MR RICHARD NOTT
FRIENDS OF ST.GEORGE’S AUSTRALIAN REPORT 2020/21
“This too will pass away “ King Solomon
Human nature and development cycles do not appear to have changed that much over the centuries of recorded texts, and certainly scriptural records in many faiths keep reiterating this cyclical movement of great benefits and calamities that tend to befall us. Being insulated through a wonderful standard of living, and experiencing the wonders of the modern age, we are largely shielded from the reminder of our own mortality, and from the fact that life is a risk from conception with an indefinite outcome. On the positive side, this maxim reminds us that all times of trial tend to fade away, or are successfully countered by the wonders of man’s ingenuity and adaption to the rigours of the time. We lose as well as the pearls of great price, also the ills and afflictions of the global Covid manifestations, that are echoes of the great plagues of the Middle Ages, and the test of new and old threats on our survival from nature, and impacts on our way of life.
At a social level, it has been hard in most places to plan beyond broad terms, confident that the situation will revert to normal soon, and avoid a worse economic and social impact. Luckily in Sydney, we were able to celebrate two major events earlier this year after almost six months of shut-down. The first was the long-deferred luncheon with Sir Peter Cosgrove, our former Governor-General, and Lady Cosgrove, where Sir Peter spoke about his wonderful impressions of The Queen, our Society Patron, and the strengths of our constitutional framework that has served us so well in Australia since Federation. The Governor of New South Wales, the Hon. Margaret Beazley, joined us at this wonderful luncheon, along with our retired Governor, Dame Marie Bashir, and a full dining-room at the Union, University and Schools Club, held in conjunction with the Australia-Britain Society. At this luncheon, Dr David Sturkey, retired Private Secretary to the Governor-General, donated to the local Friends, and ultimately to the New South Wales library, the wonderful book on Windsor Castle.
The Queen’s Birthday grand formal dinner was held in early June and it was a multi-facetted occasion, with the celebrations not only remembering our gracious Sovereign’s formal birthday, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Australia-Britain Society; The Duke of Edinburgh was Patron for almost the whole of that time of our sister society in England. St George’s Day toast was delivered by Peter Beaumont, a direct descendant of three monarchs, and a memorial celebration was held for the life of The Duke of Edinburgh. This included not only a toast, but two films of his life and parts of his funeral service, as well as a piper playing the lament that was played at the funeral. The evening was capped with the Governor’s representative, Colonel Michael Miller, reading a message from Her Majesty, and a guest of honour address by the Hon. John Howard, our former Prime Minister. The club was packed with Friends and Descendants, members of the Australia-Britain Society, the Cook Society, and Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, and concluded with a series of arias and songs from emerging talents from the Australian and Pacific operas. During the evening a surprise presentation was made to Commander Richard Tighe, a Life Member of the Friends, for his decades of dedication to the Tall Ships awards. In these events an annual selection is made to a previous crew member of the Young Endeavour, Britain’s sailing ship Bicentennial gift to Australia, who is invited to crew on a British sailing Tall Ship vessel with an International crew, mainly sailing from the Canary Islands to Southampton. Our only regret with the evening was that due to Covid and some isolation needs, many of our long-time Friends and Descendants could not attend.
What are the plans for next year?
The re-emergence and challenges of various new Covid strains has meant we have deferred some events scheduled for later in 2021, but we are confident we can attend the following: special Last Night of the Proms concerts; Remembrance Day reflective service at St James’, King Street; a luncheon with the Hon. Michael Pembroke speaking about the Korean War; and our annual Christmas fare luncheon with British cabaret artist Simon Ward and pianist John Martin. This year late November marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of British artist and singer Freddy Mercury, and we will be including in the Christmas luncheon a toast to his amazing short life, and playing some films of his compositions with Spanish diva Monserrat Caballe.
Into 2022 we have asked both the British High Commissioner and the Hon. Tony Abbott to speak to Friends on the changing relationship between Britain and Australia after the UK departure from the European Union. The highlight of the year will be of course Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebration, with a grand dinner with the main loyal societies on Wednesday 8 June, to align with those celebrations in Britain, when for the first time the bonfires will be extended to include Commonwealth countries. The Hon. Michael Kirby, retired High Court judge, will be our guest speaker, along with our Patron, the Governor the Hon. Margaret Beazley. This event will include a revolving series of 500 slides from past events, picturesque images of Britain and of course of our much-loved Royal Family. A celebrity singer and support singers from the Pacific opera will cap off a wonderful evening and celebration of the life of our beloved Monarch.
One regret we have is that the Australian Friends and Descendants are spread throughout this large country, and we have not been able to arrange functions in other centres owing to this fragmentation; however, we hope to correct this in time. Some Friends from Victoria did manage to get to the Sir Peter Cosgrove luncheon, but Covid restraints stopped this being extended.
From these events we have managed to accrue, after stationery and postage costs, the sum of $2,000, being a consolidation from events and Friends’ donations which has been sent to the Friends’ Secretariat and Canon Poll on behalf of our locally-based members.
Our continuing thanks to all the Australian-based Friends and Descendants for their on-going interest and support for the marvellous St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and for the Society Patron, Her Glorious Majesty The Queen.
Richard Nott AM and Sue Labordus OAM.