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Jubilee History of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Carlton
A Great RevivalóRev. D. S. McEachran


The name of Duncan Stewart McEachran is now revered by a very large number of people, who have received spiritual blessing from him, and his great services, not only to his own congregation, but also to the Presbyterian Church 4 Victoria at large, cannot easily be forgotten. Born on 27th April, 1826, at Campbeltown, Argyleshire, Scotland, he received his early education at the Grammar School there. From his early childhood, he felt God's Holy Spirit working with him, and, at the age of 15, he came to a clear decision to accept Christ as his Saviour. The great desire of his life was to become a minister, and when he went to Glasgow University, as a youth, he had a secret feeling that, if God would only convert him, he would become a minister. God did convert him, and from that clay forward the one wish of the young man was to save souls. Wherever he went, particularly when on his holidays, during the summer vacations, he earnestly tried to give the message of God. During this period of his life, he was for some time a member of Dr. Mackay's Church at Dunoon, and remembers well rendering help, along with others, to his pastor in getting a new church erected when the minister, supported by most of his congregation, left the Establishment, at the time of the Disruption. In 1844 he entered the Free Church Theological Hall at Edinburgh. The young student was mightily stirred by the events of those days, and benefited much from the lessons he received while sitting at the feet of Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Duncan, and other eminent theologians. At length he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, in August, 1848. His thoughts were then on Foreign Mission work in India, but he was found out by Mr. MacLeod, the only minister in the Isle of Skye, and persuaded to go there. Although of Highland extraction, the young licentiate knew no Gaelic. It was, however, represented that, if he went to India, he would have to learn a foreign language, and why not learn the tongue of his own kin, so as to be able to preach To them? This argument was unanswerable, and so Skye got the preference to India, and the Gaelic tongue was diligently studied and mastered. Work was commenced at Portree at once, and, in December, 1849, Dr. Mackay had the privilege of ordaining his former parishioner, who was destined to be his successor at the other end of the world, as minister of the charges of Portree and the Island of Raasay.

The young clergyman threw himself ardently into his work, and did many a cruise in the "Breadalbane," which his former pastor had, as already related, secured for Home Mission work in the Highlands and Western Islands. The people in his parish were mostly very poor, earning only the very small wage of 1 1/2d. per day. It was also the time of the great famine. Their pastor loved them dearly, and a strong attachment between himself and flock resulted. The climate was, however, very moist, and was very fatiguing to the earnest labourer in his Lord's vineyard. His health was beginning to fail, and accordingly when, in May, 1851, a unanimous call came to him from Cromarty, where the climate was more suitable, he decided to accept it. The Presbytery, however, recognising the good work being done, would not agree to the translation. The Synod, on appeal, upheld the Presbytery's decision, and it was only when the prosecutors of the call brought their case before the General Assembly that they were successful. The Supreme Court would, however, only agree to the translation on the condition that the minister should preach in Gaelic as well as in English in his new charge. The minister afterwards thanked God for this condition, because a number were converted by means of the Gaelic who could not be reached by the English.

A successful ministry of seventeen years followed. In addition to his ordinary duties, Mr. McEachran, with the help of willing workers (who visited the men to get them to come to the meetings), started a class for fishermen, which numbered 150, and another for farm-servants in the country, at which 120 attended, and both classes were especially blessed. Three other classes were also afterwards instituted, the minister taking three in one week and the other two the next week. The greatest blessing resulted just after the celebrated Irish Revival of 1858. Mr. McEachran, with a friend, visited Ireland, to see the results of that great religious movement, and he was so stirred up by what he saw in Belfast that he came back to Cromarty with renewed vigour, and within the next three months had the joyful satisfaction of admitting sixty new communicants in his congregation, and during the remaining seven years of his ministry there his session only knew of two of these sixty whose lives were not consistent with the profession they had made.

The call from St. Andrew's Mr. McEachran felt to be a divine message, and after consulting Dr. Mackay, who did not encourage him too much, and Mr. Dykes, he decided to accept the invitation, but on the condition that he should not be expected to preach in Gaelic.

Mr. McEachran preached his first sermon in St. Andrew's on 29th November, 1868. He was inducted into the charge on 15th December following. From the beginning, his lucid exposition of the Word drew many attentive hearers, and great results were obtained with respect to both spiritual and temporal matters. Before the new minister's arrival, the average attendance at worship was about 120, there were very few sittings let, the Communion roll numbered about 30, and no meetings of Session had been held for over a year. In addition, Mr. James Robertson had never been recouped a single penny of principal of the large sum of money he had paid on the congregation's behalf more than ten years previously, having received only £130 by way of interest during the years 1859 and 1860, a comparatively small sum. He had, it is true, no legal claim against the property, but the congregation had always regarded itself as morally bound to repay the money whenever it should be in a position to do so.

This state of affairs was now to come to an end. Before long, the church was crowded at every service, and people who could not find seats - thronged even the steps of the pulpit. The revenue from sittings alone in one year was over £500. The Communion roll increased by leaps and bounds, and the Session was greatly strengthened by the addition of several new members. Nor was the debt owing to Mr. Robertson forgotten. That gentleman had faithfully supported the church through all its years of trial, and he now came forward with a very generous proposal, offering to take £2,000 in full satisfaction of the whole amount owing, both for principal and interest, provided the money was paid within a reasonable time. At a congregational meeting held on 16th February, 1869, it was resolved to accept with thanks this very liberal offer, and to make an effort to pay the money within six months. The sum of £702 was promised by those present, and the managers were directed to thoroughly canvass those who were absent.

The appeal to the congregation for the Debt Extinction Fund was heartily responded to. Mr. A. Agnew, a member of the Board, was most energetic in collecting for this object, and by the beginning of the following August the sum of £1,000 was paid over to Mr. Robertson. In the meantime, the minister's stipend had been increased to £650.

About this time there was a danger that the Government might confiscate the land which had been originally reserved for the purpose of erecting a manse, on account of the congregation's neglect in not having used it for that purpose. This portion of the property, which was one acre in extent, had never been formally conveyed to the congregational trustees, and the Lands Department refused to give a title until the manse should be built. The Committee accordingly decided to recommend the congregation to commence building operations without delay, and to ask Mr. Robertson if he would be kind enough to allow the payment of the balance of his claim to remain over for a while. In reply, Mr. Robertson wrote a letter to Mr. McEachran, in which he stated that he would be pleased to accept the balance of the money "in such sums and at such times as may be most convenient for the congregation." This further instance of Mr. Robertson's generous spirit was very encouraging, and without delay the work of building a substantial house was commenced.

The congregation resolved that the annual current expenses until the building was paid for should not exceed £820 per annum, and that all surplus receipts over that amount should go towards a special fund, which was being raised for the payment of the cost of erection by the end of the year 1871, four gentlemen in the congregation having promised to give £50 each if that result were attained.

Under the guidance of Mr. Terry, as architect, the contractors, Messrs. Downie and Sturgess, proceeded with the work, and by the early part of the following year the minister, who, had previously resided in Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, was able to take up his abode in a handsome, substantially built house. The total cost of erection was £1,866 16s. 10d., and the whole amount was paid off by the end of the following year, the congregation being able to claim the £200 conditionally promised, as above stated. The four individuals who fulfilled their promises with their generous gifts were the pastor, and Messrs. K. Gunn, D. H. Valantine, and Dugald Cameron. The last-named gentleman was a member of the Board for some years, and also trustee at one time.

The prosperous condition of the congregation at this time may - be illustrated by the statistics of a tea meeting, held in August, 1869, when 821 persons were present, and the gross proceeds received from sale of tickets and donations for tables were £128 5s. The expenses amounted to £47 17s., and of the balance £55 1s. were paid to the debt fund, and £25 7s to the manse fund. This small illustration shows how things were generally.

With this new prosperity the character of the congregation had greatly changed. Formerly, it had been essentially a Gaelic congregation, although the services in Gaelic had been latterly very intermittent. A great number of the old Highlanders had, however, passed away, others had left the congregation in consequence of the various feuds in the past, and only a remnant of the survivors were left. Their children -the rising generation were unable to speak the old tongue, and so it was gradually felt that the congregation could not continue to exist unless it became an essentially English one. The new pastor's condition, that he should not be required to preach in Gaelic, was therefore acquiesced in, although an attempt was made by some to have a Gaelic missionary appointed, and an occasional Gaelic Communion service held. The Board of Management would not, however, incur any expense in that direction, and so, from that day to this, the church has differed in no respects from any other Presbyterian Church, although it is still familiarly called by old residents of Carlton, of all classes and creeds, "The Gaelic Church."

The affairs of the congregation were now controlled by a very efficient Session and Board of Management. A number of those who had so resolutely and ably piloted the vessel in the old (lays of trial were still to the fore, and there were strong accessions of strength from the new Saxon element which became infused into the congregation. Amongst the new members, who rendered conspicuous service at this time and for many years after, may be mentioned Messrs. D. H. Valantine, John Waugh, John Tait, John Robertson, Henry R. Fuge, and James S. Henderson. Mr. Valantine became Session Clerk, on the resignation of Mr. John Manson, in August, 1870, and held that most responsible position for over seventeen years, discharging the duties in a most efficient way. He will be remembered for the very active interest he took in all matters affecting the welfare of the church and its various agencies, serving well as a trustee, a treasurer, and a Sabbath School superintendent. Mr. Waugh has also served the church ably as an elder, Session Clerk, treasurer and Sabbath School teacher. Mr. John Tait was a most efficient Sabbath School superintendent; Messrs: Robertson and Henderson will ever he remembered as masters in finance; whilst Mr. Fuge was no unworthy successor to Mr. Adam G. Melville in the position of secretary, which was resigned by the latter gentleman, to the great regret of the Board, at the end of 1871. With these gentlemen and others (amongst whom may be mentioned Messrs. John Whytt and Donald Ross, not forgetting Messrs. Kenneth Gunn and John Gordon, who had been leaders in the Gaelic davs) the cause could not but prosper.

In June, 1870, a missionary was annointed, at a salary of £100 a year, and a hall in Bouverie Street was rented, in which services for non-church-goers were held. The missionary appointed was Mr. W. Thomson, now the Rev. W. Thomson, of Camperdown. This mission was carried on for many years with great success by Mr. Thomson and the other missionaries who succeeded him.

After clearing the debt off the manse, steps were taken to repay Mr. Robertson the remainder of the money due to him, and for this purpose an overdraft was obtained from the Commercial Bank, ten members of the congregation giving personal guarantees for £100 each to secure the repayment of the loan obtained. Mr. Robertson's debt was then discharged, the amount, with interest, paid to him, in February, 1872, being £1,196 16s. 9d. Mr. Robertson thereupon gave a release of all his claims upon the congregation. It was then resolved that, until the debt was paid off, the ordinary congregational expenses should not be more than £950 a year. The congregation was prosperous, and an effort to wipe off the debt at once could have been easily accomplished. But other pressing calls came in the way, and the original debt, contracted in connection with the erection of the building, was not finally discharged until the year 1888, when, through the liberality of Mr. Peter McCracken (whose wife was Mr. Robertson's sister), the congregation was, for the first time in its history, entirely freed from debt.

During 1871, the congregation found that the church building was too small for the number of worshippers attending the services. The question of enlarging the edifice accordingly became the subject of consideration. In view of the debt owing to Mr. Robertson, and the effort to wipe off the manse debt, it was thought expedient, in order to obtain funds, to sell portion of the surplus land on the manse site left vacant after that building had been erected. The original project mooted was to use the proceeds of sale towards the erection of a Sabbath School, as well as the enlargement of the church, but, after consideration, it was found that there would not be enough money for both objects, so it was decided to proceed only with the enlargement of the church. Application was accordingly made to the Governor-in- Council (the General Assembly having previously given its approval) for the necessary power to sell, and, this having been duly granted in May, 1872, steps were at once taken to sell the most northern portions of the property in Rathdown and Drummond Streets. Advantageous sales were effected, the total sum realised being £2,367 10s. The extent of the property sold is best described by the buildings now erected thereon, it being now fully occupied with houses, viz. :- In Rathdown Street, the two houses next to the manse; in Drummond Street, the terrace next to the Sabbath School, known as " Grosvenor Terrace." In connection with this sale, both the secretary, Mr. Fuge, and the treasurer, Mr. John Robertson, were largely instrumental in securing its success, the former, who was a solicitor, giving his services gratuitously in preparing the various legal documents. Mr. Fuge also rendered many other valuable services during his four years of office as secretary.

The practical work of enlarging the church was now proceeded with. Mr. Terry was appointed architect, and tenders were called for. Mr. Lockington (whose family was connected with the congregation for many years) was the lowest out of seven tenderers, and he was authorised to commence operations. At the beginning of December, 1872, the congregation removed to the Temperance Hall, where services were held until the new works were completed.

On 20th April, 1873, the church as it now exists (with the transepts added to the original building) was re-opened for public worship, a special thank-offering for the day amounting to £66 12s. 9d. The total cost of the alterations effected was £2,724 19s. 3d. In addition, a new fence around the grounds was erected at a cost of £66 9s. 6d.

These works having been completed, it was decided to erect a caretaker's cottage. This was rendered necessary through the recent sale of land. On portion of the land sold stood an old iron cottage, which had been used as a caretaker's residence. It had belonged to a previous caretaker, Alexander Cumming, who was one of the original Highland congregation, and who was appointed beadle in 1856. The Committee undertook to purchase and erect this house on the property in May, 1856, but they had not the funds at the time, and on 22nd May, 1857, only £20 had been paid on account, and the sum of £93 11s. 6d. was due to Mr. Cumming. The stormy times followed, and Mr. Cumming, like Mr. Robertson, had to wait for the settlement of his claim until after the arrival of Mr. McEachran. The debt was then finally wiped out, and shortly afterwards Mr. Cumming resigned his position, in 1871. The old iron cottage had become rather unsuitable as a residence by this time, and as it had to be removed through being on portion of the ground sold, the Board decided to sell it and erect a more suitable caretaker's dwelling. The amount realised by the sale was only £10 19s. The brick cottage erected in its place cost £451 11s. 9d.

All these changes having been effected, it was found that the total liabilities of the congregation were about £1,500, showing that, in addition to the sum borrowed to settle with Mr. Robertson, about £300 remained due to the bank on account of the new buildings which had been erected. It was thought expedient to pay off the bank overdraft by obtaining a mortgage over the manse. The General Assembly gave the necessary permission, which was confirmed by the Crown, and in August, 1873, a mortgage for £1,500 was completed, a comparatively light burden upon the property, considering the great improvements which had been made, the great signs of prosperity in temporal matters, and the splendid spiritual earnestness which prevailed.

The congregation was indeed at the zenith of its prosperity. So pleased were the Board at everything, that they recommended to the congregation an increase of £100 in the minister's stipend, making it £750 in all, in addition to the use of the commodious manse, which had been erected, and this proposal was adopted by the congregation at its annual meeting in January, 1874. At the same meeting special recognition was made of the services of the treasurer, Mr. Robertson, whose good work as treasurer is still remembered by many. Mr. Robertson, although it is many years since he left the congregation, still takes a very keen interest in its affairs, and is always ready to help in any good movement. His advice on matters of finance has on several occasions been obtained by the Board since his removal from the district. He was succeeded by Mr. James S. Henderson, to whom the congregation was also much indebted for his six years' invaluable services in the position.

The congregation's success must be attributed to a large extent to the faithful and earnest preaching of the Word. In those days, the order of service was very simple. Only psalms and paraphrases were sung, both choir and congregation keeping their seats. Every one stood reverently at time of prayer. The choir, at this time, was an excellent one, and the congregational singing was good. In March, 1872, permission was given to the choir to stand whilst singing. But it was not till 1876 that the congregation began to stand. This question was brought up at the annual meeting that year, when it was decided to take a vote of the congregation on the question. The poll was held shortly afterwards, when 137 persons were in favour of standing, whilst 54 still preferred to sit. In June, 1873, a similar poll had been taken on the question of introducing hymns into the service, when 113 members and 120 adherents, making a total of 233, voted in favour of their introduction, whilst 104 persons, comprising 47 members and 57 adherents, were against the proposed innovation. In accordance with the decision of the majority, the singing of hymns was introduced into public worship for the first time on 3rd August, 1873. Further than this, the congregation would not go for many years. The very idea of instrumental music was scouted. Even a motion, year after year brought up at the meetings of the Board before each tea meeting, for sanctioning the use of a harmonium at the festival gathering, was always defeated until 1875, when, by a majority of 8 to 4, the supporters of the movement at last gained their desired object. For years also only sacred music was allowed at these annual social meetings. It is also interesting to note, in connection with the arrangements at the church services, that the collection was always taken at the doors, except on special occasions, in the days prior to Mr. McEachran's ministry. On his arrival, it was decided to hand round the plates to the worshippers in the pews, except on Communion Sabbaths, when the collection was still to be taken at the door. This exception was only abolished twelve months ago.

For some years, the work of the congregation went on steadily and well. The minister had the one strong desire to win souls, which had possessed him whilst pursuing his work in the Old Country. He was instant both in season and out of season in trying to do good and save the lost. The mission, which he instituted (defraying the expenses out of his own pocket for some time), was the means of much good. The people in the back streets and lanes in the very populous neighbourhood about the church were visited from house to house, tracts were distributed, and services conducted on the Sabbath and Thursday evenings. A' large band of enthusiastic workers was formed in the congregation to help the minister and missionary in this work, and at one time there were 73 active assistants. The minister was also a true pastor, and was most regular and systematic in the visitation of his flock. His parish was a large one, for people came from great distances to hear him-from Emerald Hill, South Yarra, Richmond, Kew, Collingwood, Northcote, Essendon and other suburbs equally remote.

In addition to all this heavy work in connection with his charge, Mr. McEachran also found time for taking an active part in the public affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. On the abolition of State Aid to Religion, he suggested the formation of a Sustentation Fund to aid weak congregations. He became Convener of a Committee for carrying this object into effect, and, amid many discouragements (for the scheme was not favourable to some), he succeeded in establishing one of the most important schemes of the Church, and placed it on a very firm basis. Through his exertions and influence, ten gentlemen of position promised £100 each for five years, as a nucleus, and from that time onwards the fund has been well supported. As Convener of the Church Extension Committee he also did giant work, and paid many visits to various centres to encourage and to establish new charges. He also at times helped in conducting special evangelistic services in the districts he visited, and in 1877 was specially appointed to evangelise in the Mornington Peninsula for three months, so that a large district, which was ill-supplied with gospel ordinances, might be awakened. In short, Mr. McEachran was deservedly regarded as one of the leaders of the Church, and when, in May, 1878, he was nominated as Moderator for the next General Assembly, it was felt by all that he had a good right to the position.

The strain of all this work was, however, too much for his health, and at the end of May, 1878, he was constrained to cease preaching for some weeks and take a rest in the country. He then made an attempt to start his work again, but found he was unable to do so, and his medical advisers ordered complete rest, for at least a year. This news was received by the congregation and Presbytery with great regret. His people resolved that they would grant him the rest required, paying him his full salary while away, and undertook to collect a sum sufficient to defray his expenses for a trip to the Old Country. A liberal response was made to this object and the sum of £282 13s. 6d. collected The leading ministers also very kindly promised to aid the congregation in supplying the pulpit whilst their pastor was away. At the beginning of August, the congregation bade good-bye to their beloved minister at a prayer meeting specially arranged for the purpose, commending him to the keep of their heavenly Father, and praying for his safe return in perfect health. Mr. McEachran then left for Great Britain, via America, and was absent from the colony until the beginning of September, 1879, when he returned much better in health, though still weak and not able to resume his full pastoral duties.

It had been arranged that during his absence the pulpit should be supplied with various ministers from other churches. This was a very difficult arrangement to keep up. Ministers very often found that the interests of their own congregation prevented them fulfilling their engagement on the date promised, and would ask for a postponement to some future date. The Session thus had a big responsibility thrown on its shoulders, and was often in a great fix. The Session Clerk, Mr. D. H. Valantine, upon whom most of the work fell, did the best he could under the trying circumstances, and with a fair amount of success. The congregation, as was only inevitable, began to fall off, and, in this way, a blow was struck at the prosperity of the Church, from which it took some time to recover. The Rev. James Beattie, of Chalmers Church (now of St. John's, Bendigo), who had been appointed Interim Moderator of the charge, gave all the help he could to the Session in its difficulty, and the congregation felt itself under a deep sense of gratitude to the venerable Dr. Cairns, who, in spite of his advanced age and failing health, was ever ready to preach when other supply could not be found. Another valuable helper was also found in the Rev. David Chapman, a retired minister (formerly of Broadmeadows), who was a member of the congregation, and some time after was induced to act as elder, although he had declined the honour when elected some time previously. The minister's Bible Class, which had been very successful under the pastor, and the prayer meeting, were also looked after by Messrs. E. Chew, W. Howat, S. MacGregor and W. H. Scott.

After six months had expired, the Session was in despair as to how it would be able to carry on till the minister's return. The mission was being well worked, but its operations were somewhat impeded through the missionary (Mr. J. Millar Smith, now minister at Daylesford) having to look after a great deal of the parish work, and otherwise giving valuable assistance, instead of having all his time to his own work; and if things went on much longer as they were, the church might be ruined for ever. Help, however, was at hand. The Rev. James Paton, formerly of Natal, South Africa, had arrived in the colony, and he was asked to preach as supply one Sabbath. He was so well liked, that the Session and Board of Management requested him to act as locum tenens until the pastor's return. An agreement was come to, and for some six months Mr. Paton's ministrations proved very acceptable. On the minister's return, the congregation desired to retain his services as an assistant until Mr. McEachran had fully recovered his health, and regretted very much they could not induce him to stay. Mr. Paton was afterwards minister at Horsham, where he died in 1882.


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