Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David John Garland (1864–1939)

by Wendy M. Mansfield

This article was published:

David John Garland (1864-1939), clergyman, was born on 4 October 1864 in Dublin, son of James Garland, librarian, and his wife Mary, née Saunders. Trained for the law, he migrated with his parents to New South Wales, and in 1889 joined the Church of England ministry. As a deacon he served in Grafton, Quirindi and Narrandera, then was sent to Perth in 1892 and ordained there as missionary priest for the diocese. Because of his success in launching and financing scattered bush parishes, he was also made diocesan registrar and secretary in 1895-1902, chaplain to the bishop in 1894-1902 and canon of Perth in 1900-02. His crusade for religious education in state schools led to the incorporation of a permissive clause in the Elementary Education Act of 1893. Before leaving for Perth he had married a widow, Mary Hawkins, née Hadfield, at Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney, on 29 October 1892. They had one son.

In 1902 Garland became rector of Charters Towers, Queensland, and a canon of St James Cathedral, Townsville. He was appointed archdeacon of North Queensland in 1903, administered the diocese in 1903-04, and in 1904-07 was its registrar. Unhappy under Bishop George Frodsham, he resigned in 1907 to devote his full attention to the Bible in State Schools League in Queensland. A referendum on religious instruction in state schools was carried on 13 April 1910 by a large majority. In July 1912 he was asked to testify to a New Zealand government inquiry into religious instruction. His advice accepted, in 1914 he published relevant testimonies given to the inquiry in Religious Instruction in State Schools.

A chaplain to the volunteers in Western Australia and Queensland from 1896, Garland volunteered at the outbreak of World War I. Senior army camp chaplain in Queensland in 1914-17, in 1915 he founded and was director of the Soldiers Help Society. Co-founder with Colonel A. J. Thynne of the Compulsory Service League, he was also honorary organizing secretary for recruiting in Queensland. He served in 1918-19 in the Middle East where he founded eight clubs for Australian troops. After the expulsion of the Turks from Jerusalem he was the first chaplain to celebrate the Eucharist in the Anglican chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During the 1919 rebellion in Egypt he provided liaison between the British military authorities and the Coptic Church, and was awarded the knighthood of the Gold Cross of the Holy Sepulchre by the patriarch of Jerusalem. Returning to Queensland in 1920, Garland became rector of Ithaca; director of immigration for the Church in 1911-33, he was president of the New Settlers' League from 1926. From 1927 until his death he broadcast Sunday services on public radio from his parish church, St Barnabas. When in 1937 the Australian Broadcasting Commission barred politicians from broadcasting for three months before the Federal election, Garland challenged what he called the commission's 'dictatorship of opinion'. He invited the Queensland premier, William Forgan Smith to be the principal speaker at a communion breakfast and, when the A.B.C. objected, the private station 4BC. The result was a full press coverage and questions in parliament. Garland was never loath to mix the spiritual and the secular.

As an important architect and originator of Anzac Day ceremonies and rituals, Garland was described in 1924 by acting premier W. N. Gillies as the 'life and soul' of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee, although he later shared the post of honorary secretary of the committee with Captain E. R. B. Pike. With the support of the various Queensland premiers who chaired the committee ex officio, Garland ensured that, as Anzac Day was a civilian tribute, the committee should remain civilian. The Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia under (Sir) Bob Huish only gained control of the committee and thereby of Anzac Day in Queensland in 1935.

Garland initiated the Anzac Day march, the returned soldiers' luncheon, the two minutes silence, the wreath-laying ceremonies at memorials and the special church services. He also began a trust to use money raised from Anzac Day badges for the care of soldiers' graves at home and abroad. The royal blue silk badges devised by Garland include the winged lion of St Mark, because St Mark's Day coincided with Anzac Day. The badge and ceremonies, vigorously backed by Garland, were taken up in other States and to a very large extent in New Zealand and Great Britain.

Garland was overpoweringly energetic with a distinctive flair, if not genius, for organization. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1934. An enthusiastic Jacobite, he bore various titles in the Order of King Charles the Martyr. Widowed in 1933, he died on 9 October 1939 and was buried in Toowong cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £3660.

Select Bibliography

  • Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (Brisbane), Anzac Day Sermons and Addresses (Brisb, 1921), and Minute-books 1916-22, 1923-37 (Oxley Lib)
  • Church of England, Diocese of North Queensland, Year book, 1904-05
  • W. M. Mansfield, Anzac Day 1915-1937, its Origin, its Culture and its Political Mythology … (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1979)
  • Wilson family papers (privately held)
  • obituary by Rev. L. J. Hobbes, radio station 4QR, 12 Oct 1939 (privately held).

Citation details

Wendy M. Mansfield, 'Garland, David John (1864–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 October, 1864
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


9 October, 1939 (aged 75)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.