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Claude Ernest MONTEATH

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 2472 19y11m 13 Apr 1916 3 Mar 1918 6

Private Claude Ernest Monteath (1896-1972)


Family background and early life

Claude Ernest Monteath was born in South Melbourne, son of Claudius Buchanan Monteath and Clara Beatrice née Fysh on 26 May 1896.  His father came to Brisbane in 1912 to establish a branch of his Melbourne firm C. Monteath and Sons.  The works in South Brisbane were originally established to carry out a contract for the manufacture and supply of cast iron pipes for the Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board.  The business, Monteath Brothers, iron founders and cast iron manufacturers gradually increased. 

Mr C. B. Monteath became its resident Managing Director.  Monteaths Foundry was a landmark in South Brisbane.  His wife and family followed him to Brisbane and they lived at Hillstone, Hardgrave Street, West End. 

The eldest in the family was Claude Ernest and the other children in order of age were Beatrice Florence, Colin Lewis Hutchinson and Esther Jessie. 

Education and music

Growing up in Melbourne before coming to Brisbane’s West End, Claude Monteath attended Caulfield Grammar School and at an early age developed a talent for playing the piano under the tutorship of Fräulein Boesser.  With her other students fourteen year old Claude performed in a concert in the Independent Hall in Russell Street, Melbourne in March 1911.  Master Claude Monteath rendered a pianoforte solo at the Seamen’s Institute, Port Melbourne in October 1912 and was among those who showed exceptional talent in December that year again in the Independent Hall when he was praised1 for his interpretation of compositions by Schubert and Mendelssohn.  

In his teens he served for three years in the Senior Cadets and for one year in the Citizen Forces. He came to Brisbane with his family when his father established Monteath's Foundry and was associated with Wharf Street Congregational Church. 

Enlistment and service

On 13 April 1916 Claude Monteath at the age of 20 years 11 months enlisted in Brisbane to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).  Private Monteath, regimental number 2472, was appointed to 5th Reinforcements, 47th Infantry Battalion and commenced training at Enoggera Camp.  On 19 September 1916 he embarked at Brisbane on board HMAT2 Seang Choon and reached Plymouth in December.  During further training exercises with the 12th Training Battalion in southern England, Private Monteath spent a couple of weeks in hospital at Codford at the beginning of 1917.  With other reinforcements he joined the 47th Battalion at Étaples, France on 7 April 1917. 

The 47th took part in the capture of Messines Ridge on 7 June 1917 but on that day Private Monteath was badly wounded in action.  Suffering from gunshot wounds to the legs, arms and hands and abrasions on his face, he was admitted to hospital in Boulogne but required treatment at Netley in England and later Dartford and Weymouth.  The injuries were not healing so Private Monteath was admitted to Birmingham General Hospital on 14 September 1917.  He was again transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford where it was decided he should return to Australia.  He embarked from London per hospital ship Berrima on 9 November 1917.  On arrival at Sydney, he was transported overland to Brisbane. He was discharged from the AIF on 3 March 1918. 

Post war 

Claude Monteath was employed in clerical work on his return to civilian life in Brisbane but before long he was also engaged in musical activities.  In May 1918 his mother organised an afternoon function in connection with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) where Claude Monteath played a pianoforte solo. He wanted most of all to play the organ and became a pupil of Mr George Sampson FRCO3.  

Organist and musical performances

He acted as organist at Ann Street Presbyterian Church, deputy organist at St John’s Cathedral, honorary organist of the Sampson Orchestra and of the Brisbane Musical Union.  In a special service for Sunday School children conducted by the Archbishop of Brisbane in the Exhibition Hall in December 1921 Claude Monteath presided at the organ. 

He acted as groomsman at the weddings of some of his friends and again at a ceremony in St John’s Cathedral on 21 December 1922 for the marriage of his sister Beatrice to David James Garland, son of Canon D. J. Garland who officiated. 

He participated in musical performances at His Majesty’s Theatre and Centennial Hall and gave an organ recital at Ann Street Presbyterian Church.  Claude Monteath gave his farewell concert in Exhibition Hall on 14 February 1923 before proceeding to England to study at the Royal College of Music with a view to making music his profession.  He took up residence at Addison Gardens in London while he pursued his musical studies.

Qualifications in music

On achieving his qualifications as Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) and Associate of the Royal College of Music (ARCM) he took up residence in Melbourne again to begin in earnest his musical career.  He accepted private pupils for tutoring in pianoforte and organ playing while residing at St Peter’s Vicarage, St Kilda.


Claude Ernest Monteath returned to Brisbane for his marriage on 7 January 1919 in St John’s Cathedral.  He married a school mistress, Miss Heather Grisel Spence of Edmondstone Street, South Brisbane.  She was a member of the family to which Catherine Helen Spence, a pioneer of the Women’s Movement belonged, also a past student of Somerville House.  After their wedding, they lived in Melbourne at Glenferrie Road, Kooyong and Summerlea Grove, Hawthorne for short periods then settled at 12 Moonga Road, Toorak where they both pursued their teaching professions.  During the following years, many guests were entertained in their home. A happy party took place there in 1947 when former students gathered to renew friendships with Miss Constance Harker, former head mistress of Somerville House while she was visiting Melbourne.  On another occasion, three of their students were guests of honour in the attractive grounds of their Toorak home. The three had gained outstanding success in their respective academic and musical studies.

Musical career in Melbourne

Claude Monteath became well known in the musical world through his various roles – University Extension Lecturer for Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), Organist and Choirmaster at Toorak Presbyterian Church, broadcaster on national radio stations, eisteddfod adjudicator, Director of Music at Scotch College and Lecturer at Victoria College of Advanced Education. Claude Monteath also gave strong leadership in the Melbourne (Albert Street) Conservatorium of Music as deputy director and later co-director over a period of fifteen years.

Melbourne newspapers in the 1940's often reported on organ recitals, lectures on music and citizenship, choral presentations, school concerts and activities at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, referring to the leading contributions and talents of Claude and Heather Monteath.  A published report on A Shakespearian Fantasy presented by Melbourne Conservatorium students in July 1942 stated:

 “The difficult task of writing a dialogue that was neither stilted nor full of anachronisms was ably accomplished by Heather Monteath and her husband, Claude Monteath, was responsible for the arrangement and conducting of the music.” 4

The Society of Organists presented an interesting programme of music for voices and organ at Toorak Presbyterian Church in June 1943.  Under the direction of Claude Monteath, choirs of Hawthorn Presbyterian Church, Melbourne Conservatorium Choral Class, South Camberwell Methodist Church and Toorak Presbyterian Church sang examples of choral music from the time of Byrd to Brahms.  Organ pieces played by Claude Monteath ranged from Purcell to Karg-Elert.5  A report on a concert given by 900 boys of Scotch College in the Melbourne Town Hall in 1948 said:

 “The conductor, Mr Claude Monteath, exercised a precise control over the choruses.”6

World War 2

The National Archives of Australia refers to a World War 2 service record for Claude Ernest Monteath who enlisted at Armadale, Victoria.   He was allotted service number V91020 and his next of kin was his wife Heather Monteath.  The papers are “not yet examined” meaning they have not been released for public access. 


On 25 January 1945 Claude and Heather Monteath’s daughter, Gail Brenda, was born at Jessie McPherson Hospital, Melbourne.

Claude Monteath expressed a view of music: 

“If one could envisage the ideal state of music, it would be one where the performers occupied the main hall and the listeners occupied the stage.”7

He said that there should not be many listeners because the music would be so arranged that everyone could take part in it.  His productions often involved large numbers of young people.  In October 1953 he conducted a choir of over 1000 young male voices at the Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of Scotch College.  The outstanding item was the Coronation Anthem, Zadok the Priest (Handel). The critic said the majesty and joy of this traditional piece was well sustained. 

Though many press reports praised the work of Claude Monteath, there are few references to him personally.  In 2008, a priest who remembered him said: 

“Claude Monteath frightened me a little; a rather austere man of aristocratic mien, he was an FRCO and his playing had a wonderful sense of tonal architecture.”8 

Reporting on the celebrations of his many friends and well wishers when his daughter was born in 1945, the journalist spoke of:

“...the genial co-director of the Conservatorium and his devotion to music”.9

Mr Monteath stated his view firmly but kindly in a letter to the editor of a Melbourne newspaper in 1954, when he was referring to “a band of intolerant critics” after the performance of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène.

“Surely a duty of the critic is to recommend works of merit which, because they are subtle, do not command general patronage at first ... It is to be regretted that producer and cast have reaped so little reward for the initiative they have shown in the choice and presentation of this piece.”

It is fitting that Claude Ernest Monteath is remembered on an honour board at Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church where for more than a century music has played an important part in its worship, witness and mission and continues to do so. Despite his battle wounds to his hands and limbs, Claude Monteath survived and contributed with distinction to the cultural and religious life of Australia.


Claude Ernest Monteath died on 4 November 1972 aged 76 years.  His widow for 22 years, Heather Grisel Monteath died on 1 March 1995.  They are honoured on a memorial at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.

1. Punch, Melbourne, 12 December 1912, page 40
2. His Majesty’s Australian Transport 
3. Fellow of the Royal College of Organists
 4. Australasian, Melbourne, 18 July 1942, page 24
 5. Sigfrid Karg-Elert (November 21, 1877-April 9, 1933) was a German composer of considerable fame in the early twentieth century, best known for his choral lieder, chamber music, and compositions for piano, organ, and harmonium.
6. The Age, Melbourne, 8 October 1948, page 2
7. The Argus, Melbourne, 2 September 1941, page 6
8. Fr Bruce Naylor, Organ Australia, September 2008, page 4
9. The Argus, Melbourne, 21 February 1945, page 8

Select Bibliography
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1 and World War 2
• Australian War Memorial, embarkation rolls, unit histories
• Ancestry on-line
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Victorian Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1904 – 1980
• Shipping Records, Australian and English ports
The Age, 8 March 1911, p 11; 10 March 1941, p 8; 2 September 1941, p 6; 11 October 1941, p 7; 10 December 1941, p 10; 15 July 1943, p 2; 28 February 1944, p 3; 22 February 1946, p 2; 30 September 1947, p 2; 5 January 1948, p 5; 8 October 1948, p 2; 7 Oct 1953; 21 April, 1954, p 2
The Argus, 15 July 1940, p 7; 2 September 1941, p 5; 3 June 1943, p 6; 7 December 1943, p 6; 21 Sept 1944, p 6; 27 January 1945; 21 February 1945, p 8; 13 July 1945, p 8; 5 April 1947, p 7; 29 July 1953; 2 August 1954, p 6
The Australasian, Melbourne, 18 July 1942, p 24
Brisbane Courier, 10 June 1904, page 4; 28 May 1915, page 6; 14 Feb 1923, p 12; 5 August 1930, page 34
Daily Mail, 7 December 1922, p 9; 14 February 1923, page 8
Daily Standard, 3 December 1921, p 3; 23 Nov 1926, p 10; 15 January 1929, p 2
Frankston and Somerville Standard, 27 September 1930, p 4
Organ Australia, Vol 3, No 2, June 2008, p 13; Vol 3, No 3, Sept 2008, p4
Punch, 12 December 1912, page 40
The Queenslander, 2 January 1904, page 9
Queensland Figaro, 19 January 1929, page 8
The Standard, Frankston, 11 July 941, p 1
Table Talk, 17 Oct 1912, page 31
Telegraph, Brisbane, 18 May 1918, p 16; 11 Feb 1920, p 5; 21 July 1921, p 11; 27 March 1922, p 11; 11 Oct 1922, p 8; 20 Nov 1922, p 8; 21 December, 1922; 4 July 1923, p 8
Who’s Who in Australia, 1944, 1947, 1950

Written and compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, September 2016 ©



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