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Jubilee History of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Carlton
The Session, Trustees and Board of Management


According to our Presbyterian polity of church government, the Session has effective control over the spiritual life of the congregation, and all organisations in connection therewith. The legal existence of the congregation, so far as its property is concerned, is represented by trustees appointed for the purpose of holding such property, whilst the duty of successfully managing business concerns is placed in a Board of Management, whose proceedings, however, are subject to control, in some instances, by the trustees, and in other instances by the congregation, and in this latter respect the Session has a kind of indirect supervision, because no meeting of the congregation may be called without the sanction of the Session. On the other hand, the Session is in a measure controlled by the Board of Management, because it is the latter body which alone can deal with the expenditure of moneys received for the upkeep of the congregation. Although these bodies have somewhat conflicting jurisdictions, still in practice, and when everything is done in a Christian spirit, they generally work very well together, and a congregation's work is always carried on much more smoothly when all these bodies are in existence. The Presbytery and General Assembly, as the higher courts of the Church in general, of course, have certain controlling influences; but the genius of Presbyterianism allows a large measure of practical self-government to each congregation.

The manner in which the different internal organs of government arose in St. Andrew's church was in the inverse order to that related above. The great drawback in the early years of the congregation's existence was that it had no Session. The Board of Management is as old as the congregation itself. The first trustees were gazetted in 1856; but the Session did not come into existence until ten years later. In June, 1855, Messrs. Hugh Campbell and William Pender, who had been elders in the Free Church of Scotland, were elected by the congregation as elders of the "Gaelic Church, Melbourne." At a previous meeting three other gentlemen had been nominated, and had refused to act. The two gentlemen named seem also to have refused office, as no induction ceremony was ever held, and no meetings of Session are recorded. At the same meeting, a number of gentlemen were elected as deacons, but it was afterwards decided by the Board of Management that "as it was understood by the managers, in terms of their election, that they had the power of adding to their number, all those now acting as deacons be assumed as managers, to act as such until a deacons' court has been regularly- formed." This latter event never happened. At the congregational meeting referred to, Messrs. Coiler Robertson, David Walker, Donald MacDonald, Alexander MacLean and Robert Lawson were nominated as trustees, but their names were not gazetted, and at a meeting held during the following year, Messrs. Robert Lawson, Alexander MacLean, George Gordon Cameron, James Robertson and David Mathew Watson were nominated, and these nominations having been accepted by the Government, these gentlemen thus became the first trustees of the church property, which was described in the Government Gazette as " the land set apart at North Melbourne 'at Carlton' as a site for Free Presbyterian Church purposes under the provisions of the Act 16 Vict. No. 28." It is interesting to note that the official signing the proclamation, "By His Excellency's command," was Mr. Andrew Clarke, who afterwards, as Sir Andrew Clarke, was Agent-General for Victoria for many years. It is also to be observed that the land was reserved, according to the proclamation, "for Free Presbyterian Church purposes," and not specially for Highlanders and services in the Gaelic tongue, although in other Gazette notices, dealing with the property, it is referred to as the " Gaelic Church." The trustees did not receive a Crown grant of the property until after the disturbances in 1859. An explanation is thus afforded of the fact that the congregation was unable to give the Bank of Victoria a security over its property whilst the building was being erected in 1855 (assuming that it could have taken steps to do so if it had had a Crown grant), and in consequence the personal security of individual members was required as stated above. [See App. A. for the history of the trusteeship of the property.]

We see that the Board of Management absorbed the deacons on the ground that in terms of their election they had the power to add to their number. In the early years of its existence, the Board accordingly fluctuated with regard to the number of members. After some years, only those elected by the congregation seem to have acted, but uniformity in election was not secured until 1869 when, immediately after the arrival of the Rev. D. S. McEachran, the whole of the managers resigned, and it was decided to elect a new Board of sixteen members, in accordance with the Rules of the Church. The Board has since continued to consist of sixteen members, eight of whom, in the ordinary course of events, retire each year.

Before the Session was established, the Board of Management claimed very high powers, and, in fact, acted as the supreme authority in spiritual as well as temporal matters. This assumption of jurisdiction was in a large measure responsible for the conflict with the Rev. W. Fraser, who claimed that the Board had exceeded its functions with regard to its action over the question of Union. If there had been a Session then, matters might have assumed another aspect.

The Session was called into existence during the ministry of the Rev. Angus Macgregor. On 15th March, 1866, a meeting was held of an Interim Session appointed by the Presbytery, consisting of the Rev. A. MacGregor, Moderator, and Rev. James Caldwell, Collingwood, and Rev. J. Bagley, Richmond, assessors. The record states: "The Moderator having represented that the congregation was as yet without elders, and that a general desire was expressed, both by members and adherents, that this want should be supplied, authority was given him to summon a congregational meeting, and take the usual steps for the election of four gentlemen to fill the office of the eldership." The necessary steps were then taken, the members voted on the question, and on 19th April, 1866, Messrs. John Manson, Malcolm MacQueen, and Donald Ross were duly ordained, the clergymen taking part in the ceremony being the Revs. A. MacGregor, James Caldwell and Robert Leishman. Mr. Manson was appointed first Session Clerk. Mr. MacOueen alone of these three earliest members of Session is now alive. His two former colleagues died only within the last year or two. After Mr. McEachran's arrival, a number of able and earnest Christian men were added to the Session, which became a body of which any congregation might be proud. At one time there were no less than fifteen members. The work of a number of these gentlemen has already been referred to. For length of office, Messrs. Ewen Henderson and John Waugh have pride of place, each having occupied his seat for a quarter of a century. Mr. Henderson was also a manager for fifteen years in addition, making altogether forty years' service as a member of the Board of Management. Next to these gentlemen, in order of length of service, come the late Mr. W. I. Stewart, Mr. W. Young, and the late Mr. D. H. Valantine, with respective records of 21, 19 and 17 years. Messrs. Stewart and Young were also managers for some years, while Mr. Valantine, who succeeded Mr. Manson as Session Clerk, held that position for seventeen years. Other prominent members of Session, III the days gone by, were Mr. Walter Thomson, who was elected in 1869, and died in harness in 1883 ; Mr. David Howat, elected in 1872, and holding office till his death in 1885; the Rev. David Chapman, whose work has already been noticed; and Mr. David McMurtrie, who at the time of his death, in 1889, was the oldest elder in Victoria, having been one of the earliest elders in Scots' Church, and one of the founders of John Knox Church, which was formed out of sympathy with the Scottish Disruption of 1843. Messrs. Howat and McMurtrie each represented the congregation in the Presbytery and General Assembly for many years. Messrs. David Brunton, Samuel MacGregor, William Hamilton, Eli Chew, Thomas Hudspeth, the Rev. W. H. Scott and Mr. Henry Adamson, who have all now gone to their long home, are still affectionately remembered by many for their lives of usefulness in days long past. The families of several of them have also followed in their steps, and done good work for the congregation. Messrs. John Lowden, Peter Flett and John Whannell, who were elected in more recent years, have also joined the great majority. A full list of elders, with their terms of office, is given in Appendix B. Of the present elders, Mr. John Thom is the senior, having been elected in 1890. He has been connected with the congregation for many years, and his sound practical advice on all matters affecting the congregation's interests is greatly valued by his colleagues, both on the Session and Board of Management. The present Session Clerk and representative elder, Mr. Robert Cheyne, became a member of the Session in 1893.

Of the many who have held seats on the Board of Management, Messrs. Duncan McIver, Kenneth Gunn and Patrick MacLean (all now deceased) held office for the longest periods. Mr. McIver, who died in November, 1900, was a manager for thirty-six years, during which time he took an active part in the congregation's affairs. Mr. Gunn was one of the founders ,of the congregation, and with his family rendered many services to the church. He became a member of the Board in 1856, and held that office till his death in 1890. He was for a number of years treasurer, and also did good work on the grounds committee, and was always a generous supporter to any scheme for advancing the congregation's welfare. Mr. MacLean, who retired from the Board after thirty years' service in 1896, was also a worshipper in the church in the ear) Y Gaelic days. The members of his family have also rendered valuable services in many directions. The late Mr. John Gordon, who died recently, was a prominent member of the Board for many years in the early days, having been first elected in 1857. Of the present members of the Board, Mr. David Bannerman has held the position of manager longest, having been originally elected in 1880. During his long term of office, he has done excellent service as secretary for some fourteen years, and treasurer for about eighteen months. He has held the position of secretary for a longer period than anyone else. The longest occupant of the position of treasurer was Mr. Alexander Ballantine, who has served the congregation well in many capacities, in addition to his skilful handling of financial matters for over ten years. The present secretary, Mr. J. W. Sampson, has been connected with the church for many years, and has done good work as an elder, manager and Sabbath School teacher. The present treasurer, Mr. R. B. McIntosh, has been an elder for some years, and the finances are well looked after by him, with the assistance of Mr. E. P. Moncriff. Messrs. Urquhart and Melville, who have been members of the Board for some years, were baptized in the church in the early Gaelic days, nearly fifty years ago, and have continued with the congregation until the present.


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