Open main menu

Alexander Frame Lithgow (1 December 1870 in Glasgow – 12 July 1929 in Launceston, Tasmania) was a Scottish-born, New Zealand and Australian based composer and bandleader known as the "Sousa of the Antipodes". His name is pronounced "Alek" by his family.



In 1876, the Lithgows emigrated to Invercargill, New Zealand. Aged 6, Alex went to Invercargill Grammar School (now Invercargill Middle School). He attended Invercargill's Presbyterian Church, First Church. He liked Ice Hockey, the Circus and Rugby. His family was musical, performing as the six-member Lithgow Concert Company around Southland.

1881 At the age of 11 having had lessons on the cornet initially by his father, Alex joined the local brass band the Invercargill Garrison Band. Alex also learnt the violin to a very high standard.

1886 At the age of 16 he advanced to be the band's solo and principal cornetist. However, despite often being stated, he never was this Band's conductor.

1887 At the age of 17 his first composition, 'Wairoa', was published. This was named after a ship at the band was playing on at the Invercargill estuary.

Early adulthoodEdit

Alex played for the Star Rugby football club in Invercargill.

Alex played with the Theatre Royal orchestra as first violin. He won national solo cornet titles for the next few years.

1893 At the age of 23 he toured New Zealand as a professional soloist.

Move to AustraliaEdit

1894 Aged 24 he left New Zealand and moved to Australia where became conductor of the St Joseph's Total Abstinence Society Band in Launceston Tasmania. He earned his living as a compositor at The Examiner and the Daily Telegraph.

1900 Alex aged 30 married Elizabeth Hill Telfer at a Presbyterian church at Launceston on 6 June.

1901 He came back briefly to New Zealand to conduct the Woolston Band at Christchurch where at a charity concert the band performed an entire concert of his compositions.

1903 He went back to Launceston St Joseph's Band.

1904 At the age 34 he started the Australian Army's 12th Battalion Launceston Regiment Band.

1909 He spent his time conducting and being a spontaneous composer for the silent film orchestra at the Lyceum and Princess Theatres.

Later lifeEdit

1922 He returned to the St Joseph's band for the last time.

1923 He founded and conducted the Launceston Concert Orchestra where he presented many of his compositions plus symphonic jazz. There were more charity all-Lithgow compositions concerts.

1927 at the age of 57 he retired from work and the Band due to ill health.

His marches were published throughout the world and the Americans acclaimed him as 'the Sousa of the Antipodes'. Lithgow produced approximately two hundred marches, as well as numerous pieces for band, orchestra, piano and voice. He acquired no copyrights and many of his pieces, in his immaculate notation, were lost or unpublished. Music dominated his existence, but time for composing was scarce when after a long day's work he cycled home to change for an evening performance or a musical gathering.

He died on June 12, 1929 at the age of 59 a few months short of his 60th birthday Lithgow died of a Stroke at Launceston. At his funeral massed bands played The 'Invercargill'. He is buried in Carr Villa cemetery. He was survived by his wife, son and two daughters. One of the grandaughters Pat Ward wrote a book on him. In 1953 a memorial plaque was unveiled at Paterson Street Barracks and a Band Rotunda built in City Park, Launceston. Still today in Tasmania they continue with Lithgow-only concerts. Tasmanians regard him as theirs but to Kiwis he is from Invercargill.

Lithgow wrote the 'Galvini March' in tribute to his patron B. Galvin, an Australian construction and manufacturing magnate who was a pallbearer at his funeral.


  • Apollo House
  • Artillery
  • Australia
  • Canberra
  • Lithgow
  • Middlington
  • National Guard, The
  • New South Wales
  • New Zealand
  • Queen of the North
  • Rauparaha
  • Royal Australian Navy
  • Ryanda
  • Sons of Australia
  • Southlanders, The
  • Stars and Cross
  • Sunshine
  • Australian Girls – A march
  • Gallipoli – March – See [ANZAC] day, a national holiday
  • Hathaway – for Brass Band
  • Honour the Brave – Slow March
  • The Courier – for Brass Band
  • The Vikings – for Brass Band
  • The skipper – for Brass Band
  • Brigade of the Guards – For Brass Band
  • Australian Wedding March
  • Australia March (tape stored at National Film and Sound Archive, Australia)
  • The Aboriginal Concert March
  • New South Wales March
  • Southstralia
  • Westralia March
  • Westbury March
  • Gippsland
  • Wallabies March (National Film & Sound Archive, Australia)[permanent dead link]
  • The boomerang
  • Sons of Australia
  • Sons of New Zealand
  • Kia Ora March
  • Rauparaha March
  • New Zealand March
  • City of Ballarat (National Film & Sound Archive, Australia)[permanent dead link]
  • Fighting Mac.
  • Ryanda.
  • Stars and cross.
  • Tasma.
  • Sons of Australia.
  • Victoria March.
  • Middlington.
  • Canberra.
  • Artillery.
  • Evandale
  • Cuckoos.
  • 1887 Wairoa, for brass band
  • 1894 The Cataract, for brass band – named for Cataract Gorge, Launceston
  • 1900 Australis, for cornet
  • 1901 Invercargill March, for brass band, also arranged for piano
  • 1901 Le Cirque – Fantasia
  • 1911 Gippsland, for brass band
  • 1916 March of the [ANZAC] (Australian & New Zealand Armed Corps)
  • 1917 Land of Moa, for brass band
  • 1917 Sons of Australia march
  • 1917 The Wallabies – named after a recruitment march by volunteers through queensland and new south wales, re-formed as a military unit. Also arranged for pianolla roll (?Author)
  • 1917 Vera – a waltz
  • 1918 Pozieres – A major battle of the great war
  • 1920 Sons of New Zealand
  • 1922 Scotch Collegians
  • 1925 Queen of the South – March
  • 1926 Australia to-day – depicting the triumphal march of industry
  • 1926 Evandale, for brass band
  • 1928 Haeremai, for brass band
  • 1928 Home Vale, for brass band
  • 1928 Osborne, for brass band
  • 1929 Hathaway, for brass band
  • 1929 Toowoomba, for brass band
  • Galvini March – arranged for piano. Dedicated to Mr & Mrs B.J.Galvin, who was later pallbearer at his funeral.

A comprehensive list of works in German language Alex F. Lithgow#Werken voor harmonieorkest of brassband [nl]


  • Australian Dictionary of Biography
  • Lloyd Esler Historian Southland Times
  • International Military Music Society NZ Branch
  • Gavin Marriott researcher who gave the tribute to Lithgow at the centenary to The 'Invercargill' March.
  • Rodney Sutton current Patron of Invercargill Garrison Band & Lithgow historian
  • St Joe's Big Band Launceston
  • Ward, Pat, Alex F Lithgow 1870–1929: March Music King (Armadale, W.A.: P. Ward, (c) 1990).
  • wind repertory Project