History of the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, New Zealand

History of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand

By John Dickson 1899 - 532 pages

Daylight in South Canterbury
Mr Barclay, a licentiate of the London Presbytery, landed at Lyttelton on 1st Jan. 1865 and was ordained over his South Canterbury charge in St. Paul's Church, Christchurch, on March 8th 1865 with a stipend of £300. He stayed with Robert A. Chisholm, BNZ, manager. Miss Chisholm, afterwards the wife of the Rev. T.S. Stanley, was his right hand worker. His first service was held at the Mechanics' Institute on March 19th 1865. The first church on a quarter acre section given by Messrs Rhodes, was opened on July 7th 1867, a stone building capable of seating 220 persons. The Provisional Committer of Mangers erected were Messrs Cullman, Philps, Fyfe, Thompson, P. Todd, Dr McLean, R.A. Chisholm and W.P. Munro. Rev. W. R. Campbell was ordained and inducted Sept. 24th 1873 and left for Amuri Sept. 1875. Rev. Geo. Barclay retired on 3rd Dec. 1889.

Ashburton Guardian, 22 October 1889, Page 2
The many friends of the Rev G. Barclay will regret to learn that he has resigned the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church of Geraldine. The reasons assigned are— That the district is too large for one person to attend to, that Mr Barclay is anxious for a rest after his long period of labor, and that circumstances connected with the late fire may compel his taking a trip to the Old Country, Mr Barclay has labored in the South Canterbury district for the past twenty a five years. His present parish extends over a very large area of country, from the sea on the south, and the Rangitata river on the east, and also embraces the whole of the Mackenzie country.

Lost Archives Timaru Presbyterian Records
Fire destroyed records and the residence of the Rev. G. Barclay, Geraldine, Timaru Herald, 12 October 1889, Page 3

South Canterbury Presbyterianism by Len Home 2013
There were 13 Presbyterian parishes in South Canterbury at its height in the 1960s - there are now only nine. South Canterbury's first Presbyterian minister, the Reverend George Barclay, received £300, a horse, and a saddle to assist him with establishing churches as far-flung as Aoraki-Mt Cook. This was in the early 1860s. The region's first official Presbyterian church was established in Barnard St in Timaru in 1867, and later became known as Trinity Church. Many of the early run-holders employed Scottish shepherds, who wanted their own place of worship. The Anglicans thought that they had got to Canterbury first, but there was already a strong Presbyterian contingent.

Rev. William Gillies was inducted at Timaru on April 21st 1875. Members 85. He had come out with his parents in the "Slain's Castle" in September 1852 to Otago. Studied ministry in the Old Country at the London Presbytery and came back to Otago in April 1864 and became the minister at West Taieri. The Timaru Presbytery church was opened on October 15th 1876 and was capable of seating 700 worshippers, cost £5000. The manse was completed in 1879, the cost with site £2300. Mr Gillies' served 23 years. Resigned 1901 to raise the New Century Fund. Died 2 Nov.1908, aged approx. 73 years and was interred in Purewa cemetery, Auckland. His wife, Jane Reid Russell b 31.8.1836 -  d 15.7.1927, was buried in the old Napier Cemetery (eastern block).

Evening Post, 3 November 1908, Page 7
AUCKLAND, This Day. The Rev. William Gillies, Presbyterian minister of Tauranga, expired suddenly on Te Awamutu railway platform yesterday afternoon, after the arrival of the Auckland express. He was travelling via the Main Trunk line to attend the Presbyterian Conference at Dunedin, accompanied by his wife. The late Mr. Gillies was a native of Scotland, and was ordained in 1865. He was one of the oldest ministers in the church, and one of the most respected. For many years he had charges in Otago and Southland, and then at Timaru, and some years ago, after the union of the Northern and Southern portions of the Church, he took charge at Tauranga, where he has lived ever since. He was a prominent worker in the cause of prohibition, and was also distinguished as an ecclesiastical lawyer, in which capacity he had a good deal to do with drawing up the Church Property Act and managing generally the legal side of the affairs of the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand. He was about seventy-three years of age.

Otago Witness 11 November 1908, Page 10 THE LATE REV. WM. GILLIES. (condensed)
A PERSONAL APPRECIATION. By the Rev. James Clarke.
The Rev. William Gillies has left us for ever; has died into life— has suddenly " passed from life and love here into fuller life and perfect love there." One of New Zealand's noble men was our deceased friend and brother. Never shall I forget the cordiality of his greeting in the manse garden at Timaru when I first arrived there from the Old Land, weary, heart-hungry, feeling terribly strange in a strange land. His genuine smile and honest welcome to his home and to the then colony were as I choicest grapes to the young palate.
    If any minister in our Church was "modern" in the best sense of "the word, that minister was Gillies. He was a younger man in heart and mind and sympathy and outlook and large luminous concern for the life of the Church, the Dominion, the world than many who are barely half his years. Gillies was a splendid illustration of Browning's beautiful limes:
Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made;
My times are in His hand.
Who saith, the whole I planned-
Trust God, see all; nor be afraid.

This is not the time to write-about his work in his several spheres of ministry and in the Church at large. That he did service for Presbyterianism in New Zealand equal, if not superior, to the service of any other single minister in our communion is a fact that all who know his work will gladly admit. William Gillies was not behind the very best of our Church's leaders. He sleeps well whose talents and time and opportunities were used as these gifts were used by him who has entered upon his reward. Thank God for every such Presbyterian, Christian minister. In one sense we shall miss our friend and brother a great deal; in another sense we shall feel him nearer and dearer to us now that he is with God. Our hearts go out in "full sympathy and blessing to the loving and gentle wife who was ever his helper and heartener in life's warfare, and to the other members of the family whose father ever pointed to brighter worlds and now has led the way. Sweet Fanny's last words are as true today as when they were, spoken 15 years ago: "I am not dying; I am going to God." Wherefore, comfort one another with these words:
Now the labourer's task is o'er;
Now upon the farther shore
Now-upon the further shore
Lands the voyager at last:
Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.

The Timaru Presbytery met for the first time on 24th Sept. 1873. The sederunt being:
Rev. W.S. McGowan, of Lyttelton, Moderator
Rev. Geo. Barclay, minister of Temuka, Geraldine, etc.
Mr W. Stewart, elder of Temuka
Mr A. Hart, elder of Timaru.
Revs. C. Fraser and A.T. Douglas, were present.

The Presbytery was divided into three i.e. Pleasant Point, Temuka and Geraldine and later the Mackenzie Country May 1st 1879.

Immediately after his induction Mr Gillies was appointed Clerk of the Timaru Presbytery, an office he had held in the Presbytery of Dunedin, and when he resigned 16 years afterwards in favour of a younger man, he received the cordial thanks of the Presbytery for his " unfailing courtesy" and his keeping of the records " with punctuality and regularity." His own congregation prospered under his ministry. The present church) with its massive, classical architecture, and capable of seating 700 worshippers, cost £5000, and was opened on October 15th 1876. The building of the manse in 1879 completed the church property. It cost, with site, £2800. If the town has grown greatly in modern times, the congregation has also had its increase. In 1868 there were only 32 communicants, and this small number fell off somewhat until the commencement of Mr. Gillies' ministry, in 1876 the number recorded is 65 ; in 1877, 121; in 1880 175; in 1883 195; in 1886 207 and the number has gradually increased until in 1898, the average attendance at the Communion table was 239, while the membership roll was 350.
During Mr. Gillies' pastorate of 23 years the revenue for ordinary purposes has averaged about £1000 per annum, while the amount which has been received from all sources exceeds £30,000. Mr. Gillies, however, would be himself the first to confess that he had come far short of his own ideal. He covered the period of his sojourn in Timaru, when be wrote, not in the vigorous prose of his numerous pamphlets, but in smoothly flowing rhyme, re the Otago Jubilee celebrations, words which we heartily endorse:—
"And now, at close of fifty years,
No vain regrets, no useless tears,
We waste o'er changes unforeseen
Or sigh for things that might have been ;
But joining in a song of praise,
Our hearts and voices we upraise,
With fellow settlers great and small,
To Him who ruleth over all:
For every blessing of our lot,
In this fair land and favoured spot!"

Mr. Gillies' coming across the Waitaki into South Canterbury would be a step towards a united Church. This natural hope has not yet been realised. The concluding remarks of Rev. C. Fraser, at the soiree in the evening, are worthy of being quoted, as showing the strength of the Presbyterian Church in Canterbury at the time :—The Presbyterians numbered about one-sixth of the population of the Province. Including Mr. Lindsay of Waimate, there were 13 Presbyterian clergymen, and if the clergymen of other denominations were as numerous in proportion to the number of their people, there would be 78 ministers in Canterbury. There was not this number of ministers, and the fact spoke well for the strength of the Presbyterians. The Presbyterians in Canterbury were about equal in number to those of Dunedin alone. He mentioned the foregoing facts to show that the Presbyterians here, though comparatively weak, were making an onward movement.

Rev. Mr Ewen arrived from Scotland was was at Waimate two years from 1871. A Presbyterian Church was opened in Waimate on August 22nd 1874 by the Rev. A.B. Todd of Oamaru.
Mr George Lindsay was appointed to Waimate. He was ordained as minister of this charge Feb. 5th 1876. In Waimate a manse was erected in 1877. On April 18 1882 Rev. Lindsay was called to Otepopo.
Rev. Jas. McKee of Masterton was inducted Sept. 5 1882. He resigned Aug. 16 1892 and left for NSW. Rev. H. Kelly of Woodlands, Southland was inducted March 23rd, 1893 and was called to Knox church, Auckland in July 1898. Waitaki was erected into a separate chare on Oct. 10 1893.
Rev. A.S. Morrison of Hastings was inducted 1899.

A Presbyterian church was erected in Temuka in 1871, the year in which the first sod of the railway between Timaru and Temuka was cut. Rev. David Gordon, of Clinton, Otago was inducted Jan. 8th 1880. Called to Invercargill on Set. 3rd 1884. Manse built in 1880.
Rev. Eneas Mackintosh, ordained April 15th 1885, from Otago. Resigned due to ill health July 17th 1886.
Rev. John Dickson from Ballycarry was inducted Sept. 7th 1887.


Geraldine was disjoined from Timaru in January 1872 when the Rev. G. Barclay came to reside in Geraldine as minister. A church was built on a site promised by Thomas Tancred and gifted by W. Postlewaite in 1872 and opened Feb. 1872 with a manse a a glebe of 33 acres given by Messrs A. and W. Macdonald. Geraldine including Mackenzie, was erected a separate charge on may 1st 1879
Rev. G. Barclay. He gifted the bell for the church at Woodbury and Geraldine. Resigned after 35 years on Dec. 3rd 1889. Mackenzie was erected a serrate charge on Dec. 3rd 1889.
Rev. A.B. Todd, late of Macraes, Otago was inducted June 4th 1890.


Pleasant Point
Rev. A. Alexander was inducted July 22 1879 and resigned April 14 1880
Rev. Donald McLennan, ordained Nov. 11 1880.
Albury, disjoined from Geraldine was attached Feb. 1st 1881. The manse was built the same year.
Rev. W. White, was inducted Nov. 9th 1885. A church was erected at Totara Valley in 1890.
Albury joined to Mackenzie Jan. 14 1890 and Kakahu Bush attached. Called to Wallacetown Dec. 31 1890.
Rev. Joseph White inducted April 5 1892. Manse enlarged 1892.

St. Andrews
Donald McLennan, a student laboured in Otaio in October 1880.
Beaconsfield attached to Otaio and Upper and Lower Otaio, Pareora, Otipu &c formed a regular charge on Jan. 14t 1880. In April 1880 George Grey Russell gifted 5 acres of land at Beaconsfield, Otipua, as a site for church and manse and promised 100 for Building fund and 25 for four years for Stipend Fund
Rev., Joshua McIntosh, late of Sefton, inducted Aug. 9 1881. Resigned Oct. 22 1883. On July 1st, 1884, the manse at Beaconsfield was sold by a trustee, without the authority of the Presbytery. The N.Z. and A. Land. Co. gave site and donation for manse at St.. Andrew's. and a manse was built in 1896.
Rev. Robert Mackie was ordained and inducted July 13th 1897

Mackenzie Country
Supplied with ordinances by Rev. G. Barclay from Timaru 1865 -1872, then from Geraldine 1872- Dec. 3 1889 when he resigned and Mackenzie formed a separate charge. The Union Church at Burke's Pass was built in 1879. The Union Church was built at Fairlie on a site gifted by D. Mclean and opened March 30 1879. The manse at Fairlie was built in 1891 on a site of 20 acres, a gift from D. Mclean.
Rev. James Clarke inducted Jan. 27 1891. Called to Palmerston South April 3rd 1894.
Rev. W.J. Combie, of Kelso inducted Set. 11 1894. The Anglican interest in the church was brought out in 1895.


Allan McLean, of Waikakahi, gave 30 acres of land.
Waitaki a separate change on Oct. 10 1896
Rev. G. K. Stowell began Feb. 1897.
A manse was erected.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

The plains aglow with Nature's charms,
Were dotted o'er with smiling farms;
the mountains ranges, high and steep,
Were pastured o'er with flocks of sheep;
Roamed hill and dale in freedom sweet.