Peter Dodds McCormick is best known today as the composer of the national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. He arrived in Sydney from Scotland in 1855, after completing an apprenticeship as a joiner. He became involved in musical societies and, after attending Fort Street Model School for a month in 1863, he was appointed teacher-in-charge at St Marys National School. He also taught at the Presbyterian denominational school at Woolloomooloo, and Dowling Street Public School.
McCormick, a patriotic Scot, was an active member of a number of Scottish patriotic organisations, and a Presbyterian elder. He was the precentor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of NSW and organised many church choirs, and conducted a choir of ten thousand children and a thousand teachers at the Robert Raikes Sunday school centenary demonstration in 1880. He published numerous patriotic and Scottish songs, including Awake! Awake! Australia, and The Bonnie Banks o' Clyde, taking the pseudonym "Amicus".
McCormick claimed he wrote the words and music for Advance Australia Fair after attending a concert which featured many national anthems, but none for Australia. Its original opening line was "Australia's sons, let us rejoice". It was premiered at the St Andrew's Day concert of the Highland Society in 1878 and later published by WH Paling and Co. Most significantly, it was sung at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia by a choir of ten thousand, with the words modified slightly to include "our youthful Commonwealth". In 1907 the Carruthers government awarded McCormick one hundred pounds for his patriotic composition. It was not until 1974 that it was proclaimed the national anthem by the Whitlam government. After the Fraser government's decision to restore God Save the Queen as the anthem, the Governor-General finally proclaimed it as the national anthem in 1984.