The Donaldson pew

It is people that form a church, not buildings, and not even Presbyterians are perfect. Mr Woiwod reports on a falling out between the Donaldson family and the Kangaroo Ground congregation in 1853: pew number north sidePew number, north side of Church“(Andrew) Ross recorded the imbroglio in his diary:

A disagreeable circumstance led to much ill-feeling between the settlers on the ground and gave me much uneasiness. Mr Donaldson as owner of the half acre upon which the school buildings were erected, considering himself entitled to a pew for his family, got the same placed in the school. It was alleged that he had no right to this privilege, and it was unsuited for school purposes. It turned out that although the land had been given by him, no deed had been obtained.

The pew referred to is unlikely to been what is generally understood today by the term ‘pew‘. Instead it was probably some cumbersome affair designed to accommodate the Donaldson family at one remove from a congregation clothed as they were, in home-spun, work-a-day fustian and cabbage-tree hats. … The people of Kangaroo Ground no longer saw themselves as the humble villagers and farm servants they had once been in their ‘Old Country’ village. They said ‘No!’ to Donaldson. ‘He must remove his pew!’ … Rather than a return to the old ways, they would search out another piece of ground to build themselves a church. However, it never came to that! The issue subsided when James Donaldson removed his pew.

Despite some bitterness, outward relations with the community appear to have remained harmonious. Even so, it would be a further eighteen years before James’ son, John, signed over the church land. The family had indeed been hurt!"

pew number south sidePew number, south side of Church

Each family had its own pew or pews in the church and in 1878 these were rented for 10 shillings per half year (about $55 today). The same pews are still in use today and the last pew on the right hand side contains some interesting social comment of years ago.

Although the same pews are still in use three changes were made to the original design in the last 50 years: a shelf was installed under each seat to hold Bibles and hymn books, wedges were screwed to the front legs to raise the front edge of the seats by 40 mm and cushions were provided for the wooden seats. (Although it can be argued that the second change was necessary as the members of the congregation are taller now than they were 130 years ago, the third was clearly for comfort!).

It was only when we prepared the first version of this web site in 2006 that we realised the differences between the pew numbers; those on the north side are silver on black, those on the south side are black on silver.