brief history





great australian presbyterians


Great Australian Presbyterians: The Game

Malcolm D. Prentis

Father Edmund Campion published his Great Australian Catholics in 1997. There were 69 entries of between 800 and 1200 words each. Some were of small groups (husband and wife, for instance), but the rest were of individuals, such as Fr Donald MacKillop, Dr Thomas Fiaschi, Les Darcy, Cardinal Gilroy, Catherine Mackerras, Bill O'Reilly, Sgt Stan Arneil, Arthur Calwell, Herb Elliott, Dr Harry Windsor, Dame Roma Mitchell, Tom Bass the sculptor, and James McAuley. Presbyterian Joanna Barr Smith was included because of her friendship with Mary Mackillop. Campion's book was criticised by fellow-Roman Catholics as an anachronism in an ecumenical age. This criticism recalled for me the satirical headline on The Catholic Worker in about 1969, "Butterfat award to Catholic Cow". Presbyterians and other Protestant communions had not tended to do this sort of thing quite so much, even in more sectarian times. They didn't need to, since they were part of the "protestant ascendancy" or at least not suffering under the alleged disadvantages of the Roman Catholic community.

What if, I thought, we did some such books of "Famous Congregationalists", "Famous Methodists" and "Famous Presbyterians"? Then I thought, "Nah! It is definitely old-hat and, anyway, no-one would buy it." However, then I thought why not pretend and make a parlour game out of it? We must all have ideas about who might "make it". And, who knows, in the end, we might end up with a composite Uniting Assembly of the saints! The process might be fraught with surprises and challenges and might even end up teaching us something about our heritage and about our attitudes to it.

The aim of this first phase of the game is to compile a list of about 70-80 entries to go into a hypothetical book called "Great Australian Presbyterians". The proposed entries should be nearly all of individuals, though some entries may encompass two or more related or associated individuals. The people on the list should be figures who were or are identifiably Presbyterian at some significant stage of their lives.

Any good game needs rules. The fewer and simpler the better. Here are mine.
There should be:

  • a good balance of states represented (approximate notional breakdown of state representation: NSW 20; Vic 30; Qld 10; SA 6; WA 5; Tas 3; NT 2),
  • a reasonable balance of the sexes,
  • a good representation of Aborigines and other non-Anglo-Celts,
  • a predominance of lay people with
  • as wide a variety of occupations and situations as possible and
  • some ministers represented, not necessarily "the usual suspects", but they should be those with some substantial achievements readily recognised in the general community.
  • no favouritism over theological and political "parties" and thus
  • a good balance of perspectives and no suppression of the frailties or unusual opinions of people where appropriate.

Well, it's my turn first. Everyone take aim!

List of possible inclusions in "Great Australian Presbyterians" (classified by state or territory)

Thomas Muir (political convict)
John Hunter (Governor)
Rev. Dr John Dunmore Lang
Henry Carmichael (educator & wine-maker)
Dr Fattorini (doctor & elder)
Rev. William Ridley (minister, linguist & missionary)
Rev. Dr Wazir Beg (linguist & minister)
Col. Goodlet & 2 wives (business, lay leaders & benefactors)
Ross family (farmers, lay leaders & benefactors, Riverina)
Neil Livingston (business & founder of PFA)
John & Eliza Pottie (vet & social reformer)
James Mathers (City missionary)
Rev. W. M. Dill Macky (Minister & Orangeman)
George McCredie (engineer & elder)
P.D. McCormick (teacher, choir-leader & composer of Advance Aust Fair)
Sir James Burns (business & benefactor)
Sutherland Sinclair (Museum worker & youth leader)
Gen. Iven Mackay (engineer & soldier)
Dame Mary Gilmore (poet)
Sir Samuel McCaughey (farmer, irrigator & benefactor)
Rev. Ronald Macintyre (minister & theologian)
Bill Ferguson (union organiser, Aboriginal leader & lay leader)
Sir Alexander McCormack (surgeon)
Profs. Fred Chong & Bruce Mansfield (academics & lay leaders)
Ernie McIlveen (youth worker & character)
Dorothy Knox & Freda Whitlam (headmistresses)
Prof. Hans Mol (minister & sociologist)
Betty Cuthbert & Marjory Jackson (athletes)
Sir John Moore (judge)
Sir John Ferguson (judge & bibliographer)
Prof. Graeme Clark (bionic ear man)
Justice David Yeldham (Judge & lay leader)
Ken Duncan (photographer)

Angus MacMillan (explorer)
Rev. James Forbes (educator & minister)
Anne Drysdale (squatter)
Horatio Ellerman (squatter & minister)
Francis Ormond (business & benefactor)
John Green (Missionary) & Coranderrk Aboriginal community
Ann Fraser Bon (farmer & advocate for Aborigines)
Nathaniel Pepper & family (Aboriginal Christian leaders)
Rev. Friedrich Hagenauer, wife & son (missionaries & minister/boxer)
Morrison brothers (headmasters)
Murdoch family (Minister & journalist)
Rev John Mathew (minister, educator,anthropologist & poet)
Rev. John MacNeil (evangelist)
McCracken brothers (brewers)
W.G. Spence (Union leader)
H.V. McKay (Sunshine Harvesters)
Rev. Prof. J.L. Rentoul (Theological teacher & ecclesiastical politician)
Henry Handel Richardson (novelist)
The Earl of Hopetoun (Governor-General)
Brown Brothers of Milawa (wine-makers)
John Flynn (of the Inland)
John Shaw Neilson (poet)
The McKenzie sisters (Korean medical missionaries)
Elspeth Edgar (missionary)
Rev. Gordon Powell (minister & author)
Christina Jollie Smith (Communist)
Sir Robert Menzies & Belle Menzies (lawyer/politician & missionary)
James Balfour (business & lay leader)
Dame Nellie Melba & her father (soprano & builder)
Frank Crean (politician)
Sir Esler Barber (judge)
F. Maxwell Bradshaw (lawyer)
Daryl Dawson (judge)

Rev. Thomas Mowbray (minister & educator)
Mary McConnel (squatter's wife)
John Mortimer (squatter)
Sir Hugh Nelson & his father (Premier/elder & Minister)
A.J. Proudfoot (lawyer)
James Semple Kerr (educator)
Andrew Fisher (politician)
Rev. W. S. Frackleton (minister & litigant)
Robin Dods (architect)?
Flo Trotter Syer (nurse POW)
Rev. Fred McKay (minister & administrator)
Cheryl Kernot (teacher & politician)

David Elder (pastoralist)
Robert & Joanna Barr-Smith (pastoralist & benefactor)
Rev. Bob Love (linguist & missionary)
Ross & Keith Smith (aviators)?
Peter Dawson (singer)?
Dr Charles Duguid (doctor & advocate for the Aborigines)
John McLeay (politician)
Sen. Gordon Davidson (politician & lay leader)
Sir Lyle McEwan (grazier, politician & churchman)

John & Isabella Ferguson (doctor, civil servant & wine-growers)
Edward Fox Angelo & family (soldier, administrator & elder)
Georgiana Molloy (botanist)
Alan Mungulu (Aboriginal elder)
Sir Ron Wilson (Jurist & lay leader)

Rev. Archibald Macarthur
James Boag (brewer)?

John McDouall Stuart (explorer)
Aeneas & Jeannie Gunn (librarian/station manager & author)
Donald Mackay (explorer)
"Skipper" Partridge

Possible joint chapters:
"The Heretics" (Strong, Angus...)
"The Inlanders" (Flynn, McKay, Partridge...)
"The squatters" (Black, Drysdale, Curdie, Mortimer, Elder...)
"The Prime Ministers" (Fisher, Reid, Menzies, Fadden...)
The Fox family:
Rev Albert O Fox and his four sons three of whom are now in their 80s: Rev Ken Fox (who in turn had a son turned Minister); Rev Max Fox; Rev Geoff Fox; Alan Fox (this last was not a Presbyterian Minister but took over on the death of the prison camp padre in Ambon before his death there in 1945).