Chapter 2

In February 1932, I entered into a new kind of learning as I saw the boundaries of knowledge constantly recede over the horizon before my pursuit. Tennyson's poem Ulysses was not only a rewarding poetic discovery but became a symbolic blue-print in my University da

I am a part of all that I have
Yet all experience is an arch where through Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades forever and forever when I
How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! To follow knowledge, like a sinkin
g star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human

It is far better to remain a traveller on the road of life than assume you have arrived. Ever since those days, the horizon of my knowledge and understanding of meaning has never ceased to recede before me. I have used and abandoned many ideas and thoughts along the way as wiser minds than mine have opened up new vistas of knowledge and


This new journey began when I enroled in St. Andrews College, Carlton, a coaching establishment where students for the Ministry were given preliminary education - in my case to matriculate. Tuition was free but we paid our own board, which I did out of my modest savings. It was there that I met Jim Williamson and Hugh McDonald. Jim, like me, was there to prepare for matriculation while Hugh, a Queenslander, was there for one year to widen his educational experience. Each of us did more than that, for out of our friendship we me met the girls we later married. I met Jim's sister Jean, Hugh met my sister Lorna, and without our help, Jim met M
arion Carvell.

Jim and I were required to include Classical Greek as one of our five adult matriculation subjects. Apart from our daily coaching in Greek, we worked on our own for the other subjects. The Rev. E.E. Baldwin, our tutor in Greek, was primarily responsible for the education of the older married or single men who were completing the prescribed alternative three years preparation for the Theological Hall. Jim and I enroled for the five subjects including Intermediate Classical Greek. We both passed four matriculation subjects and Intermediate Greek, but were unable to sit for the matriculation Greek until the following year. I was running out of money, so applied to the Rev. Mr. Leckie, the Home Mission Director, for a student appointment. On 16 July, 1933, I took up my appointment at Bealiba a small township situated between Maryborough and Dunolly. I shudder when I reflect on what my preaching must have been like. I had three Congregations with a Church Service every Sunday evening at Bealiba and alternative morning services at Logan and Archdale. My transport was a horse and buggy - slow but sure on the gravel roads. I was given board for $2.50 a week by Fred Burge at the Bealiba Hotel. The Church members gave me friendship and encouragement. I had learned to play an old organ at St. Andrews and on one occasion I was both preacher and organist. While in Melbourne I had purchased a second-hand push bike which, in those depression years, I rode around the city and inner suburbs without any problem. There were half a dozen young lads in Bealiba who earned a very small living carting firewood to the saw mill for transhipment to Melbourne. They earned 50 cents a load six days a week - $3 a week minimum - $5.50 maximum. My salary was $5.50 a week. We were much better off than the young men I met almost every week tramping the roads looking for work. I always picked them up in my buggy and remember that most of them were without bitterness and surprisingly philosophical and confident they would pick up enough casual jobs to keep going till better times. This was refreshing after the grim sights and signs of unemployment in Melbourne. It was possible to get a meal in Russell St. for 15 cents - if you had 15 cents. The big cities were grim places for the married unemployed. The Bealiba lads and I formed a Saturday afternoon push bike racing club. Our first race commenced about 5 Kilometres out of town and we raced to the Post Office where Ossie Felstead, the local bachelor boot repairer, acted as Judge. This sorted out the fast and the slow - I was amongst the latter. The Saturday afternoon bike race soon attracted most residents to witness the finish. I never knew if anyone made bet
s on the result.

I soon felt confident I could ride my bike the 115 kms to Ararat to see Jean so I informed the Congregation that instead of my one day a week off work I would take four days every five or six weeks. My fastest trip on the all gravel road via Avoca was 4 hours and fifteen minutes and my second slowest 7 hours. On the slowest I ran into head winds and driving rain almost as soon as I left Ararat. Between Avoca and Archdale I was so exhausted I sat for awhile leaning against a big redgum, soaked to the skin and wondering how I would finish the journey. I didn't, I spent the night with an Archdale Church family. In February, I concluded my happy experience at Bealiba and Jean's parents announced our engagement. I 'fronted up' to D.K. Picken, the Master of Ormond College, hoping I might get a scholarship for residence in Ormond. Yes, I had passed my matriculation Classical Greek but there was no place for me in Ormond. I rented a former scullery at the rear of a two story 'town house' in Gatehouse St. for 70 cents a week. I had no income but I managed with frugal living. That first year my mother sent me frequent boxes of farm produce. I had my small earnings as a drover during my first University Christmas vacation, and the money from the eventual sale of my Willeys Overland Car for $75. Food was cheap - I could buy a saveloy for 2 cents. My scullery had one great benefit - it had a small pot-belly coke stov
e for winter heating.

University was my next great experience. I was 'an innocent abroad' among the sophisticated undergraduates, but soon found my own confidence. I had two memorable lecturers. One opened to me the beauties of English literature and poetry, so I decided to major in English. The other was Macmahon Ball, whose brilliant introduction to psychology, ethics and the mental giants, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle determined my inclusion of his Political Institutions and Political Philosophy as my second major. He was then a young lecturer who soon became a Professor and one of the most highly acclaimed authorities in his own field. We also had a fine lecturer in Zoology, where I particularly enjoyed dissecting the mysteries of liver fluke in sheep and trichina spiralis in pork. I struggled with Classical Greek, and passed, as did Jim. This stimulated my growing appreciation for Classical Greek language and literature - so much so, I enjoyed the Greek text of Thucydides history of the Peloponesian Wars. I was thankful, too, that I had been required to take Greek & Roman history for matriculation. When I commenced in the Theological Hall I realised the value of these long years of educational preparation for a scholarly theological education. I completed my second year like the first, without a failure. As it was possible to enter the Theological Hall, with seven University subjects, my application was approved. My urgenc
y was basically financial.

With my Mother in Epworth, I had commenced that second year with a very heavy heart which the pressing demands of study helped me to bear. I knew she was worried that her dying would seriously interrupt my study. My parents had put so much of themselves into my future, I recognised that my success was in itself a real comfort that gave substance to our shared love. Strangely, it was fifty years later before I learned how true this was - and for this I am thankful that intuitively, so long ago, I did the right thing. My sister Lorna found this letter our mother had written to her s
ister Elsie from Epworth:

'I got 4 letters including yours, it is lovely to get letters here. I'm starting this today & can add a bit tomorrow. I have hectic nights, the pain is awful, all in the hip & thigh, they dope me up well & I manage to get a bit of sleep. Victor Hurley came in yesterday & said he would like to X-ray the kidneys again. I quailed, but said yes if he thought it best. Isn't it good of him, he wants to do it after I've had two treatments next week so I'll have to hurry Crisp up not to delay my coming out. Chester want's to take me home Sunday or Monday - will have to be later. Don't know how I will stand it after all I've been through, wish you could come down dear but it is selfish of me to ask & will be lovely to have you to go home with me. Yes I still have chop or lamb once a day. Had a lovely surprise visit from Mr. Williams who used to be Presbyterian Minister at Dartmoor when Graeme was a baby, first thing he asked me was how is Chester, they were very chummy & I remember the last day he visited us he said referring to Graeme what are you going to do with this little fellow Chester, make a parson of him? He was very interested to know that such was the case. He made a beautiful prayer. I am all alone in this part of the balcony now, 2 beds empty. Ann is a perfect dear & I'm beginning to think I'm of importance. Had a visit this morning from another Sister, a half sister of Eric Eagle who works on the Forestry, seems a nice girl & was at Dartmoor in the hols, said she met Chester at Waps [Waplings Store] Had Merv & Mrs Featonby (2nd. visit), last night Mr. & Mrs Williamson. I'm just surrounded with fruit, sweets & flowers, everybody is so kind. My dear I have need to count my blessings, even in the darkest hours of the night when pain is so bad I can feel the Comforting Presence & I never feel doubtful or despairing. Hope you can read this dear ( more than I can do ). Ilma came and brought half pound slab of very best nut chocolate, wasn't it good of her. I think Harry is like her, they are both very bright. Mr. Robertson still sends along his loving little messages & Mr. Picken told him that, one way or another, they would see Graeme through 1935 at Uni, said he was doing very w
ell so that is a burden removed isn't it? Jean has gone to Moyston to teach, I do miss her. Lots of love.'

Robertson was Home Missionary some years prior to Clive Cox. It was also during these years after Mother's death that I came into a special relationship with my father and deepening relationship with Jean's parents. I was profoundly influenced by her mother's gentle spirituality. This was the creative and loving basis on which we had entered into our marriage three years later. I belonged to the Student Christian Movement during my University and Theological Hall years; but it was at University that I became a foundation member of a Peace Group 'seeded' by the Spanish Civil War and Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. The S.C.M. was regarded by one University group as left wing theology and the Peace Group as very left wing politics with some dramatic opposition. In an anti-war demonstration we had big Bert Eastic clad in mock-up baby clothes with his legs etc hanging out of an old pram which I, clad in a trench coat, pushed. Both of us were wearing first world war gas-masks. In the nineteen thirties Melbourne University possessed a small lake of turgid water into which the right wing mob threatened to
toss us pram and all, but didn't.

The Theological Hall soon became my next exciting field of discovery. During the Christmas vacation I had to undertake a quick course in basic Hebrew language in preparation for first year Hebrew. Consequentially I was only home for Christmas then back to my 'scullery'. There was one satisfactory compensation, I had a week-end appointment for the next two years as assistant to the Rev.Tom Riddle at Ringwood-Croydon. I was once more financially independent with a remuneration of $3 a week out of which I paid 25 cents week-end return train fare. Twice a month I was involved with the Croydon P.F.A youth group for which I wrote a play 'Ruth' and directed the production. This play was later published by t
he Presbyterian State Youth Council.

Our Hebrew Professor, Hector McLean, was regarded by Biblical scholars, both Christian and Jewish, as one of the ablest Hebrew and Old Testament scholars in Australia. He gave me an appreciation for the Hebrew language which I have never lost - apart from my declining ability to read it. More importantly he gave me my foundation in Old Testament exegesis. I discovered the exciting history of the Jewish race which, like the Australian Aborigines, did not distinguish between secular and the sacred. Both had a 'holistic' understanding of life where 'myth' and fact are indistinguishable in understanding the spirituality that governs behaviour and duty through the law. I learned that the first five books had been compiled from four oral traditions - as were the four gospels. What had seemed an awful confusion began to open into an exciting discovery of the meaning behind the words. I am still making those exciting discoveries. During my first two years in the Hall, I also completed two more University subjects. D. K. Picken persuaded me to leave the final one until I had completed my Theological studies. Academically it was a very good final year and I won a major book prize. As I had received permission to marry during that year, Picken's advice was relevant. I completed my final degree subject, English C, in 1939, during my first year
at Orbost. I graduated the following year.

Jean and I were married on 15 January 1938 in the Brunswick Presbyterian Church and I was given a Student Appointment to Pakenham. I travelled to Ormond College each day - steam train to Dandenong,
electric to Flinders St. and tram to Ormond


The ancient Hebrew Wisdom literature is a mixture of cynicism, proverbs and profound ethical thought. 'Cast your bread upon the waters for you will find it after many days' Ecc.11:1. Here the author has moved from pessimism to a positive attitude towards life. This saying may have been derived from an Egyptian custom of scattering seed grain on the irrigation water to take root in the soft mud after the water soaked into the earth. The ethical significance is seen in the 'inner rewards' deriving from experiences of love and compassion. I use this mini parable to introduce Jean's and my shared experience of the truth of this ancient saying. Jean faced the prospect of filling the role of a Minister's wife with considerable reserve. Our year at Pakenham was a revelation to us of the loving response to the tentative love we offered. Pakenham set the standard of our expectations from that time onwards - and we have never been disappointed. I had observed two things in some Minister's self image that I determined to resist in my own. One was the constant use of religious language and texts in place of sound exegesis explained in words the ordinary person could understand and find relevant. The other was authoritarian and dogmatic preaching 'at' people. Four years after my Ordination I had the temerity to give a paper to the prestigious Presbytery of Melbourne North on the title: 'The menace of pulpit language'. I believed then, as now, that ministry is an exploration, shared with my co
ngregation, into the meaning and practice of the faith, hope and love of the Gospel.

This was the 'bread we cast upon the waters' of Pakenham and it has returned to us a hundred fold. About half way through our year when the Pakenham members realised that Jean was pregnant, their loving kindness seemed boundless. For the previous ten years, at least, they had non-resident students and their four roomed 'Manse' had been let for years. A baby in the Manse was an exciting prospect. John was born in the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital on 20 December 1938 - too late to live in the Manse! Our appointment concluded with the Christmas Services. Thereafter, Jean acted on the assumption that all Congregations were like Pakenham, and strange as it may seem, basically, they were. Though we observed ministerial protocol and did not keep in touch with Pakenham, it was the Pakenham Congregation that, in December 1970, provided the supper at Scots Church following my Commissioning Service for our Darwin Appointment.
The bread had indeed been returned a hundred-fold.

The Rev. Edward Henry McLean Shugg, whom I succeeded as Director of Home Missions twenty years later, asked if there was a particular Parish I would like for my Exit Appointment. I surprised him by asking for the one most distant from Melbourne and was delighted when I was sent to Orbost. I arrived there in January 1939, in my brand new 10 hp Austin. It was purchased completely on borrowed money from the money lenders at 5% and from my father-in-law and brother-in-law in interest free loans. Six days later the Black Friday bush fires, though not near us, blacked out Orbost with a dense pall of smoke. By mid afternoon the fowls, thinking it was night-fall, went to roost. The ash from the fires carried as far as New Zealand, and for many days later was washed up on the beach at Marlo. In February I returned to Mel
bourne to bring Jean and baby John to their new home.

Ordination, in the Presbyterian Church, was dependent on the Congregation issuing a Call to the Licentiate. However the Orbost Congregation quickly declared its intention to Call me and knew my desire to accept, but it was not until 24 May, that the Presbytery of Gippsland ventured to this outpost to conduct my Ordination. Exit Licentiates were not permitted to celebrate either Marriage or the Sacraments until Ordained. On the first Sunday of June, 1939, I celebrated my first Communion. 'The Moses experience of the Holy One of Israel', gave me an awareness of the Eternal God who meets us on the holy ground of our Lord's Table. My first administration of Communion was mysterious entry to the Holy of Holies. I had not anticipated until I actually read the words of institution and broke the bread and elevated the chalice, how profoundly I would be moved by the mystery committed to my care. It was an experience that left its mark upon me in a way I had not expected. The incredible 'happening' we celebrate, defies human understanding, and can only be received through the 'amazing grace' that flows from the Eternal source of Light and Love. I came to realise that this Sacrament creates a common meeting point in the life of the congregation. Preaching must explore many different facets of life and faith but no Sermon can ever meet the specific needs of every listener. When we come to the Lord's Table the broken bread and shared Cup meets the deepest needs in the extremes of human need, and binds us, in our differences, in the bonds of shared faith, hope and lo
ve. Our Pakenham experience now had this new dimension.

Orbost lived up to my expectations of a good country parish, with members from the rich farm land melding well with the town members. My Session Clerk (Elders Council) was Percy Boucher a farmer who lived on the rich river flats near the Snowy. He was a very supportive friend and dedicated office bearer. I also remember him with delight for the way he could recite 'The Man from Snowy River'. Percy lived every moment of the poem with eyes flashing and teeth clicking as the mountain pony's hooves struck flint from the stones. His dramatic enunciation coupled with his own intensity of feeling almost created an audio-visual. People never tired of hearing him bring Banjo Patterson's great poem to life. Percy was also a good preacher and took my services when I was away on a Sunday. Alex, Flora and Pen Cameron, unmarried middle aged brother and sisters, became very close friends with whom we shared musical evenings. They were the bass, contralto and soprano lead singers in our very fine Choir which I joined as the second tenor. Before we left Pakenham we were given a pure bred gun-shy young English Setter we named Peter. He was a gentle nature intelligent dog who helped us to rear baby John. In addition to Peter we had ten red hens which also became John's pets. He had a small trailer that hooked onto his trike and in it he used to cart chooks around the back yard. His most notable achievement was to carry one in his arms into the Wome
n's meeting where they both sat quietly for the duration.

The Home Mission Committee paid me 4 cents per mile to make quarterly, visits to the small settlements of Combienbar, Mallacoota and Wangrabelle in far East Gippsland. The morning mists swirling around the hills on either side of the winding track up the valley of the Bemm river t
o Combienbar, the ferns and rain-forest of the Drummer, the heath and Callistemons of the coastal plains, are lasting memories of unspoiled 'nature' Australia. There was a one teacher State School and about ten families on small farms along the upper reaches of the Bemm River in the Combienbar valley, and a lone family, the Burtons, on the Erinunda tributary creek. In the former I caught my only significant rainbow trout and in the latter a 56cm. blackfish big enough to feed half a dozen people. Most Combienbar families came to my quarterly week-night service in the school, but not so one old bachelor who lived where no car could reach. There came the day when I walked across the river to visit him. A pack of dogs came yapping around me while I continued on my way, with a bush conviction that if you showed no fear you were safe. I was painfully disillusioned, when, from behind me a jaw clamped on the calf of my leg. For obvious reasons it was a painful visit for me and for my host. That night he turned up at Church. An old lady in her nineties, the mother of several families in the Combienbar valley, lived there with one of her daughters. It was a common tale that, when she was a teenager, her father became so angry with her for running away with the black teen age girls, he threatened to shoot her. A local bachelor suggested that rather than threaten such drastic action that he give her to him. As this event took place on the
N.S.W. border around 1860, many marriages were never blessed by clergy. What ever the truth, in a drought year, the couple moved south-wards into the Combienbar valley and reared a large hard working family. I only had one conversation with this remarkable old pioneer. 'Did I ever tell you of the time I saw Moses on the top of Mt. Bendoc'? 'No, but I would like you to tell me', which she did. Even in 1939, the country around Mt. Bendoc was some of the wildest in East Gippsland, so Moses would have found it b
oth colder and damper than Sinai and even more remote from Egypt!

My first visit to Mallacoota remains in my memory for two reasons. It was on a frosty evening in May 1939 when I came out of the bush to see the evening light reflecting colour from the scattered cloud upon the tranquil waters of this lovely inlet. This was high-lighted by the dark blue of the distant ranges around Mt Carlyle near Cape Howe. Secondly, I had arranged to stay with my father's cousin Eileen Dorron who ran the tiny Post Office in this 1939 remote inlet. Eileen was the eldest daughter of my Grandfather Bucknall's brother Henry who married Emily Fannin in Natal in 1868. In 1876, when Eileen was a baby, they returned to Rodborough in Victoria. About ten years later Henry mortgaged his Rodborough land and purchased a small boat at Lakes Entrance with the idea of setting up a business at Mallacoota. His small shipping venture was disastrous with one small boat and a crew of two lost at sea. Henry then established a store upstream at Gipsy Point where he finished his days. Daughter Eileen came to live with him, and eventually she married Tom Dorron who, in my time, was the local Fisheries Inspector. On one of my trips Jean and baby John came with me on the whole patrol. We spent three days camping at Mallacoota. The Dorrons were able to show me where to fish - with such success that I spent mos
t of the time baiting Jean's hooks while she hauled in the whiting.

From Genoa, on the Highway, we turned north on the east side of the Genoa river to Wangrabelle and, finally, Wroxham where the Murray family always provided hospitality. There was an old timer living with his daughter, Mrs McLeod, on the neighbouring farm who was delighted to meet me believing I as the grandson of his old mate Henry Bucknall. I never managed to convince him that Henry was my great Uncle. However I was rewarded for he told me that Henry was the first person to drive a dray along the pack horse track from Orbost to Mallacoota. Every river had to be crossed by a ford so that, even in summer, Henry's feat was remarkable. No ones knows how long it took him, late last century, with shovel and axe to construct a 180km. cart track from a pack-horse trail. Even in 1939, this road was a winding narrow gravel track that followed the contours of the ranges. The only considerable road construction was the magnificent descent along the rain forest side of Mt. Drummer. On one summer day as I was returning home, a fierce forest fire pursued me up the
face of the Drummer and utterly destroyed that beautiful rain forest.

Jean's mother came to stay with us at the time of David's birth on 12 February, 1942. Later that year I took John with me on patrol. On the night of my Wangrabelle Service, 19 August, my old friend, Tom Stevenson, died in his sleep. I remained at Wroxham as the funeral was arranged for me to take two days later at Towamba, inland from Eden. My hostess, Mrs Murray, kept John while I drove myself to the funeral. It was a long days trip inland over the ranges and into a great valley. On my return, due to war time black-out restrictions, I was driving with slit discs over the headlights covered by a cowl. This made my night driving on gravel tracks in the mountains hair-raising. It was also at Wroxham that three specialist axe-men were hewing great beams with the broad-axe from the most magnificent grey box trees I have ever seen. They were 10 metres long and 75cms by 30 in thickness for a war-time extension to the Port Kembla jetty. I drove my car down into the valley where they were working and paid them a visit. At smoko we got yarning about timber cutting and I asked them if they eve
r used a 'bastard' file in a particular way to take the shoulder off an axe. Well, it was the ex-forester parson who demonstrated how to drive the back of the axe head into a narrow scarf and with the handle of the file bedded in the tree trunk, drag the file face over the shoulder of the axe until it cut into the steel with the filings coming away in minute strips. The next morning, shortly after leaving for home, I met them down the road with a broken axle on the timber jinker. I took the three men to Genoa and they shouted me lunch at the pub.

Quite early in my ministry I had extended my patrol to include Buchan and Gelantipy. My first visit to Buchan was in response to an invitation to take the Anzac Service in April 1940. My father and my sister Lorna McDonald, who was home for a short visit, had just arrived to visit us at Orbost. So the four of us, Lorna with her baby Donal and Jean with very small son John in the back seat and Dad and I in the front, set out for the evening Anzac service. The map showed us that if we went up the Bonang road from Orbost to Bombala in N.S.W. we could turn off to the N.W. at Bonang and cross the Snowy River at McKillop's Bridge, near the N.S.W. Border, and then come south through Wulgulmerang and Gelantipy to Buchan. As we travelled down the road towards the Snowy along the Deddick river the Autumn colours on the box willow trees, the granite boulders and the sweep of the ranges on either side, created an unforgettable Australian mountain scene. Suddenly, rounding a bend we met a bullock wagon team plodding slowly towards us to make the scene gloriously memorable. 'Tulloh Ard' where old Mr. McCrae guided me the 600 metres down to the River is downstream from McKillops Bridge. After crossing the bridge the track climbs about 700 metres from the river to the table land above. In 1940 it was only wide enough for one vehicle to travel either way in specified times. In many places the drop on one or the other side was hair-raising. When we finally made the top we were emotionally drained. My father, in recounting this experience to his friends back at Drik Drik, said his hair was too weak to stand on end, and he thoug
ht it must have looked like grass when you lift a bag off it - faded and weak!

On one of our visits to Gelantipy we visited the matriarch of a family of nineteen children and big mobs of grand and great grand children. When Jean asked her how many boys and girls she had, she amazed us with the information that she had eighteen sons before her only daughter was born. Jean in her delight in our small boy, innocently exclaimed, 'You must have been very excited after all those boys to have a daughter'? To which she received the brusque reply, 'I could have done without her'. This was our first and only meeting with a pioneer women who had spent a life-time rearing eighteen sons without any female assistance. Furthermore, this grand old lady, then in the care of a son's family, had, late last century, raised her children in a very remo
te area 225 Kilometres from the nearest medical and hospital help at Bairnsdale.

The Orbost community felt the first real shock of war when the second son of the Russell family, an early volunteer in the Army, was killed in a tank accident. The telegram was sent to me to notify the parents. The lesser effects were petrol, food and clothing rationing - minor irritants accepted my most. By 1941, I, with others, had become involved in First Aid and Hospital Aid under the very competent Matron Blackwell. Along with much valuable training in bandaging etc. we were taught the useful skill of making a hospital bed. The bombing of Darwin and the miniature submarine attack on Sydney harbour finally alerted Southern Australia to our vulnerability. A twenty-four hour air watch was established in a timber tower with a small roofed platform in the Show Ground where each volunteer spent a three hour shift, watching or listening for aircraft. My shift alternated between 9 pm to midnight or midnight to 3 am.. I was on duty a minimum of once a week. By 3 am. on frosty nights in that open tower, it was freezing - even with a bar radiator at the feet. We were equipped with a direct phone link to the R.A.A.F. Base at West
Sale. Early one morning I reported an unidentified engine sound above the horizon.

As 1942 drew to a close most of the young men of the Church and the district had already enlisted. The community was united in the various avenues of the civilian war effort, and though I had received approaches to go to other parishes, we felt our responsibility was with the people whose lives and war anxieties were entwined in our own in mutual pastoral care. One Congregation, Clifton Hill, had already made two approaches - the first while I had the measles with complications. We were astounded when I received a third letter, even more emphatic in their conviction that in the Divine ordering of my life I was meant to be their Minister. On Sunday, 13 December, 1942, I conducted my final Services - 11am. and 7.30pm with a 3pm. Sunday School Anniversary in between. There were seven Baptisms scattered through the three Services. Our Furniture Removalist arrived, packed, and departed on Monday. At 4pm the same day, with heavy hearts we, with John and baby David, also departed and arrived at Jean's parents emotionally and physically exhausted at 1am Tuesday. The Removalist arrived that day, then at 7.30pm., Tuesday 15 December, I was Inducted into the Clifton Hill Parish. Yes, all this in three days. I, who had no love for the city, wished to remain in the co
untry all my life, never guessed that Orbost would be my first and only country parish.


The Clifton Hill Church and Manse are both in the N.E. corner of North Fitzroy. The members of the congregation represented a cross-section of old established families. War-time brides were often living with their parents, and the housing restrictions compelled most young marrieds to live in a shared residence. Consequently, we had a large Sunday School which benefited from the outstanding facilitie
s and teaching methods which gave Clifton Hill the status of a model for others to emulate.

It was during my time at Clifton Hill, that I completed by Bachelor of Divinity. We were all living through the anxieties of the grim war years. My brother Fred had enlisted in the A.I.F. and my Father was then living alone at Clifton. By August 1944, he had gone nine months without a check-up only to learn that his heart had developed a murmur. This was not surprising for, with Fred in New Guinea, in addition to his managerial job, he, like others, had to work late at night and at week-ends trying to maintain some war-time production on the farm. Fred's Unit was then in the Bouganville War Zone. That same Spring of 1944, Uncle Bert and Aunt Stella Holmes received word on 10 September that their Airman son Lester with the rest of the crew were missing after a bombing raid on Germany. Lester's grave has been found in a remote rural area of France. Next, Winston Bucknall, was confirmed lost at sea in a Japanese prison ship sunk by the Americans. Barry H
olmes, another cousin, was a prisoner on the infamous Burma Railway before he died in Changi.

Early in the morning of Christmas Day, 1944, my Uncle, Stan McEachern, rang to say that my father was in the Heywood Hospital and not expected to live the day. He had not arrived at McEachern's for an expected viait nor could he be contacted by phone, so Stan drove over to Clifton and found him in bed. Recognising that he may have pneumonia, Stan persuaded him to be driven to Heywood to see Doctor Collins. He did have pneumonia, went straight to hospital that night, and had the angina attack early next morning, Christmas Day. After advising my Church secretary, I went to the local Police Station to get extra petrol coupons to drive to Heywood. By the time we had packed clothes for John, David and ourselves, it was almost midday before we were on our way in our overloaded 10 hp.. Austin. It was dusk when we drove down the main street of Heywood and were surprised to meet Stan waiting for us under a tree. He greeted us with words we never expected - my father had survived the crisis. Two days later he was moved to Portland Hospital - the day Lorna arrived with baby Gavin from Temora. On 13 January it appeared as though he would soon be out of hospital. Father's main worry was the long absence of news from Fred. He was overjoyed that afternoon when he received a cheerful letter from Bouganville. I had forgotten his soda water, and had just returned with it when I was hurried into the Intensive Care Ward to see him fight a loosing battle with his final heart attack. He was 65, and was buried beside our mother in the Drik Drik Cemetery on the 15 January, 1945 - our seventh wedding anniversary. Every available employee of the Forestry Comp
any took the afternoon off, without pay, to line the road to the Drik Drik Church and Cemetery.

I learned that after the men had gone on Christmas leave, Father and another Company employee, who appears to have been the only one available, worked for two days putting out a sawdust fire at the Dartmoor saw mill. Due to heat and exhaustion he had contracted pneumonia and the subsequent heart attacks. There was no Workers Compensation, but there was for us, his family, the greater compensation in the esteem in which he was held by the men, some of whom had worked with him, 'not under him' for 19 years. One very moving tribute had a sad sequence. Several years earlier he found a half-grown sheep dog abandoned at the Dartmoor Saleyards. As there was no response to the 'found' notice he placed at the store, he kept the pup which became his constant companion. When Father was taken to Hospital, 'Stranger' returned to the truck where he was still keeping guard when two employees came to collect the vehicle. 'Stranger', who must have been nearing starvation by this time, repelled the men so savagely, that two days later they were compelled to shoot the 'stranger' who remained 'faithful unto death. ' When I was a lad I always loved him as a wonderful father. It was only when I became a parent that I recognised his great qualities in his character; - qualities that I never thought about as a boy intent on 'doing my own thing'. He exemplified the Hebrew dictum - 'He hath shewed thee O man what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God. My father pre-dated the modern translations, but not the dictum. He, as the eldest son, would have been proud to have known that he would be succeeded by four more generations of the eldest son of the eldest son, by a great, great grandson bearing a historic family name, in the Welsh, as Gethyn Bucknall. He was loved by his extended family, respected by his neighbours for his integrity, and related easily to others in different walks of life from his. I am thank
ful that he lived long enough for me to recognise all that I learned from him in family and human relationships.. Shortly before the war ended, my brother Fred came home on 'compassionate' leave and while staying with us he met and became engaged to our Kindergarten Director. On 12 September 1945 I officiated at the marriage of Fred Bucknall and Jean Johnston - the second Jean Bucknall. Their marriage was one of 112 while I was at Clifton Hill.

In 1944, John had commenced school at North Fitzroy and in the September holidays, Jean left David with his grannie and took John with her for a visit to Rodborough. The day before they left to catch the train, John fell off the Manse back fence and landed head-first on the cobble stones. By next day he seemed to be alright so they set out by train for Jean's well earned holiday. They had been at Rodborough a week when John ran into some rusty barb-wire and scratched his face which became infected. Molly Bucknall drove Jean and John into Maryborough for treatment. However, the doctor expressed more concern about the till then unnoticed soft lumps on the side of his head. The X- Ray showed he had been running around with a fractured skull - a crack across the forehead and around the side, visually indicated by the sacks of blood. The Doctor made an appointment for us with a Collins Street bone specialist. I drove to Maryborough to bring Jean and John home. I have never forgotten the careful and slow car trip lest we should bump his head. We had the X-Ray plates which indicated to us that if he had been scalped the top of the skull may have come off with the skin. The crack was half way around his skull. The Specialist decided that, in preference to Hospital, he would be bett
er kept very quiet for six weeks at home. The barb-wire may have saved him from a second and fatal fall.

David's exploit was to vanish in strange circumstances. I was in the City where I had to chair a tea-time meeting. Jean arranged for John, after school, to stay and have tea with the family next door, so that she could take David and baby Ruary to Brunswick for tea with Grannie. Arriving home after dark, Jean left Ruary in his pusher with David at the front door while she went in to collect John. She returned a few minutes later to find Ruary alone and no sign of David. After a frantic search she rang me and the North Fitzroy Police. David had turned up at a Fitzroy Football committee meeting. A member also rang the Police. The Police Officer asked David the names of his playmates, and he named a son of Fitzroy's leading player, Frank Curcio, who lived opposite us. Ruary was our most placid baby and gave us few frights in early childhood. During what seemed a normal baby's sickness he suddenly became unconscious. Jean bundled him into the car and we rushed him to the Doctor, who compounded the anxiety by sending us as high speed to the Children's Hospital with a case of suspected Meningitis. Thankfully i
t was not meningitis. I had just been through my first experience of a seven year old boy dying of cancer.

Though the grim years of the war ceased with the Japanese surrender, rationing continued, and life in the Parish did not change greatly. I do not remember a single unpleasant altercation within the membership. Consensus was achieved through warm-hearted dialogue. The willingness of the congregation to work through some of my new suggestions was an exercise in sensitivity. I believed we should stay there for ten years, but it was not to be. In June 1947, while Jean was away at a week-end Girls Fellowship Camp, and the children with Grannie, I had a strange experience, never repeated. On the Saturday evening while I was preparing for my Sunday Services, I was suddenly overcome with a deeply disturbing premonition my days at Clifton Hill were already numbered. I still remember the sensation of unreality which left me with a sleepless night. About six weeks later, I received a phone call informing me, West Hawthorn, without consulting me, had put my name in the Call - which was correct but very unusual. I feared I might not be able to escape a responsibility I did not want. The Call from West Hawthorn, signed by 233 members was presented to Presbytery. In my dilemma, I left the decision to the Presbytery which sustained the Call and Inducted me into the Parish of West Hawthorn on 19 December 1947. We w
ere surrounded with love at our farewell and for the second time left a loving congregation with heavy hearts.


Following the Induction, our welcome by the Congregation was encouraging and warm-hearted. However, unpleasant arguments marred the Board of Management meetings, and there was an underlying feeling of tension within the Kirk Session (Elders Council). As I reflected on my situation it seemed that I made a compact with the Lord of the Church. - 'You put me here, so you can deal with your problem people in this Congregation' . Within two years, Jean and I were beginning to experience the first fruits of what became the most creative and challenging parish ministry we have known. We were aware of a new openness between people and the accept
ance of differences that no longer divided, but provided healthy diversity within a new unity of faith and work.

Jean's conviction that faith required a commitment to act with love towards difficult people was a significant component in this healing process. The strain of war was over and the future full of challenge. Our first Manse at 105 Barkers Road, Kew, was a five bedroom house built about 1903. We needed it when our twins, Hugh and Kirsty, born on 23 July 1951, arrived almost six years after Ruary. Hugh was an engaging two-year old. Forty years later his son, two-year old Christopher, was a mirror of his dad. Kirsty was the miracle in our lives and the most amenable of our children. The miracle is in the story of her adoption. This story began the day I drove Jean back to Clifton Hill for a meeting. Jean left baby Hugh at the a Presbyterian Sisterhood for un-married mothers. When she left Hugh, Miss Shipton, Matron's Assistant showed her a beautiful little girl, and said, 'This is a very special baby and she was born the same day as Hugh. You ought to adopt her'. That evening after I brought Jean home she told me Miss Shipton's comment, my response was spontaneous, "Ring Miss Shipton immediately and say we will". We had NEVER contemplated adopting a girl, yet this response was not even debated. The older boys were surprisingly enthusiastic and David offered to leave Scotch College if that would help. Well it was not as simple as we all hoped. The baby's mother was a High School Student who hoped she would be able to keep her baby. She was the oldest child of a widow with limited financial resources. The girl's mother who appreciated her daughter's desire came to the Sisterhood and with Matron Envall the three spent long hours looking at the situation. Mother and daughter finally agreed to an adoption provided Matron could assure them their little girl would be cherished in a good family with all the same opportunities for education. It was a day of Celebration when we brought Kirsty home. David seemed to be the sibling most excited by Kirsty's arrival. If she woke in the night, it was often David who would go to settle her down. From his first schoolboy earnings he bought her a brown and white dress which she loved dearly. She gave an exciting completeness to our family. And in adult life an added completeness with husband Stephen Chambers and our grand-daughters Beverley, Robyn, Lesley and grandson Graeme who bears my name - also his father's and grandfather's names! Hugh and
Kirsty were baptised in the West Hawthorn Church by the Rev. Ben Williams who, forty years earlier, had baptised me!

Ben Williams with his Welsh heritage was always young in spirit and I call to mind his response to a question I asked the children. It was Sunday the 2nd. of March, the day after St. David Day, the great day for the Welsh. Hands up anyone who knows what yesterday celebrated"? Up went young Jim Foley's hand. Yes Jim! Quick as a flash came the answer. The opening of the Duck Shooting Season ! Ben was almost rolling in the aisle and I confess I loved Jim for his eager response. During my ministry three young men became candidates for the Ministry - two Presbyterian, Alex Adam and Norman Cameron, and Peter Manton, Baptist. Then to my
joy, in 1992, Jim Foley, was Ordained as a Uniting Church Minister, and has developed a very acceptable rural ministry.

About half way through our twelve year ministry at West Hawthorn, the Congregation purchased 8 Power St., a residence beside the Church. The brick Church had been built in 1903-4 and soon after, this adjacent private house was constructed in the same brick. Our children grew up feeling that many families in the Congregation in our own age bracket, were a real part of our extended family. John, in particular, was involved in the sporting bodies and continued to play cricket with West Hawthorn long after we left to live at Bennettswood. Each member of our family had an involvement at school, or within the congregation, with their relevant age group. By the time we left West Hawthorn at the beginning of 1960, John was a trainee teacher and engaged to Gwen Turner who lived at 9 Power St. They met for the first time at Burwood Teachers College. By this time David was in his final years at Scotch and saving money working after school and on Saturday mornings as assistant to Mr. Thomas our local grocer. One term holiday, Mr and Mrs Thomas lef
t David in charge while they had a two week break. When he started University, he was able to pay cash for his first car.

Before leaving Clifton Hill, we purchased a big trailer with a canvas canopy and a big tent for our Christmas camping holidays at McCrae. With this equipment we set out in the 1952 May school holidays for our first, of many, out-back holidays. This adventure, and it was a real adventure in 1952, was to visit my sister Lorna and family at Burke on the Darling River in the far north-west NSW. Lorna's husband Hugh McDonald was the Presbyterian Minister of a vast a semi patrol Parish. Hugh and Kirsty were just ten months old and John thirteen years and six months. Somehow, we all fitted into our new Austin A70. In that early post-war year when out-back travel was almost unknown in Victoria, we travelled over 3,000 Kilometres on this exciting holiday to the banks of the Darling and beyond to 'back of Burke'. At the end of our first week we received word that Jean's father had died. Hugh and I were 100 Kilometres away at Brewarrina and received word after the 11am Church Service. It had begun to rain that morning and it took us over six hours on the wet black soil road to reach Burke by dark. We packed our trailer and finally left for Melbourne
at midnight. We travelled for the first 160 Kilometres on another unsealed road with the car and trailer swinging from side
to side on a very greasy surface. Fifty Kilometres per hour was my top speed. We travelled all next day in rain and reached Gundagai after dark where I found the baker's shop had just closed. When the baker's wife learned of our urgency she showed the weary strangers great compassion and brought us all into her home - a great mercy for Jean and the twins in particular. We arrived at Brunswick at day-break 36 hours out of Burke and in time for the funeral that day. I had driven fifteen hundred Kilometre
s on indifferent roads for two nights and a day with two 'cat-naps'. That was the first and most momentous of our holiday treks.

In 1950, McLean Shugg, the Home Mission Director and I had an appointment with a Hungarian refugee. He was Dr. Francis Antal an ordained Minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church with a Doctorate in Law. He had been assigned by the Manager of a Victorian Refugee Centre to work as the Camp's Toilet Cleaner! As I soon discovered, the attitude of some church members towards refugees was little better. We were able to secure accommodation for Dr. Antal and his wife and three children as Caretaker for the Kew Presbyterian Church. Our next step was to appoint Dr. Antal as part time Minister of our very small Australian Congregation at Napier St. Fitzroy where he soon gathered a considerable number of fellow refugee Hungarian Reformed members. McLean Shugg and I were guests in the Napier St. Church for the first Hungarian Church Service in Victoria. The majority of this large Congregation were men including former a
rmy officers, soldiers, peasant-farmers and factory workers - all refugees from Hitler's Europe, sharing the same human indignity.

On this occasion their powerful measured singing in their own language transcended tragedy and race in a moving expression of faith and hope as they became a congregation, not without struggles and criticism, of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. Yes, there were times when I had to defend them and the action we had taken. "Why can't they join our congregations", was the common criticism of a people who had never experienced such horror and forced dumping in an unwelcome community whose language they did no know. After leaving Victoria I knew the Hungarian Church lost its Presbyterian support and often wondered the o
utcome. Yes, 'out of the blue' I learned the answer when one of my former Hungarian associates located our Balwyn, Weir St. address.

In 1993, I was invited to a very special Hungarian Reformed Church Service with the Senior Bishop of the Reformed Hungarian World Association as the Preacher. This Celebration was in former North Fitzroy Anglican Church with Dr. Antal's son, Francis, as the Minister. When the Anglicans closed this Parish the Victorian
Reformed Church Purchased this beautiful Sanctuary and all buildings. A two story building is now a home for elderly Hungarian women.

The Dutch migrants fell into a different category. During the same period we wrote to Holland requesting the appointment of a Reformed Minister whom we would support as Chaplain for the Dutch Migrants in Victoria. On a wintry July day in 1952, McLean Shugg and I welcomed Marius and Joke Geursen and their three children to Australia. Marius was appointed part-time Minister of Erskine Church, a small congregation in Carlton, and part-time Chaplain to Dutch migrants. A great occasion for me was the annual Dutch Church Day at Dandenong. The Dandenong park became a gala day in a token 'New' Holland, where hundreds of men, women and children, many in national costumes, gathered to ce
lebrate their joy in past memories and future hopes in their new homeland. This led us into a life long friendship with Marius and Joke.

In 1956 we decided to conduct a new type of combined fund raising and member commitment campaign and I was asked to approach a new member in our Congregation to act as Chairman. Frank Sinclair had recently retired as Secretary of the Department of the Army, a post he had occupied during and since the Second World War. He faced me with a new concept in Stewardship. He would act as Chairman on condition that the Congregation itself had the faith in its Mission to make a corporate pledge before asking each member to make a new commitment. We did and sponsored the establishment of a new congregation at Nunawading, and commenced with an amount equal to good percentage of my stipend. Stewardship gave outreach a 'human face'. In preparing for the Stewardship campaign, Frank spent one morning each week with me at the Manse. He was a man with a great mind, a wise counsellor, warm in his friendships and deeply committed to any task he undertook. He stimulated my thinking and I his in our many hours together. Australia had just commenced a special 'Bring-out-a-Britain' migration campaign, so twelve months later Frank's next project was the proposal we purchase a cottage for short term use by our sponsored migrant. This too was approved by the Congregation with the acceptance of a funding scheme whereby we loaned money to our own Congregation at 5% or less, to purchase the cottage. Frank then arranged for retired General Bierworth, the C
ommonwealth 'Bring-out-a- Britain' Director, to address our Congregation on launching our scheme. On that memorable occasion I was able to announce to the Congregation that we had already received sufficient money, and had already purchased TWO cottages in Grove Road near the Church. We had become part of a small miracle of the loaves and fish. Frank, with all his top- level contact, arranged for me to go out on the Customs Launch at day-break and climb up the ships side on a rope ladder to welcome the Fleming and Bremner families in the middle of Port Philip Bay. What a day that was, and what an amazing scheme it became in the life of the Congregation and for years to come. Charles Fleming had many of Frank's gifts and on the establishment of the Presbyterian Church New Capital Fund, based on Frank Sinclair's West Hawthorn project, Charles was appointed foundation Executive Secretary.

During our twelve years at West Hawthorn I had the same Session Clerk and Parish Secretary. Jim Cameron, my Session Clerk, was the member who proposed my name for the Call. He certainly honoured his action for he excelled in working with me and the other Elders in a true team ministry. Julius Fischmann, my Church Secretary, was a cheerful and dedicated member and a very competent secretary, and supportive wife. After her death, the Congregation purchased the Fischmann house as an investment, little realising the role it would play in the Congregation's future outreach. Frank Sinclair's final vision was the establishment of the Lillian Robinson Home for e;elderly ladies. His wife, Joan, had received a bequest from her mother, Lillian Robinson, which she donated to fund the major part of the Congregations share of the cost. Due to Frank's deteriorating health, he and Joan retired to a coastal town north of Sydney, followed all to soon, by Frank's untimely d
eath. During the last five years of the twelve we were there, consensus was seen in a new dimension of expanding vision and creative achievement.

Soon after his Induction to West Hawthorn in 1998, the Rev. Dr Philip Hughes inspired the Congregation to renovate the Fischmann and former Caretaker's Cottages for student accommodation. In March 1989, I was invited to dedicate the former Fishmann residence as 'Bucknall Cottage' and the other as 'Gillespie Cottage'. It is significant that on 4 March 1990, the Lillian Robinson Home, no longer able to attract residents able to care for themselves, was dedicated by Jean Bucknall as 'Lillian Robi
nson Cottage', the third residence for country Tertiary student accommodation The students had given a significant youthful input into the worship.

When Jean and I moved into 1/32 Weir St. Balwyn we transfered our membership to West Hawthorn. Here we have experienced a warmth and excitement in the commu
nity of faith from the oldest to the youngest members. On the lighter side, where else could Jean have found a special joy in a weekly Mahjong group?

Philip's preaching c
hallenges us to see the Bible as a revelation of human nature and the Divine initiative through the Cross as our involvement in his redemptive purpose for all mankind. The Church is NOT a religious club. Philip is teaching West Hawthorn that the Church that is prepared to take risks, is a community of faith that communicates its relevance with those outside the Church.

Yes, it is far better to be a traveller than assume you have arrived.

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