Rev. Andrew Love


Please gather around.

I hope you don’t mind me addressing you as ‘brethren’ – it has been a long time, and old habits die hard.

I have the distinction, among all those you will meet here today, to not have chosen to come here. I was sent here by my church, the Moderating Church of Scotland after it had received letters from the Scots who had settled here in the early times, especially from Dr Thompson, asking for a man of God to be sent to administer to their spiritual needs I arrived in Geelong in 1840 with my good wife Catherine and our six children. We were then in our early 40s, and our children ranged from 16 to 2 years of age.

And imagine my surprise to discover that I was the first church minister to arrive at the township, which as a consequence, had many couples living together in sin.

I, as the town’s first resident clergyman, was charged with conducting a considerable number of marriages, almost immediately upon arrival – and a not inconsequential number of later baptisms.

I lived in the first brick residence in Geelong, built for me by parishioners, and I opened the first official church here – St Andrews in Yarra St, which is, I believe, now known as St John’s Lutheran Church.

I remained here, always based in Geelong, practicing as a full-time clergyman until my death 27 years later.

And if you are wondering why a pioneer clergyman, a man of God, should have a whole sector of today’s Geelong Hospital named after him – well, I always believed in looking after the physical as well as spiritual welfare of my flock, and I spent a considerable amount of time and energy lobbying the Governor to donate a site to be used for a Geelong hospital, then the government for the means to build it – and I remained a governor of the first Geelong Hospital until my death, when I was buried here.

And I should note that things were far from easy for a pioneer churchman in Geelong. I recall one occasion when I rode my horse 95 miles into the western district to baptise a child. This was before there were recognised roads, and it took me a full day to make the journey, a full day to ride back, with my life at considerable danger. This was a time when it was essential to always conserve some energy in your horse, in case it became necessary to make a fast escape from a dangerous gang of natives.

That child’s father, a kindred canny Scotsman, was not at home when I carried out the baptism, but I ran into him several months later at the wool sales in Geelong. On that occasion I reminded him of the efforts I had taken to baptise his child, and asked if he might consider making a donation toward the church building fund. ‘You’ll not get a penny from me,’ was his reply as he turned on his heel – and he was a man who left several thousands of pounds in his will a year later.

When my church was built, it too was not without difficulty. The builder we selected, another Scotsman, was afflicted with an unfortunate eye condition, a squint.

With the design of the church a simple box shape, it soon became apparent that three of the walls were not straight, due to the man’s imperfect vision, so those walls needed to be knocked down and rebuilt, delaying the opening and causing considerable extra expense, of some 600 pounds, which did not go down well with my Scottish congregation. We needed to raise a loan in the Bank of Hobart or risk losing the uncompleted structure.

I started this talk today saying that almost immediately I had arrived in Geelong I was conducting marriages, because without a resident clergyman, the Geelong residents had no option but to live in sin. It was estimated that I carried out more than 3000 weddings during my 27 years here, and a great many more christenings. Truly, God knows how many.

But I am happy to note that it is the nature of being a pioneer minister that during my time the population grew at such a rate that I was to experience considerably fewer funerals that I had christenings or weddings.

And that was up to and including my own, surprise funeral, in 1867, after I had experienced a short illness. I was 69 years of age. And it was a mark of respect from the community I served that I had an excellent service with many hundreds coming to the ceremony in St Andrews, then walking to this beautiful, calm, circular gravesite. I do believe that I was handed the finest, pivotal site in the cemetery. My beloved wife, Catherine, was to join me in this peaceful spot almost exactly a decade later.

And that is an excellent place to finish today’s lesson. So, Amen, and may God’s blessings be on you all.

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