No. 709 - Gladstone - St Andrew's Presbyterian Church - 'Mr Galloway's Beloved Kirk'

Gladstone is a small and remote settlement situated on the banks of the Ringarooma River in north east Tasmania. It was first settled in 1870 by tin miners; a large number of whom were Chinese. In 1880 the discovery of gold in the area boosted the town’s population but once this was exhausted tin mining became the mainstay of the local economy. Gladstone is named after British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, who had also served as Colonial Secretary.

At its peak three religious denominations were represented in the town which had Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian churches. All of the towns churches have closed but two of the buildings have survived and have been converted into houses.

In the early 1890’s religious services took place in Gladstone’s Town Hall. Efforts were made to establish a non-denominational ‘Union Church’. In 1892 the Launceston Examiner’s local correspondent reported:

“A successful social took place recently in the Town Hall in aid of a proposed church for this township. For various reasons a large majority of the inhabitants are in favour of a Union Church. Previous to appointing the committee, Rev. E. Prince Shelley (Anglican) explained very precisely the terms and conditions upon which he would fall in with the project”.

However, the movement to build a ‘Union Church’ faded and all denominations struggled to attracted ministers to the town. At the turn of the century Gladstone’s religious life was still in the doldrums while the township itself was hardly thriving. In 1904 a visiting correspondent for Launceston’s Daily Telegraph described the facilities in the town:

“The town hall is a wooden building, neat but not gaudy. Apparently some doubts existed as to its stability and resisting powers against the high winds that at times prevail at Gladstone, and not trusting entirely to Providence, the walls outside have been stayed up with strong wire ropes. The hall is used for church services, meetings, and entertainments. The letting and care of the hall is under the control of trustees. There is a Roman Catholic church, but services are seldom held there, the members of the church being hardly sufficient to induce a clergyman to travel so long a distance. The State school is a wooden structure that not long ago had a much needed renovation. There are 36 children’s names on the roll. A number of these children are of Chinese extraction, and these the schoolmaster, Mr G. A. Green, finds bright and intelligent. Mrs Green also assists in the school work. The Police Department. — Trooper John Lonergan has charge of… There is a courthouse, watchhouse, and residence….Mr Galloway is the only storekeeper at Gladstone; he also keeps the hotel there, where comfortable quarters are available for visitors”.

By 1908 the Anglican community had made progress in acquiring a church which was a building that had previously been the local bank. The Presbyterians used the Gladstone town hall as a place of worship from the late 1890’s. Led by Mr James Galloway, the Presbyterians at last built a church of their own almost 20 years after the first service was held. The foundation stone was laid on Sunday 27 February and the ceremony was recorded by the Launceston Examiner:

“The ceremony in connection with the laying of the foundation stone of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Gladstone, took place on Wednesday, February 27 1918, in the presence of a large number of people, and the Union Jack was hoisted early in the day. The Rev. A. D. Leckie, convenor of the Tasmanian home mission, was present, and presided as master of ceremonies….The master of ceremonies… called upon Rev. Gordon Mitchell Raff to lay the stone….The impressive remarks of Mr Leckie then followed. The rev. gentleman spoke a feeling tribute to the late James Galloway, who had played a very loyal and zealous part in building up the church, and who had up, to a few days of his death worked on the foundation of the new church, with his close friend, Mr. Raff. His work could never he forgotten, and he had set up, a standard worthy of imitation, and worthy of his beloved kirk….”

For reasons not known, the church took over a year and a half to complete, opening in August 1919. The North West Advertiser was one of three newspapers that reported the opening ceremony:

“The official opening of the new Presbyterian church at Gladstone took place on Sunday, August 17, when the Rev. Alan Leckie, of Hobart, was present to perform the ceremony. There was a large gathering of Presbyterians, and others from all parts of the district, and Gladstone itself was strongly represented. The Rev Leslie Fairey (minister in charge) spoke a few words from the church steps, making a feeling reference to both the Rev Gordon Raff. and the late Mr Jas. Galloway, who had done so much to bring about the consummation of the ends they were rejoicing in that day. He then called upon Mrs Galloway to hand to Mr Leckie the key of the new church which she did…. He then inserted the key in the lock and opened the door, calling upon Mrs Galloway and Mrs J Shields (widow and daughter of the late Mr Galloway) to be the first to enter the church….The building wan quickly filled…”



 “The first ordinary service in the new church was held in the evening, where there was a crowded congregation, over 120 being present. Mr Leckie again preached an eloquent sermon, …During the service the rev. gentleman congratulated both minister and congregation upon the splendid appearance of the building inside, and said it caused him a pleasant surprise on entering the church to see how splendidly it bad been fitted throughout. He considered it was the finest Presbyterian Church on the East Coast….The building is 36ft x 20ft., and will hold 150 people. It has Gothic designed windows, and double sets of doors to enter by. The building is quite an addition to the town of Gladstone, and its opening will remain a day of glad memories to all who were privileged to be present. The land on which the church stands was the gift of the late Mr. Galloway”.

The date of the church's closure is not known. It was last sold in 2015 and has subsequently been restored and converted into a house. 


The Gladstone Presbyterian Church before its restoration - photo Aqua Real Estate Bridport


Photograph - Courtesy of Danny Beer

photo: Aqua Real Estate Bridport

The interior of the church with the double doors mentioned in North West Post's report. photo Aqua Real Estate Bridport

The foundation stone - photo Aqua Real Estate Bridport


Sources:


Examiner, Thursday 7 March 1918, page 6
Examiner, Tuesday 26 August 1919, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 26 August 1919, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 29 August 1919, page 3

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