The Colonel Light ceremony

The annual ceremony of drinking to the memory of Colonel William Light (1786 – 1839), founder of the City of Adelaide, was instituted in 1859, when a silver bowl was presented to the Mayor and Corporation of Adelaide by four of the original founders of the colony (George Palmer, Jacob Montefiore, Raikes Currie and Alexander Elder) who wished to preserve the memory of the late Colonel.

It was their intention that the ornamental silver bowl, made in England in 1766-67, be used by the Mayor and Members of the Council to 'drink in Australian wine to the memory of Lieut-Col. Light, the first Surveyor-General of South Australia.'

When the bowl was presented in January 1859, a piece of wedding cake of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal of England was also sent to the Corporation by George Palmer (one of the Colonisation Commissioners who planned the settlement of South Australia back in 1835). He intended that the cake be distributed among the Councillors and citizens present at the meeting at which the memory of Colonel Light was first honoured.

Since then it has been custom to comply with this tradition of recognising Colonel Light’s contribution to the City at a Special Ceremonial Council Meeting and Lord Mayoral Reception each year. Initially, this was held on the first meeting of the Council in each Municipal Year, but this was later changed to align the ceremony with the occasion of Colonel Light’s birthday, 27 April 1786.

Members of the Council, the State Governor and other distinguished dignitaries and invited guests are present at the ceremony, at which the Lord Mayor recalls the life and work of Colonel Light, and a guest speaker provides an address related to the subject of Colonel Light’s achievements and his close association with the City. A life-size portrait of Colonel Light is also on put on display in the Council Chamber.

At the conclusion of the address, the Lord Mayor invites those present to drink Australian wine from the Corporation's silver bowl to the memory of Colonel Light founder of the City. The wine is ladled from the silver bowl and cake is provided. The ceremony takes place in the Council Chamber, and ‘the toast’ occurs in the Queen Adelaide Room.

After the ceremony, the guests and visitors are invited to inspect the paintings, maps and other historic items on display in the Colonel Light Room.

A much more elaborate Colonel Light Ceremony, complete with a marquee, a raised stage and theatrical performances by professional actors, was held annually outdoors in Light Square from 2004 to 2011, during Michael Harbison’s term as Lord Mayor.

Since 2012 the Colonel Light Ceremony has continued to be held in the Council Chamber at the Adelaide Town Hall.

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