Surprise on the Hill by Chris Leckonby
|Type of thing||Personal
The Surprise on the Hill
As a first-time visitor to St George’s Anglican Church, Gawler, I was attending the first recital in an ‘Organ Crawl’ organized by the Adelaide Organ Music Society. I did not know until that day that Gawler has at least three splendid organs, St. George’s, Tod St Uniting church, and Immanuel Lutheran church.
The beautiful interior of St George’s, especially the array of tapestried hassocks with a huge variety of designs, impressed me immediately. Some hassocks were made In Memoriam, or as mementos of weddings or other sacraments; some depict Easter, Pentecost, Christmas; there are many designs from nature, history or places where St George’s parishioners have served overseas; and many Christian symbols and emblems like the Mothers’ Union and Trinity College, ‘In God is my Faith.’ One shows the church itself, as photographed from outside the tower. Mr Geoff Gordon tells me a Mrs Mabel Dowling visited a church in England with similar hassocks and began a group to make these for St George’s and the Church of the Transfiguration, St George’s sister church in Gawler. Mr and Mrs Gordon have themselves made some of the hassocks.
Gawler’s Anglicans number some outstanding needleworkers, as witnessed not only by the hassocks but also by the banners and an amazing wallhanging composed of embroidered squares representing various folks’ Christian journey. By the font is an Easter banner showing the Cross split apart by the risen Christ. In the Lady Chapel a banner depicts Pentecost, with vivid flames and a dove. Folklore says the lady making it had a pigeon fly into her window leaving its imprint, so she snapped it and immortalized it in the banner!
Also in the Lady Chapel hangs a Christmas banner in striking red, blue, white and gold, declaring ‘Hosanna’, with a shining star and angels trumpeting ‘Glory to God in the Highest’. Another Christmas banner shows Our Lady with the infant Jesus standing in the light of the Star…which is cross-shaped, and I wondered if the blue panels leading towards it from the figures was symbolic of Christ’s journey to the Cross…
Having been a tower bell-ringer in Yorkshire during my youth, I was fascinated by the ‘bells’ here, which are actually shaped like a shallow bowl. High in the tower there are eight in a row of progressive sizes ranging from about 40cm- 90cm. Unlike normal bells where each ringer controls one bell, which turns over completely with each ‘dong’, these remain stationary and their hammers are worked by a row of levers three levels below. I watched churchwarden and Deputy Mayor Brian Thom working this carillon arrangement and it is hard work! There is a numbered chart enabling the ringer to play simple tunes, as the bells form an octave. The levers are attached to the bells by wires passing up through the ceiling.
Most of the many stained glass windows were made in South Australia. The East window is a triptych depicting the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd and the Ascension, dedicated to the first rector, Canon W.H.Coombes. Eighteen beautiful windows are described in a history of the church, ‘Looking Back 150 years’ by Ms B.E.McConnell, published in 1996. Three were recently installed for the church’s 150th anniversary.
The history of St George’s, including that of Anglican education in Gawler, is well documented in the book mentioned above, but as a retired Trinity teacher, I must make mention of Trinity College. There has been an Anglican school in Gawler since 1848, and in 1853 the scholars numbered 130. It was a long road to the meeting in St George’s rectory in 1982 where the concept of Trinity College was mooted. Its first teaching day was in February 1984 when 27 pupils attended in log-cabin classrooms, making do with second-hand Education Department desks and donated books and consumables.
Now in 2011 the College boasts North and South campuses, Blakeview, Gawler River, Senior College for Years 11-13, an Open Learning Centre for vocational education and training, and a Montessori preschool. There are about 4000 students aged 4-18 in total, with waiting lists, very modern facilities and an enviable record of achievement in academics, sport, music and the arts, agriculture and pre-trade and commerce education. ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow’! The surprise on the hill is worthy of your time for a visit.
Acknowledging help from Mr Brian Thom and Mr Geoff Gordon, and the book ‘Looking Back 150 years’ by Ms B.E McConnell.
Chris Leckonby November 2011
- Chris Leckonby November 2011