From Convicts to Covid

    From Convicts to Covid

    Dr. John Barrett

    ISBN 9781763620193

    LIST PRICE: $39.99

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    200 Years of Clergy in Charge of St. Thomas Church Port Macquarie – From Convicts to Covid (1824-2024)

    This book outlines the vocation of 31 Anglican clergypersons who have dedicated their lives to the Christian ministry and mission in the Australian seaside town of Port Macquarie and its surrounds. From humble convict origins, to a vibrant regional city, St Thomas’ Church, has been a “lighthouse on the hill” to Port Macquarie and its citizens of the district for 200 years.

    In this book, the author outlines the challenges, opportunities, grief and sadness, and moments of sheer joy that each clergyperson has encountered on their journey. St Thomas’ Church (built 1824-1827 is the fifth oldest Anglican Church still in use in Australia. The older churches still in operation are: St Luke’s Liverpool (1819); St Matthew’s Windsor (1820); St James King’s Street Sydney (1822); and St Peter’s Campbelltown (1823).

    The Town of Port Macquarie, NSW, at the mouth of the Hastings River, was founded as a Penal Settlement in March 1821. Whilst visiting Port Macquarie in November 1821, Governor Macquarie chose the site for a future church on a hill overlooking the settlement, originally Oxley Terrace (named after John Oxley, Surveyor General NSW), but subsequently known as Church Hill.

    The Reverend Thomas Hassall (son-in-law of Reverend Samuel Marsden) was appointed the Chaplain for the settlement in August 1824, and he and others conducted open-air services on Church Hill until St Thomas’ was opened for worship in February 1828.

    When St Thomas’ was opened for worship in 1828, the population of Port Macquarie was 820 persons, of which only 153 were free. With a proclamation in August 1830, the Port Macquarie area was thrown open to free settlement. It is understood that the last convict was brought to Port Macquarie in 1847.

    The church was built by convict labour under military supervision and took two years and two months to complete. The clearing of the timber, pegging out of the ground plan and digging of foundations, was carried out in 1823. The Commandant, Captain John Rolland, who had died of sunstroke on 16th November 1824, was buried in the precincts of the church to be, and his gravestone is to be found in the nave.

    The foundation stone (whereabouts unknown) was laid by Lieutenant G R Carmac, Acting Commandant also Engineer and Inspector of Public Works, on 8th December 1824, at a service conducted by the Reverend Thomas Hassall.

    In 2024, Port Macquarie is a flourishing coastal Regional City on the Mid North Coast of NSW, 390 kilometres from Sydney and 570 kilometres from Brisbane. Present population is around 55,000 with the Port Macquarie Hastings Municipal area of 90,000. Port Macquarie has two major shopping centres: Settlement City and Port Central, a major airport, Base Hospital, Private Hospital, Koala Hospital, Charles Sturt University, and Public, Roman Catholic and Independent Schools.

    Acknowledgements: “History of St Thomas Church, Port Macquarie” – research: David Rogers; Nanette Lewis; Gwen Griffen, Port Macquarie Historical Society; preparation Michael Matthews.

    About the author
    Revd. Canon Emeritus Dr John Barrett OAM

    Dr John Barrett was born on the 27th August 1939, in Sydney, NSW. He attended West Ryde Public School for his primary schooling and The Kings School,(TKS) Parramatta for his secondary years. Dr Barrett was a School Prefect, Officer in the TKS Cadet Corps, Captain of Macquarie House, matriculated, and represented TKS in Rugby Union 1st XV, 2 years, GPS 1st XV 2 years.

    Cricket 1st XI 3 years, Athletics 3 years (School Shot Put champion), Rifle Shooting (Commonwealth Trophy)

    After schooling Dr Barrett played representative Rugby, Cricket, Athletics and Golf.

    Dr Barrett was a community pharmacist for 50 years, receiving Life Membership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. He has owned and operated seven pharmacies during this time: two pharmacies in Sydney, and five pharmacies in Port Macquarie/ Camden Haven area.

    Dr Barrett also served as President of the Laurieton Chamber of Commerce for seven years and had previously been a member of the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce. He served four terms in Local Government, in the Port Macquarie Hastings Council, from 1983 to 1999, as Councillor, Deputy Mayor and Mayor.

    Dr Barrett was ordained an Anglican minister in 2000, and has served as an honorary minister in the Parish of Port Macquarie, NSW. He has also served the Anglican Diocese of Grafton as Chair of Committees (Synod & Bishop-in-Council) 1990-2000 and as a Corporate Trustee. As a Canon of Grafton Diocesan Cathedral (2005-2023), one of his responsibilities was to advise and report on educational, cultural and spiritual matters relating to the five Grafton Diocesan Schools to the Cathedral Chapter.

    In 2010, Dr Barrett was appointed to the Mid North Coast Local Health District Board, serving three terms 2010-2021, as Chair of the Medical Appointments Cte, ad Deputy Chair of Finance Cte, together with many other sub-committees.

    Dr Barrett was the Foundation Chair of St Columba Anglican School, Port Macquarie (2000-2018), Foundation Chair of Columba Cottage Early Learning Centre (2009-2016). Dr Barrett is Chair of the St Columba Anglican School Foundation.

    Dr Barrett has also acted as Vicar of the parishes of Wauchope, Lower Macleay and Port Macquarie and on four occasions Locum Tenens of the parishes of Westoning, Tingrith, Harlington, Toddington, Chalgrave, in the Diocese of St. Albans, England.

    Dr Barrett has been married to Valmai for 58 years. They are the parents of four children and grandparent of eight. John is the recipient of the Rotary Paul Harris Medal,(1995), Centenary Medal (2001), and the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) – 2009, and Commemorative Certificate for 50 years service as a Justice of the Peace for New South Wales.

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