Bracken moved to Dunedin in 1869, and concentrated on journalism, working at the Saturday Advertiser. In the edition of 1 July 1876, he published a five-stanza poem of his own composition entitled ‘National Hymn’ and announced a contest with a prize of ten guineas for the person who composed the best musical setting to accompany his words. The judges were trio of reputable Melbourne-based German-born musicians: Herr Zelman, Herr Siede and Herr Zeplin. They unanimously chose an entry submitted by John Joseph Woods, head teacher at St Patrick’s Catholic School in the town of Lawrence, ninety-six kilometres north of Dunedin.
|Ref: Original words & music to 'God defend New Zealand', 7-C1897, Sir George Grey Special Collections|
|Ref: Saluting and singing the national anthem, AWNS-18991222-6-1, Sir George Grey Special Collections|
- Lyrics to 'God defend New Zealand' by Thomas Bracken, 1876 (GNZMS 6).
- Music score to 'God defend New Zealand' by J.J. Woods (GNZMS 296). Related letters from Johannes C. Andersen, E Fox, G Grey, R Seddon and Thomas Bracken are kept with the score. These are copies of originals held at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.
- Māori translation (printed) by T.H. Smith (facilitated by Sir George Grey) of Thomas Bracken's five-stanza poem, 'God defend New Zealand', 1878 (GNZM 554a Aötearoa).
|Ref: Children singing the national anthem, AWNS-18990519-3-1, Sir George Grey Special Collections|