Jack O’Hagan admired nurses tremendously and thought they deserved to be commemorated.
His first ode was wistful waltz ‘The Rose of Flanders’(1929), the theme for silent war film Dawn. It was a tribute to Edith Cavell, a British Nurse who helped injured soldiers from both sides of WW1. She was court marshalled for assisting the escape of around two hundred allied soldiers from German occupied Belgium and executed by a German firing squad at dawn. The British Government could not save her but used the story as propaganda for military recruitment against German barbarism. One of many memorials to her is a mildly fragrant, scarlet Polyantha rose, named Miss Edith Cavell, first bred in 1917.
WW2 tribute ‘Red Cross Nurse’ was written with Florence Nightingale in mind and published in 1942. Jack loved a party and one night invited four American nurses he’d just met at Hotel Australia in Collins Street, Melbourne to the family home, where they were welcomed by his ever-patient wife Josie and teenage daughters, and further entertained by Jack at the piano. ‘God bless them’, he’d say.
‘Red Cross Nurse’ was orchestrated by Bob Gibson for publication and recorded by crooner Johnny Wade and George Trevare’s Orchestra on Regal Zonophone, with all the warmth of Bing Crosby. The song didn’t set the world on fire but sold steadily.
If he was still around, Jack would have written a song for our health workers in this time of Covid-19, with appreciation and thanks to all of these wonderful men and women.
1st Verse All the world admires you, Red Cross Nurse
Sacrifice inspires you, Red Cross Nurse
In the darkest hour you tend to our needs with a smile
You’re a precious flower that makes our life worthwhile.
How can we repay you, Red Cross Nurse
Nothing can dismay you mid war’s curse
Like Florence Nightingale with spirit strong
You never fail when things go wrong
Good luck, and God bless you,
Red Cross Nurse.
Chorus Every day we read of gallant deeds
Unselfish acts of heroes by the score
Yet somehow one seldom ever reads
Of the valour of those girls we all adore.
So let me pay a tribute here and now,
To our nurses, they deserve it all I vow.