E.T. Shorley: First World War lyricist and poet digital story

State Library recently commissioned a digital story – 30945 E.T. Shorley: First World War lyricist and poet digital story 2017 – to explore the homefront contribution of central Queensland lyricist and poet E.T. (Ezra Thomas) Shorley, and the play The Optimist, by Rockhampton music teacher and playwright Janet Stevenson, who received a Regional Arts Development Fund grant in 1915 to research and dramatise Shorley’s story. The Optimist was staged in Rockhampton, Mount Morgan and Emu Park in the lead-up to Anzac Day 2016, and is a unique interpretation of Shorley’s life, and a creative commemoration of the First World War in Queensland.

E.T. (Ezra Thomas) Shorley during the First World War

E.T. (Ezra Thomas) Shorley during the First World War

Mr. Shorley emigrated from the United Kingdom aged 19, and lived around Rockhampton, Mount Morgan and Ulam. Although his background was in farming, Shorley composed poems, lyrics and some music, and published more than twenty songs towards the end of the First World War and into the 1920s.

E. T. Shorley was a recruiting sergeant during the war, and two of his sons enlisted. Clide Leslie (service number 4906) enlisted 28 September 1915 aged 21, and served with 15th Infantry Battalion.

Alfred Daniel (service number 5477) enlisted 1 January 1916, aged 23, and served with 9th Infantry Battalion.

Private A.E. Shorley, son of Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Shorley

Private A.E. Shorley, son of Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Shorley, during the Second World War. The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton) 21 August 1941, p. 19

State Library holds a number of E.T. Shorley’s pieces, some of which have a wartime theme.

The Day of victory song. Words by E. T. Shorley ; music by Ernest Gollmick.

The Day of victory song. Words by E. T. Shorley ; music by Ernest Gollmick.

Joy bells are ringing. Words by E. T. Shorley ; music by Helena Miller.

Joy bells are ringing. Words by E. T. Shorley ; music by Helena Miller.

In addition to lyrics, Shorley wrote poetry, and published some of his works in the volume Poetic reflections in rhyme and reason in 1937.

To see more of State Library’s QANZAC100 digital stories, look for our channels on YouTube and Vimeo.

Robyn Hamilton – QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland