Barclay Speech


RickBarclayA most desirable part of this evening’s proceedings is to confer on Dally Raymond Messenger a Life Membership of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, an organisation Dally founded in a different form about seventeen years ago and he is, today, its current President.

About twenty-four years ago, Dally and others, were urging the Federal Government to implement a Civil Marriage Program, apart from the Clergy and Registry Office marriages then available.

In 1974, the then Attorney General, Senator Lionel Murphy, responded to this pressure, initiating the Civil Marriage Program and soon after appointed Dally Messenger a Civil Marriage Celebrant.

From that very day of appointment, twenty-two years ago, Dally has devoted himself to the welfare of the Program.

I was appointed a Civil Marriage Celebrant four years later and the first person I contacted for assistance was Dally, who was then National Secretary of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants.

That was the year he published the proof copy of his book which ~~ as later titled “Ceremonies for Today”, a copy of which these days, is surely in the possession of most Civil Marriage Celebrants in Australia.

Dally’s contribution to marriages, funerals, namegivings and associated ceremonies, since his appointment, has been enormous. The most significant factor that can be directly attributed to Dally has been “Choice”. Choice in so many aspects of the Australian way of life, certainly stems from Dally and his dealings with Government Departments, the general public and fellow celebrants.

Take marriage ceremonies as an instance: Until 1974, marriage ceremonies were conducted by 90% Clergy and 10% Registry Office, with no choice of anything by the couple except for perhaps dress and even this had strict conventional limitations.

Pioneer Celebrant Lynnette Knorr pins a Life Membership Badge on Dally Messenger while Brian McInerney looks on (left). The renowned Clarinet Player, Alex Hutchinson is on the right. President Rick Barclay is obscured back left.

With the advent of Civil Marriage Celebrants, and especially the guidance of Dally, including the publishing of his book, we suddenly had a choice of everything – venue, celebrant (religious or civil), wording, dress, or even undress, and anything else you like to mention. Couples had and have now, a choice. Couples now have a choice as to which direction they stand, towards the guests or away from them. Until then, an unheard of privilege.

One of my first weddings ceremonies as a celebrant, was held under a gum tree, so novel in those days that it warranted a full double page spread in the “Sun News Pictorial” headed – “The Marrying Mayor – Out of Doors”.

What about the radical change to funeral ceremonies Dally described in that book? Just imagine, he suggested that celebrants other than clergy should do funeral ceremonies and that even the lowliest among us were entitled to a eulogy, an honour usually reserved only for the level of Prime Minister and upwards – the only acceptable eulogy in those days was that made to the

Almighty. I am of an age to recall that until then if a non-clergy funeral was requested, the usual method was a brief period of silence at the crematorium or graveside, before lowering or, an approach to the Salvo’s might be appropriate.

Suddenly, thanks to Dally, everybody had a CHOICE.

What then, was a Namegiving, something I was asked to perform so, I reached for “Ceremonies for Today” and, being a regular church-goer, I remarked to my Vicar that a Namegiving seemed to me, something parents requested because a friend had a Namegiving Ceremony for their child and they wanted to have their own child similarly DONE. The Vicar replied, “And you think Christenings are any different?”

I estimate that there is not one working Civil Celebrant in Australia who is not following at least some of the teachings of Dally Messenger, even if it may be done unwittingly.

All has not been roses for Dally though.   I well recall the bad feeling that was abroad when he first produced his book. It was said by many a celebrant that Dally must be making pots of money from its publication and sale. Well, let me tell you that with the first and subsequent editions of “Ceremonies for Today”, Dally has invested more of his own money that if he lives to be a hundred, he will never recoup half his outlay.

Over the twenty years that Dally and I have been friends, I have come to understand that his prime fault is that he is streets ahead of other celebrants in his thinking and actions. His passionate rejection of Government regulations of fees, as an instance. Whilst most other celebrants were prepared to accept the Attorney General’s unfair rules, Dally was right up there, with worthy legal advice behind him, crashing through the barriers, all for the benefit of us who, nowadays, can charge the fee of our “Choice”, all thanks to Dally.

There has been also a lot of aggravation and unreasonable actions on the part of the Attorney General’s Department over a long time, however, change has also taken place there as illustrated by a letter to Dally from Clem Dick, the recently appointed boss in the section which oversees marriage celebrants. It is dated 3rd May, 1966.

“Dear Dally,

I am writing on behalf of Legal Aid and Family Services to congratulate you on being given a Life Membership of the Federation. You have made a superb contribution to the Civil Marriage Celebrants Program and in doing so, you have improved the quality of a most important experience in the lives of many Australians, their wedding day. You have also taught Australians the crucial role that ceremony and ritual play in harmonising the life of our society and helping individuals to come to terms with the world in which they live.

Thank you for all you have done to improve the program. We look forward to collaborating with you to further enhance the program in future.”

DALLY RAYMOND MESSENGER, I now present to you, the certificate and badge of Life Member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, a most worthy recipient.

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