Geddes, Cyril Arthur (1888-1915)

Geddes, Cyril Arthur (1888-1915)

Singer, Civil servant, Hero

Birth and Early Life

Cyril Arthur Geddes was born to Isabel Mary (nee SAYERS) and Arthur Loraine GEDDES in Yea, Victoria on the 28 September 1888. Cyril was one of five children born to the couple. Four of whom were born in Victoria and the youngest, Edwin Cameron Geddes being born in Victoria Park, Western Australia in 1899.

Arthur Loraine Geddes was the son of Captain William Cameron GEDDES who had served in H. M. 96th Regiment and lived for some time in India with his wife Amy Maria HILL[1]. Arthur was born in England however and grew up there until emigrating to Victoria sometime in the 1870s. Records show that Arthur Loraine GEDDES was a surveyor by profession but not much is known of his work during his time living in Victoria. Arthur Loraine GEDDES married Isabel Mary SAYERS in St Paul’s Church, Canterbury, in Sydney NSW on 27 December 1887. Their marriage certificate lists Donald, Victoria as Arthur’s usual place of residence, and the couples’ first four children were born in Victoria.

In 1899 the family is recorded as living at 47 Fitzroy Street, Victoria Park, and the couples’ youngest child was born. The Wise’s Post Office Directory lists Arthur Geddes at two addresses in 1899 through to 1904, one the family home in Victoria Park and the other being 140 William Street, Perth where Arthur’s occupation is interestingly listed as importer. No records can be found of what Arthur imported but he was also known to still be working as a surveyor for the Perth Works Department (PWD).

Tragically on the 14 April 1904, Arthur Loraine GEDDES who was working on the Pilbara railway survey at Marble Bar died. The Geraldton Advertiser reported:

“Arthur Lorraine Geddes, a member of the Pilbarra [sic] railway survey party, who on Tuesday last week made a desperate attempt to commit suicide, died last night at the local hospital. He became quite insane, and with a razor inflicted five wounds in his throat, five in his left forearm, and one terrible gash on the right forearm. He also took a dose of poison. At the inquest a verdict of death from wounds self inflicted whilst temporily [sic] insane was returned.”[2]

Cyril was only 15 years old at the death of his father. Isabel Mary GEDDES never remarried and listed her occupation on electoral rolls for the next twenty years as ‘married’.

Cyril attended Victoria Park State School[3] and his service and sacrifice is honoured there to this day on the school’s honour board, hanging in pride of place in the school’s administration block, where visitors, students and faculty can all see it and reflect.


Kangaroo Paws, Cycling and Football

Cyril enjoyed many hobbies and was very active in the community, he even took part in the Victoria Park Congregational Church’s Flower Show in October 1900 where he won second prize for his exhibit of a collection of kangaroo paws.[4] At age 15 Cyril competed in a cycling race known as the “Government Messengers’ Road Race’ that was held on Albany Road and ran between Victoria Park Hotel and Hotel Cecil in Cannington and returning to Victoria Park Hotel. Cyril was given a handicap of ½ a minute which was the third best handicap in the race.[5] Heavy rain fell during the race and the road “was consequently in a bad condition”[6], so it is no wonder that 15-year-old Cyril didn’t place high in the race results, his time was not recorded in the newspaper reports.

In 1906 Cyril acted with his sisters and some other friends in “A Schoolgirl’s Romance”, a play put on as part of the Christmas Fete in Victoria Park, organised by the local church that the family attended. The event was officially opened by Lady Forrest. Cyril continued his involvement in the community in various ways throughout his short-lived life, gaining his first aid certificate from the St John Ambulance Association, Victoria Park in 1909[7] and was also noted as a member of the Victoria Park Public Library Committee in 1912.[8] He was also a parishioner of the Victoria Park Anglican Church of the Transfiguration. The church was built circa 1896[9] and it is perhaps here that Cyril’s love and talent for singing was nurtured, as we will later uncover, he was known all over Perth for his talent singing as a tenor.

Church of the Transfiguration, Victoria Park, circa 1914.
Victoria Park Local History Photographic Collection.

Another past-time for which Cyril showed some skill was with a football. A newspaper article from 1908 reports that Cyril chaired a meeting held at the Broken Hill Hotel where it was discussed and put to the vote, the decision of which association that the Victoria Park Football Club should play in that year. The result went in favour of the club playing in the ‘Second Rate Association’ in guernseys of black and white.[10] Cyril would captain the team, and by October the club saw the end of its season with Victoria Park being soundly defeated by Cottesloe in the semi-finals. In their coverage of the game The Daily News, reported that “Cyril Geddes made a decent captain, and was very popular, his sport[s]manship and general good conduct earning him the respect of all the other teams.”[11] At the awards presentation for the club on Saturday 16 October at the Broken Hill Hotel, Cyril was also awarded ‘Most consistent player’[12], and along with several other, he presented musical entertainment that was very well received by those in attendance.

Previous military experience

Cyril served for seven years in the 86th Infantry of Western Australian Rifles (four and a half years as a private and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), and two and a half years as 2nd lieutenant)[13] In 1908 as a Corporal, Cyril represented the W.A.I. Regiment in the rifle shooting competition that was held for the ‘Empire Day Shooting Challenge Cup’[14] as part of a team of 40 shooters, Cyril scored 85 total points, being equal 15th with the best score of 101 (out of a possible 105) going to a Private Smith, though interestingly the papers reported that “the scoring was not very good”[15] The cup was between two teams, one from the 18th Australian Light Horse Regiment and the other team being from the Western Infantry Regiment. Competition took place at Karrakatta with the winners being awarded a trophy “presented by Lieutenant Colonel H. W. Schumacher, Witwatersrand Rifles, Johannesburg. It is in the form of a cup, valued at 100 guineas, and in addition silver and bronze commemorative medals and £100 in cash.


Hat and collar badge of the 86th Infantry Western Australian Rifles.

(Courtesy of British Badge Forum[16])

Career as a public servant

Cyril joined the public service in 1908 and worked as a clerk in the office of the Chief Inspector of Machinery, Perth., and secretary of the Engine drivers’ Board of Examiners[17]


Singing played a large part in Cyril’s life. His paternal grandmother Amy Maria HENDERSON[18] was a music and singing teacher of some note in Victoria[19].  Cyril’s father, Arthur Loraine GEDDES, didn’t seem to take any interest in the profession, as he worked as a surveyor. The musical talent was passed to Amy’s grandchildren, Margaret Ida and Cyril Arthur GEDDES. Although there is some record that Isabel Mary Geddes, Cyril’s mother played the piano at some events at which her children participated and indeed taught dancing for a short while.

But it was the return of the South Australian born singing teacher Mr Frank L Robertson, from studies in London in 1908 that would make a marked difference in the life of Cyril Arthur Geddes and the development of his singing talents and musical skills.


It is not known exactly when Cyril took up singing lessons with the renowned Mr Frank L. Robertson, but by April 1911 the name of Mr C. A. Geddes starts to appear in advertisements for concerts, vocal recitals and solos. With Cyril singing solos or in duos or quartets as a tenor, of some note.

In November 1911 Cyril Arthur Geddes sings to a large audience at the Victoria Park Town Hall for an "at home" held by the Ratepayers of Victoria Park to honour Mr and Mrs Charles Harper, the Mayor and Mayoress of the Municipality. The West Australian notes, "Mr Cyril Geddes' singing of which his district (Victoria Park) is justly proud."[20]

Cyril is by now also a popular choice for special events held at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, in Perth where he sings solos and quartets from 1911 on until he departs for war in 1914.

Cyril also sang in 1912 at the Ballroom of Government House for a “Grand Concert in Aid of the Children’s Protection Society and Day Nursery” [21], where he was now being referred to and ranked among "such well-known and popular artists". Guests attending the event, included the Governor, the Premier, Members of Parliament and the Mayor and Mayoress of Perth.

On Friday 25 April 1913, Mr Frank L. Robertson began a series of weekly professional visits to Bunbury and held the first of many Vocal Recitals as the newspaper of the time reported included “a pot-pourri of high-class and popular solo and concerted numbers”[22]

At this recital, the local newspaper reported that “the tenor of the party, Mr. C. A. Geddes, evidences the possession of a voice of true tenor quality – a rare gift. A point worthy of mention is the masculinity, which is a pleasing contrast to the oft-deplored femininity of vocalists of this class.”[23]

Frequent mention is made in the newspapers of the time of the presentation of a song cycle by Liza Lehmann, a famous English singer and composer, called “Nonsense Songs (the songs that came out wrong) from Alice in Wonderland”. Published in 1908 the “Nonsense Songs” are a song cycle for four voices: soprano, contralto, tenor and bass. Mr Frank L Robertson’s students, including Cyril were well known for their performance of this piece across Perth and Bunbury.

Cover of the sheet music for “Nonsense Songs” by Liza Lehmann, 1908.[24]

Mr Frank L. Robertson and his students were also well known for performances as a pantomime group known as “The Pierrots”. They were a comic opera.  Pronounced “pee – euh – row”, Pierrot is a male character in French pantomime, who has a sad, white-painted face, a loose white costume and a pointed hat. Once you remember the name and how to pronounce it, you will find him reflected in art of all kinds to this day.

Child posing in Pierrot costume, in Melbourne circa 1915, by Arthur William Emmerton.

(Courtesy of the National Library of Australia (OBJ142861193)).

Frank L. Robertson’s “The Pierrots” of which Cyril was a key performer were well received by all, with many performance being offered in both Perth and Bunbury. The opening event in Bunbury in September 1913 was promoted thus in the newspapers of the time: “The company have already won a reputation, which in itself is a guarantee of merit. A stronger and more evenly balanced party of singers it would be difficult to find, whilst their ability to produce a peirrot entertainment second to none in humour, brightness, and melody, has been proved. The personnel is as follows – Miss Myrtle Power (soprano), Miss Lily Ross (contralto), Miss Mollie Murphy (soubrette), Mr. C. A. Geddes (tenor), Mr Frank L. Robertson (baritone), Mr Ben Davies (bass), Mr. S. B. Jago (humourist) Mrs Frank L. Robertson (accompanist). The programme will consist of no less than 30 items, including 14 selections from comic opera…”[25]. Robertson’s Pierrot company was also “described as being exceptional from a musical point of view, bright, breezy and complete in every detail”[26]

Enlistment and war service

Cyril Arthur Geddes enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 September 1914, less than a month after war had been declared. he served in 16th Battalion, B Company and embarked with his unit from Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A40 Ceramic on 22 December 1914. After some training in Alexandria, Egypt he embarked to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli on 12 April 1915.

16th Battalion colour patch, Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (RELAWM13307.108)

Group portrait of the Officers of the 16th Battalion. Front middle lying down is Cyril Arthur Geddes.

(Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P05772.003)

Close-up of C. A. Geddes taken from the above image.

Cyril was first reported Wounded on the 2 May, but by 16 May 1915, he was reported as Missing. What worry must have been on the hearts and minds of Cyril’s family waiting at home in Victoria Park to hear news. There is a telegram in Cyril’s war service file at the National Archives of Australia from Cyril’s mother Isabel Mary Geddes dated 21 May 1915 (time stamped 12 noon) in which she is inquiring of the Defence Department information on her wounded son. It was then 19 days since Cyril was reported wounded, and five days since he was reported missing, yet his mother and family still thought him wounded. Cyril had not been seen since the night of the 2-3 May during fighting that became known as the Battle of Bloody Angle

It was not until the 23 May 1915 at a Court of Inquiry at Gallipoli that Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes was declared Killed in Action on 2 May 1915. Two witnesses reported to the Court the circumstances around the last time they saw Cyril:

“No. 676, Sergt. Horace Stanley Hummerston, “B” Co., 16th Battalion, states :-  About 2 a.m. on 3/5/15, I was in the firing line formed by my Platoon (of which Lieut. Geddes was commander) over the sky line of ridge at head of the gully. The firing line was overcrowded. Supporting trenches were being dug behind it. Lieut. Geddes came up to the firing line and inquired how things were. I told him we were too crowded for digging. He said he would make room and went away towards our left. He came up with two shovels in his hands. After he left me I never saw him again. I made enquiry soon after daybreak but I could not find anybody who could give any information. The fire was very hot and there were many casualties. In a number of cases it was impossible to distinguish one from another. There is a possibility of Lieut. Geddes having been taken prisoner. I consider it more probable that he was killed. (sgnd) H. S. HUMMERSTON.”

“No. 77, Corpl. William Mack, “B” Co., 16th Battalion, states:- I have heard the evidence given by Sergt. Hummerston regarding Lieut. Geddes. I was near by him and corroborate his evidence. I do not think there is a possibility of Lieut. Geddes being alive at the present time. I am of opinion he was killed that night. There was not a man left alive on the ridge towards which he went. It was swept with Machine Gun fire. (SGN) W. MACK.”[27]

Signaller Ellis Silas who also served at Gallipoli wrote of the fateful event that was the Bloody Angle: “At nightfall on May 2, the 16th went into attack again up a hill called the Bloody Angle towards Quinn’s Post, and throughout the night the continued to fight and dig trenches.

“The battalion’s exposure to continual firing made it very dangerous to carry ammunition to them. Again and again volunteers were shot as they scrambled up with heavy cases; others took their places only to fall dead across the boxes they were dragging, or to roll down the steep side of the hill.”[28]

Captain C. Longmore, in his book “The Old Sixteenth: being a record of the 16th Battalion, AIF during the Great War 1914-1918 that was published in Perth in 1929 wrote: “Near dawn on May 3 [1915], the 16th rose out of their trenches to attack the Turkish position about 100 metres away but were seen and met with heavy fire. Their attempt failed and when dawn came their dead ‘lay thickly on the slopes’.

“During that night, men of the Royal Naval Division had been brought in to reinforce the battalion, but confusion prevailed and communication with the 16th became impossible. Attempts to dig a communication trench through the hill failed and throughout the morning the 16th gradually fell back in twos and threes.

“At 6pm the remnants of the battalion were withdrawn. At the landing on April 25, the 16th had been about 1000 strong. Overnight on May 2, they had lost eight officers and 330 men.

“At roll call on 3 May, only nine officers and 290 men answered their names.”

Photograph of a section of the Gallipoli peninsula, taken in 1919, the red line in the image indicates the gully where some bodies of men of the 16th Battalion were found leading up to the Bloody Angle.

(Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.)

The Geddes Family after the loss of Cyril

After the death of her son, Isabel Mary Geddes continued to reside at 47 Fitzroy Street, Victoria Park which became Berwick Street in September 1918. In 1925 she and two of her daughters moved to Nedlands and resided there until her death in 1943.

Cyril’s sister Margaret Ida Geddes, known as Ida continued to sing and perform at various functions, including an Anzac service in Moora in 1922 where she stepped in at the last minute, and whose voice was quoted as being beautiful[29]. Ida Geddes went on to sing in England and later became a music and singing teacher.

Ethel Geddes married James Roy Braidwood in 1918, Roy as he was known, had played in the Victoria Park Football Club with her brother Cyril. A newspaper report on the event further highlighted the family’s community involvement and beloved status in Victoria Park: “Next week, at Victoria Park, Miss Ethel Geddes, one of a quartet of popular Park girls (sisters of the late Lieut. Geddes), will say “I Will” to Sergt. Roy Braidwood, M.M. who was severely wounded at Gallipoli. The wedding is sure to create considerable interest in the sandy suburb, where the sisters are tireless workers for patriotic purposes.”[30] Cyril’s sister Rose Annie would marry in 1923 but his other siblings, Ida, Edith and Edwin did not marry. According to electoral roll records Edwin worked as a mechanic for many years and died unmarried and with no known children in Glen Forest in 1975.


“Victoria Park has indeed contributed some gallant young officers to the army that has made the whole world wonder, notably Capt. (Dr.) Teague, Capt. McMaster, Capt. “Jim” Miller, and Lieuts. Arthur Carse and Cyril Geddes, all of whom gave their lives for their country. Three of these came from the one little street (Cargill), in which nearly every house has (or had) a representative in khaki.”[31] So noted the Sunday Times newspaper on the 14 April 1918.

Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes is commemorated in several places including the Victoria Park State School and the Victoria Park Church of the Transfiguration, honour rolls. On the 6 September 1918 the name of Cecil Street, Victoria Park was changed to Geddes Street to honour the service and ultimate sacrifice of Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes.

Geddes Street begins on Albany Highway, Victoria Park and runs parallel to its namesake’s childhood school. The street then runs along until it intersects with Berwick Street roughly two houses down from where Cyril grew up with his mother and siblings at 47 Berwick Street.

Whilst war is never glorious, the sacrifices made by those who serve to protect freedom and democracy is never in vain, and there is no greater love, than a man who lays down his life for his friend[32].

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We Will Remember Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes


[1] HILL was Amy Maria’s maiden name, then she married William Cameron GEDDES and later married a man by the name of HENDERSON.

[2] Suicide of Arthur Geddes (father of Cyril Arthur Geddes): 1904, Geraldtor Advertiser (Wa : 1893 – 1905), 15 April, p. 3, viewed 27 Jan 2022,

[3] Now known as Victoria Park Primary School

[4] 1900 ‘WILD FLOWER SHOW AT VICTORIA PARK.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), 6 October, p. 60., viewed 24 Jan 2022,

[5] 1904 'CYCLING.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 21 September, p. 8. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[6] 1904 'CYCLING.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 24 September, p. 8. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[7] 1909 ‘NEWS AND NOTES.’ The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 3 November, p. 6, viewed 25 Jan 2022,

[8] 1912 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 3 August, p. 10. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[9] The Church of the Transfiguration moved to Leonard Street in 1922 and was in service to the present St Peter’s Anglican Church was opened in 1935. The former wooden structure that was The Church of the Transfiguration was then demolished.

[10] 1908 ‘FOOTBALL’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 15 April, p. 3 (SECOND EDITION), viewed 20 Jan 2022,

[11] 1908 ‘SECOND-RATE ASSOCIATION.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 16 October, p. 10., viewed 24 Jan 2022,

[12] 1908 'FOOTBALL.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 21 October, p. 11. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[13] University of New South Wales, Canberra, no date, ‘Cyril Arthur Geddes’, in The AIF Project, UNSW, online:

[14] 1908 'RIFLE SHOOTING.', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1955), 21 May, p. 4. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[15] 1908 'RIFLE SHOOTING.', Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), 30 May, p. 38. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[16] The British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, accessed online:, 28 March 2022

[17] 1915 ‘CIVIL SERVENT VOLUNTEERS’, Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1954) 29 May, p. 6, viewed 24 Jan 2022,

[18] Henderson being her second marriage after the death of her first husband Captain William Geddes.

[19] Death of Mrs A M Henderson – 1892 ‘The Yea Chronicle’, Yea Chronicle (Yea, Vic. : 1891 – 1920), 2 June, p. 2., viewed 27 Jan 2022,

[20] 1911 'SOCIAL NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 18 November, p. 13. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[21] 1912 ‘Advertising’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 -1955), 17 June, p. 1., viewed 21 Jan 2022,

[22] 1913 'AN ENJOYABLE VOCAL RECITAL.', Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 - 1916), 26 April, p. 5. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[23] 1913 'AN ENJOYABLE VOCAL RECITAL.', Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 - 1916), 26 April, p. 5. , viewed 28 Mar 2022,

[24] A copy of the sheet music for this piece can be downloaded, printed and played from the catalogue of the National Library of Australia.

[25] 1913 ‘THE PIERROTS’, Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 – 1916), 23 September, p. 5., viewed 26 March 2022,

[26] 1913 ‘THE PIERROTS’, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892-1919), 23 September, p. 8, viewed 20 Jan 2022,

[27] National Archives of Australia: B2455, GEDDES C A, p. 38

[28] Unknown author 2015, ‘Private Suffers from conditions on Gallipoli Peninsula’, in The Islander Online, accessed online 28 March 2022,

[29] “Anzac Day” The Midlands Advertiser (Moora, WA : 1907-1930) 28 April 1922, p. 2, accessed 24 Jan 2022,

[30] 1918 ‘PERTH PRATTLE’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 16 June, p. 14, viewed 23 Feb 2022,

[31] 1918 ‘PEEPS at PEOPLE’, Sunday Times (Perth, Wa : 1902 – 1954), 14 April, p. 20. , viewed 24 Jan 2022,

[32] John 15 : 13



This article was first published in the Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, March 2022. By Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator.

Cyril Arthur Geddes was the 'Local Focus' story featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Anzac Day commemorations on 25 April 2022 which were held as virtual commemorations due to COVID-19 mitigation.

You can pick up a copy of his special commemorative booklet from the Library or download a copy to keep here: Geddes, Cyril Arthur - 2022 ToVP Anzac Day Local Focus History Commemorative Brochure

You can also view Cyril's special tribute video made for the virtual commemoration service on Anzac Day here: