THE SABBATH SCHOOL.
On 4th June, 1854, the first Sabbath School
classes in connection with the congregation were held in the Protestant
Hall, the first teachers being Messrs. Malcolm McInnes and Duncan
Sutherland. The Committee of Management, in resolving to take up this work,
agreed that each member should specially exert himself to promote its
success. The absence of airy records prevents one from judging what progress
was made, but it appears that very little attention was given to this most
important work, through the disorganised state of the congregation during
the earlier period of its existence.
The School does not appear to have been placed under any
system of organisation until 1864, shortly after the induction of the Rev.
A. MacGregor, when an afternoon school was opened, the school having been
previously carried on in the morning. Mr. John Manson was appointed
Superintendent, and amongst the teachers were Messrs. Donald Ross and John
Mackinnon, the latter having taught a class for some seven years previously.
A Sabbath School Library was formed, and £5 were given by the Board of
Management from the church funds towards defraying the cost of a book-case.
Special services to celebrate the inauguration of the new state of affairs
were held on 4th September, 1864, by the Rev. George Mackie, of South Yarra.
That time-honoured institution, the Sunday School picnic, was also
Until 1873, the only record of Sabbath School work now to
be found is a library register for the years 1864, 1865, and a passage in
the annual report of the Board of Management for the year 1867, stating that
at no previous time had the school been so smooth or so efficient in its
working. The number of scholars on the roll was 140, the average attendance
being about 120. There were 16 teachers - 8 ladies and 8 gentlemen - Mr.
Ross being the Superintendent.
Since 1873, a complete record of all proceedings
connected with the school has been preserved. Mr. Ross was succeeded in the
office of Superintendent by Mr. D. H. Valantine, who, with Mr. Ross' aid, as
assistant Superintendent, guided the destinies of the school until 1874,
when both these gentlemen resigned, and Mr. John Tait was appointed their
By this time the school had become an important
institution, over 500 scholars being on the roll. There were 50 classes and
50 teachers, and a branch school was conducted for some time in Madeline
Street by Mr. Ross and Mr. Robert Allan, another member of Session. Mr. Tait
held the position of Superintendent until 1878. He had previously been the
teacher of a splendid class of young men, one of the members being John Mac
Neil, afterwards noted as an evangelist. The school, at this time, had many
earnest workers, and Mr. Tait was a splendid general at their head. In 1876
the project of erecting a school building was taken up, and, as already
mentioned, a handsome hall was opened entirely free of debt in 1884. After
Mr. Tait's resignation, through removal from the district, Messrs. S.
MacGregor and E. Chew were Superintendents until Mr. Tait's return to the
church at the beginning of 1880, when he was unanimously re-elected to his
old post. In April, 1881, he was obliged to remove to Geelong, where he has
since resided, and so a most valued worker (whose name is still remembered)
was lost to both school and church. Mr. W. H. Scott then acted for a short
time, and was succeeded by Mr. William Howat, who, as already mentioned, was
most energetic in the work of erecting the School Hall. With the opening of
this building a change was effected in the musical portion of the
proceedings by the introduction of a cabinet organ to lead the singing.
Previously, no instrument had been used, and it was part of the duties of
the church precentor to lead the children in their praise.
Since Mr. Howat's resignation
the Rev. W. H. Cooper and Messrs. R. S. Kinlayside, W. I. Stewart and N. C.
Whannell have occupied the position of Superintendent. Mr. Stewart, who died
only a few months ago, will long be remembered by the scholars, having
occupied the position for over twelve years. Sabbath School work was his
delight, and he never spared himself in his efforts on behalf of the young.
Among the many able teachers and officers who have assisted in the school,
the name of Mr. A. W. MacLean, who filled the office of secretary for over
ten years (1883-1893) should not easily be forgotten. Space prevents the
mention of the names of a large number of others who have at different
periods done good work for the school.
The foundation-stone of the
School Hall was laid by Sir James MacBain, M.L.C., on 1st March, 1884. The
Sabbath School, with the jubilee of its existence, is able to also celebrate
the majority of the school building.
Reference has already been
incidentally made to the good work carried on for many years by the various
missionaries, aided by earnest Christian workers connected with the church.
Much good was done amongst the people in the back lanes in Carlton by means
of this important branch of aggressive Christian work. The work carried on
in the various meetings was supplemented by the systematic visitation of
every house and distribution of tracts. Many steady-going and prosperous
young men have traced their success in life to S-,. Andrew's Mission, which
helped to counteract other influences at work during their early years. The
missionaries engaged from time to time, from 1870 to 1892, were nearly all
theological students, and their training in the St. Andrew's Mission field
has by no means been the least factor in laying the groundwork for their
subsequent successful careers as ministers. The Mission has not now been
carried on for some years, but it is to be hoped it will be started again in
the not very distant future.
One very potent factor in
securing the interest of young people in spiritual things was the Tuesday
evening Bible Class, which was carried on by the Rev. D. S. McEachran for
many years. During the four years of Mr. Irwin's ministry, that gentleman
conducted the meetings. This class was responsible for a large number of the
young communicants who joined the church during Mr. McEachran's long
ministry. Since Mr. Kelly's arrival the class has taken the form of an
active Christian Endeavour Society. A Junior Christian Endeavour Society has
also been recently formed.
The Fellowship Association is
one of the live organisations connected with the congregation. Over thirty
years ago, a number of young men connected with the congregation obtained
leave from the Session to hold a prayer meeting every Tuesday evening.
Afterwards, they held their meetings on the Sabbath morning before service.
In 1881, ladies were allowed by the Session to attend the meetings, and in
1889 it was decided to continue the meetings as an Association belonging to
the recently formed Fellowship Union. The Association contributes liberally
to the Union's Korean Mission, having donated £49 during the last five
years. It also conducts services at the Immigrants' Home, Royal Park, and
gives the inmates there an annual treat.
The Literary and Debating
Society was originally formed in July, 1872. In 1892 a Ladies' Literary
Guild was started, and lasted for some years. Both Societies had, however,
lapsed for some time, until last year, when a new society was formed, in
which both the young men and young women take an active part.
A strong Total Abstinence
Society and Band of Hope also met for many years, but there has been no
organisation specially dealing with temperance matters in existence for some
time past. Such a society might well be revived. A branch of the Ministering
Children's League was also in existence some time ago.
The ladies of the
congregation have at times held their Dorcas and Work Association meetings,
and they take an interest in mission work in connection with the local
branch of the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union.
The Young Men's Class
connected with the Sabbath School was for many years a very successful
institution, and many excellent papers on the Biblical and Catechism lessons
have been contributed there. The class has recently been reorganised by the
present pastor, and for the past two years has held successful camps at
It is interesting to note
that another active organisation, the Church Choir, held its first practices
in singing in November, 1857.
The young men and young women
also attend to their physical well-being in their gymnastic clubs, and for
years the young men have had a very successful cricket club.