Strengthening the beliefs and values of our English Heritage in Australia

Royal Society of St George - AUSTRALIA

Howard Ruff in Australia

Mr Howard Ruff’s Australian Visit

(Howard Ruff was the Founder of the Royal Society of St George)

It was in August 1925 that Branches across the Commonwealth of Australia received letters from Mr Howard Ruff, founder and honorary secretary of the Royal Society of St George, intimating that he proposed to leave London on October 8, 1925 by the Demosthenes, on a visit to Australia travelling via the Cape.  The Grand Council of Queensland was expecting Howard Ruff to arrive on November 30 reported the Brisbane Courier.  In the article it said “Thepassenger list of the S.S. Demosthenes, timed to be in the Brisbane River on Wednesday, November 30, will include Mr Howard Ruff, the founder of the Royal Society of St George.  The society was established in London in 1894.  The position of president was accepted by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales; the patrons are their Majesties the King and Queen and Queen Alexandra, and the annual festival dinner at the Guildhall has become famous throughout the British Isles.  On the occasion of the banquet in 1923 His Royal Highness, speaking as president, said:  “If Englishmen will give it the support that it most certainly deserves, I predict for the Society of St. George a future both long and honourable.”At this dinner a glowing tribute was paid to Mr Ruff by the Prince of Wales.

Howard Ruff arrived in Melbourne on Monday 23rd November 1925 enroute to Sydney and Brisbane where in company with members of the Melbourne Branch he was received by the Lord Mayor.  The Melbourne Branch had a membership of about 800.  Mr Ruff, who was travelling mainly for health reasons, was to have 4 weeks in Queensland and having passed through New South Wales will arrive again in Melbourne about the end of January.  He will then visit Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.  He hoped to visit as many branches as possible.

In Brisbane on Friday 4th December, he received a civic reception by the Mayor Alderman Jolly and attended by a number of prominent business men, representatives of the churches and various branches of the Royal Society of St George.  Membership of the Brisbane Branch at one time had numbered 1,000.  However in reply to a toast honouring him he said his visit was primarily on account of his health.  “May I call you fellow countrymen.” he said.  “We all want to see Australia, and why should we not?”  He was rather surprised to find the membership of the society so small.

December the 8th saw him visiting Bundaberg and another civic reception before being taken for a motor drive through the Woongarra cane fields and down to the seaside.  Three days later he was guest of honour at a banquet at Southport.

The Brisbane branch welcomed him on Monday night the 14th and in responding to this cordial welcome he delivered an eloquent address on the objects and aims of the society, insisting strongly upon the duty of Englishmen to band themselves together in every part of the world if they wished to exercise that proportional part of power and influence to which they were entitled.

On Tuesday he visited Ipswich and from all accounts it was quite a journey.  The Queensland Times next day reported:

“BY ROAD FROM BRISBANE. Sixty years ago an old stage coach may have jolted perilously as it sped on its way from Brisbane to Ipswich, but even in modern times when the days of the-coach have long since passed the journey in a motor car is evidently still perilous, particularly after rain. Such must be the belief of the founder of the Royal Society of St. George (Mr. Howard Ruff), who travelled to this city yesterday afternoon. Although expected to arrive at 4.30 o’clock, it was after 5 o’clock before the car drew up before the Town Hall. The groupof citizens who had assembled to welcome the visitor was sorry to find that theelderly gentleman was suffering from the results of an eventful journey. “The road was fairly good for the first part of’ the journey,” hetold his hearers, “but thenitbecame likemyself, very ‘rough’ “. At one particularly bad stage he had been thrown against the hood of the car. As a result hereceived a bruise on his head, and suffered from a severe pain in his back. Despite his unenviable experience, Mr. Ruff insisted that he was pleased to be in this city.”

Thursday 17th December saw him visiting Toowoomba (travelling by train) where he was accorded a civic reception. Next day he visited Warwick where he was met at the station by Mr W.B. Slade (patron) andMr H.J. Callow (president) and other local members of the society. He was accorded a civic reception at the Town Hall and that night he addressed an at home gathering of the branch.  During the afternoon he was taken to Glengallanto the home of Mr Slade.

The Dragon and The Kangaroo:  this was the headlines used by the Sydney Evening News when they spoke about the civic reception by the Lord Mayor of Sydney on the 31st December.  Mr Ruff in responding to the toast of his health, summed up the ideals of his society, in these words:- “We are the King’s people, speaking the king language of the world, the teaching of patriotism is our aim..”.  In other comments, he spoke of visiting much of Queensland and New South Wales and had been deeply impressed with the wonderful country and soil he had seen.

While in Sydney he wrote a letter to Mr Fred Johns (honorary secretary of the Adelaide branch of the society) stating that he was far from well and after his accident in Brisbane could not turn in bed without a groan. In closing this letter he wrote: “No one could wish for a series of warmer welcomes than those accorded me in Australia.  I hope I may soon be normal for the ‘stuffing’ has been knocked out of me…”

After visiting Melbourne, he arrived at Murray Bridge in South Australia by train on Tuesday 2nd February where that evening he was welcomed at a social.  A flattering reception was given to Mr Ruff in Adelaide where over 300 people were present.  Among them, the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of Adelaide.

He later commented about his impressions of his Adelaide visit:  “Adelaide appealed to me immensely; there is nothing flashy or pretentious about it, and while Sydney and Melbourne appear to be in danger of becoming Americanised and looking to New York or Chicago rather than to London for a lead, Adelaide pursues the even tenor of her way, her own way, without hustle or bustle.:

He left Adelaide on the liner Orvieto and on Monday the 15th February reached Freemantle, Western Australia.  In an interview Mr Ruff said to a pressman.  “……….and after the scout movement, I do not suppose there is another movement which is destined to do a greater amount of good in the world.  I was 76 years old last Friday, and I spent my birthday on the boat.  This is my first visit to Australia and I was very interested to learn of the progress made by the various branches of the society.  Since coming to Australia I have addressed about 40 meetings and I have received the warmest possible welcome everywhere.  The society has between 25,000 and 30,000 members throughout the world, and there are 15 or 16 branches in the Far East.  I had a long chat with the Prime Minister in Melbourne, and I feel that Australia can do the most good for her future citizens by accelerating the movement of migrants from England.”

He planned to disembark at Fremantle in order to assist in the resuscitation of the Perth Branch of the Society.  He will then embark again on the Orvieto for his return trip to England.