No. 200 - The Former Wesleyan-Methodist Church at St Marys - 'The Band of Hope'

In 1879 the first Methodist services at St Marys were held in a non-denominational Sunday school built by Robert Legge of Cullenswood House. By the early 1880’s Reverend Robert Brown led fundraising for the Wesleyans to build their own church. This was quickly achieved and a church was built and opened in February 1884. The local correspondent for the Hobart Mercury reported on the first services:

“The opening services of the Wesleyan Church took place on the 17th… Rev. Mr. Greenwood of Campbell Town, preached at both…. There was a very large and attentive congregation…. The church, now open for Divine service with every auspicious omen, is a very beautiful structure, a credit to all concerned and an ornament to the township. It is seated to accommodate about 150. The windows are of a Gothic style, and with coloured and ornamental glass. The inside of the church is very neatly and chastely painted. The dome is coloured sky blue, the sides of a light red, and the seats and pulpit of a dark oak colour. There is a very neat belfry, which will soon be ornamented with the needed complement, a bell”.

The success of the Wesleyans was partly due to support of prominent citizens from the St Marys district. At the church’s 50th Jubilee celebration in 1934 it was recalled that:

“Spiritual and financial aid was given generously by…. [Robert] Legge, [of] Cullenswood; Michael Steel, of Falmouth, and J.T. Cramp, a prominent business man of St. Marys, the last-named being the chief supporter of the Methodist hall. After its completion a Band of Hope was formed and flourished, with a membership of approximately 200…”

The Band of Hope was associated with the temperance movement and was typically aligned with church and Sunday school activities. While non-denominational, it was closely associated with Methodism. The Band of Hope Union was founded in Britain in 1855 during an era when excessive drinking amongst adults was common, adding to the problems of poor living conditions and health and also the maltreatment of children and child mortality. Alcohol was freely available to children. The Band of Hope was an organisation for children under 16 which had the aim of preventing them from starting to drink alcohol. It also functioned as a children’s club, embracing all sorts of activities.

Those joining took a pledge of total abstinence and were encouraged to take part in monthly public meetings. Both children and their parents attended and programmes often featured contributions by young people and adults consisting of recitations, songs and dialogues. Newspaper reports of ‘church news’ from St Marys often featured detailed activities of the Band of Hope. The following report from 1884 is one of the earliest reports of a meeting held in the new Wesleyan-Methodist Hall and is typical of the precise detail that was recorded by local correspondents for the Launceston Examiner, the Hobart Mercury and the Tasmanian News:

“There was a good attendance, and one of the most enjoyable evenings was spent by the members of the Band of Hope and their friends since the formation of the society in the district. Mr. J.T. Cramp presided. A lengthy programme was introduced to the meeting, consisting of readings, songs, recitations, dialogues, etc. Mr A. Campbell commenced with reading a short sketch from the Queen’s Book, the Chairman following with a reading entitled “A Ghost Story.” Mr J. Lade rendered a song to the accompaniment of a violin; Mr I. Lohrey and Mr G. D. Emden followed with readings, the latter entitled “sergeant Buzfuz’s address to the jury on Pickwick’s Trial.” Mrs Stevens and Miss Phillips rendered the song “The Bit of Blue,” [see below] Miss Lade accompanying on the Harmonium. The Chairman then gave a reading entitled “The Guileless Witness.” A song followed by Mr Lohrey. The next item “Britons never will be slaves” was nicely recited by Mr A. Campbell. There was an intermission of ten minutes allowed at this stage for parties wishing to join the society to come forward and sign the pledge, five availing themselves of the opportunity. The 10 minutes having fully run out, Miss A. Lohrey was called on for a recitation, Mr Lade following with a song to the accompaniment of the violin. The Chairman gave another reading entitled “In Liquor,” Miss Phillips followed with a song, “Call me not back from the echoless shore.” The next item was an essay by Mr G. Goddard, [the] subject “man.” Mr. I Lohrey came next with a song after which a dialogue, “Interested Kindness” by Messrs Campbell, Goddard, and Cramp. Mr. G.D. Emden finished the programme with a reading. A hymn was sung, and the meeting was closed with the Benediction”. [See illustrations below]

The programme of the Band of Hope meeting might appear quaint to modern readers with its mix of naïve entertainment, anti-alcohol propaganda and displays of loyalty to Queen and the old country. While it was a popular form of entertainment and social activity, it represents the strength and popularity of the temperance movement in Australia and Tasmania in the late 19th century.

Temperance organisations became active in Australia from the 1830s. Organisations such as the Independent Order of Rechabites (The first Australian group was established in Tasmania in 1843) and the Band of Hope initially advocated moderation but later campaigned for prohibition. The Band of Hope, closely affiliated with church groups, was largely a middle-class reaction to an upsurge in working class consumption of spirits, which grew exponentially with the industrialised production of distilled spirits. There was also a fear of the working class being more dangerous when drunk. The movement became popular and by the 1880s, a significant number of ‘hotels’ around the country were built as or converted into coffee palaces, where no alcohol would be served. Temperance fountains were provided to encourage people not to drink beer with the provision of safe and free water.

The Band of Hope at St Marys seems to have been active up until about the time of World War One, and like most of the temperance movements in Britain and the Unites States, they declined in popularity and influence after the 1920’s.

The Methodist church at St Marys has closed and has been restored and converted into a house. It represents not only the once powerful presence of Methodism in St Marys but also the temperance movement and the Band of Hope that was active in the first three decades after the establishment of the church.



A Bit of Blue

With loyal hearts, and purpose true, In faith and hope we go;
By solemn pledge, and “Bit of Blue,” To face our nation’s foe.
That foe is Drink, an enemy which rules with tyrants hand;
The foe to all prosperity, a foe we must withstand.


Chorus

Then join our side, and sign the pledge,
And to the pledge be true;
And wear upon your breast our badge,
The little “Bit of Blue”.

When duty calls, we must obey, and dare the right uphold;
For cowards ne’er did win the day, the victors are the bold.
And duty bids us “We declare, this tyrants chains undo;”
And work till all are pledged and wear the little “Bit of Blue”.

Oh! If you all at duty’s call, help in this war declared;
The tyrant Drink shall speedy fall, the drunkard be reclaimed.
But ye who in this fight would share, e’en should ye be but few;
Yet never be ashamed to wear the little “Bit of Blue”.

Then ye who boast that priceless boon is glorious liberty;
Put down the Drink, the drunk soon from drink bonds shall be free.
But if ye would the drunkard care, the path of right pursue;
Then wear yourselves, and help him wear, the little “Bit of Blue”.

May God defend the cause we own, ‘tis in his name begun;
And by his grace and might alone, the victory shall be won.
Then brothers, sisters, be your care, our nations foe subdue;
And never, never, fear to wear the little “Bit of Blue”.


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Photograph dated 1907 showing the church and Sunday school/hall - Original source unknown - (possibly the Weekly Courier)


Interior of the church before its conversion. Source Roberts Real Estate

Illustrations relating to the temperance movement and the Band of Hope meeting at St Marys in 1884:

Source: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/

Source: State Library Tasmania 
Source: https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/songsheets_bsvg200948/


Ann Arbor Courier, July 23, 188023 July 
1880 - Public domain

The Drunkard's Progress: by Nathaniel Currier 1846, warns that moderate drinking leads, step-by-step, to total disaster. (source Wiki Commons)

Sources:

The Examiner Thursday 15 November 1883, page 3
The Mercury Saturday 1 March 1884, page 1
Tasmanian News Tuesday 20 May 1884, page 3
The Mercury Tuesday 7 April 1885, page 3
The Examiner Wednesday 9 November 1887, page 1
The Tasmanian Saturday 12 November 1887, page 22
The Examiner Saturday 11 May 1889, page 6
The Examiner Thursday 7 November 1907, page 7
The Mercury Monday 24 September 1934, page 5

Stansall, M. E. J and Methodist Church of Australasia Tasmanian Methodism, 1820-1975 : compiled at the time of last Meeting of Methodism prior to union. Methodist Church of Australasia, Launceston, Tas, 1975.

http://www.myprimitivemethodists.org.uk/page/temperance

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