The Melbourne Rules : An Esoteric History compiled by Brian Membrey


Once  A Jolly Ruckman …

... camped by a behind post ...                      (Play the original La Marseillaise)     This version >>>

Very old Fitzroy supporters would turn in their graves, not so old would shake their heads at disbelief, and Brisbane Lions supporters would probably wonder what all the fuss was about when the Fitzroy Football Club in 1962 moved to change the traditional club theme song.

The kerfuffle first came to light on 13 June when the Wednesday Sporting Globe devoted a front page column to a move by the club secretary, Ward Stuchbery to change the tune of the song from "La Marseillaise" at the request of the French Consulate in Melbourne who considered the use of their country's National Anthem by a sporting club as offensive to the French nation.

Stuchbery had agreed, suggesting that he personally preferred retaining the words, but somehow adopting them to the tune of Waltzing Matilda (perhaps "Walt-zing Mat-ilda" was to become "Fitz-roy! Fitz-roy")?  

The Globe reporter issued an appeal for fans, Fitzroy or otherwise, to come up with a different tune, either using the existing wording or a completely new song, and the following week suggested a "terrific" response to Stuchbery's request.

Amongst the well-known tunes mentioned as possibles were "MacNamara's Band", "A Long Way to Tipperary" (the Globe somewhat cheekily suggesting that perhaps the permission of the Irish Ambassador would be required for this pair), "Scotland, The Brave", "Roll Out The Barrel", "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean", "The Road to Gundagai", "Lille Marlene" and another (unknown to the author), "Who Where You With Last Night" which sounds rather more like what a policeman might say after he taps you on the shoulder n the street!

The most popular suggestion retained a French flavour, The Gendarme's Duet (chorus "we'll run them in, we'll run them in)".  

Forgetting the policeman's tap on the shoulder and perhaps the lilting tones of Lilli Marlene as a little out-of-reach of a boisterous dressing room, the others are probably all of the sing-along music hall variety favoured at the time - (hey! "Gundagai" was used for the Preston Wanderers song when I played in the 1960s, still remember ever word).

The idea of a change fell flat - there was never any further mention of it in the Globe, and given Fitzroy around the time were proposing a move from the Brunswick Street ground to Preston City Oval, maybe the idea of another upheaval from the traditions of the old club may have proved too much for the Fitzroy faithful.

The Globe did, however, reveal that the song originated in 1952 and was the work of two players, former captain Bill Stephen and Stan Vandersluys (who seems to have never played a senior game), the pair penning the words while on an end-of-season trip.

(According to Adam Muyt's 2006 publication, "Maroon and Blue", Stephen chose the "French" tune on a Fitzroy trip to Perth in 1952, while travelling to Perth by train over 2 nights and 3 days. The lyrics took about 10 minutes to create, with Stephen choosing the first line- and he invited other players to each create their own line after his. The other players who each contributed a line were Don Furness, Neville Broderick, Kevin Wright, Keith Ross, Colin Davey and Jack McGregor.  Vandersluys  was not mentioned, but the senior list leaves two lines unaccounted for. Amazingly, Fitzroy appears to have never had a recognised long-term victory song before this).

The "Pink Paper With a Punch" also laid out the words as they were at the time - although not expert on the later version, there appears to be a couple of minor variations over the years ...

"We are the team from old Fitzroy, my lads",

"We wear the colours, maroon and blue",

"We have always fought for victory",

"And we always see it through",

"Win or lose, we do or die",

"And in defeat we always try",

"Fitzroy!, Fitzroy!"

"The club we love so dear",

"Premiers we will be this year"

Perhaps the Consulate was being a little, well, overly-French!

The table below compares the lyrics of the club song with the first verse of the original French and its English translation and there is a substantial difference in the number of lines, even ignoring the six-line reprise. The full version of  La Marseillaise extends to six verses, although only the first is commonly sung today.

With the dual limitation of absolutely zilch musical knowledge and a cloth ear, the lines of the club song appear to match the musical meter per the table below (based on a one minute and sixteen second version included on the Wikipedia page, the full version is about four and a half minutes ).  

Lines 10 to 15 in italics comprise the reprise for the complete six-verse rendition and are repeated 16 to 21 in the Anthem, but just once at the end of each verse of the full version.  Lines 4 and 5 are duplicated, but sung in a different key.  The English translation is an amalgam of a number of versions sighted and appears to be the best match to the music.


Regarded by many (and me) as perhaps the most powerful movie scene ever - the 1942 release of Casablanca with the duelling anthems between French refugees and “La Marseillaise” and the German occupying forces singing “Die Wacht am Rhein”

At 70-plus years of age, I still cannot watch it without a box of tissues on hand!