A couple of years ago, I stumbled onto this interesting story of a young man who left a decisive mark on the Port Jackson settlement. I filmed the Thomas Hassall story in some great locations in Cobbity in Western Sydney, with my mate John Hills. It was a great day, full of surprises. I hope you’ll find the film he edited just as intriguing.
It’s embarrassing for a historian to admit he made a mistake, but I did this day. A couple of times I said Thomas was native born. Actually, he was born in England, taken first to Tahiti before arriving in Sydney Town. One of his earliest initiatives was to build the first Sunday School which was more than an exercise in mild religion, but a robust effort to teach the neglected ‘currency kids’ born to the new arrivals, the basics of reading and writing. I’m sure this is a clue to the mystery of how what began as a brutal convict settlement, managed to turn out as well as it did.
Click Read More to WATCH the video.
,,Yesterday, I was invited by Vision Radio to speak to listeners across Australia of the moment when 33-year-old chaplain Richard Johnson stood under a gum tree in Port Jackson with an audience of mostly convicts and soldiers and spoke the message of Jesus on Australian soil for the very first time. Churches everywhere celebrated it as Heritage Sunday.
Today Australia’s elected representatives sat together in St Paul’s Anglican church, Canberra, listening to the Bible being read at the beginning of their parliamentary year. Here in Dubbo, the legal fraternity attended a service where the Catholic father admonished them to balance the law with love.
How long will these practices continue in secular Australia? Is it all just a cursory nod to the Deity and then back to business as usual? Perhaps a lingering echo of the question voiced in the first chaplain’s sermon haunts us. ‘What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits?’ There is an enormous volume of Australian story that strongly suggests there’s a lot we should be grateful for. I’ll give just one example.
On return to Adelaide after being wounded in fighting missions over the trenches of the Western Front in World War One, Captain Harry Butler cast a vision for aviation in Australia. “The plane was great in war, but it will be greater in Peace. This…is the beginning of a new era in mail and passenger transport.” To demonstrate, in 1919, he pioneered the world’s first over-water airmail flight in his crimson Bristol MC fighter plane The Red Devil, flying from Adelaide to his hometown on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. It was a breathtaking achievement and he quickly drew wondering crowds to watch his daring stunt flying.
Many restless young airmen like Harry finished the war looking for further challenges. Englishman Len Daniels, who had earned his wings piloting bi-planes dubbed ‘the flying bedsteads’ with the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt, arrived in Australia in 1922, in search of a better climate and a theatre to match his passion to be an active missionary. The newly formed Bush Church Aid captured his interest.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.