No. 352 - The Salvation Army at Deloraine - 'A Warrant for the Arrest of the Devil'

The Salvation Army arrived at Deloraine in late 1883 following its appearance at Launceston [ see No. 320 ] and Hobart. The reception to the ‘Army’ in Tasmania was initially hostile and sometimes even violent. These reactions arose out of the raucous nature of the ‘Army’s’ meetings; middle class distaste of the people attracted to its meetings and because of its disruptive recruiting strategy using street processions and open-air meetings. Suspicions were also aroused because of the determined tactics which the ‘Salvationists’ employed in ‘liberating’ prostitutes and recruiting other ‘undesirable elements’ of society into its ranks. In Launceston it was shadowed by a ‘skeleton army’ that parodied its marches and disrupted its meetings, sometimes violently. In Hobart the leader of the ‘Army’, Captain Gallagher, as well as others, were imprisoned for breaching municipal by-laws but were released after the intervention of the Attorney General.

In Deloraine, the reaction to the Salvation Army was more tolerant although the familiar pattern of opposition from certain quarters of the religious establishment is evident. The targeting of ‘Army’ meetings by the ‘larrikin element’ and the bias and apathy of the police in combating this added to the problem. Gradually the Salvation Army became an accepted part of Deloraine's 'religious landscape'; however the road to ‘tolerance’ was a long and difficult one.

In December 1883 the Daily Telegraph reported on the Salvation Army’s arrival in Deloraine. The report reflects a mixture of curiosity and distaste for the new religious phenomenon:

“Four members of the Salvation Army have been keeping things pretty lively here during the last four days, and on Sunday commenced firing in the open road before proceeding to the Town Hall. The vollies in the evening drew a large number of spectators, and as they occupied the entrance to the bridge, where the members of the Church of England and others had to pass to service, they constituted an intolerable nuisance. Of course there was nothing in what they tried to sing or say, but their ridiculous antics and frequent shouting out elicited replies from bystanders in response anything but agreeable to the peaceable churchgoers, and the other antics were very unappropriate to the sacred quietude observable here on Sabbath evening”. 

Reports often use the terms ‘spectators’ and ‘audience’ when referring to ‘Army’ meetings which is an indication that many who attended events were more curious than threatened. A further report in the Daily Telegraph reveals that the crowds at Deloraine were mostly tolerant:

“Opposition is good for trade, so we have a detachment of the Salvation Army stationed here, a Captain and Lieutenant, who held an opening service on Tuesday last, and announced that Staff-Captain Gibbs would arrive on Saturday next, and hold service in the Town Hall on Sunday next. How that will meet the views of our Tabernacle [Baptist] friends we must wait to see, as they hold an anniversary service on the same day, … The service was in the open-air, commencing with singing three hymns, then prayer, a sermon, ending with prayer and a hymn, the whole being of a very common-place character. Hell was freely promised to those who don't go Captain Gibbs’ way. A great many persons were present, most through curiosity, as after they finished some of the navvies opened a service of their own, by mounting on a heap of sleepers. They sang various songs, the majority of people staying to hear them, with as much enjoyment as to the detachment. So far the Salvationists had nothing to complain, as not a word was said to interrupt them…”

The authorities took a different view and saw the arrival of the ‘Army’ as a potential source of trouble. The town council considered the appointment of an additional police constable as a “consequence of the increase of navvies employed on the railway line” and the Superintendent of police expressed his concern that “he had not sufficient force to preserve the peace in view of the disorder introduced by the advent of the Salvation Army”.

The police it seems also may have contributed to the problem of disorder:

“A memorial [sic] was presented to the Warden to-day by the whole of the Protestant clergymen, head teacher of public school, Councillor Lovejoy, Shorey., J.P.; and several other gentlemen, asking the Warden to issue special instructions to the police ‘to protect members of the Salvation Army here from insult and ill-treatment’. It is a matter of notoriety that the police have been encouraging rowdyism, not only in the open-air, but even in the hired Town Hall, as against the Salvation Army, the police officiously interfering on the wrong side, even to nearly knocking a man down while on his knees praying on the West Parade”.

Despite the ambivalence of the local authorities, the Salvation Army persisted in its recruitment drive but according to some reports were making little headway at Deloraine. They were however aided by support from the Wesleyan minister and a change in attitude from the police. In May 1884 the Daily Telegraph reported:

“During the past week the members of a detachment of the Salvation Army, consisting of Captain Baxendale, Lieutenant Bray, Happy Dinah, and Sister Lee, assisted by the Rev. Wm. Wykes have been holding services in the Wesleyan Church, the building being filled to overflowing nightly. Despite the earnest endeavours of the army and friends, only a few converts have been made. The congregations have been on the whole orderly, only a few of the larrikin element being present, but any disturbance attempted by them was quickly suppressed by a worthy policeman…”

Interference by larrikins were swiftly dealt with, be it egg throwing or general harassment: For example a Police court report from October 1885 reveals:

“A young man was brought up by information for disturbing a meeting held by the Salvation Army in the Oddfellows’ Hall, by calling out, “What about Lily Armstrong?”.*  The Bench considered the case proved, and inflicted a fine of 20s and costs, or 48 hours imprisonment”.

And again in December 1885:

“Simon Seeling was charged…with conduct likely to cause a breach of peace, by putting the lamp out at a Salvation Army meeting”.

While the disruption of Salvation Army meetings were dealt with by the authorities, there existed a more subtle form of intolerance and opposition to its meetings. In March 1886, a report by “Free-Lance”, a correspondent for the Devon Herald, complained of this unfairness:

“For some time past the [Oddfellows] hall has been let to the Army for 12s 6d per week. At a recent committee meeting of the Oddfellows it was resolved to raise the rent charged to 15s a week. The reason given for this step is that neighbours complain of the disorderly conduct of the larrikins at the meetings. It appears that as the police neglect to keep order the Army is fined 2s 6d weekly, which it is expected will satisfy the neighbours, stop further complaints, and at the same time increase the revenue for the building….The amount is small compared to the principle involved, yet far too heavy a tax upon the small collections, the only source of subsistence the Army has. I know for a fact that the officer in charge of the Deloraine corps is often short of the bare necessaries of life; that he has gone hungry and never complained, but stuck to his duty from early morning till late at night, determined to die rather than give in, with his face turned to the foe….He is perfectly willing to undergo any hardship and privation, if only he may be the means in God's hands of bringing happiness to his fellow creatures. What evil spirit is actuating our minds? Are we no longer men? Have we sacrificed our claims to the noble instincts of free-born Englishmen, that here, on British soil, we are afraid to look a fellow subject in the face, and extend him the right hand of fellowship, because he preaches religion in a different way to what we have been accustomed to look upon as " the correct way?” I am ashamed that man should be so selfish….”

Prejudice did not prevent the Salvation Army from from progressing and in July 1888 it opened the ‘barracks’ in Parsonage street. Daily Telegraph reported:

“Yesterday was a red shirt day [sic] in the history of Deloraine. The new Salvation Army barracks was opened amidst sound of trumpet and beat of drums. The local army was reinforced by contingents from Launceston, Latrobe, and elsewhere, and when they all assembled in front of Young’s Hotel at 3 p.m., they had quite an imposing appearance. I heard one enthusiastic among their number declare he had a warrant for the arrest of the devil, and that he (the speaker) would not rest until he had executed it….”

The establishment of a Salvation Army ‘barracks’ in Deloraine did not bring an end to intolerance and opposition to its activities. In January 1894 the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph wrote:

“The larrikin element is of late becoming aggressive in this township, and the sooner it is stamped out the better it will be for all concerned. A member of the local branch of the Salvation Army complained to me that on Saturday night a very unseemly disturbance took place in the barracks through the action of some young men who evidently did not go there to pray". 

There was also ongoing unhappiness about the ‘Army’s’ continued use of outdoor meetings and marches as a method of recruitment. “Holy Howler” complained in a letter to the Daily Telegraph: 

“They have a barracks, and ought to be compelled to perform their religious exercises there as other creeds do in their churches. This is a matter for the Municipal Council's consideration, as it is by their permission…that the Army holds its open-air meetings. I am certain there is not another township in Tasmania where, with shrieking, groaning, howling, yelling, screaming, such all-round and promiscuous damnation is dealt forth. It is high time it stopped here…”

Although the ‘Army’ struggled to become established in Deloraine, a second more successful corps was established at nearby Chudleigh. For a time the two corps combined with Deloraine as the centre “but this later this was reversed, Deloraine becoming the outpost, a much more effective arrangement”.

In the first decade of the 20th century the ‘barracks’ in Parsonage Street were closed although they briefly reopened in 1915. This was not successful. The explanation given for the failure of recruitment was that the “isolated situation" of the hall was a "disadvantage to obtaining large audiences”. In 1922 the hall was dismantled and removed to South Launceston where it was used as the barracks for a new ‘Army’ outpost in Galvin Street. With the construction of a new brick citadel in 1943, the old Deloraine hall was shifted to the rear of the site for use as a ‘young people’s hall and band room”. Although the Galvin Street Citadel is still standing, the old wooden from Deloraine has been demolished.
The Salvation Army has been intermittently active in Deloraine up to the present day but there is little to remind us of the heady days when the Army first arrived in the town over 130 years ago. 

* In an incident in Britain, Lily Armstrong was allegedly abducted by members of the Salvation Army to rescue her from 'mortal danger'. [see report HERE ]

The Weekly Courier, January 1919

The Weekly Courier, January 1919

A depiction of a larrikin in the 1890's - Source: The Melbourne Punch

Examiner, Saturday 7 July 1888




Daily Telegraph, Monday 3 December 1883, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 4 December 1883, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 4 December 1883, page 3Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 5 December 1883, page 1 
Launceston Examiner, Monday 10 December 1883, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 13 May 1884, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 14 October 1885, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 5 December 1885, page 3
Devon Herald, Friday 26 March 1886, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 21 June 1888, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 7 July 1888, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 14 July 1888, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 31 January 1894, page 1
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 27 January 1915, page 6
North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times, Thursday 11 February 1915, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Friday 20 January 1922, page 8
The Advocate, Tuesday 18 July 1939, page 6


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