Project Canterbury

Albert Maclaren
Pioneer Missionary in New Guinea

By Frances M. Synge

London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1908

Chapter IX. Preparation for the Mission in Australia

THE diary of Maclaren's journeyings with Sir William MacGregor stops with the return to Port Moresby on 11th August. They had afforded him facilities for learning much of the country in a short time. He had now to find men to carry out the work which he had undertaken to inaugurate. The time was unfortunate, for the country was suffering from severe financial depression. September found him pleading his cause in the Diocese of Brisbane. He received about £150. On 9 October, 1890, the day of the enthronement of Bishop Barry's successor, Dr. Saumarez Smith, as Bishop of Sydney and Primate of Australia, a public meeting was held in Sydney in support of the Mission, when the newly enthroned Primate took the chair, the Bishops of Melbourne, Brisbane and Riverina spoke, and Maclaren related some of his experiences and pleaded his cause. The collection amounted to £103, and the meeting was described as "most sympathetic and full of encouragement to the zealous missionary".

November found him back at his old parish of S. Paul's, West Maitland, taking the services all day on Sunday, 2nd November, and holding a meeting for his Mission on the 4th. He writes on the 3rd: "We kept All Saints' yesterday. The church was lovely and they gave me £17 for my Mission. I have got a cheque for £250 for the Quetta Church. As the result of my appeals to Australians I have received a cheque for £1,000 and another for £500, and I am expecting a similar amount, viz. £500, in a few days. The people are taking up the Mission very warmly and are doing all they can to help us."

On 21st November he writes from Armidale to a lady (Mrs. Baber) who had been ill: "I am glad to hear that your painful illness is coming to an end. I am a very poor hand at bearing pain and I pray God that I may never have to endure overmuch, though I know that when it comes He also gives one strength to endure it. I like being ill now and then, because sickness helps to deepen my faith, and gives the peace which success and health never seem to bring one. I suppose it is that sickness throws me back more on Him who is the source of all peace and hope. I am feeling better since I came here he had been ill with fever). The New Guinea Mission is being better cared forthani had anticipated, but it is a pity that party spirit is allowed to run so high among one section of the community. Alas, they little know the harm that they are doing and how terribly they are rending the seam less robe of our Lord. I try to be free from party spirit, and in my better moments I am, but then these men with their bitter narrow spirit and words rouse all my latent energy on the other side, but it must not be. When He giveth quietness who then can make trouble? God bless and keep you."

In the following letter is the first reference to the Rev. Copland King, for whom he asks special prayers on the Day of Intercession.

"Ask Mr. Baber to remember on the Day of Inter cession to pray that one, a young clergyman, may be led to offer himself for the New Guinea Mission. He is a good earnest fellow, and though his views are some what different to my own, yet we both love our Lord and His poor scattered sheep for whom He died. His name is Copland King. I travelled with him a few days ago and he is interested in missionary work, especially in New Guinea. He is a son of Archdeacon King of Sydney."

The story of that eventful meeting in a train is best told by the Rev. Copland King himself.

"The first time I met Mr. Maclaren was in November, 1890, in a railway train on the northern line. I was going up to Tamworth for a fortnight's holiday. At Singleton the train was shortened, and all the first-class passengers put into one carriage. The rest of the party seemed all to know each other, and a brisk conversation was carried on on the political situation and some speeches recently made in Sydney. When it died away, and papers and books made their appearance, I introduced myself to Mr. Maclaren, and told him that I was interested in the Mission. My Sunday-school collected for it, and I had heard him speak at the great missionary meeting in Sydney, and should like to know more about the work which he was starting. He explained the position of affairs to me and we had a long conversation. He told me about some people whom he was hoping to enlist, and then he asked me if I would come with him. I had no idea of such a thing previously, but I could not refuse straight off and we went as fully as possible into the subject. We got out at Quirindi, and walked up and down the dusty streets of that town till late at night. We went on by an early train the next morning, without further opportunity for conversation. Indeed I think we both felt that we had thrashed the subject out, and during the week following I made my offer and the matter was arranged."

From Armidale, Maclaren went to Tenterfield, preaching on the Sunday evening, 22nd November, for New Guinea. Three days later he was again in Brisbane.

He writes from there on 1 December: "Collecting money and men and raising missionary interest is weary work, and I shall be glad to get back to New Guinea. We have got altogether some £5,000 or £6,000 with which to start the Mission, and I have secured a splendid young fellow--a clergyman--M. A. of Sydney University, a born Australian, and a son of Archdeacon King of Sydney. I think that two others will offer shortly, so that we have made a start. I am going to spend Christmas with the prisoners, and Sunday, the 21st, with the old people (500) at the Benevolent Home. It will be a queer Christmas, but peace comes from God in prison as well as in church if we prepare for its due reception. We hope to get a steam yacht soon for £3,000, and our house is also to be built. The ladies of five parishes in Australia are furnishing a room each.

Forty Sunday-schools are giving £10 a year to keep a child, so that we expect to get over £3,000 a year without asking England for much. All the same it is uphill work, and one needs much patience and much rejection of self."

On 28th December, Holy Innocents' Day, he preached at Christ Church, Milton, on S. James 1V. 14. It Was on this day twelve months later that he was laid to rest in the Cooktown Cemetery.

On New Year's Day, 1891, he celebrated the Holy Communion at Christ Church, Milton, on the site of the old church in which he had been ordained. It was an appropriate beginning to the year which was to witness the foundation of the Church of England Mission in New Guinea, and in its closing days the passing of the founder into the Unveiled Presence of his Lord.

Early in January he went to Melbourne, and as chaplain to the Bishop of Brisbane, Dr. Webber, was present on S. Paul's Day at the consecration of S. Paul's Cathedral. "It is a nice building," he says, "but not equal to the cathedrals of England. It should mean new life to Melbourne and it wants it. There were nine bishops present at the dedication." His main object in Victoria was to raise £1,500 for a Mission house and station. "And I shall get it," he writes, "for I am an energetic beggar. It must be done, and I think it is a great thing to get the Mission supported entirely by Australians."

The following letter sets forth why Australia should support the proposed New Guinea Mission:--

"I came to Melbourne a few weeks ago in order to try to obtain some practical help from the Church people of Victoria. Already Queensland and New South Wales have given generously to our new work, and among other donations to our funds I have received £1,000 from Miss Edith Walker of Concord, Sydney, £500 anonymous and £200 from Messrs. White Bros. of Armidale, New England, as well as many other smaller sums. These large sums were given to the yacht fund, as it is understood that New South Wales gives us the mission ship, towards the purchase of which some £2,000 has been already subscribed by the Church people of that colony. My special appeal to the people of Victoria is for £1,500 for Mission premises for our first head station, towards which, after some four weeks' incessant begging, preaching and speaking, I have received less than £50. I am therefore writing to ask you to be good enough to try to enlist the sympathy of your friends in my need.

"The question might be asked why Australia should be solicited for means to carry on the New Guinea Mission, and in order that there may be no misunderstanding about our strong claims on the generosity of the people of Victoria, I append a few reasons why I feel I can justly make my appeal.

"1. British New Guinea having been annexed at the request of the colonies of Australia, and as it was not considered advisable to have any other European Power on land closely adjacent to one of the keys of Australian defence, viz., Thursday Island, which is less than sixty miles from the mainland of New Guinea, it is fitting that the Australian people should do 'the duty that lies nearest' to their hand in missionary enterprise. Large sums are being raised in Australia for missions to India, China and Africa, while our heathen savage fellow-subjects are neglected by those who call themselves Christians.

"2. The Mission will necessarily be a powerful agency in conveying the benefits of civilisation to our fellow-subjects, the Papuans, in New Guinea. In a letter I received from the Hon. A. Musgrave, Government Secretary of British New Guinea, in welcoming the Anglican Mission to the Papuans, he says: 'After more than five years' intimate official connection with B.N. Guinea, I can appreciate the immediate and powerful effect produced by the settlement of earnest and honest whites among our natives and the restraint it places on their worst propensities. I can therefore view the introduction of another active and civilising influence amongst our aboriginal wards with cordial admiration and sympathy. Your efforts will commence amidst tribes in the purest state of savagery, where for many months to come your life and health will be in exceptional danger, while your tastes will be set on edge and your disgust excited by their unrestrained manners and unspeakable customs.'

"It is our intention to work the Mission on thoroughly practical lines, and we hope to number among our missionary staff more than one artisan who will help to develop the latent powers of the natives.

"I feel that if only our Mission were known to some of the wealthy and generous folk of Melbourne, and its objects understood, the necessary funds for the building of our house, etc., viz., £1,500 would soon be forth coming. We are making our Mission a work of the Australian Church. It is to depend entirely on this country both for men and money, because we feel that the time has come when the Church of England in Australia should have one Mission specially her own.

"We have taken New Guinea, and seeing that to a great extent it is open to the trader and others to go where they like among the natives, and bearing in mind how frequently unprincipled men have in the past done harm to similar tribes, I think that it rests with us to do all we can to civilise and Christianise and to put before them the best features of our civilisation. It is a grand opportunity for Australia to show to the world how she means to govern and to educate the native races that have been committed to her care. I need scarcely add that Sir William MacGregor, M.D., K.C.M.G., the present Administrator of British New Guinea, warmly welcomes our Mission, and has already done us invaluable service in helping to choose five sites for our stations on the north-east coast of Papua."

For the greater part of March, Maclaren was, as he expressed it, "pegging away" in Victoria. "I am getting on surely but very slowly; I don't think that I have got £200, but I am pegging away and my work will last. I have promise of six schools at £10 a year, as well as parishes like Brighton and Malvern -which are going to support New Guinea as their special work."

A few days later the £200 had become £500 a year. He writes again: "I am feeling very tired and almost done up, but my efforts will tell, and I think we shall get at least £500 a year from this part of the world, from schools, colleges and churches. I have hopes of getting a good round sum towards the Mission house. I got over £50 in Ballarat."

The parishes promising support included, as he wrote to the Primate, "all shades of opinion". He rushed up to Sydney for a meeting of the Council of the Board of Missions in the middle of March, returning to Melbourne, to preach on Palm Sunday in the cathedral and to take other services in Holy Week.

In April he writes from Melbourne to recommend Mr. C. E. Kennedy, and Mr. (now the Rev.) Samuel Tomlinson and Mrs. Tomlinson, to the Primate as suitable additions to the Mission staff, and adds: "You will be glad to learn that I have received the offer of £120 a year from a Churchman of Victoria in order that I may take with me some one from Victoria to New Guinea, and I shall be glad if your Lordship will kindly accept the offer of service of either Mr. Kennedy or the married couple in order that I may make the person or persons known to the donor of this gift. I shall be glad when final arrangements are made for our departure, though I feel it is better that everything should be satisfactorily settled prior to our leaving rather than that the Mission should suffer from hasty or ill-advised action. All parties--High, Low and Broad--have extended to the Mission the right hand of fellowship, and have been most kind in giving me every assistance in their power."

He had hoped to start for New Guinea in April, but there were constant delays, difficulties over the plans for the house and over shipping arrangements which worried him greatly. In all the preliminary arrangements regarding the necessaries for the new station, house furniture, etc., he owed much to the advice and experience of Dr. and Mrs. Lawes and Mr. Chalmers. A letter written on Ascension Day, 1891, to Mr. Chalmers about house plans, and the pros and cons of sail or steam for the proposed Mission vessel, concludes:

"I am sorry not to see you again, but let us hope that we shall not be long ere we speak face to face once more. My kind regards to Mrs. Chalmers and my love to yourself. You shall have my prayers in your perilous journeys, and I shall ever think kindly of you for all your kindness to me. God bless you, Tamate, and keep you under His Almighty protection in your going out and coming in."

The following extracts are from a letter to Mr. King:--

"MELBOURNE, Ascension Day, 1891.

"I have been constantly on the move in the interests of the Mission, at Sandhurst, Ballarat and other places. Re the gun, by all means take one suitable for alligators. You'll need some sport and I think you will get it. How glad I shall be to get settled. I am so tired, yet for the future of the Mission we must have a strong system of organisation (look at Melanesia), and in Victoria we have succeeded in founding one which will in time spread through all the colonies. I am just off to Tasmania to see the bishop and urge our claims there. I have to thank you for much already, and I feel certain that we shall be one in all essentials relating to the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of our great work. May our Lord grant it."

He paid a brief visit to Tasmania in May, preaching sermons and holding meetings in Hobart and Launceston. He asked specially for £70 for a whale-boat, and received £74 during a "visit which was felt to be all too short by those who were fortunate enough to have been brought into contact with him".

On 2nd June, 1891, he writes to the Bishop of Brisbane, Dr. Webber, from Sydney: "I am now to leave Sydney for New Guinea in about a fortnight's time. During my visit to Melbourne I obtained £1,300 and many annual promises, chiefly small ones, though I got one of £120 a year for three years, and since my advent to Sydney a few days ago I have received £115 a year for three years. The house of which you saw the plans is being built and will be ready shortly. We are chartering a boat for three months. King and a young layman are going with me, a married carpenter with his wife are to follow."

At the end of June he left Melbourne for the last time, and spent a fortnight in Sydney. He conducted a short mission at Christ Church, S. Lawrence, in which he was particularly happy and impressive. "I have been so long engaged," he said to Mrs. Lawes, "in getting money and making business arrangements that I feel I want a little spiritual work before I go to my work in New Guinea."

On Sunday, 28th June, being the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, he preached in the morning at Holy Trinity, Sydney, and in the evening at Christ Church, Lavender Bay. His sermon in the morning was on S. Matthew xxviii. verses 19, 20, and he closed with the words of Knox Little's he so often quoted:--

My Lord, shall not I love Thee
Who gave Thy Life for me?
The world may tower above Thee,
But Thou art all to me.
As in Thy bitter Passion
I read my hopes above,
I'll pay Thee in like fashion,
And give Thee Love for Love.

The following Wednesday evening there was a special farewell service at S. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, when the Primate preached the sermon, and gave his blessing to the two departing missionaries as they knelt at the altar rails. Early on the morning of 2nd July there was a celebration of the Holy Communion at Holy Trinity, Sydney, and in the evening the Revs. A. A. Maclaren and C. King left Sydney by train for Brisbane, arriving there on Saturday, 4th July. Early in the morning of 7th July there was a farewell celebration of the Holy Communion in the private chapel at Bishopsbourne, and in the afternoon Maclaren and Copland King sailed for Cooktown en route for New Guinea.

The collier schooner Grace Lynn, which was bringing by sea from Sydney the materials for their house and the carpenters to erect it, was to pick up the two missionaries at Cooktown and convey them across to Samarai, but the Grace Lynn was delayed, and finding that he had some days to spare, Maclaren went on to Thursday Island in the hope of persuading the Rev. W. Maitland Woods to accompany him to New Guinea. He found him, however, doing such good work in the island that he thought it only right to leave him where he was. The following letter to Canon Scarth describes his visit:--

"I came here for a two days' visit en route to New Guinea, and I am much gratified to find how much good Mr. Woods has done since he came here, and I am more than pleased to know that the work is connected with S. Andrew's Waterside Church Mission. A useful room has just been finished and is used for services and meetings, and when the Memorial Church is ready the room will be used as the parsonage. Many things are needed, and I think a lending library would be most useful. The pearl-fishers are men earning good wages and could pay for books, but I doubt very much whether they are able to find books to purchase here. Mr. Woods is just the man for the post he occupies. I should have liked him to have been with me in New Guinea, but that is out of the question, as he is sorely needed where he is, and I trust that he will long remain here and build up the Church. I am just off to New Guinea, and I hope to make a good start. My visit to Australia has done good, and I have helped to rouse enthusiasm for missions generally.

"Have you heard anything more of a boat for us? Woods sadly needs a good whale-boat. It would cost at least £40 here, and if you could help him in this it would do much towards extending his work. He can not get about without one. We have chartered a vessel of 100 tons for four months and I am going over in her. Keep in touch with Thursday Island. It is such an important place."

To the Primate at the end of a letter on financial matters he writes: "I am afraid we shall have a bad time in going across to Samarai, as our ship the Grace Lynn is a very poor sailer. If we get a fair wind it will be all right. The weather has been terrible and more than one ship is overdue. I am sorry to say that we have a very drunken mate on board. Our carpenters are decent fellows, though they have been grumbling at the amount of work they have had to do on their way north. I am afraid that the ship is undermanned. Mr. King is in very good spirits, and he has made friends with many of the Cooktown people."

He writes to his mother: "Just a few lines to say I am starting for New Guinea in a few minutes. I am so glad to be making a start in the work. The next two or three years will soon pass and I shall be back to see you again in dear old England. After all it is the best country."

His fears about the crossing were realised, for it was not till 6th August that they reached Samarai. "At last we got on board," writes Copland King, "hauled away from the wharf and made fast to a buoy, ready to catch the first breeze in the morning. The cabin did not suit our ideas of comfort or airiness, but we had just dropped off to sleep when we heard the noise of a passing boat, and a voice called out, 'Is Mr. Maclaren on board?' Maclaren was up on deck in a moment and answered, 'Is that you, Tamate?' It was Mr. Chalmers of the L. M. S., whose Mission steamer the Harrier had been wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. He and his party had been rescued by the Government boat. We got our captain up, lowered a boat, and followed the Government steamer into port, and as soon as the doctor had passed the passengers we brought Mr. Chalmers on board the Grace Lynn to spend the night, and had a good talk about the situation in New Guinea before we dropped off to sleep. We had a weary trip across to Samarai. Mr. Maclaren got over the sea-sickness before I did. My most vivid recollection of the trip is his continual singing of the hymn 'There is a blessed Home.'"

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