No. 410 - The Salvation Army at Ulverstone - 'A Glory Shop, Young Lassies and an Indian Contingent'

The Salvation Army arrived at Ulverstone in late 1886, soon after it had established bases at Launceston and Hobart. The reception to the ‘Army’ in Tasmania was initially hostile and sometimes even violent. Negative reactions to the Salvation Army were a response to the raucous nature of the ‘Army’s’ gatherings; middle class prejudice towards the working classes who were attracted to its meetings and because of its disruptive recruiting strategies which included street processions and open-air meetings. In Launceston and Hobart 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 Ulverstone, 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 compounded the problem. By the early 20th century the Salvation Army became an accepted part of Ulverstone’s 'religious landscape’, however the road towards ‘tolerance’ was a long and difficult one.

The story of the ‘Army at Ulverstone began with a letter to the editor of the Launceston Examiner in June 1886. The writer, using the nom de plume “H.C.” asked:

“How is it we have never had a visit from the Salvation Army? I am sure the Ulverstone people would give them a hearty reception, and being the centre of a large population they would have immense audiences….

PS: - Since writing the above a gentleman well-known for liberality on the coast has asked me to state that he will give £10 towards expenses if the S.A. will fall in with the above, and also pay rental of the Town Hall for two or three weeks…”

Within a week a reply appeared in the Examiner:

“…[Regarding the] Salvation Army coming to Ulverstone, I would be very glad if “H.C.” would communicate with me at the district head-quarters, George-street, Launceston…” Charles A. Quick (Adjutant Tasmanian Division)

In the following months contact must have been made for in December 1886 the Devon Herald reported on the Army’s first visit to Ulverstone:

“A deputation from the Salvation Army paid us a visit last Thursday, consisting of adjutant Quick, Captain Sellars, Captain Parsonage, and two other male officers, besides a female captain and cadet. At the first meeting, which was tolerable, the adjutant gave a brief account of the rise and progress of the Army, and stated his intention of leaving the two female officers to carry on the evangelistic work at Ulverstone, and in due course to invade the neighbouring townships. They held two services on Sunday in the Town Hall, and the attendance on both occasions was as large as could be expected, and the behaviour, considering the amount of larrikin element present was very good”.

In February 1887 the Devon Herald carried a further report on the Army’s progress:

“Captain Edwards and Cadet Moore of the Salvation Army are still here and working away as briskly as at first. I have heard that the doings of the Army in some places stigmatised as bordering on profanity, but the most fastidious could, I feel sure, find no fault with anything that has been said or done by the deputation that has been quartered at the Leven, although there are some people who take exception to women preaching but I fail to see wherein they do wrong….”

The report continued:

“…Besides Sunday services in the Town Hall, they held regular week-night services out of doors, and in spite of opposition have continued faithfully at their post….. A large iron building has been rented by the captain off Messrs Ellis in which to hold the services for the future, instead of the Town Hall. The building is capable of accomodating about 200 people. It was used for the first time last Sunday, and at the evening service was crowded”.

The ‘iron building’ which became known as “The Glory Shop” became the centre of the Army’s activities. In March 1887 the Devon Herald carried a report of one rather exotic meeting:

“On Thursday last the Salvation Army received a reinforcement consisting of Majors Graham and Hendy and another officer…; also three Indian officers - Captain Musa Bhai, Sergeant Shiah, and Corporal Horathula. The Town Hall was engaged for the occasion, and packed from platform to gallery; in fact it was the largest audience ever assembled within the walls of Ulverstone Town Hall….”

Musa Bhai was in fact born in Sri Lanka. He was educated at Madras in India and had converted to Christianity. He had travelled to England where he worked with the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. He travelled throughout Australia in 1886 and 1887, lecturing on Hinduism and Christianity. He was an outspoken and eloquent orator who captured the attention and sympathy of audiences. The Devon Herald’s report provides a sense of the occasion:

“After the introductory address of Major Graham, Major Hendy introduced Captain Musa Bhai and his two dusky companions, and the meeting was given over into their hands. Their dancing for joy whilst singing, their gesticulations and tambourine playing,… were certainly great novelties at delighting the meeting, but there could be no mistaking the sincere earnestness of the appeals to the hearts of the people. - Captain Musa Bhai, especially, addressed the meeting with deep fervour and eloquence that I have rarely heard surpassed. The order maintained during the meeting was upon the whole tolerably good, but remarks made several times by persons in the audience that were far from being commendable, and only showed to what extent mental and spiritual darkness and genuine heathenism can exist in a so-called Christian country. At the close of the meeting a sale was effected of a considerable number of photos of the Indian contingent”.

Following the excitement of the Army’s Indian evangelists, reality set in. The problem of larrikinism which which was endemic at Launceston, was to become a major problem for the Army at Ulverstone. In April 1887 the Devon Herald reported:

“For some time after the location of the Salvation Army here very fair order was maintained at the meetings, but of late the larrikin element has been in the preponderance, and the behaviour on several occasions has been anything but creditable, and of a nature far more suitable to a taproom than a religious meeting house. The officers have been quite powerless to suppress it, and although it has been pretty freely talked about in the district, yet no effort has been made by the police to assist in preserving order. I have been informed, however, that several of the influential residents have laid complaints on account of the unseemly conduct of some who attend the meetings, so that perhaps in future we shall have better behaviour….”

In September 1887 the Daily Telegraph reported that confrontations had become violent:

“Last Sunday evening, at the Salvation Army barracks, a young man was put outside for misbehaviour, some little time afterwards, one of the soldiers hearing a knock at the door, opened it and looked out, and was immediately struck by a heavy blow in the face, this was repeated four times. The soldier was unable to see so as to recognise the face of this cowardly assailant and I am informed no police were to be found anywhere in the vicinity of the barracks,…. On Monday evening another Salvation army soldier was struck in the face whilst standing at the door of the barracks. I have no complaints to make as a general thing against our local police, but I do think that their protective influence might be exerted a little more in favour of the Salvation Army, who at all events are peaceable, law-abiding citizens”.

In October 1887 a further incident was reported:

“Last night a lemonade bottle was sent whizzing through the window of the building occupied by the Salvation Army, and another through the door, and several others were thrown on the roof. Luckily no person was injured by the bottle thrown through the window, owing to a plank that had been placed just inside the window, which prevented it from going amongst the audience”.

In November 1887 the correspondent for the Daily Telegraph reported that the problem continued unabated:

“Larrikinism seems to be, if anything, on the increase here. A few nights ago there was quite a serious disturbance at the army barracks, and rotten eggs are nightly pelted at the soldiers whilst marching; of course anyone else who may happen to be passing at the time, stands an equal chance with the soldiers, of receiving the contents of these unsavoury missiles, and it is worthy of note that at these times our police are never on the spot”.

By this time, perpetrators were were now being hauled before the courts. In September 1887, the North Western Chronicle reported:

“Sarah Clayton, a captain in the Salvation Army, charged Frank Crawford with having jostled her in the public street…”

The Chronicle noted:

Crawford had a previous similar conviction against him, and has succeeded in obtaining a most unenviable notoriety as a ringleader of larrikins…”.
Crawford was fined £3 and 11s costs.

In June 1888 the Daily Telegraph reported a similar incident:

“A larrikin of the name of Harry Parsonage was brought before the magistrate…charged with assaulting and striking a young man named Chilcott at a Salvation Army meeting. He was fined 5s and costs. It is high time this larrikinism was put to a stop. I am happy to state that it is decidedly on the wane since Constable Leek was appointed here, as the whole class seem to hold him in wholesome dread”.

In 1888 the Salvation Army encountered a new challenge; competition. The Launceston Examiner reported:

“The Salvation Army has almost died out here, but the town hall is occupied every Sunday night by a Plymouth Brother or something of that sort”.

While the larrikins continued to terrorise the Army, in February 1890 there was a positive development. The Hobart Mercury reported:

“We have had a change in the command of our local contingent of the Salvation Army. The officers now in charge are two lassies, Captain Reid and Lieutenant Robertson. Those among us who have been brought up to consider the public worship of God an occasion of solemnity, do not take kindly to all the Army methods of dancing, shouting, beating drums etc. But under the leadership of the above-mentioned young women the Salvation Army meetings seem to be conducted with as much decorum as services at any other place of worship”.

The problem of the spectacle and noise generated by the Salvation Army band was a real and present danger for some members of the public. In 1890 the Examiner reported:

“A smash took place in Main-street last evening. Mr G. M’Donald left his horse and chaise-cart standing opposite Mr Titmus’s blacksmith shop while he spoke to someone on the footpath. The Salvation Army came down the street with band and drum, and before the owner could regain the reins, the horse plunged forward, and after going for 50 yards came in contact with the kerb, at Mr Well’s corner. The cart was upset and smashed considerably, and the horse getting free went full gallop down the street, then over the bridge, and home, a distance of two miles, but beyond a few scratches and a fright it sustained little injury”.

A major turning point for the Salvation Army came in 1894 when a new hall or ‘barracks” which was built on land donated by James (Philosopher) Smith. The “Welling Times” reported on the opening:

“The new barracks for the Salvation Army at Ulverstone were opened last Saturday….followed by three meetings on Sunday and a tea and public meeting on Monday… The building is 44ft x 25ft and cost £30 for material, but a lot of material was given. There is a debt of £25 still to be paid off. All the labor was done free by Messrs. D. Shaw, J. Young, T. Berry, Low and Captain Star, some of them working for six weeks…. There were crowded congregations at each service, and votes of thanks were passed to Mr. James Smith, for the gift of the land, and to all other helpers”.

With the opening of the new barrack’s the Salvation Army went from strength to strength although it continued to experience harassment from the ‘larrikin element’ right up to the time of the Great War.

The Salvation Army still has a strong presence in Ulverstone. The modern barracks situated on Victoria Street replaced the old hall in June 1977. The solid brick building gives no hint of the exciting but troubled times of the first decade of the Salvation Army’s struggle to establish itself in the town.

The Salvation Army Hall on Victoria Street (undated) original source unknown

Captain Musa Bhai - Getty Images - see link below

The Salvation Army 'Barracks' at Launceston (2019) Photo: Duncan Grant

North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times  (1903)

                    North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times  (1901)


Launceston Examiner, Friday 11 June 1886, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 16 June 1886, page 3
Devon Herald, Friday 24 December 1886, page 2
Devon Herald, Tuesday 8 February 1887, page 3
Devon Herald, Tuesday 15 March 1887, page 3
Devon Herald, Friday 15 April 1887, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 8 September 1887, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 20 September 1887, page 3
The North Western Chronicle, Friday 30 September 1887, page 3
Devon Herald, Tuesday 4 October 1887, page 2
The Tasmanian, Saturday 15 October 1887, page 20
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 12 November 1887, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 11 February 1888, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 29 March 1888, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 7 June 1888, page 3
Mercury, Friday 14 February 1890, page 4
Tasmanian, Saturday 17 May 1890, page 23
Launceston Examiner, Saturday 20 December 1890, page 4
The Tasmanian, Saturday 11 August 1894, page 17
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 14 august 1894, page 3
Welling Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette, Saturday 18 August 1894, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 24 October 1901, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Thursday 27 August 1903, page 4
The Advocate, Friday 11 December 1936, page 6

The Brisbane Courier, Monday 24 July 1893,  page 6


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