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Albert Montefiore (Monte) Lake (1912–1997)

by Kenneth W. Knight

This article was published online in 2021

Albert Montefiore Lake (1912–1997), public servant, was born on 25 June 1912 at Kew, Melbourne, eldest of four children of Victorian-born parents, Lionel Montefiore Lake, printer, and his wife Margaret Louise, née Smith. Monte (as Albert was known) was ten when his father relocated the family to Sydney and set up a printing business in Sussex Street. His schooling was completed at St Mary’s Cathedral Christian Brothers’ High School (1925–28). On 5 July 1928 he joined the New South Wales Public Service and was appointed as a junior clerk in the ministerial office of the Premier’s Department.

Staff members in the small office were called upon periodically to make the arrangements for official occasions. In the mid-1930s Lake’s organising ability so impressed the head that he increasingly involved him in managing events. His most significant challenge came when he assisted (Sir) Asher Joel to organise the State’s grand sesquicentenary celebrations of 1938. Thereafter he became the usual choice whenever distinguished visitors were to be welcomed and entertained, or when official events were to be arranged. On 10 October 1936 at St Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church, Ashfield, he had married Hilda Muriel White, a typist he had met at work.

Appointed on 1 November 1941 as a sub-lieutenant, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve under the World War II Yachtsmen Scheme, Lake began full-time duty nine days later. From April 1942 he was assistant to the maintenance commander at HMAS Melville, Darwin. In June he was promoted to lieutenant and in October was posted as first lieutenant of the water and stores carrier HMAS Tolga, operating in northern Australian waters. Ashore from December 1943, he joined DEMS, the defensively equipped merchant ships organisation. He was staff officer, DEMS, in Brisbane (July 1944-January 1946) and Melbourne (January-June 1946), except for the period between August 1944 and July 1945, when he was detached as gunnery officer of the transport Katoomba. Senior officers who knew him well found him to be keen, reliable, and loyal. His appointment was terminated in July 1946 and he returned to the Premier’s Department.

During 1947 Lake was given charge of a small section set up to arrange ceremonial occasions and organise state visits. In 1951 he was closely involved in the celebrations marking the Commonwealth Jubilee and two years later with those in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. He was assistant director of the Queen’s first visit to Sydney in 1954, with the onerous responsibility of putting in place arrangements for which there were few precedents. He remained in this role for royal tours in 1963 and 1970, and was director for visits in 1973 and 1977. His preparation for the 1973 visit included staging a mock tour of the Sydney Opera House. Timed by stopwatches, he played the Queen, while a departmental colleague took the role of Sir Roden Cutler, the State governor.

Lake, as head of protocol in New South Wales, was a perfectly fitting round peg in a round hole. He was distinguished in appearance, urbane, confident, and interested in art, literature, theatre, and music. Able to converse on a wide range of topics, he had anecdotes for all occasions, but was always discreet. He recognised the need for detailed planning and did not shirk the often tedious work involved. At the associated social activities, he could be self-effacing or take a conspicuous role as circumstances dictated.

By the time of his retirement in 1977, Lake had been involved in organising all ceremonial occasions in New South Wales for the preceding thirty years. He had determined and documented the protocols for various categories of events and pioneered many of the procedures that would become commonplace in the new field of event management. The State premier and three of his predecessors joined politicians and senior public servants in marking Lake’s forty-nine years of service. A year later he returned to assist with the funeral arrangements for the former prime minister Sir Robert Menzies. For his services to the State and the monarch, he had been appointed LVO (1954), OBE (1958), CVO (1974), and ISO (1977). Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died on 12 June 1997 in Longueville Private Hospital, Sydney, and was cremated.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Cunningham, James. ‘After All the Glittering Occasions, Lunch and a Holiday.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1977, 4
  • Hubble, Ava. ‘Right Royal Blue Fit for a Queen.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 1993, 15
  • Lake family. Personal communication
  • Lake Papers. Private collection
  • National Archives of Australia. A3978, LAKE A M
  •   National Archives of Australia. A6769, LAKE A M
  • Owens, Warren. ‘War Jitters … The VIPs Were Held as Spies.’ Sun-Herald (Sydney), 3 April 1977, 17
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Albert Montefiore Lake CVO, OBE, ISO.’ 16 June 1997, 41
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘State’s Man of Many Parts: Onerous Duties of Protocol Officer.’ 23 July 1964, 2

Additional Resources

Citation details

Kenneth W. Knight, 'Lake, Albert Montefiore (Monte) (1912–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2021, accessed online 20 June 2024.

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