Darwin

Darwin is a tropical city on the north coast of Australia. In 1940, the town had a population of about 2,000. Some 10,000 troops were sent to Darwin during World War II. The town was bombed about 100 times by the Japanese in 1942 and 1943. Today, Darwin’s population is about 150,000.

The earliest reference to a Christadelphian in the Northern Territory is in Darwin. We read of a Brother Schulz there in 1941; a little later a number of brethren are mentioned. These brethren were part of the government’s Civil Constructional Corps to carry out works during World War II. Brother McDowell was one of these:

“Lakemba (N.S.W.) – General – Two more of our brethren have been sent away into isolation because of their occupation: Bro. J. Higgs to Bethungra, and Bro. C. McDowell to Darwin.”

Shield, May 1943, page 99

Others were E. Ninnis and Edgar Eagleton. Brethren D Raven, C Newman and Ron W Mearns, all from Perth, were also sent to the Northern Territory. Similarly, Brother Neville French from Sydney was sent to the Northern Territory.

(The Civil Constructional Corps was established in April 1942 by the Australian Government to carry out civilian works under civilian control to replace men called into the armed forces. Conscientious objectors to military service were often directed to this organisation, some to work in the Northern Territory.)

After the war, Brother A Cattermole spent some time in Darwin. Brother H Cogzell was in Tennant Creek (between Darwin and Alice Springs) in 1948.

In 1957 probably the first baptism in Darwin occurred:

“DARWIN (N.T.) I wish to advise that my 15½ year old son, Terrence MacArthur Gilmore, was baptised by me on 13th October, 1957, in a tank in our backyard. I have been in touch with our Sydney brethren since 1945, and took this action on the advice of Bro. French. (Sister) Elizabeth Gilmore.”

Shield, April 1958, page 78

“Sister Elizabeth Gilmore and her 16 year old son, Terrence, (who was immersed by her early last year), are living at Darwin; and they are anxious that any brethren or sisters passing through the town should visit them. Their postal address (for those wishing to write to either of them) is Box 359, P.O, Darwin.”

Shield, August 1958, page 158

From August 1973, Brother C Bennet was listed in the Shield as the contact in Darwin.

Alice Springs

Alice Springs, in the centre of Australia’s arid region, only began to attract European settlers after the rail line to Adelaide was opened in 1929. In 1933, the population was 500. During World War II, the town grew to 8,000 as a major troop staging area. Today its population is about 30,000.

In 1942 we read of Sister Foorde in Alice Springs, and Brother Gray in 1946.

Brother and Sister John Parkinson are first mentioned as coming from Alice Springs in 1943 when they visited Adelaide (Shield, August 1943, page 157; September 1943, page 178), however, they did not live in Alice Springs but on the Willowra cattle station, 300km north-west of Alice Springs. The station covered 4,885 square kilometres and was purchased by them in 1946. John and his wife, Alice, were baptised in Adelaide on 18 December 1931. John died in 1958. Their son, Brother Edgar, and his wife, Sister Marie, then continued running the station.

In 1946 there is mention of a Brother Leonard Highman in Alice Springs. On 30 June 1951, Mrs Marguerita H Highman (Alice Springs) was baptised in Adelaide, presumably Leonard’s wife. From time to time, other brothers and sisters lived in Alice Springs. Sister ME Smith was listed as a contact in Alice Springs in the Shield from 1976.

An ecclesia was formed in 1988.

“Alice Springs (Northern Territory). — This is an isolated township in the centre of Australia. It is a busy tourist venue, as many come to see the famous Ayers Rock and the starkly beautiful desert scenery. Since several brethren and sisters have moved here recently, an ecclesia has been formed, and we assure any visitors a warm welcome at our memorial meeting at 10.30 on Sundays, or our Bible study class on Wednesday evenings. All meetings are held in members’ homes. — DON MCCOLL”

The Christadelphian, March 1988, page 109

How the Truth came to the ACT

The Australian Capital Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth from New South Wales on 1 January 1911, two years before the naming of Canberra as the national capital on 12 March 1913.

After the completion of the original parliament house, the Commonwealth parliament moved to Canberra on 9 May 1927. Consequently, it is very unlikely that there would be any brother or ecclesia in Canberra before then.

Development of the city was slow during the Depression of the 1930s and World War II (1939-1945). However, the population grew by more than 50% in every five-year period from 1955 to 1975. Several Government departments, together with public servants, were moved to Canberra from Melbourne following the war. Government housing projects were undertaken to accommodate the city’s growing population.

The early brethren

The first brother to be mentioned as being in Canberra was J. F. Appleton, in 1927. He travelled from Cardiff, Wales, but in 1928, Brother Henry Jacobs describes himself as being in isolation because Brother Appleton lived in Queanbeyan NSW, which was just over the border.

“CANBERRA. Federal Capital Territory. — A new subscriber to your “Intelligence” columns if acceptable. I arrived here five weeks ago last Friday (May 18th). I of course “break bread” by myself owing to my isolation, but last Sunday I was able to get conveyance to Queanbeyan (N.S.W.), seven miles away — no trains or buses running — and followed the example of the disciples (Acts 20:7), meeting with brother J. Appleton, whose address is P.O., West Queanbeyan, N.S.W. — HENRY LAWRENCE JACOBS.”

The Christadelphian, August 1928, page 391

In 1929 Brother and Sister Dye moved from Melbourne to Canberra.

“MELBOURNE. — Kelvin Hall, 53, Collins Place. Sundays, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. — We are sorry to lose by removal brother and sister Dye to Canberra. Brother Dye is connected with the Commonwealth Government Service, being transferred to the new capital. — Robt. G. Walker, Recorder.”

The Christadelphian, October 1929, page 479

The first preaching effort

1930 saw the first effort to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to Canberra and nearby localities. In the 1931 census, the population of Canberra was about 7,000.

“With only the work of the Lord in view, we left Sydney on 17th June and proceeded to Goulburn.  From this city we called at every house to Bungendore, including many small towns.  It took us some time to do Bungendore, and we then proceeded to Queanbeyan.  From there we departed for Canberra, the Federal capital.  After leaving a copy at every home in this city, we called at Parliament House, and there beheld the Prime Minister and members deliberating concerning the labour troubles of this country.  We felt like telling them that we had the only remedy for the difficulties with which they were beset, but we rejoiced in the fact that the people of Canberra had had delivered to them the solution.

We next proceeded to Hall, a town in the Federal Territory.  In this town we found a man who said he had the solution.  It was the coming of Christ.  So we were glad because one could see the only truth of the matter.  He promised to read the booklet and write to us in due course.  From Hall we proceeded to Yass.  As we passed the fields we observed the sheep grazing on the green pastures, and remembered the sayings of Jesus in connection therewith.  We called at every house in Yass, and then proceeded to Gunning.  From Gunning we proceeded to Goulburn, calling at each house en route. From Goulburn to Moss Vale we distributed the message, embracing Murray Flats, Towrang, Marulan, Wingello, and Sutton Forest.

In all we covered 460 miles and delivered over 2,000 books as well as personal messages to the people. G. Errington”

Shield, December 1930, page 274

The first public addresses in the city were presented in 1932 with attendances of 80, 150 and over 500 at three lectures.

“July 10th was the day of remembrance. We carried out the command of our Lord and Master. We were in a big field now, and decided to give three lectures at Ainslie, Canberra and Queanbeyan, on “Jerusalem – The future capital of the world”. Handbills were delivered in Queanbeyan and Canberra, and the suburbs, Causeway [now Kingston], Kingston, Eastlake [now Kingston], Red Hill, Westbridge [now Yarralumla], Manuka [now Griffith], Telopea [now Barton], Acton, Ainslie [now Braddon], Braddon, and Reid. The houses were scattered, and it took much walking. The first lecture was delivered on 14th July at Ainslie, and eighty strangers attended. On the 16th Brother Drinkwater arrived from Sydney to help. We soon found work, and by noon had delivered the message to 2,050 homes. In the afternoon we went to Duntroon and other places with the message, and at night lectured at Causeway (Canberra) to 150 strangers. They saw the wonders and heard the message, and afterwards several remained to converse and expressed gladness at having been present.

July 17th: Sunday again and fine weather. At 11 a.m. we remembered the Master and Brother Drinkwater exhorted. Afterwards we prepared for the lecture at Queanbeyan. At 7 o’clock people began to come from all directions, and at 7.30 the body of the hall and the large dress circle were filled, and many people, arriving late, had to stand throughout the lecture. Between five hundred and six hundred people were present. After the lecture several handed in their names for further instruction. The reports of the lectures in Canberra and Queanbeyan were excellent. The Editor of the Queanbeyan Observer was present and expressed pleasure that he had attended the lecture. We were delighted with the results at Queanbeyan and Canberra. The attendance at Queanbeyan was the best of the tour. G. Errington”

Shield, September 1932, page 200

One must be impressed by the physical efforts described above and their wonderful results.

The first ecclesia

There were frequent movements of brothers and sisters to and from Canberra from 1927 onwards, and this still occurs to this day. The first Canberra resident to be baptised was Mrs Violet Shanahan on 14 January 1933. She was baptised in Sydney (Shield, March 1933, page 68).

The formation of the ecclesia was announced in late 1933.

“ECCLESIA AT CANBERRA. It is pleasing to be able to state that a meeting has been formed at Canberra. Since the advent of The Messenger [a covered Reo truck for Gospel preaching use] to that city, and other brethren and sisters taking up residence there it is now possible for them to meet together. Bro. and Sister W. G. Brown and Sister I. Brown had the pleasure to meet the brethren and sisters in that city. Any inquiries should be made from Bro. R. Pogson, Leicester Crescent, Ainslie, Canberra.”

Shield, January 1934, page 20

From 1934 to 1961 there were no reports from the Canberra ecclesia either in the Christadelphian or Shield magazines, although at least 20 different brothers and sisters are mentioned during this time as visiting other ecclesias, mostly in Sydney. Nevertheless, the ecclesia did exist, at least for some years, as shown by newspaper advertisements.

The Canberra Times, 17/7/1937, page 2 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2437437?searchTerm=christadelphians

Similar notices appeared in the Canberra Times until April 1943. From time to time public addresses were also advertised.

The Canberra Times, 2/12/1939, page 5 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2517756?searchTerm=christadelphians

 

In the 1940s the ecclesia met in St. Paul’s Hall in Kingston. After 1943 there are no newspaper advertisements until 1962 when the ecclesia met in the Manuka Hockey Hall. 1962 also sees the first listing of the Canberra ecclesia in the Shieldmagazine, when the membership was six.