I have several times referred to Ireland’s Uncle John Henry Nicholson, the older brother of the composer’s mother Annie. John emigrated to Australia and became known as a teacher and writer. However, he also turned his hand to a certain type of composing, namely patriotic songs.
Several were published, with John providing words and melody only, one of the most commercially successful being Sons of Britannia. This song was much reviewed and very popular, praised for its inspiring sentiment, sonorous ring and ‘valuable addition to what may be termed the literature of Anglo-Saxon unity’ (Brisbane Observer, 15 December 1898). This unity is seen in the splendid cover created for the song. Described as a ‘federation song’, it was ahead of its time, as the official Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act was only formalised on 1 January 1901.
Other songs in similar vein included Rouse, Australians! and Sunrise.