No. 209 - St Alban's at Parkham - 'Patriotism and Potatoes'

Community is at the heart of the history of the Parkham church and its hall. Bishop John Mercer dedicated St Alban’s on Monday 22nd September 1902. It was in fact the first church dedicated by Mercer after his arrival in Tasmania from Britain exactly three weeks earlier. Having left behind the grinding poverty of industrial Manchester, this church in the Tasmanian bush must have been an ecclesiastical culture shock for the Bishop.

The Daily Telegraph’s report on the opening of the church reveals the origin of Anglican activity at Parkham:

“Up until the time of Mr [Reverend] Lingley’s residence in this parish no services were held in Parkham: he instituted a weekly service in the State school. A Sunday school was also opened under the superintendence of Miss Fountain…. Mr Lingley thought how nice it would be for us to have a church of our own, and generously lent us the money at a very low rate of interest. The residents took the matter up earnestly, fenced and cleared up the land, which Mr Kenton generously gave, and the result is the present building, costing about £250. This amount it is proposed to liquidate chiefly by agriculture. The congregation have instituted working bees for growing potatoes upon the land kindly given for the purpose by Mr H. Radford. Next year’s crop is already planted, which should yield a substantial amount”.

While the church may have been paid for in potatoes it was nevertheless an impressive structure. It was built of native hardwood and the design by architect Alexander North, included a nave, porch, vestry and a belfry. 


A parish hall was added in 1915 and was opened by Canon Coetlogon and Mr Ernest Blyth, the M.H.A. for Wilmot. A fundraising fete was held to defray the cost of the new building and the community generously donated half of the money raised to support the Australian Red Cross in the war effort: 

“Mr Blyth M.H.A congratulated the people of Parkham for patriotic spirit and then gave a recruiting speech, and urged those who were able to offer themselves for the country’s service. No volunteers were forthcoming”.

There may have been no volunteers for the war on this day but the people of Parkham were unquestionably patriotic. At the same opening ceremony the Launceston Examiner reported that:

“Rev. George Rowe made two presentations… on behalf of the residents to two young fellows who had some days before had been passed as medically fit – Messrs John Walker and Terence Campbell. Mr Walker was presented with a wristlet watch and a purse of money, whilst Mr. Campbell received a sum of money and handsome watch chain… amid cheers of the large and enthusiastic audience”.

A notable feature of St Alban’s and its community hall was that it became the place of many homecoming celebrations for soldiers returning from the Great War. In the centenary year of the armistice it is fitting to recall not only the sacrifices made by rural communities such as Parkham but also the joyful celebrations and gratitude expressed to soldiers who survived and returned home. The following newspaper reports are a vivid reminder of the bonds of a close-knit community that saw many of their sons, brothers and husbands go to war and return.

Wednesday 26 June 1918 – Private A. Radford

“A welcome home was given to Private A. Radford in St Alban’s Hall at Parkham…. The hall was crowded, many people having to remain outside…. The warden presented Private Radford with a handsome gold medal as a small token of esteem from his many friends at Parkham. The medal was pinned on by his sister, Miss Alice Radford… When private Radford entered the hall the audience all sang “For he’s a jolly good fellow. …. A good programme followed the speeches…. Games and dancing were carried on till the small hours of the morning…”. [ Daily Telegraph]

Friday 4 April 1919 – Private W.G. Cole

“A large crowd assembled in St. Alban’s Hall, Parkham, on Friday night to welcome home Private W.G. Cole… The building was decorated with flags, banners, etc. Councillor E.T. Hingston occupied the chair, and during the evening extended a hearty welcome to Pte. Cole, and on behalf of the reception committee presented the soldier with a gold medal suitably inscribed… Pte. Cole suitably responded, and in doing so paid tribute to the Knitting Guild for the excellent work done in sending useful articles to the boys “Over There”. A lengthy and diversified programme was submitted… a splendid supper was provided by the ladies, after which dancing was indulged in”. [The Examiner ]

Thursday 10 July 1919 - Driver Terry Campbell, Corporal W. Walker and Private D. McDonald

“Enthusiasm in the highest degree marked the welcome home to three Parkham soldiers on Thursday night… [the] St Alban’s Hall was handsomely decorated, garlands, flowers, greenery, and the allied colours predominating. The seating accommodation was severely taxed, some being unable to gain admission. The Deloraine band was in attendance, and rendered selections during the evening. The warden… on behalf of the reception committee, presented Driver Campbell, and Private McDonald with a gold medal each. … Corporal Walker received a gold medal, which was adjusted by his wife. …A splendid supper was provided by the ladies after which dancing was indulged in…” [ The Advocate]

Thursday 31 July 1919 - Private Charles Bryan

“On Thursday night, in St Alban’s Hall Parkham, a welcome home was tendered to Private Charles Bryan, son of Mrs. M. Bryan of “Springdale” Parkham. Private Bryan, who has been on service for a considerable time, and has been thrice wounded, received an enthusiastic welcome. The hall was tastefully decorated with flags, streamers, etc. There was a good attendance. Councillor H. Skirving occupied the chair, and on behalf of the reception committee, handed to Private Bryan a gold medal suitably inscribed. This was pinned on his tunic by his sister, Miss Daisy Bryan. … A sumptuous repast was provided by the ladies of the district, after which dancing claimed the attention of numerous couples”. [The Examiner]

Tuesday 21 October 1919 – Corporal John walker, Private T. Kenton , Corporal J. Lunson 


“The final welcome home for men from the war was tendered in St Alban’s Hall, Parkham, on Tuesday night…. The hall was tastefully decorated by the ladies of the reception committee. A large “Welcome Home” banner was placed at the back of the stage, and others of smaller dimensions occupied prominent positions…. Hearty cheers were given as the returning men entered the hall. They were given a place of honour on the stage… On behalf of the reception committee, Mr E.T. Hingston presented each of the men a handsome gold medal, suitably inscribed….

In passing it may not be out of place to mention that all welcomes under the auspices of the Parkham Reception Committee has been free to the public. No charge whatever have been made at the door, and no matter how large the crowd they have been amply provided for. Our generous rural population have seen to that. The welcome homes at Parkham have been a welcome home in every sense of the term”. [The Examiner]

The Parkham Church Today

Recently, St Alban’s was offered for sale by the Anglican Church. The community that built the church in 1902 has now secured its future almost 120 years later. Parkham Community Inc. now owns and maintains the property ensuring its place at the heart of the community. Perhaps this is a model that other churches facing closure might follow.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Church and Hall at Parkham c.1915 - original source unknown

Original source unknown

Real Estate photograph of the interior of the church

Sources:

Daily Telegraph Wednesday 24 September 1902, page 8
Examiner Thursday 25 September 1902, page 2
Examiner Thursday 11 February 1915, page 6
North West Post Saturday 31 July 1915, page 6
Examiner Wednesday 4 August 1915, page 3
Daily Telegraph Monday 1 July 1918, page 8
Examiner Tuesday 8 April 1919, page 6
Examiner Monday 14 July 1919, page 3
Advocate Wednesday 16 July 1919, page 2
Examiner Monday 4 August 1919, page 7
Examiner Monday 27 October 1919, page 6

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mercer-john-edward-7558

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