Posted by: preshist | April 4, 2016

Blog has moved

Now that the Presbyterian Archives and the Hewitson Library have merged into the Presbyterian Research Centre, this blog will now be hosted on our new site.  Posts will now include both Library and Archives news and commentary by a variety of people.

All previous posts have also been copied over, so I hope you will continue to follow us.


[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War. This is the fifth in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War. This is the third of a series of editiorials that the Rev. J. W. Shaw of Knox Church, Invercargill, wrote on the eve of the Great War. He talks about Patriotism and a man’s role in service to the State.]

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Posted by: preshist | August 11, 2014

The Church and the World: WAR! by Rev. J. W. Shaw, M. A.

[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War. This is the fourth in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War. This is the second of a series of editiorials that the Rev. J. W. Shaw of Knox Church, Invercargill, wrote on the eve of the Great War. He uses biblical imagery from the history of Israel to encourage Presbyterian New Zealanders to make the sacrifice to support the war effort.]

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Posted by: preshist | August 1, 2014

The Church and World: WAR! by Rev. J. W. Shaw, M. A.

[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War. This is the third in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War. As the nations of Europe accelerated into war after Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, the Reverend J. W. Shaw of Knox Presbyterian Church in Invercargill wrote this editorial for The Outlook.]

J. W. Shaw Detail from photo of St. Andrew's Bible Class, Dunedin, Easter 1906. P-S11-38

J. W. Shaw
Detail from photo of St. Andrew’s Bible Class, Dunedin, Easter 1906.

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Posted by: preshist | April 24, 2014

Camp Chaplains, Sabbath Observance and the Territorials

[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War.  This is the second in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War.  Today Presbyterian Research is posting two articles from The Outlook.  The first comes from The Letter Bag, dated March 24, 1914.  The second is an article on Sabbath Observance and the Territorials, dated April 21, 1914.  Protecting the sanctity of the Lord’s Day was a issue for Presbyterians of this period.  It is surprising to think that while Sabbatarianism preoccupied the clergy in 1914 twelve months later some of those same Territorials would be landing on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey.]

 Camp Chaplains


Sir, — Kindly insert following received today, as soon as possible: —


Re Extra Chaplains for Camp, 1914

The following copy of Headquarters No. D. 13/2/A.G., dated 5th March, 1914 is forwarded for information and necessary action: —

“At forthcoming Divisional Camps the following additional chaplains may be employed, if services are required: — Two extra Church of England chaplains, two extra Presbyterian chaplains, one extra Roman Catholic chaplain.

The pay and allowance of these extra chaplains will be as laid down in paragraphs 164, 165, Financial Instructions and Allowance Regulations, 1913.”

Will all chaplains please give matter attention at once.


Convener General Assembly Chaplains’ Committee, Wellington, March 12.

Rev. William Shirer P-A71-32-100

Rev. William Shirer

Sabbath Observance and the Territorials

Recent developments in connection with the administration of the Territorial defence scheme indicate the need for constant vigilance and prompt action on the part of those who are interested in the conservation of the Sabbath as a day for worship and rest. In Wellington last month orders were issued by the major of one of the companies for a field day at Makara, the company to parade at 9.30 on Sunday morning, and to spend the whole day at military operations. In the order it was stated that the parade, although not compulsory, would count as an equivalent for six ordinary parades, and another document stated that those who attended the Sunday parade would be exempt from fines for non-attendance at certain other parades.  As soon as the Rev. W. Shirer, the senior chaplain for the Wellington district, heard of this, he communicated with one of the superior officers, who informed him that he knew nothing of the parade, and would see that the order was cancelled. On Saturday notification was sent to the members of the company that there would be no parade. It may, however be safely assumed that had not such prompt action been taken, the parade would have been held on Sunday as proposed, and a further precedent established.

Another proposal of a much more serious character has come to light within the last fortnight. In connection with the big military camp at Takapau, Hawke’s Bay, it is proposed, according to printed information issued by the department, to convey 3076 men, with horses and equipment, to camp on Sunday, April 26, and to convey 6010 men on the return journey on Sunday, May 10. This means that a large proportion of the railway staff will be employed on two Sundays, and the magnitude of the work entailed may be judged by the fact, as stated by the general manager of railways, that in one district alone 57 locomotives will be employed. It means also that large numbers of the members of our churches and Bible Classes will be compelled to spend two Sundays travelling. What is stated above applied to the Wellington district particularly; but there is every reason to believe that similar arrangements are made for the other large camps in Auckland, Christchurch and Otago.

As soon as the Sabbath Observance Committee heard of this, it resolved to send a deputation to the Minister of Defence to make a strong protest against such disregard of the Christian conscience of the Dominion. This deputation, along with one from the Wellington Ministers’ Association and another from the Wellington Methodist Ministers’ Association, waited on the Hon. J. Allen on Wednesday, April 8. In his reply, the Minister stated that, while his own sympathies were with the deputation, and the department had been desirous to avoid Sunday travelling, the Railway Department had found it impossible to deal with this extra traffic and maintain the regular services without utilising Sundays. It is understood, however, that the Railway Department disclaims responsibility, as the dates were fixed for the camp without consultation with them, and they had to arrange the traffic accordingly. There the matter stands in the meantime; but the deputation intends to wait on the Minister of Railways on his return to Wellington.

These and other incidents show that determined and united efforts on the part of the churches are necessary to check such encroachments on the Lord’s Day. It should be made clear that there is a Christian conscience in the community, and that this will not tolerate the increasing violation of its convictions. Silence on these matters is often misunderstood.  Presbyteries and ministers individually will do well to take prompt and public action over such matters.  Even though protests may seem ineffective at the time, they tend to check further inroads. And so the Christian conscience will be aroused and a more healthy public opinion created.


Convener Sabbath Observance Committee

By Andrew

Posted by: preshist | February 14, 2014

Men and Women

[2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War.  This is the second in a series of articles taken from Presbyterian publications for relating to the Great War.  This is an extract from the Men and Women column originally published 10 February 1914.  Perhaps the editor found this report in a news release and thought it suitable to adapt for his readers?]

Alfred Noyes, 1913.  Image from Wikimedia Commons

Mr Alfred Noyes has evidently been making a great impression in America, not only by his lectures on literary subjects, but as a peace propagandist.  The reading of his poem, “The Wine Press,” at a meeting of a New York club is reported to have aroused a great wave of feeling against the horrors of war.  On Christmas Eve a new play of his, “Rada,” a tragedy of the Balkan War, was given at a festival of the MacDowell Club, one the most prominent literary and artistic organisations in the United States.  When it was read to the committee, it proved to be so grim that some of the members strongly opposed presenting it at Christmas.  Others thought nothing could be more appropriate, and after no small discussion its production at the festival was finally decided on.

The Wine Press

A MURDERED man, ten miles away,
Will hardly shake your peace,
Like one red stain upon your hand;
And a tortured child in a distant land
Will never check one smile to-day.
Or bid one fiddle cease.
 It comes along a little wire,
Sunk in a deep sea;
It thins in the clubs to a little smoke
Between one joke and another joke,
For a city in flames is less than the fire
That comforts you and me.
Each was honest after his way,
Lukewarm in faith, and old;
And blood, to them, was only a word,
And the point of a phrase their only sword,
And the cost of war, they reckoned it
 In little disks of gold.
They were cleanly groomed. They were not to be bought.
And their cigars were good.
But they had pulled so many strings
In the tinselled puppet-show of kings
That, when they talked of war, they thought
Of sawdust, not of blood;
Not of the crimson tempest
Where the shattered city falls:
They thought, behind their varnished doors,
Of diplomats, ambassadors,
Budgets, and loans and boundary-lines,
Coercions and re-calls.
Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!
The cold machines whirred on.
And strange things crawled amongst the wheat
With entrails dragging round their feet,
And over the foul red shambles
A fearful sunlight shone.…
The maxims cracked like cattle-whips
Above the struggling hordes.
They rolled and plunged and writhed like snakes
In the trampled wheat and the blackthorn brakes,
And the lightnings leapt among them
Like clashing crimson swords.
The rifles flogged their wallowing herds,
Flogged them down to die.
Down on their slain the slayers lay,
And the shrapnel thrashed them into the clay,
And tossed their limbs like tattered birds
Thro’ a red volcanic sky.

The poem was not printed to accompany the article in The Outlook.  We can only guess what readers would have made of it.  Alfred Noyes’ play “Rada” is available on Project Gutenburg.

By Andrew

Posted by: preshist | January 7, 2014

The Church and the World: A Chronicle and a Comment

[Happy New Year to our Readers.  2014 marks the beginning of the centennial of World War I, the Great War.  Presbyterian Research is beginning a series of articles extracted from The Outlook: The Official Organ of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand related to the Great War.  This is the first article in the series.  It is taken from the Editor’s weekly editorial in The Outlook.  These were published under the heading The Church and the World: A Chronicle and a Comment.  The author is only named as the Editor.  In 1914 this article was most likely written by Mr Alfred Grinling.  This article was originally published January 20 1914.]

The main menace of the times in which we live is the decay of authority, and the added fact that in the endeavour to prop up a decaying authority by force, the force-authority has bred a force-resistance which in its turn is breeding a spirit of anarchy.  The thing was inevitable, and has been forseen by the thoughtful from afar off.  It is the outcome of a vain attempt to rule the world and to organise society without the vital influence of religion at its back; and the hope of the Church consists in the dawning realisation on the part of social reformers everywhere that a real religion is, and must be, the main spring in all permanent reform.  The great need of the moment is an all-round revival of faith, faith in God, and faith in man.  The root reason of our existing social problems and religious difficulties is unbelief, leading to suspicion and distrust. Rev. J. Brierley, who has been contributing to the “Christian World” some inspiring articles on “The Revival of Faith” and on the relation of Faith to Life, has a fine passage, which is exceeding pertinent to the existing condition of affairs:-

Faith, in all the spheres, has shown itself the governing principle, the motor force of human progress, and if there is to be any further progress it will be on its lines.  The next step, if progress there is to be, will lie in a great national and international act of faith. How is the present madness of armaments to be stayed? How is this vampire to be strangled which is sucking the life blood of the people, choking all social reform, all attempts for human betterment? We look to statesmen, to cabinets, in vain. There only talk is of more armaments at home against the more armaments abroad. And, of course, while this class of sentiment is the only one appealed to, the sentiment of fear and the sense of brute force as the one arbiter, there can be only one result — the reaching out to further extremes of frenzy, with ruin at the end. Is there no way out? Suppose we were as individuals, as a nation, to appeal to another grade of sentiment; suppose some one nation — a foremost nation — threw its whole force into a great act of trust! Suppose it appealed to its neighbours on their better side instead of their worst. Suppose it as saying to its neighbours: “We rejoice in your prosperity, believing the prosperity of one people helps that of all people. We have no desire to injure you, and we believe you have no desire to injure us. Possibly we are mistaken, but we will take that risk. And as a proof of our sincerity we will stop this race of military expenditure. We shall devote henceforth our surplus income to the improvement of our social conditions.

“Ah!” it will be said, “you have miscalculated the risk.” But have we? Why is it that all the peoples talk and act on the war level! Is it not that nobody— no State or Government, that is — talks on any other? We are, and, of course, others arm. But to disarm! We have not tried that. Would the disarmed nation be attacked? Supposing it were, it would live henceforth in history as the martyr nation, which had performed the noblest, highest act of courage since the Cross of Christ. But we feel sure it would not be attacked. Instead it would be followed; it would lead the van into a saner, a higher future. If the United States of America would do this — it can best afford it — it would deal a stroke for human liberty far more effective than its own revolution, and would cover itself with a  glory such as its vastness of territory and its accumulated wealth can never secure it.

Mr Brierley’s opinion as to the part the Church is called upon to play in this matter has strong significance.  “We venture to say,” he writes, “that the Church, so far as its relation to the nation is concerned, has no more solemn duty upon it than to express in this direction its faith in faith. It won its triumphs of old by believing that the weapons of its warfare were not carnal, but spiritual. It proved, not for itself only, but for the world, that the spiritual was stronger than the carnal; that the appeal to the higher in man is an irresistible appeal. Jesus believed, that with publican and sinner it was safe to use this spiritual and His faith was justified. If he believed in the spiritual for publicans and sinners, may we not believe it for Germans and Austrians? We have tried the other appeal to them, but not this. We shall have no way out of the present imbroglio till the Christian Church begins once again to indoctrinate the nation with Christian principle; till, by the passion of its own enthusiasm, it fills with this faith the man in the street and the man in the Cabinet; the faith in the highest in man; this faith, with all its glorious risks, with all its glorious and sure results.”  This same thought is borne out by the editor’s comments in the English Review for December, based upon Jim Larkin’s appearance in the Albert Hall, London. We may say in passing that the English Review is one of the publications of the present, which, like the Nation, no man who desires to accurately gauge the modern trend can afford to overlook. There may be much in its pages which one will incline to question, and much with which one will profoundly disagree, but the force, and sincerity, and earnestness of the appeal no one will dare to question. The editor of the English Review, hailing Mr Larkin’s presence on the platform of the Albert Hall as “an event in the public life,” goes on to say:-

He stood thereon as the harbinger of a new Labour policy which now that it has been inaugurated, is not likely to go back. It is the policy of action, the spirit of the time is with it. As the women have succeeded in setting up a kind of reserve of sex anarchy and outlawry — Miss Pankhurst now goes about with a bludgeoned escort — so the conditions themselves have become anarchic. As man too follows woman, so woman have invariably stood in the van of revolutionary movements.  The Carson policy in Ulster is obviously derivative from the women’s example and prompted by the same principles.  Force breed force, as the wind stirs the waves.

The whole of Ulster is arming, preparing to resist the law of England sanctioned by Parliament and the Crown by force of arms.  But in Dublin the transport workers are Home Rulers, are imprisoned by the Government and treated with gross violence because they came out on strike for a wage of bare subsistence . . . Why should Ulster have carte-blanche to stir up rebellion and the poor of Dublin be hounded to gaol, because they are seeking to improve their economic position? . . . in reality this Dublin strike trouble is far more urgent and potentially serious in the world of Labour than is the question of Home Rule, and that the Government should be so preoccupied as not to see it is matter both of regret and wonder.

By Andrew

Posted by: preshist | May 29, 2013

Research Network Meeting – 13 June




Winter Lecture

‘Bringing up children in India is no joke’:

Presbyterian children, young people and the missionary

movement before World War 2


Dr. Hugh Morrison

Hugh is Senior Lecturer at the College of Education, Otago University.  His main research interest is New Zealand Missionary activity and Global interaction and is particularly interested in the missionary education of children and youth

Thursday 13 June, 2013

5.30pm -7.00pm

Join us at the

Knox Centre Seminar Room, Hewitson Wing,

Knox College, Arden Street,

off Opoho Road.

 Refreshments 5pm         Gold coin donation

Posted by: preshist | April 23, 2013

Zealous Patriot to Ardent Pacifist

Roslyn Presbyterian Church Memorial Window

Roslyn Presbyterian Church Memorial Window

‘The life in the trenches is decidely on the rough side but could be a good deal worse…we are now used to leaving the shave and wash.  While actually in the trenches we do not sleep ’, wrote William Hopkirk from ANZAC, Gallipoli to his minister James Gibb, of St. John’s Wellington in November 1915. ‘At times snipers make us bob our heads & when the high explosives come over it is time to ‘duck’.  A few of our fellows have already been hit.  I am sorry to say some of them either killed immediately or fatally wounded.  When things like that happen one begins to see the real meaning of war, though I understand that it is when an advance is in progress that the worst of the whole business appears.’  It was such an advance that William Spottiswood Hopkirk’s short life of 24 years ended 1 June 1916 in Armentieres, France.  His last letter of April 1916 spoke of looking for signs of the end of war and would if he could ‘about double’ and make for New Zealand.  He felt however that he must do his ‘little bit’ but God willing, ‘we will be back some day’.

Wireless Station and Dugouts, ANZAC.  copy from Alexander Turnbull Library

Wireless Station and Dugouts, ANZAC. copy from Alexander Turnbull Library

Will, as he called himself, was one of the many committed St. John’s Bible Class men who exited the congregation to participate in a ‘war that would end all wars’.  The Bible Class Roll of Honour has some 120 names and in August 1918, 61 members were on active service.   The death of men who showed such promise as Will Hopkirk disturbed Gibb considerably and was a contribution to his ‘conversion’ from a ‘zealous patriot’ to an ardent pacifist.

Rev. D.C. Herron conducting military funeral at Dommcourt, France, 1918

Rev. D.C. Herron conducting military funeral at Dommcourt, France, 1918

Gibb’s ability to influence the war effort through his sermons, patriotic  addresses to numerous organisations, magazines and newspapers led him to comment in the 1930’s that he ‘was as good as a recruiting agent during the war’.   His militarist fervour was supported by many  but there were those who did not let his comments and statements go unchallenged even from the service men he wrote to.

The correspondence that has survived from the soldiers reflects their individual doubts as to the outcome of the war as much as it does their sense of responsibility to fulfil the reason they were participants in the first place.   Ian Gow questions the mysterious movements of God when to those at the centre of action the question was how could  the ‘things they see everywhere possibily make for good’?  Gow believed that war itself was a scourge which human beings brought upon themselves.  ‘The mystery is too great for me’ he writes, ‘far from it being a purifier, the war merely burns the dross deeper into the national soul and so one asks, why should an all-loving God allow such a state of affairs?’

Chaplain Major Rev. William Grant who died at Gallipoli, August 1915.  Gibb and Grant worked closely on the Chaplains Committee.

‘Presbytery of Cairo’. Chaplain Major Rev. William Grant, 3rd from left, who died at Gallipoli, August 1915 worked closely with Gibb on the Chaplains Committee.

Gibb did not appear to directly respond to this reflection by one of his ‘boys’. But in a letter to W. Howard Johnson in July 1917, one year on from the death of Will Hopkirk,  he gave some consideration to God’s intent.  An outright victory  did not appear a possibility for either side he surmised, and that maybe the intention of the Divine Providence:  ‘to open the eyes of the nations to the fact that war was not only a crime but an insanity.’ This is in sharp contrast to his jingoism of  mid-1916  when Gibb could say ‘we are pledged to this conflict, to see that Germany’s insensate pride, … merciless cruelty … be brought reeling and crushing to the dust.’

By the end of the war he was appalled at the lose of so many good men and the list of wounded published made ‘doleful reading’.  The long list of wounded and those who lost their lives from St. John’s grieved him greatly.   He noted to a critic that his hope and prayer would be for the human conscience to be aroused to recognise that modern warfare led ‘to waste and woe and horror multiplied upon horror.’

V. Rev. Dr. James Gibb, 1930

V. Rev. Dr. James Gibb, 1930

Gibb slowly came out so to speak and publicly declared his abhorrence for war and from the 1920s on established a League of Nations group within the Church and was President of the New Zealand branch.  He spoke out against compulsory territorial training and conscription, supported the peace movement and was an advocate for disarmament.  He challenged the Church in 1935 to take a stand against war.  If the church refuses he wrote, ‘men will leave the Church in order to be Christians.’

The Rev. Dr. James Gibb died on 24 October 1935.  Five years on the Church he so loved would once again be praying for victory in war.

red & white poppies

by Yvonne

"Young men on their way to Easter Camp stop by a wayside cross erected by their camp mates".   Later the cross was given a symbolic touch, showing Christ crucified and Christ Risen and Reigning.

“Young men on their way to Easter Camp
stop by a wayside cross erected by their camp mates”.

A packed-out gathering  was given a  rare treat  recently  in  Dunedin,  a  showing of  dramatic  images  of  the life of  the church  going  back  a  hundred  years or more.

Myke & Mission photos

Photographs presentation – Mission photograph of Vanuatu (New Hebrides)

Missionary  pictures  once  shown  on the  famous old magic  lanterns  showed  why Presbyterians  were hailed  as  the most  informed folk  in the country  about  the wider world; about  for example,  the  New Hebrides,  China,  India.   A  film-strip ‘The Heart of the Matter’ about the New  Life Movement  in  the  1960’s  showing  the  rapid expansion of  the church and its ministry   into  new  housing  areas,  the   suburbs,  the  work camps of  the huge  hydro-electricity projects.

A new Sunday School in a new Suburb early 1950s

A new Sunday School in a new suburb early 1950s

Fascinating  to  see the  Church  at  the cutting edge of  technology at that  time, and inspiring  to  see the  optimism  and  determination  to galvanize   congregational  energies  throughout  the country  to finance and support  so many new  initiatives.

Women Elders serving Communion at People's Night, General Assembly c.1960

Women Elders serving Communion at People’s Night, General Assembly c.1960

It was a special treat to have  one of the pioneer photographers, Keith Lyon  present,  who had  specially  come down  from Christchurch for the  event, and was delighted to be walking, as  he said  through ‘memory lane.’  Great also, to have Stuart Vogel from Auckland  in the  audience.  For this is  a national  resource, which we can tap into to  explore  our rich and encouraging heritage.

Publicity Committee Audio Visual Library in the Presbyterian Centre, Christchurch, c 1960

Publicity Committee Audio Visual Library in the Presbyterian Centre, Christchurch, c 1960

It  was  certainly   a different   world, a  different  time,  one of our early films even  being shown to  Members of Parliament  and  commended by  Prime Minister, Walter Nash.  Roars of laughter from the audience, greeted,  too,  many  of the  captions  which reminded us  how  far we have progressed  from the  male dominated  church of  just  two generations  ago.  But it was also a wake-up call,  reminding us  of the imaginative and compassionate outreach of  our Church  in our distant and not  so distant past.

'Fathers and Brethren' listening attentively at the General Assembly, 1952

‘Fathers and Brethren’ listening attentively at the General Assembly, 1952

Believe it  or not  we have in our  Archives no less than 180,00  visual images: photographs, slides,  film-strips,  videos, which are being carefully preserved, thanks to the  support  of  the General Assembly and the Synod  of Otago and Southland.

This occasion  was a  first ever  presentation of  a  tiny fraction of  them  by Yvonne  Wilkie,  our Archivist,  and  Mike Tymons, who curates  the  collection. Let’s  hope  there  are more  such occasions, and  that  they can be made available to the whole church.

We also welcomed Anne Jackman  the new  Director  Presbyterian  Research Centre, incorporating the Archives Research Centre and Hewitson Library of which we will hear more about down the track.

by Peter Matheson

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