During my time in Australia, I became an Australian citizen, thus making me a dual national and the proud owner of two passports to boot.
At my citizenship ceremony, us new Aussies got to sing ‘our’ national anthem (‘Advance Australia Fair’) for the first time – not as part some kind of test (“Get it right or there’s no certificate for you mate”), but more as a celebration of our newly adopted nation.
Thereafter, living down under, I got to hear the anthem sung countless times at everything from sports matches to official ceremonies to school assemblies. The Aussies are rightly proud of their nation and regard singing the anthem as a means to demonstrate that pride.
But ‘Advance Australia Fair’ hasn’t always been the Australian anthem. Indeed it was only officially adopted in 1984, following a painstaking process to ditch the incumbent ‘God save the Queen’ and replace it with a new and more relevant option.
The reason I mention this is that the topic of national anthems has been in the news in England recently as well – a Bill has been introduced into Parliament, proposing that England develops a new anthem too.
Not to entirely replace ‘God save the Queen’, Aussie-style, but for use on those occasions when the British nations stand independently rather than together.
This is often starkly illustrated in the field of sport where the British nations often compete separately, or even against each other – the Scots have an anthem, the Welsh have an anthem, the Irish have an anthem, but the English have God save the Queen.
It is usually still sung passionately enough (apart from the English football team who generally seem to mumble at best), but it doesn’t seem entirely ‘our tune’.
As was the case for Australia in the late 70s when they were debating the same topic, there are some existing alternatives that could easily be adopted or indeed, an entirely new anthem could be composed from scratch.
Of the existing options, current bookies favourites are ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, with ‘I vow to thee my country’ and ‘There’ll always be an England’ also in the reckoning. They are all fine, rousing pieces of music and are distinctively English too.
Whilst there is no guarantee that the Bill will pass through Parliament or that the process will be swift, I rather like the idea of learning the words to a new anthem that can be sung with the unbridled passion that is generally only seen at Last night of the Proms.
And who knows, if this does happen, maybe even the footballers will deign to open their mouths a little wider and actually sing along too.