An Auld Queensland Alliance: The Society and Emmanuel College

by Angus Edmonds OAM

At the 2011 AGM of The Society of St Andrew of Scotland (Queensland) Incorporated, I was pleased to move a resolution, seconded by Jack Vaudin and passed unanimously, to recognise the centenary of the founding of Emmanuel College within The University of Queensland.

Mindful of the long association between this Society and Emmanuel College within The University of Queensland, and recognising Emmanuel College’s important role in supporting and promoting higher and Christian education within this State, both as a university residential college and as the home of the theological hall of the Presbyterian Church, as well as its nurturing of university students to achieve their potential in their chosen professions and in their persons, the Society is pleased to congratulate Emmanuel College on its centenary of foundation and wishes the College continuing success. The Society commends also the Principal, Professor Stewart Gill, on the interesting and appropriate events he has organised for the centenary celebrations and congratulates him on his leadership of the College, assuring him of the Society’s continuing support for the College as he leads and guides its development as the College enters its second century as The University of Queensland’s premier college.

It has been a privilege for me to be closely associated with both the Society and the College for a quarter of a century. During that time I came to appreciate the connection between these two bodies and of another close and important association for both of them with St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital.

A remarkable number of those who were involved with the Society in its earliest years were also involved with the governance of the college and the hospital. Many were members of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland and had been students at or served on the council of Emmanuel College and  played their part in establishing and naming the St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital which was established in the buildings and on land at Wickham Terrace, the original property of Emmanuel College.

The administration building of the hospital had been the main college building from its establishment in 1911 until it moved to the St Lucia campus. For many years the Executive Council of the Society met each month in the board room of the hospital (formerly a dining hall in the ‘old’ college) until its meeting place was relocated at my invitation as then principal to Emmanuel College.

About one third of the original members of the Society in 1947 were associated with the College, including Mr D M Fraser, the then chairman of the Emmanuel College Council. Douglas Martin Fraser’s father was Sir Simon Fraser, businessman and grazier and member of the Victorian Parliament and Senator for Victoria. Douglas married Marion Collins and through her inherited the historic Collins property of Mundoolun near Beaudesert.  He was uncle to the PM, Malcolm Fraser. The Reverend Dr Fred MacKay AC was another founding member of the Society and an old boy of Emmanuel as was the Society’s first Honorary Solicitor, Mr A P Muir. Andy Muir’s son John later became Honorary Solicitor and now the third generation of Muir’s, John’s son and Andy’s grandson, Andrew, serves in that capacity.

 The man often credited as the one person above all others who helped found the Society, Group Captain A G Grant OBE, did not attend Emmanuel College, but its Methodist ‘rival’ King’s College. However, his library of books on Scotland and Heraldry, the Grant Collection, is housed on behalf of the Society at Emmanuel College.

The Society has been the principal benefactor of Emmanuel College over many years. Originally, the Society’s Bannockburn Fund was established to provide funds for books for the college library and a cheque ( ‘The Bannockburn Bequest’) was presented annually by representatives of the Society at a special dinner within the college which became known as the Bannockburn Dinner. This dinner has been for many years the dinner at which awards in recognition of service to the college have been made. A number of the bursaries and prizes bear the names of former members of the Society, including the most prestigious awarded to a male recipient, the DM Fraser Bursary.

The college principal presents the recipient of the DM Fraser Bursary as a ‘Younger Clansman’ at the annual Men’s Dinner. The first recipient in 1968, Grant Cameron, later became President of the Society. The Bannockburn Dinner has had a strong Scottish flavour since the 1980s with singing of Scottish songs, the wearing of kilts, and the playing of the pipes, especially since the formation of the Emmanuel College Pipe band in 1998 under the leadership of Mr Andrew McCabe, now and for a number of years a member of the Society’s Executive Council.

The President of the Society, re-elected to the position at the AGM, is Professor Stewart Gill, principal of Emmanuel College. His two immediate predecessors as principal of the College also held prominent positions in the Society. As Emmanuel College enters its second century, the links between the Society and the College are stronger than ever.

These two bodies have stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ for two-thirds of a century. In Queensland terms, that is already an ‘auld alliance’ and it is likely to continue as long as the Society and College continue – as undoubtedly they shall do to celebrate future centenaries of their individual and joint service to and within Queensland.

[Angus Edmonds was principal of Emmanuel College for 21 years from 1984-2004. He is a former chairman of the Executive Council and is a member of the Society’s Board of Governors.]