No. 108 - St Andrew's Evandale - An Anchor of Hope

On the lawns in front of this most attractive church is a monument that competes for attention. It is the memorial to Reverend Robert Russell, founder and pastor of the Evandale Presbyterian Church for a period of 33 years.

Surmounting a granite pillar is a female figure carved from white Sicilian marble. Her right hand is elevated and her forefinger points to the heavens, while the left hand rests on an anchor. An anchor's purpose is to secure a ship and bring comfort in a storm. The figure personifies Hope, pointing to a better future where solace from the storms of life await.

The Reverend Russell bought hope and solace to the people of Morven as it was then called. As a young Scot he arrived in the village in 1838 to commence his parish duties. At that time there was no church building and services were held in homes. The Scottish community of Evandale raised funds for the building of a church and along with a grant from the Government, this enabled the laying of a foundation stone in 1838 by the Governor, Sir John Franklin. In September 1840, the church of St Andrews was dedicated.

Russell is said to have supervised the construction of the building. The church is built of bricks that had been made to line a tunnel which was to divert water from the South Esk River to supply Launceston. After a number of accidents among the convicts employed in the tunnel's construction, the project was abandoned. The recycled bricks are painted but visible on the back and sidewalls of the church. A pair of columns flanking the front entrance of the church were quarried at the property of colonial artist, John Glover, and carted to the church site by bullock wagon.

Reverend Russell left more than a church as a memorial to his work in Evandale. He was also responsible for building a library and a public school in the village. His obituary in the Cornwall Chronicle gives some sense of the measure of the man:

“Mr Russell had been for near on thirty years the resident Presbyterian clergyman at Evandale, when he retired and paid a long visit to England. He was heartily welcomed back as a private resident in the district, in the progress and welfare of which he had always taken a deep interest. He was revered and beloved not only by his own congregation, but by all classes of the community. He was a candid, outspoken, kind-hearted man, with excellent tact, and that force of character which enabled him to heal over estrangements between friends and to prevent litigation. He was liberal, open-handed almost to a fault, once a friend he remained true through out his useful life. He was a Christian without guile, and without the slightest tendency to hypocrisy. His tall, manly form, so long familiar to the residents of Evandale, Launceston, and Northern Tasmania, will no more be seen amongst us. Another sterling good old Tasmanian colonist has been gathered to his rest, and but few of such longstanding now remain amongst us”.

Before his first return to Scotland in 1861, as a mark of gratitude, the congregation gifted Russell with a purse containing 300 sovereigns. In his response at his farewell, Russell spoke of the link between education and religion and warned of those who sought political power but who lacked wisdom and a moral compass:

“I cannot but feel that much of this spontaneous and apparently unanimous expression of esteem is due to my long and intimate intercourse with you as a neighbour and a friend. …I could not indeed have lived for nearly a quarter of a century in the district without discovering everywhere, not only among Scotchmen and Presbyterians but among all classes and sections of the community, warm hearts and genial sympathies and disinterested services, which were more than enough to make a man of far colder temperament than myself an enthusiastic philanthropist. What I am, you yourselves have in some measure made me….When I was first settled in Morven [Evandale] I was received more like a son than a stranger, …I am proud to have my name associated not only with the churches in the district but with the library and the public school. I have ever been the advocate of having the masses thoroughly leavened with the elements of a plain, sound, and practical education; it is essentially the handmaid of religion, and when sanctified by its spirit I know of no more effectual antidote to the democratic and dangerous tendencies of the present day. Give me the people religiously and intelligently taught, and I will at once concede the expediency of manhood suffrage. But I confess that I look upon the future of these colonies with apprehension and doubt, when I see that power is craved and in some cases granted to individuals who are destitute of the wisdom and the moral principle to use it aright”.

These words still resonate today. Russell’s memorial and his church remind us that wisdom was once rooted in faith and learning, and that faith provided hope and comfort to the masses, in this life and the next.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018



Cemetery


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Sources:

Weekly Examiner Saturday 25 January 1873

Examiner Tuesday 19 February 1861

Cornwall Chronicle Monday 2 April 1877

Weekly Examiner Saturday 7 April 1877

The Mercury, Hobart 15th January 1881

https://www.evandaletasmania.com/st-andrews-uniting-presbyterian-church.html





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