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Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister #2015-0024

Black leather bible with gold cross on front.

History

This bible was used by Joseph Lyons when he was sworn in as Prime Minister on 7 November 1938. It is inscribed with the details of his swearing in and signed by the Governor-General of the time, Lord Gowrie.

Joseph Aloysius (Joe) Lyons was Australia’s 10th prime minister, elected to the position in December 1931 as leader of the United Australia Party. This bible was used to swear in Lyons as Prime Minister one year after the federal election in 1937. At that time Lyons did not, and was not required to, resign as Prime Minister before the election and his ministry remained the same throughout the election period. In November 1938, however, Lyons resigned as Prime Minister following a vote of no confidence in his prime ministership in the House of Representatives. The motion was defeated, and following his resignation Lyons was immediately recommissioned as Prime Minister. The date on this bible therefore relates to this recommissioning.

At some point Joseph Lyons gave the bible to his Private Secretary, Franz Schneider. Franz Xavier Schneider (1895-1952) was a public servant who began his career in the deputy crown solicitor’s office in Melbourne at the age of 19. He was appointed as a clerk in the office of the public service commissioner in 1915, and continued in the Public Service Board after it moved to Canberra in 1928. He was a keen golfer and it was through golf that he met Prime Minister Lyons. Their children often played together at the Lodge. Schneider was appointed Lyons’ private secretary in November 1938, at the start of the third Lyons Ministry. He remained in that post until Lyons died in April 1939 but returned to the Public Service Board after Lyons’ death.

The bible was passed from Schnieder to his daughter Joan McCrone (nee Schneider) and then to Joan’s daughter Megan McCrone. The signatures of Franz Schneider, Anne Schneider (Franz’s youngest daughter) and Joan McCrone have been inscribed on the fly leaf in blue and black ink. It is possible that the bible was originally given to Franz Schneider by a Lyons family member following Joseph Lyons’ death in April 1939.

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The significance of this bible lies in its association with Joseph Lyons as Australia’s 10th prime minister, as well as its association with a very senior, long-serving public servant, Franz Schneider. A bible, inscribed with the position into which the recipient was being sworn, was commonly used on such formal occasions and is a part of parliamentary protocol that is still used today. This bible was used on the occasion of the swearing in of Lyons’ third Ministry, and is a potent symbol of that Ministry, and of the political machinations at that time. The bible is also a strong indicator of the relationship between Lyons and his private secretary, Franz Schneider, with whom he appears to have had a close rapport, to the point that Schneider would be the obvious beneficiary of such an important item.

  • Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime MinisterBible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister —
  • Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister (detail)Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister (detail) —
  • Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister (detail)Bible used by Joseph Lyons when sworn in as Prime Minister (detail) —

Details

Width 90mm
Height 155mm
Depth 40mm
Medium Leather; Paper; Ink; Ribbon
Creator’s name Published by Burns, Oates and Washbourne, publishers to the Holy See.
Date created 1914