbourne and on October 10th he won three Steeplechases—including the great race—in one day at the Spring meeting of the Melbourne Hunt Club. He was riding for the first time for Major, afterwards Sir Thomas Baker Durand, of Persian fame, for whom he won the big race.

From this time onwards he was the most famous amateur steeplechase rider in Australia, and began the first period of his poetry by writing "A Song of Autumn" for Robert Power's little daughter Maud, and "Doubtful Dreams," which was published in December, 1868, while in January, 1869, when he was staying with his old colleague John Riddoch at Yallum, he wrote "The Sick Stockrider," his masterpiece, "How We Beat the Favourite," "From the Wreck" and "Wolf and Hound." At the same time he went on winning great races like "The Autumn Steeplechase" at Flemington, Melbourne, on March 27th, 1869.

It was on March 12th, 1870, that he had the accident when riding Prince Rupert, from which he never wholly recovered.

At the same time he began steps to assert his claim to the Esslemont branch of the Gordons, of which he had become the titular head. and, for a time, it seemed that he could prove that the entail had never been broken. But in June he heard from Scotland that the entail had been successfully cut. This drove him to despair, because he had borrowed a, for him, considerable sum of money to pay for the prosecution of his claims.

During the time that he lived in Melbourne he made the acquaintance of the Literary set, and joined the Yorick Club. It was there that he used to meet his fellow poets Henry Kendall and George Gordon McCrae, and public men of literary tastes like Sir Frank Madden.

His losses lead to his death though the Riddochs were ready to pay his debts.

On the last day of his life, June 24, 1870, his third and best volume of poems "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes" was published. It contained among other poems "The Sick Stockrider," "The Ride from the Wreck," "How We Beat the Favourite," "Doubtful Dreams," "De Te," "The Rhyme of Joyous Garde," "The Swimmer," "Laudamus, "No Name" and "A Song of Autumn."

Henry Kendall, the greatest of all Australian-born poets, reviewed it from the proofs for the Australasian, and showed the review to Gordon while they were spending the afternoon—Gordon's last afternoon—together. Gordon was very proud and grateful.

When Gordon was dead, his friends rallied round his memory, and within a few months, had erected the famous monument—the broken column with a laurel wreath—to his memory in the Brighton Cemetery. There every year pilgrimages are made to his tomb.

There has been a Gordon Memorial Committee in Melbourne ever since 1910, of which Mr. Charles R. Long is the President and Mr. J. D. Jennings the Hon. Secretary. By October 30, 1932, they had raised sufficient funds to erect a magnificent statue (a replica of this statue is being exhibited in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1934), by Paul R. Montford, outside the Parliament in Melbourne, which was unveiled with great ceremony by the Premier of Victoria and his entire Cabinet and the Leader of the Opposition, in a ceremony in which there were hymns as well as speeches.

This, although neither of ceremonies were held on the actual date—October 19, 1933—was the Centenary celebration in Melbourne corresponding to the Centenary celebration of to-day's Unveiling, by H.R.H. the Duke of York, of the Memorial of Adam Lindsay Gordon in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

The last months of Gordon's life were spent in profound melancholy. He was convinced that he had lived his time in vain—that after all his valiant life, his struggles against ill-health, accidents, poverty and ill-success in writing, he would be forgotten except for his victories in steeplechasing. On the last day of his life he had given to the world, in his gorgeous "Rhyme of Joyous Garde," the greatest of all his definitely Swinburnian poems, this note of despair:

I have done forever with all these things—
Deeds that were joyous to Knights and Kings,
In the days that with songs were cherished
The songs are ended, the deeds are done,
There shall none of them gladden me now, not one.
There is nothing good for me under the sun,
But to perish as these things perished.

If the dream of Spiritualists be true, and Gordon in the After Life can see what is passing on the earth, he will know that he has not "done for ever with all these things." For he has been immortalized in Westminster Abbey, where Edward 1 and Henry V are buried, beside a long line of the statesmen who built the Empire, like the mighty Chatham—and where there are memorials to our National poets from Chaucer and Shakespeare onwards, with Tennyson the last before Gordon.