"Adam Lindsay Gordon Memorial Unveiled in Abbey Poets' Corner" by Guy Innes

LONDON, May 17

O, send Lewie Gordon hame,
And the lad I daurne name;
Now his back is to the wa
Here's to him that's far awa'.

The words of the old Jacobite toast haunted me, for they seemed, on that morning in May, to echo from the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie -- the lad they dared not name -- the faith of a great Clan that all its bards and fighting-men would at last come home.

Here, in this "acre sown indeed with the richest, royalest seed," the prayer had been answered; for the occasion was the unveilng, by the Duke of York, of the Memorial to Adam Lindsay Gordon in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. Not only had the clansmen gathered; men of letters, statesmen, and ambassadors had assembled to pay homage to one who, having with his own hand freed the soul from its cage of clay, was found dead with a revolver in his hand and his last shilling in his hat beside him -- the first suicide to gain the immortal memorial of entertainment in the greatest temple of our race.

Among those present were the Marquess of Huntly, accepted by the Scots Peerage as chiefs of all the Gordons in Scotland, notwithstanding that their ancestor was a Seton who married the hieress of Gordon; the Marchioness of Huntly; the Marquess and Machioness of Aberdeen, whose families are the Gordons; the Duchess of Hamilton and others of the Gordon kin; Lord Dunsany, the Scottish peer and poet; and Miss Rosemary Haslam, great-niece of Adam Lindsay Gordon and daughter of Colonel Lovell Haslam. Memories which stretched far into the past were those of Mr. J.J. Virgo, the noted Y.M.C.A. organiser, who, before he made his nine tours of the world, was a little boy at Glenelg, South Australia, and often sat on the knee of the poet, a frequent visitor at his parents' house.

Beside Tennyson

From the north-west tower of the Abbey flew the Australian flag, and it draped also the bust of the poet, from which is was removed for the unveiling by the Duke of York, who was accompanied by the Duchess. The Duke later, on behalf of the people of Australia, presented the memorial to the safe keeping of the Dean and the Chapter. It bears the inscription:

"Adam Lindsay Gordon. Poet of Australia.
Born 1833 -- Died

It is beside the memorial of Alfred Tennyson, and close to those of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Campbell. It is fitting that Gordon, Englishman first and Australian afterwards, should be commemorated in the Abbey. But we keep Henry Lawson's memorial in Australia and in the hearts of every Australian for his is our very own.

After the unveiling, a short voluntary, specially composed for the occasion, was played. It was based on that lovely lament, "The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede awa'," which no Scot may hear unmoved.

Archbishop's Address

In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury said:-

"One hundred years ago Adam Lindsay Gordon was born, and now his restless spirit finds a home in the peace of the Abbey. How little could he have dreamed that such a destiny awaited him! What would Tennyson, Coleridge and Wordsworth have thought of this young Australian horsebreaker and steeplechaser thus brought by his memorial into their company? Surely they would generously welcome him as a brother poet. "He would think that it was even stranger that it should be an Archbishop who ventures today to vindicate his place among the poets of the English tongue; yet amid the cares and burdens of that office I have found refreshment and exhilaration in his songs of swift and eager action in the open air."
Having competently sketched Gordon's career, the Archbishop continued:-
"Though outwardly true to the title of his clan, 'The Gay Gordons,' he was ever haunted by a wistful melancholy. Finally, after only 37 years of life, broken in body and clouded in mind by a racing accident, his own hand set free his soul. But already he had published his poems, and almost at once Australia took them to her heart, where ever since they have remained ... Sometimes his verse seems to recall that first rapture when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. It seems fitting, therefore, that he should have a place in this shrine of British poetry.

"Whatever a stern criticism may say as to the abiding merit of his work, at least there can be no doubt as to the value which the heart of Australia sets upon it. He is the voice of the national life of one of the young nations of the British race. The memorial of him will be an enduring link between Australia and the Motherland."

Thus, and with these words, has the memory of Adam Lindsay Gordon come to "stand like stone" in a place where stone and the spirit shall endure; where the strength of stone which it never possessed in life has entered into the presentment of his face amid "the aisles Death's sceptre rules supreme"; where the light of stained glass illumes the
long perspective of pillars and gives denial to what were almost his last words:-
"There is nothing good for me under the sun
But to perish as these things perished."
It may here be said that the work of the Gordon Memorial Committee is worthy of all praise. That it should have been brought to so dignified a conclusion is largely due to the untiring energy of Mr. Douglas Sladen -- who, by the way, was recently awakened at 4 a.m. to receive a cable message from the Gordon Memorial Committee in Melbourne felicitating him as Gordon's Boswell.

Not the least gratifying feature of the occasion was the manner in which the English and Scottish newspapers recorded it. Numerous biographies of Gordon were published, which for the most part afforded sound estimates of the merit of his work, though few of them traced its affinity with that of Swinburne, and none its kinship with the hunting verses of G.J. Whyte-Melville.

First published in The Herald, 21 June 1934

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