Peter Dodds McCormick

From "Composers of Australia" by Eileen Durum

Peter Dodds McCormick

b. Glasgow, Scotland c. 1835
d. Sydney, October 30 1916

Peter Dodds McCormick arrived in Australia in 1855, having completed an apprenticeship in joinery. He soon became active in the musical life and the Presbyterian Church in Sydney and worked a great deal with children choirs.

McCormick was employed for most of his life with the Education Department.

After his retirement he continued his involvement with choirs, on occasion conducting massed choirs of many thousands of singers.

His works include "Advance, Australia, Fair" and "The Bonnie Banks of Clyde".

The Sydney Morning Herald , Tuesday, October 30, 1916:


McCORMICK - October 30, 1916 at his residence, Clyde Bank, 103 Birrell St, Waverley (suddenly). Peter Dodds McCormick, dearly loved husband of Emma Elizabeth McCormick, in his 83rd year.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, October 31, 1916:


The death occurred suddenly at his residence, Clydebank, Birrell-street, Waverley, yesterday of Mr. Peter Dodds McCormick, a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church and composer of "Advance, Australia Fair." The late Mr. McCormick was official precentor of the General Presbyterian Assembly of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth assembly. His last official appearance was at the opening of the Presbyterian Military Institution at Liverpool camp by the Governor-General a few days ago. Deceased was for many years one of the Presbyterian instructors in the Public schools in connection with religious training, work in which he was particularly successful. He had been an elder of St. Andrew's Church since 1880.

Mr. McCormick was born at Port Glasgow 83 years ago. After serving as a joiner for some years he decided to strike out for a new country, and landed in Sydney in 1855, resuming his trade as a joiner. A little later he gave up his trade, and enrolled as a teacher in the Education Department. After 20 years spent in some of the principal schools Mr. McCormick decided to retire from the service. He then devoted himself to church work and the cultivation of music, especially Scottish music, among the younger folk. His principal life work was outside the schoolhouse. Fifty years ago the United Presbyterian Church met in the Supreme Court House, and soon after his arrival Mr. McCormick joined the congregation as precentor, acting in that capacity till a church was erected on the site of the present St. Stephen's. He worked hard to get a choir together, and when he succeeded the elder members of the congregation protested vigorously against the innovation. Mr. McCormick persevered, and was ultimately rewarded by seeing choirs established in the majority of the churches. Outside the church choir work he had the honour of conducting some of the largest choirs which have sung in the Commonwealth. At the Raikes Sunday school centenary demonstration, in 1880, he conducted a choir of 10,000 children and 1000 teachers, in addition to an audience of 9000, making a total of 20,000 voices. At the laying of the foundation-stone of the Queen's statue he conducted a choir of 15,000 child voices. As a composer Mr. McCormick established a reputation with the patriotic song, "Advance Australia Fair", which was first sung by Mr. Andrew Fairfax in 1878, and has come to be recognised as something in the nature of an Australian National Anthem. Another of his compositions which me with favour was "The Bonnie Banks of Clyde". In the early history of Scottish societies he took a prominent part. He joined St. Andrews Society shortly after its establishment in 1870. When the society was disbanded he, with others, established a Caledonian Society, and he continued prominently associated with that body till it was merged into the present Highland Society, of which he as a foundation member. He was also prominently associated with the Burns' Club Section of the society, and also with the Burns' Anniversary Choir, which he conducted for years.

Mr. McCormick in 1896 was one of the principal workers in originating the mission work which was begun in a private house at Dover Heights, an outlying part of the Waverley parish. A mission church was opened in 1903, the site being given by Sir Daniel Cooper.

The deceased gentleman leaves a widow. The funeral will leave his late residence at 12.30 today for Rookwood.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, November 1, 1916


The funeral of the late Mr. P. D. M'Cormick took place at the Rookwood Cemetery yesterday, the remains being interred in the Presbyterian section. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev. John Macauley, M.A. The chief mourners were Messrs. John M'Cormick (brother), John Denning, W. Denning, and Robert Jowett (brothers-in-law), S. Denning, T. Craven, D. Stewart, and A. Lewis (nephews).

The Highland Society of New South Wales, of the which the deceased was a life member, amd kindred societies were well represented. Among those present were Messrs. A. Gray (representing the president and the honorary secretary of the Highland Society), J. Muir, J. Pringle, W. Reid, J. Johnston, W. B. Alexander, J. E. Elles, J. T. Coffil, J. Shirra, J. Barrie (Lismore Caledonian Society), M. M'Burney, Dr Campbell, Cowle, J. D. Robertson (secretary). The Burns Anniversary Club was represented by Mr. Kelman, president; the B.A. Club choir by Mr. D. R. Rogers, and the Caledonian Society by Mr T. Clark.

From The Waverley Library & Community Services heritage walks web page at

Victoria Street (east) - Grahame Memorial Uniting Church, 1897, and church hall 1885, are of important historic and social significance. Inside the church is a plaque to Peter Dodds McCormick, a church elder and composer of Australia's National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair".