Rev. T. H. Taylor, playwright [22 February 1913]

[Editor: An article about the Rev. T. Hilhouse Taylor, who wrote the patriotic song “Australia, or Heart to Heart and Hand to Hand”. Published in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 22 February 1913.]

Rev. T. H. Taylor, playwright.

A national drama.

A national drama written by an Australian author may be staged in England. The dramatist will endeavor to arouse such enthusiasm that the British public will see the necessity for maintaining an overwhelming navy. The Rev. T. Hilhouse Taylor, (formerly of Pitt Town) the author of “Parsifal” (in which Miss Tittell Brune appeared when it was staged under the direction of Mr. J. C. Williamson), is leaving for England with quite a number of good things stowed away in his bag. Among them is a national drama founded on the subject of the life of the great naval hero Nelson. The dramatist hopes to get it staged under the patronage of the Naval Defence League. The subject is one of the great dramatic possibilities; but so far it has been passed over by the writers of plays.

The motif of Mr. Taylor’s drama is found in Nelson’s own words:— “It behoves every man to come to the assistance of his country at sea — the only place where England can be defended — so that the peaceful homes of England may not be degraded by the foot of the invader.”

The drama is not a romance — it follows the life of Nelson, and re-creates the pictures to be found in the most stirring times of the world’s history. The dash of romanticism — if it may be so called — is given to it by the introduction of Lady Hamilton, without whom no life pictures of Nelson would be complete. National characters are depicted in the play with lifelike detail. “The idea was given to me,” says Mr. Taylor, “by Dr. Gustav Hall Boersmann, of Newtown, who helped to write some of the dialogue.”

“I have had practical experience with managers,” said Mr. Taylor when interviewed on the subject of the Australian drama. “I don’t blame them, as some people do, for not producing more local plays. The time is only beginning to ripen; but I look forward to an Australian drama portraying characteristics essentially of Australian life — peculiar to Australian life — but filled with those emotions and human struggles of all natures; not peculiar to any particular race, but of universal significance. Local interest will not carry off a play — it must have a basis of deep power, which appeals to the inmost thoughts of every member of the human race.

“What Mr. Williamson said the other day about his willingness to look at local plays I can confirm,” said Mr. Taylor. “He carefully reads all plays sent to him. He once remarked, ‘Why should I be so foolish as to reject any good play because it is Australian?’ And that is the attitude he has always taken.”

The Rev. Hilhouse Taylor is not unknown as a pantomime librettist, and he is also a deft weaver of songs. He is taking with him to London a number of songs which he has written in collaboration with Mr. Joseph Massey, the Cathedral organist, who has a rare melodious gift that does not confine itself to Gregorian chants. Some of these songs are sentimental, and some are humorous. They will be looked forward to with interest. Those who have had the good fortune to hear them predict success for the publisher who takes them up. In regard to this collaboration, it might be mentioned that a sacred cantata dealing with the subject of the taking down from the Cross and the burial of Christ — written by Mr. Taylor and composed by Mr. Massey — is now in rehearsal, and will produced at Easter time in connection with the Cathedral services.

It is not generally known that Mr. Taylor is the author and composer of what is sometimes referred to as Australia’s National Anthem. The chorus goes with a swing —

Then heart to heart, and hand to hand,
Beneath the Southern Cross we stand;
And shout God bless our native land —
Australia! Australia!

Mr. Taylor is not one of the native born. He is English, and was educated in Germany, where he imbibed poetry and music in the Wagnerian school. When he came to Australia he was a somewhat youthful poetaster, and had hardly drunk in half a dozen gulps of intoxicating Australia air before he became imbued with a desire to write a national anthem for this country. There are many people who say that he succeeded in doing it — though it was not written at a time of poetic frenzy. It came into his mind at a time when he was endeavoring to teach young Australian ideas how to shoot in the Melbourne Grammar School. It was not long before the song spread from one end of Australia to the other. It was taught as Australia’s national anthem in the schools of Queensland. It has been chanted ever since as a college song. It gained him a prize from a Melbourne newspaper.

He whistled the tune.

The story goes that a patriotic Australian was once present at Wallach’s Theatre in New York, when the orchestra was billed to play an overture founded on the national anthems of all countries. The Australian listened to the music, then, stepping up to the conductor, he said, “Say, old fellow, you haven’t got the Australian national anthem in that lot.”

“Guess I never heard of it,” said the conductor. “What does it go like?”

“Well, I don’t know the words,” said the Australian, “and I can’t sing to save my life, but I’ll whistle it for you, if you like.”

“Pipe away,” said the conductor, taking out a pencil, and as the Australian whistled the tune of “Heart to heart, and hand to hand!” he jotted down the notes.

“Say,” he remarked when the whistling had ceased, “that’s just dandy. I’ll put it in with the rest.” The music was immediately orchestrated, and it has been played in New York ever since as the National Anthem of Australia.

It was first sung by a member of Frank Clarke’s Company at the Victoria Hall in Melbourne in 1887.

When Captain Holman returned from the South African war he visited Mr. Taylor at the rectory at Campbelltown, where he was then stationed.

The captain was telling the cleric some stories of heroism, and how the Australians swung into battle line singing songs as they faced the hail of shrapnel. This naturally interested the parson, who is a great believer in the power of music.

“There was one song,” said Captain Holman, “but the men only knew the chorus. They sang it all the way on the march from Bloemfontein to Johannesberg. It bucked them up! It put heart into them! Not one man faltered by the way while that song was being sung. The song went — ‘Then heart to heart, and hand to hand.’ Do you know it?”

“I think I do,” said the reverend poet, stepping over to a piano. “Is this the song?”

His fingers rattled over the prelude, he sang the song from beginning to end — it was a little thing of his own, written many years previously.

Windsor and Richmond Gazette (Windsor, NSW), Saturday 22 February 1913, page 12

Previously published (in part) in:
The Daily News (Perth, WA), Friday 21 February 1913, page 7

[Editor: Corrected “its given” “is given”; “blame they” to “blame them”, “writted by Mr. Taylor” to “written by Mr. Taylor”; “knew the chorous” to “knew the chorus”.]

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