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Albert Maclaren
Pioneer Missionary in New Guinea

By Frances M. Synge

London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1908

Appendix I. A Reminiscence.

A CLERGYMAN, the late Rev. E. H. H. Brodhurst, who served five years in Queensland, says: "I first heard of Mr. Maclaren about the year I88p or i8go. He had been to my home to preach and speak on behalf of the New Guinea Mission, and I was very much struck, on making a visit there shortly afterwards, with the impression he had made. The parish in question was a large overgrown village, close to the Nottingham- shire coalfield, and including large stocking mills, a place not easy to interest in foreign missions. But Mr. Maclaren, from what I learnt then, and from personal knowledge of him obtained later on, appeared to me to be peculiarly possessed with the power of interesting others. One or two instances, given with as close verbal accuracy as possible, will serve to illustrate this. On Sunday at luncheon Mr. Maclaren inquired of the vicar's wife who it was that had occupied a certain seat at the morning service. The name was given, it being that of a leading lady in the place. 'Well,' he said, 'you will see that she will be at church again to-night.' 'Oh, no,' said the vicar's wife, 'Mrs. So-and-so is not going out in the evening at present. So it is out of the question.' 'Oh, indeed,' he said, 'you will see that she will be there.' And when the evening came, there she was, and also at the meeting on Monday night, making one of a crowded attendance.

"I remember on the other hand one very devoted Sunday-school teacher of many years' standing classing him with a well-known mission preacher as the two men who, at least to her, had seemed to have the most marked spiritual power she could recall in her experience. A year or two later I was an inmate of the bishop's house in Brisbane (Queensland) prior to starting clerical work in that diocese. Mr. Maclaren arrived very late on Friday night or very early on a Saturday morning, and almost at once started off with the bishop and one or two other clergy for the dedication of a new bush church some forty miles away. On that day and on others that followed (he left Brisbane for the last time in the following week, his death occurring six months later) I can recall most his infectious good spirits and his abounding vitality. I think some words of Bishop Phillips Brooks fitly hit off this last characteristic: 'Do we not know (says the bishop) that there are certain persons in this world whose recognisable purpose and office it is to increase the amount of this vitality of life in the regions where they have been set? In every circle or community where you have ever lived has there not been some man whom you knew as a life-giver? He may or may not have been a learned man who gave definite instruction in the in creased vitality. He caused men to do their best. He quickened languid natures. He made the streams run full. He called the dead to life.' Something of this was Mr. Maclaren. Something of this was he that Saturday afternoon after the dedication of the church at the luncheon given by the church supporters in the bush house or tent erected for the occasion. Most of his speech has fled from my recollection, but I remember his sitting next to me and telling the story, in vindication of free seats in church, of (I think) an old lady, who objected to the intrusion of a stranger into her pew, and I think I can still see him putting his head nearly under the plank-made table in imitation of the intruder in the pew, who was supposed, on hearing the old lady's irate tones, to have pretended there was a dog underneath the seat, and to have stooped down as if searching for this canine object of the pew-owner's vituperation. Once more I recall him that same evening at the end of the long, narrow Queensland railway carriage, elucidating points of High Church teaching and ceremonial for the edification of a stalwart Brisbane layman, who was, if I mistake not, the superintendent of the most extreme evangelical Sunday-school of the city. There again memory fails me as to details, but however repugnant the sentiment might be to his listener, he was always on good terms with him. All was merged in the sense of Mr. Maclaren's abounding good humour, which was itself, I cannot doubt, the expression of a wholehearted love."

Just under six feet in height, slight and well-built, clear-cut features, a remarkably sympathetic mouth, beautiful, kindly grey eyes with a far-away look in them when preaching. His sweet expression was his chief charm, "the spiritual ascetic expression of a mediaeval saint". His face was often compared to pictures of S. John and S. Augustine. His voice was very clear and musical, and he knew how to use it (perhaps unconsciously) to move his hearers. The tunes of some hymns and Litanies are for this reason for ever associated by some of his friends with his memory.

As tender as a woman and as gentle as a child, he could be firm to obstinacy and angry on occasion--then the soft eyes would flash defiantly and his words would sting. Men who could not tolerate his Churchmanship have been known to say that his personality conquered them.

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