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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Day, Archibald John Sheperdson (1901–1975)

by Gordon D. Spearritt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Archibald John Sheperdson Day (1901-1975), organist and music teacher, was born on 10 November 1901 at Red Hill, Brisbane, son of John William Day, a bootmaker from England, and his Welsh-born wife Annie, née Lewis. Educated at Ithaca Primary School, in 1919 Archie won a travelling scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London, where he qualified as a fellow in 1923 with piano and organ as his principal studies. While in London he gave two piano recitals at Steinway Hall and was an accompanist for recitals in the city and the provinces. He returned to Brisbane that year and, for the next decade, was to perform in concerts at Albert Hall, both as accompanist and as a duo-pianist (with Percy Brier or Jack Ellis).

In 1923 Day was appointed church organist and choirmaster at the Ann Street Presbyterian Church. He moved in 1933 to the Albert Street Methodist Church and remained organist there for the rest of his life. On 6 February 1942 he enlisted in the Militia and was posted to the 8th Motor Ambulance Convoy; he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in July. He served at headquarters, Queensland Lines of Communication Area, as a lance sergeant, and from August 1944 was attached to the Army Education Service.

Discharged on 6 September 1945, he resumed his career as church organist, and as a teacher of piano and organ; he also examined for the Australian Music Examinations Board. Following George Sampson's death, in 1950 Day was appointed city organist, a part-time position which required him to play in the Brisbane City Hall at official functions and to give public recitals. As a member of the Brisbane City Council's advisory committee, he was largely responsible for establishing civic concerts and recitals at city hall, designed primarily to encourage young musicians. An excellent organist, Day was renowned for his ability to extemporize. His thirty-minute, Sunday-evening recitals before the service at Albert Street Church were notable in the city's musical life, as were his recitals in the 'Organists of Australia' series for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The University of Queensland holds the manuscript of Carillon, his only extant composition for organ; in addition, he wrote choral settings for three psalms for the Albert Street choir. In 1974 he was appointed M.B.E.

Quick-witted, and extremely perceptive as a musician, Day was capable of conducting a conversation with a visitor while simultaneously correcting errors in an organ student's playing. Besides collecting fine furniture and china, he had a passion for owning and driving 'sporty' cars, including a Daimler coupé in the late 1950s. He enjoyed fishing and playing tennis, and watching Test cricket matches and tennis tournaments. Although he never married, he was fond of children and related easily to young people. Lean and fit, with a head of thick, grey hair, he was distinguished in appearance and in manner. He died of coronary atherosclerosis on 25 February 1975 at Paddington, Brisbane, while waiting for a bus, and was cremated with Methodist forms.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Brier, One Hundred Years and More of Music (Brisb, 1971)
  • Queenslander, 3 Jan 1920, 29 July 1922
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 26 Sept 1976
  • family papers and photographs (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Gordon D. Spearritt, 'Day, Archibald John Sheperdson (1901–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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