Churches in Brisbane –
A Saintly Bishop –
A Modern Miracle –
Laying the Foundations of Goodness
Bishop Matthew Hale was at the head of the Church of England in Queensland in the early 1880s, having succeeded Bishop Tufnell, who was before my time.
Bishop Hale was a homely but scholarly man, came of a very distinguished family, and was generally acceptable in the diocese, which was Low Church.
At St. John’s and at All Saints’, and particularly at the last mentioned, the inclination was towards High Church.
The Rev. John Sutton, B.A., had brought with him from Oxford to St. John’s, what was known as the Catholic spirit, and the Rev. C. G. Robinson, M.A., at All Saints’, had rather an elaborate ritual.
Mr. Sutton’s churchwardens were Messrs. H. P. Abbott, manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, Mr. John Hardgrave, and Mr. Reginald S. Hurd.
Mr. Abbott was keenly opposed to anything High in the ritual, but the others were inclined to go with the Rector, though Mr. Hardcastle was strongly Protestant.
At All Saints, with Mr. R. D. Neilson, Mr. J. R. Dickson (later Sir James Dickson), and Mr. Henry Donkin, Mr. Robinson was generously supported. Bishop Hale was really an Evangelical, and without doubt the two principal city Churches were in a sense, rather a trial to him. The services, however, were quite mild compared with the Church of England services as we know them today; and it may be remarked that during 1916-17 I attended many of the beautiful services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and on no occasion did I see a preacher enter the pulpit without turning to the East and making the Sign of the Cross.
When Bishop Webber came in succession to Bishop Hale, Brisbane got its first taste of what is termed High Church in Britain. Bishop Hale was extremely popular with the Evangelical bodies in Brisbane, and was regarded as a pillar of Protestantism, with a happy disregard of the fact that the Church of England has always asserted its original Catholicism, and, indeed, in the Apostles’ Creed it designates itself “The Holy Catholic Church,”
However, spare my days, as our friends Mr. Dennis would say, I do not wish to get on to a Church controversy, and Mrs. Hale was a very gracious lady. She was a daughter of Colonel Molloy, of the Rifle Brigade, and a sister of Lady Du Cane, the wife of Colonel Sir E. F. Du Cane, R.E.
At St. John’s occasionally we had Archdeacon Jones, of Toowoomba, later known as Canon Jones of Indooroopilly, and who had been at All Saints’ prior to the coming of Mr. Robinson. He was better known, and affectionately known as “Tommy” Jones. A better man and a stauncher Christian I have never known – good, warm hearted, tolerant, and cheery “Tommy” Jones.
Of course, he was not called by the familiar name when he was present, because he had a quiet dignity which forbade any semblance of disrespect.
And at St. John’s also was Parson Eglinton, a tall, frail looking, scholarly man of abounding energy. With him I used sometimes read English literature and logic. He had two sons, One Ernest Eglinton, was well known as an Inspector in the Native Police, and afterwards Police Magistrate in Brisbane and elsewhere. He was at Winton in 1894 during the big shearing strike of that year, and when I was the “Courier’s” special correspondent on the scene.
Another son is Mr. Dudley Eglinton, an English University man, who came here when young, and used to read the lessons in various churches. Dudley Eglinton was for many years secretary of the Brisbane School of Arts, and is well known as an astronomer, and a writer to the “Courier” and “Queenslander” on scientific subjects.
Alas! the almanac says that he is not so young as in the early 1880s, but I love to remember him as a lithe, athletic young fellow, chivalrous, keen to protect his honour, sans peur et sans reproche. On an occasion he sought out a 13st gossip bearer and gave him what I (in far off days, of course), described as a dem good whipping. And Dudley Eglinton has Digger sons, one of whom, following his grandfather’s footsteps, is a parson of the Church of England. A daughter of the first Parson Eglinton of my days is the widow of my dear old friend George Essex Evans, who first became known to us all as a poet under the name “Christophus” in the “Queenslander.”
It is nice to be able to speak of a priest of the Church of England as a parson. It has a good, old fashioned sound. At Oxley we had a typical parson of the old Australian school, the Rev. J. S. Hassall, the father of Charley Hassall, well known in Queensland as the doyen of insurance managers. Parson Hassall was an old King’s School boy at Parramatta, and has written a most interesting book of his school days and of his beginnings in the Church. In his day – and in the day of my father also –the cost of educating a boy at King’s School was £28 a year – board, lodging, and everything else included. Oh, no, butter was not included. It was not an extra, but those who wanted butter instead of the wholesome dripping had to buy it, or get it sent from home. Then there was the Rev. Robert Creyke, at Cleveland, a tall, grey man as I knew him, and a good worker for the poor. His widow lived for many years doing God’s work at Cleveland; and old hands will never forget the thoughtfulness of the “Digger” parson Maxwell, who, with his parishioners, saw to it that she was not forgotten in the Memorial Church at Cleveland.
At St. Thomas’s, in South Brisbane, we had the Rev. E. Meeres, a fine scholar, and a great worker. He married the sister of our old friend, “Charley” Miles, who was a Treasury official in Brisbane for over a score of years, and who gave the Empire some fine sailor and soldier lads. St. Thomas’s was a little brick church on the southwestern corner of Stanley and Melbourne Streets, and people had to go down steps to get to it, for the street level was made several feet above the level on which the old people of the Church of England had pitched their tabernacle.
Later the church building was sold, and became a soft drink factory.
At St. Mary’s, Kangaroo Point, we had the Rev. D. A. Court, a devoted worker, and a most kindly man; and at Trinity Church, in the Valley, was that robust Christian, generous and warm hearted, the Rev. Herbert Guiness. Mr. Guiness was an Irishman with the strong Protestant and Low Church leaning, and yet he was a great chum of Sutton and Jones. He had succeeded Mr. Love, whose death at a comparatively early age took from the Church one of its real stalwarts.
In the country I had a good many parson friends, and not one more affectionate, more broad minded, more devoted, or more cultured than Canon Matthews, who was at Warwick, and afterwards at Sandgate. His son, E. H. or “Ted,” Matthews, was, until lately, manager in Queensland of the National Bank of Australasia, and is now manager for New South Wales. Another son was George, who was in the Government service; and another was “Gar,” a surveyor, who did a lot of work up in New Guinea.
We had the Rev. W. Locke at Sandgate, a very fine musician. I had known him when I was a youngster, and he was the rector at Corowa, in Riverina.
And we had a good, old fashioned little chap, the Rev. J. Gilbertson, at Beenleigh, and the Rev. J. W. Henry at Gympie. Mr. Henry’s elder son, who did great work at Roma and elsewhere in the Church, died all too soon, and another parson son, the Rev. Herbert Henry, had his first job after leaving school as a reporter on the “Courier.”
IN 1881, we played cricket at Redcliffe on Sundays, and matches, too. The remembrance was spurred by the decisions of the Municipal Councils to allow sports in the Brisbane parks on Sundays. I have played at Redcliffe with the Rev. J. Sutton as umpire at one end, and the Rev. T. Jones at the other. The parsons had no objection to spending the afternoon in that way, but – and the but is an important one – every player had to have been to a Church service in the forenoon. There was no relaxation of that rule, except in the case of Roman Catholics, who had no resident padre, but they had to have been to their duties and to mass once a month, when the priest made his visit. May I commend the idea to the people of today? I will undertake no say that not one of us at Redcliffe broke faith with the parsons who joined us in an afterwards of healthful recreation. We either went to the Church of England service where Hurley House was built a year or two later, or to the little Congregational Church back on the Woody Point road, where that good man and true, Ibbotson Tubbs, in the absence of the minister, conducted the worship, which included an address, and the Roman Catholics had their own chapel.
Running over the list of the Roman Catholic bishops and priests who were here in the 1880s. I find that already I have dealt with most of them. Bishop O’Quinn was succeeded by Bishop Dunne, whose name was household word on the Darling Downs. He was not of the merry type, rather was he inclined to asceticism, but he recognised that human kind and especially young kind was to an extent pleasure loving, and in harmless pleasure he would often join. Frankly, I may say that I never a more saintly man. He was sort of Brother Hilarius, and he was as well loved out of the Roman Catholic community as in it. Like Archbishop Duhig, that great prelate and great statesmen of whom all Queenslanders are so justly proud, he keenly opposed to the drift from the land to the towns. He knew the stability, the greatness of heart, and the goodness in body and soul of the men and women of the land. Queenslanders will always affectionately remember Bishop Dunne. The world was the sweeter for his presence in it, and his memory will be with us for generations,
My very dear old friend, Dr. Cani, afterwards Bishop of Rockhampton, was described in the Cooktown series of these memories. He was down in Brisbane in about 1882, and his place at Cooktown was taken by Father Paul Fortini. We had a good many Italians in Queensland even in those days, and quaint Father Canali. Father Scortechini was down on the Logan, and Father Rossolini at Bundaberg These were all highly cultured men.
The Horan brothers were all very popular priests, and very fine men, but personally I knew only one. Father A. Horan, of Ipswich, a splendid man and a loveable priest. I also knew Father Walsh at Gatton, a good citizen, a model “guide, mentor, and friend,” who liked an hour occasionally with quail, and who shot – and a pretty good shot he was – over quite a well trained pointer.
Lately I saw Father Walsh in Brisbane, and we had our little talk over the old days.
Two priests, however, I knew even better, Monsignor Dennis Fouhy, of Toowoomba, and Father Phillip Corrigan, whose most excellent picture appeared in the “Courier” some time ago. Father Fouhy of those days was Administrator of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and very often I had to see him on Press business. He was very kind and helpful, and would dictate an account of a service which would be taken down in shorthand and published in the “Courier” without the alteration of a word. And Father Fouhy knew what space the event would be given. I have never met a man who could dictate a report so well, not even a politician with a carefully thought out impromptu. The Administrator was generally regarded as austere, but Pressmen never had a kinder friend, and if it is not too late –after all, it’s only 42 years ago – I would like to move a vote of thanks to monsignor Fouhy. Father Corrigan rode a very handsome chestnut horse when I first knew him. He was a very smart looking young priest, and a tiptop horseman. Later I met him at Charleville, when he was a peacemaker in the days of the Shearers’ Strike of 1891, and later again up in the Burnett, when I was reporting on Delgilbo, Ideraway, and the Binjour Plateau Lands, which were afterwards opened up for selection. Father Corrigan had a great admirer out at Charleville – no less than the head there of the Salvation Army.
We had some very fine and distinguished men of the Presbyterian ministry. A moment ago I was inclined to say that the Irish Roman Catholics did not seem to quite regard the Italian priests with the same fervour as Irish priests. I had a friend here once, a Jesuit of a very distinguished family, and quite of the higher type of Englishman. He had an idea that the people did not love him, and said, “They miss the brogue!”
Now, the old time Presbyterians loved the Scottish burr, and some of them never quite got over their prejudice in favour of the men who were the more obviously from the Land o’ Cakes. The Rev. Colin McCulloch was in charge of the Wickham Terrace Church, near All Saints’, and the Scots built there a very fine brick church, which is now in the hands of the Railway Department and used for office purposes. Mr. McCulloch was flippantly described as “the Presbyterian Pope,” for there was a sort of recognition of his seniority. He was a tall, strong man with a white beard, and flowing mane of white, very intolerant of any evil, an outstanding and picturesque figure in our religious and general life.
I knew much better the Rev. J. Fleming McSwaine, who had the church in Creek Street when I came here. He was a distinguished looking man, and a great believer in church music – if it was good; and he was always well worth hearing. Occasionally he wrote to the “Courier,” beautiful English and a trenchant style; and I remember that Kinnaird Rose, who was editor of the “Courier” later on in the 1880s an Edinburgh University man, had a very great respect for him.
Another picturesque figure was the Rev. Charles Ogg, of the Ann Street Church, who had done a great deal of pioneering work. He was a kindly soul, and I could never visualize him as an apostle of Damnation to Sinners, and as a fact, he was not. He believed in a rule of love. How do I know? Well, I heard him say so on the occasion of a rather warm debate in the General Assembly. He had a farm down towards the coast with a gate on a turn off from the Redcliffe Road, about a mile beyond Petrie, and he sometimes rode there, and on occasions we rode side by side. He was the only Presbyterian whom I have ever heard called parson – Parson Ogg. Like his brother minister McSwaine, he has left men and women of his name who have played their parts in building Queensland up as a decent, honour loving State. One may be excused for wondering what such men, the old time priests and parsons, would have thought of Golden Caskets and Liberty Fairs. I do know that they wrought generously with us all when we bundled “Tattersall” and his sweeps out of Queensland.
After these Presbyterians of the good old Scottish type, we had an American visitation, and then we developed – and what an acute change – into the class of Merrington at Creek Street, and Gillison at St. Paul’s. These two fine “diggers” were of the modern University types. Merrington lately went off to New Zealand, leaving many grateful memories, and Gillison, ever brave and generous, did not survive Gallipoli. They were a splendid pair of great hearted Christians – and, for that matter, so were the older regime., McCulloch, Ogg, and McSwaine. D. F. Mitchell was a tall, active Scot, not much of a preacher, but well loved over at the Park Presbyterian Church in South Brisbane, and a very familiar figure. On an occasion I heard the remark that he instinctively knew where there was want for sickness, and that he did not care a two penny – (something not at all clerical) whether they were Christians, Jews, pagans, or “Freethinkers.” The Freethinker was a terrible fellow in those days. I heard James McSharry out on the Townsville – Reid River railway works give a definition of a Freethinker. “He believes,” he said, “in free thought for himself, and for you also, provided that you think as he does.”
In the early 1880s we had two brands of Methodists – the Wesleyans and the Primitives. Later on they amalgamated and dropped the name of Wesley. Now, I don’t think that was nice – not that I know much about it – for John Wesley and his brother were the life and soul of the great broadening movement which caught and checked an unmistakable drift of English people to a sort of ignorant agnosticism. And I liked the amalgamation for it was a step towards the reunion of the Anglicans and the Methodists, a thing which would gladden the spirit of John Wesley, who ,despite all, ever loved his English Catholic Church. However, the ice is becoming thin. I’ll take off my skates.
The first Wesleyan parson I knew here was the Rev. F. T. Brentnall, preacher and sturdy Christian, journalist and business man. Until his voice went he was a fine preacher, eloquent, and giving folk always something to take with them, something to think of. He kept going wonderfully until past 90, but:
We will not speak of years tonight;
For what have years to bring
But larger floods of love and light
And sweeter songs to sing?
Of Mr. Brentnall something was said in the chapters dealing with the journalists of the hard fighting days, when McIlwraith and Griffith filled the horizon. He was always a militant. That was because he felt deeply , but he was at the same time generous and a great winner of friends.
John D. Hennessey was another writing Methodist, but he struck out along the line of fiction. We have had a lot of them, including Dr. Ward, the doyen of Australian journalists, a former editor of the “Courier,” and who was once a Primitive Methodist minister in Brisbane; and C. E. James, who was minister at the Albert Street church, and a leader writer both for the “Courier,” “Observer,” and the “Queenslander.”
Then, on the Primitive Methodist side, there was the Rev. J. Buckle, one of whose sons became Shire Clerk of Toombul. Mr. Buckle was a sturdy Englishman, who had battled along as a religious worker in the Mother Country when “them Methodies” occupied a lower rung on the ladder of sectarian importance than they do today. Mr. Buckle was a great worker for the poor, and under his stern Puritanism there was a warm heart.
Later, there came Osborne Lilley, with the Primitives; but then the amalgamation wiped out the little differences, and, as the differences went, so did a lot of the ministers of the Gospel – shepherds following home their flocks.
A conspicuous figure in Queensland’s religious life for many years was the Rev. Edward Griffith, of whom it was written: “Our education system and social legislation bear the impress of his sagacious mind. He powerfully influenced for good two generations of men.” (E. J. T. Barton, in “Jubilee History of Queensland, 1909.”)
The Rev. Edward Griffith was somewhat overshadowed in the last 20 years of his active ministerial life in Brisbane by his illustrious son, Sir. S. W. Griffith, who later became the first Chief Justice of the High Court of the Commonwealth. But the minister of the Wharf Street Congregational Church was a personality when I came to Brisbane in 1881, and he certainly belonged to the Church Militant. He had then been at the Wharf Street Church for over 20 years, and though he did not aim at pulpit oratory he was a very good preacher. His work, however, was mainly amongst the people, and he was a good organiser of charitable work. He was tall, spare, and with a little beard, and it was unfortunate, though inevitable, that he should be pointed out and spoken of as “Sam. Griffith’s father.”
It must be almost as bad to be the father of an illustrious son as to be the husband of a fashionable wife. Yet Mr. Griffith, père, had his own niche. The word reminds me of a story about a parson of the Church of England, the good Parson Eliott, Queanbeyan, New South Wales, who led the Snowy River Boys in their recruiting march to Sydney during the war. Mr. Elliott held Sunday services for troops at the Molonglo Camp, Canberra, where I was stationed in return from overseas in 1918. On an occasion he said: “We each have a niche, and we fill it.” A young soldier was studying shorthand, and practised on the sermons. He used to read over his notes to me for a check. When he came to Mr. Elliott’s phrase as quoted, he gave it, :”We each have an itch, and we feel it!” However, that has nothing to do with the Rev. Edward Griffith. In 1881, Mr. Griffith was very closely associated with the “Evangelical Standard,” indeed he was credited with being the editor of it, while the manager was a bluff and energetic Englishman, Richard P. Adams.
In the “Evangelical Standard,” the little High Church element of the Church of England was sometimes warmed up, and there was a holy horror of the Queensland Government of the day, because Perkins and Macrossan, who were members of it, were Roman Catholics. Political feeling at the time was keen, and there was in it all a substratum of sectarian feeling. To be sure, the “Evangelical Standard” was a battling Protestant paper, and it was only to be expected that it should, like all sectarian papers, run for those things which were the reasons for its existence. But Mr. Griffiths wrote some very able articles apart from politics and sectarianism, indeed it occurred to me that he wrote better than he spoke. He came here from Maitland, in New South Wales, where Sir Samuel and the Younger Edward Griffith were educated.
In 1889 the Rev E. Griffith resigned the pastorate of the Wharf Street Church. He was getting up in years, and his health was not good. Yet it was a great wrench leaving the flock he had ministered to for so many years, and it was a greater wrench still for the flock. He died on September 22, 1891. His elder son was Mr. Edward Griffiths, whom I first knew as general manager of the Royal Bank of Queensland, and who afterwards was in the Government service and did splendid work after the 1893 crash.
The other son was the great Queenslander and Great Australian, the Rt. Hon. Sir S. W. Griffith, P.C., G.C.M.G., and Chief Justice of Australia. The Rev. E. Griffith, had a family of daughters also, of whom I knew only two, the gracious and charming of Australia’s womanhood, and whose philanthropic services in Queensland have extended over some 40 years, as girl and woman.
The old minister has grandchildren and great grandchildren now spread throughout the Commonwealth, but one of the grandchildren, who is well known to most Brisbane people, is Mr. Griffith Oxley, who has succeeded with, and in, the business of accountant established by his father. It may be interesting to note that Mr. Griffith’s predecessor at the Wharf Street Church, was the Rev. George Wight, who was founded of “the reptile contemporary” of the “Courier,” a paper called “The Queensland Daily Guardian,” which had the support of the pure merino element amongst the squatters, for whom the “Courier” was much too liberal.
Another Congregational minister, whom I well knew, was the Rev. William Gray, who had been up in Townsville, a really level headed Scot, and a far seeing business man. He laid the foundation of the fortunes of the Congregational Church in Townsville by a very well conceived land deal.
In Brisbane he was not well known outside those to whom he ministered. But there was a bright and merry little chap, the Rev. Thomas J. Pepper, who was over at South Brisbane, and whom I knew in Newcastle, New South Wales. Of course, he was called “Tommy” Pepper, and also “Professor” Pepper, for when he came here the old :London Polytechnic “Professor” Pepper was prominent with his rain making experiment, with the telephone and with weird stories of another wonderful instrument called the gramophone. Very few of us swallowed the first stories about the gramophone. We had read “Dick” Newton’s “Suspended Animation” in the “Queenslander,” and were rather inclined to shy at scientific novelties. But the Rev. T. J. Pepper was a happy little Christian, and if he no longer lives – well, it would be pretty safe to say that he is preaching optimism even in the Happy Land.
In the early 1880s, the principal Baptist Church in Brisbane was in Wharf Street, the name being changed in 1890 to the City Tabernacle, on Wickham Street. The first minister I heard in the Wharf Street Church, was the Rev. Henry Coombs, who was a man of spiritual mould, and very delicate. He was always worth hearing, and was well loved. His successors I did not know until we came to the Rev. William Whale, a shortish and stout man, who probably would have been as great a success as a Graeco Roman wrestler as he was in wrestling with the evil things of the world.
He was a warm hearted generous man, and I think the best preacher I have heard in Brisbane. It was natural that the little wits of the day should associate Whale with the practices of the Baptists, and I told him once that a friend of mine said that he was going to the Baptists Tabernacle to “hear the Whale spouting.”
Mr. Whale laughed and said: “A very good thing for your friend to do; but I’m sorry you were not with him!”
Now, that friend was a sensitive sort of duffer, and when I told him, with a great assertion of bravado, that I had passed the joke onto the Reverend gentleman, he went straight up and said: “I’m the man who made that silly joke which that assessment Browne repeated to you” – and he made a very humble apology. Mr. Whale was a man to be admired by all – a really straight from the shoulder Christian.
Very different was that good, quiet man, the Rev. William Poole, who in addition to being the Baptist parson – I hope Baptists may be parsons – was a leader writer for the “Courier.” Mr. Poole was tall, dark, and with a short beard. I did not hear him preach, but believe that, like Dr. F. W. Ward, he was a better writer than preacher.
Then there was the Rev. William Moore of the Milton Church, whom I knew well at Indooroopilly. He was a great old pioneer Queenslander of the patriarchal type. Three of his sons I knew very well.
Firs there was John Moore, who was with Alfred Shaw and Co., in Queen Street, and is now a successful fruit farmer, with “digger” sons in Victoria.
Then there was “Ned” Moore, who wrote some very interesting reminiscences in the “Courier.” A fine horseman was “Ned” Moore, and he put in a great many years in the Government service, especially in forestry work, and his son Willie, who used to be with the “Courier” when a boy, is in the Forestry service, well known in connection with timber displays by the Queensland Government.
Joseph Moore, of Indooroopilly, is another son, and he has been known chiefly through his work in local government – a good judge of a horse and of cattle as well, and another son is a well known medical man in Melbourne.
The pastor of the Jirah Baptist Church in Fortitude Valley in my time was the Rev. John Kingsford, though I believe his section was known as the Particular Baptist. Some of us who knew Mr. Whale well used to tell him that Kingsford people were particular, while his were not particular; but generally we got a clever retort.
Mr. Kingsford had been with his brother, Mr. R. AS. Kingsford, who was later a member of the Legislative Assembly, in a drapery business in Queen Street, just about where Gordon and Gotch are. Both of the brothers even in those days were preachers, and Richard A. was a very fine speaker. John Kingsford, too, was eloquent and rather inclined to the emotional in his sermons. Nowadays we would term him temperamental. The second Mrs. John Kingsford was formerly a Miss Grimes, a sister of George Grimes and Samuel grimes, M.L.A., and a very earnest church worker.