The new minister was warmly
welcomed by the people. Coming to them with a good record as a pastor,
preacher and scholar, it appeared that good times were in store, with two
pastors of experience and worth to guide the destinies of the congregation.
The junior pastor was an Irishman by birth, a graduate of the Royal
University of Ireland, and a son of the veteran Rev. Dr. William Irwin, of
Castlerock, County Derry. In addition to his fame as a preacher, he had also
won some distinction in the literary world, and had published, amongst other
works, a History of Presbyterianism in Dublin and the South and West of
Ireland. He preached his first sermons in St. Andrew's to crowded
congregations on Sunday, 13th March, 1892, and was warmly welcomed at a
social meeting of the congregation, held the same week, when a handsome
Geneva gown was presented to each of the ministers.
The pastors arranged between
them to equally divide the Sabbath services and mission work, whilst the
bulk of the pastoral duties were to be performed by the younger. Things went
on well for a while, and, under different circumstances would have
prospered, but it was a sad time for everybody in the colony. The financial
crash came; many lost their all, and had to start life over again, and St.
Andrew's congregation suffered equally with others. Many had to leave the
colony to obtain work, and so, from that time till now,
the congregation has had a hard struggle
to make both ends meet. In addition to this general reason for the
congregation falling off, other causes had also been at work, a number of
people having left through new churches having been opened nearer their
homes, and so, in a year or two, the once prosperous congregation was
reduced to a low ebb. The ministers did their best; the spiritual tone of
everything was good ; the elders and members of the Board of Management were
earnest in their work; but the fact remained that they could not pay their
way, and were getting more and more into debt. At length, the muniments of
title to the property had to be deposited with the bank to secure an
overdraft, which increased visibly day by day. The junior minister submitted
to a very substantial reduction in his stipend, but still the liabilities
could not be met. At last, after four years of faithful service, Mr. Irwin
stated that as the congregation, under the circumstances, could not support
two ministers, and he was the younger of the two, the best thing he could do
was to resign. This proposal was considered at a meeting of the
congregation, on 18th December, 1895, when the following resolutions were
1. "The congregation of St. Andrew's
Presbyterian Church, Carlton, have received with sincere sorrow and a deep
sense of discouragement the intimation conveyed by the Rev. C. H. Irwin,
M.A., that he intends to resign the pastorate of St. Andrew's Church, and to
return to the old land. The congregation assure Mr. Irwin of their unabated
loyalty and love for himself, and attachment to and kindly interest in Mrs.
Irwin and their family. They look back with the liveliest feelings of trust
and gratitude upon Mr. Irwin's incumbency of their church.
They still have the same undiminished
confidence in him as a Christian leader, minister, and friend, and the same
sincere regard for his high character. As a preacher he still occupies the
same attractive position in their esteem. They would, were it possible,
gladly use any means in their power to induce him to remain as their
minister. They will regard his departure as a most serious blow to their
church, and a personal loss to themselves individually.
2. "As, however, Mr. Irwin
has intimated his fixed determination to return to the old country, the
congregation resolve to ask him to accept, in token of their unchanging
friendship and regard, the sum of £300, so as to secure him, as far as
possible, from monetary loss in his removal from his church and people."
On the following day, Mr.
Irwin's resignation was accepted by the Presbytery of Melbourne North. At
the last meeting of Session, at which he was present, on 8th January, 1896,
the elders spoke regretting their pastor's departure, and wishing him
God-speed, whilst the aged minister, who was left to carry on the whole work
again unaided, spoke of the great harmony that had ever existed between his
colleague and himself, and the pleasure and profit he had ever received from
Mr. Irwin's preaching. On 30th January, the congregation gave a farewell
social to Mr. and Mrs. Irwin, and their three children, when, in addition to
a cheque for £300, a number of handsome presents were given to the minister
and his family. The presentation of the sum of £300 was only an act of
justice, as Mr. Irwin had cheerfully refunded a large portion of his
stipend, amounting during the previous couple of years to £150 per annum.
The money for this gift had, however, to be borrowed by the congregation, as
the people were not in a position to subscribe the amount. A few days
afterwards, Mr. Irwin and his family set sail for the Old Country, to the
great regret of many friends.
During his stay in Victoria,
Mr. Irwin took a prominent part in the public concerns of the Presbyterian
Church, and also benefited the community by his literary labours For twelve
months he successfully edited a weekly religious newspaper, called " The
Australian Weekly," but the depressed state of the people prevented it being
a financial success, and after Mr. Irwin's departure the paper was
incorporated with "The Australian Christian World," a Sydney publication.
Mr. Irwin, since his return
to the Old Country, has devoted himself mainly to literary work. He occupies
a good place in the world of letters in the metropolis of the Empire,
amongst other positions holding that of editor to the well-known magazine,
"The Leisure Hour." He has now, according to news just received, been
appointed to take charge of the Colonial work of the Religious Tract
Society, for which position his Australian experience will make him
During Mr. Irwin's pastorate,
an American organ was introduced in connection with the public worship, St.
Andrew's being the last of the congregations connected with the Presbyterian
Church of Victoria to adopt instrumental music as an aid to the
congregational singing. This change was effected towards the end of 1892.
About the same time another change was made with respect to the means of
giving in aid of the congregational funds, by the introduction of the method
of regular weekly offerings in envelopes as an alternative to the former
method of contributing by means of seat rents and ordinary Sabbath
collections. A congregational magazine was published for a short time during
Mr. Irwin's ministry, but had to be abandoned for want of funds.