Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Right Rev Howell Witt

Wednesday, 12 August 1998
HOWELL WITT, Bishop of North West Australia from 1965 to 1981, was not one for standing on ceremony.

Moving from a dockworker's home in Newport, South Wales, to Bishopries in Australia was not a journey he had ever imagined in his youth. It was always his dearest wish to enter the priesthood, and he brought to the role an astonishing enthusiasm for life, a clownish talent and a classless ability to mix with everyone, young and old, which leavened a central, simple religious faith.

He was born in 1920 into a Methodist family and, after gaining an arts degree at Leeds University, he moved to Mirfield College in Yorkshire to prepare for holy orders. He was ordained in 1944 and went to his first curacy in Uk, in Monmouthshire. Here he gained an insight into working beyond normal parish bounds, which stayed with him for the rest of his ministry.

His vicar spotted his talent for playing the fool and instructed him to put on a play at the local Borstal and at the vicarage fetes. Young people adored his playfulness, including those who were once allowed to tie him up on a Saturday morning in the vicarage and then forgot him for several hours whilst he tried to struggle free. On that occasion he was not entirely amused.

From Uk he moved to Camberwell in London, but in 1948, when the Bishop of Willochra, South Australia, was in Britain recruiting clergy, Howell's old vicar suggested him. Precise information about the proposed job, except that it was at the Woomera Rocket Range, was difficult to come by and one of the many items Willochra neglected to mention was that Howell would have to join the Australian army on arrival. Under protest, Howell signed up, but wreaked revenge when Willochra, who visited much of his diocese on horseback, wandered into Woomera and was picked up by an army captain who came to Witt for
confirmation of the Bishop's identity. Howell said that he had never met the man.

 Woomera was a time of improvisation. A barber's shop served as a church and church vessels were cobbled from anything to hand - a bottle of wine, a cheese dish and a beer mug forming the essentials of the Eucharist. This scenario was often repeated "outback". Even the Duke of Edinburgh visiting the North West Diocese found that the service was being held in a local police court.

In 1957 Howell volunteered to be Priest-in-Charge of Elizabeth, a new town outside Adelaide set in a treeless, dusty plain with "one telephone box and no cemetery". It was full of unhappy immigrant families from Britain. Once again he was operating in a place which demanded improvisation and an outgoing social role. Schools and sheds hosted Sunday Schools and church services. When the first of two churches was built it doubled as a dance hall, with dances being passed off as church service by Witt in order to circumvent the law. This work produced two ulcers, but it also produced grateful congregations who benefited from their priest's leadership.

In 1965 he was elected Bishop of North West Australia, a diocese quarter the size of Australia and the largest in the Anglican Communion. He accepted with reservations and an unusual humility.

The Bishop's Palace was a boarding house in Geraldton, far north of Perth, but the Bishop was rarely at home. Doreen, his wife, held the fort while the Bishop visited outback sheep stations whose residents rarely saw a "sky pilot". He tried his hand at sheep-dipping, goat-hunting and when visiting the seaboard handled the bait for the lobster and crayfish catchers. For seven months of the year he travelled but found time to write a column for one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, was filmed for the Australian Broadcasting Company and in 1980 published an autobiography entitled Bush Bishop - a fulfilling if gruelling life.

In 1984 he was offered and accepted a move to the more conventional Diocese of Bathhurst in New South Wales, delighted to find a "three-loo modern house" and the comforts of a medium-sized town.

In 1985 Howell was badly hurt in a car crash but he soldiered on to 1989, when he retired to Perth.

Howell Arthur John Witt, priest: born Newport, Monmouthshire 12 July 1920; ordained priest 1945; Chaplain, Woomera, South Australia 1949-54; Rector, St Mary Magdalene's, Adelaide 1954-57; Missioner of St Peter's College Mission 1954-65; Priest in charge, Elizabeth 1957-65; Bishop of North West Australia 1965-81; married 1949 Doreen Edwards (died 1983; three sons, two daughters); died Perth, Western Australia 14 July 1998.

OBituary written by Christine Davies

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

McWaters remembers

David McWaters and is wife Clare, left London on the Otranto bound for Australia, arriving in Adelaide on April Fools Day, 1/4/1954. Full of expectation, and doubts due to the floods in N.S.W. we were the first contingent of British Migrants to arrive for some time. Over 400 of us including children arrived at an ex Prisoner of War camp at Rosewater, near Port Adelaide.

At once stage, the McWaters purchased a Deli at Salisbury and was involved in the early days of Elizabeth being constructed. Here are some of his memories at that time.

"I was working in the drive in at Hotel Elizabeth, met a few chaps from the Water Board. It was a very cold morning, I offered them a cup of tea and we were discussing the rise on the land where they intended to level it off. One gentleman said ‘Where are we going to dump all this soil?’ It was then I got interested and phoned the soccer committee to get permission to dump the soil around the perimeter of the ground. It was a lucky break, after nine months the embankment was completed. We then purchased sleepers from Islington Railways. Lo and behold the soccer ground was panelled off, and was named Ramsey Park.

It was there I met Howell Witt, Anglican Clergyman. He is now a retired bishop. He used to get very annoyed, as the Rugby Team ground was near Ramsey Park.

While I was coaching the boys soccer, most of his boys would join us. After they showered, the Ladies Committee would serve scones and cakes.

On a Sunday evening Howell asked me to round up a lot of the boys for a talk, as Sunday night was a dull night for young people. He then commenced a dance after the evening service, the police raided the church. Apparently dancing was not permitted on Sunday evening".


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guerin homestead

9/29 Spruance road, Elizabeth East

Single storey symmetrical cottage with stone façade, brick dressings and brick side walls and chimneys. 
The building has been ised by the Elizabeth community, especially by the Arts Society who called it ‘The Studio’.

The property was rented to painting company which used it as a paint school.  Under their use the building became run down.  In 2006 the SAHT sought to demolish the building as it was in a state of disrepair.  The house is registered in the Local Heritage Register.  The integrity of the property has been diminished as the original garden has been used to built 8 flats owned by the SAHT, built in 1972, this was before local heritage listing. The Housing Trust undertook a detailed assessment of the property and the steps that would be required to restore the property into a Habitable state. The cost of these works is estimated to be between $70,000 and $110,000. As a result of these costs the Housing Trust is proposing that the house be demolished, the site cleared and thenlandscaped for the use of the residents who live in the flats surrounding the original house.
The building was subsequently redeveloped by the Housing Trust and is currently rented to Disability SA. 

The Housing Trust undertook a detailed assessment of the property and the steps that would be required to restore the property into a Habitable state. The cost of these works is estimated to be between $70,000 and $110,000. As a result of these costs the Housing Trust is proposing that the house be demolished, the site cleared and thenlandscaped for the use of the residents who live in the flats surrounding the original house.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Queen's speech

The Housing Trust of SA produced a film on the Queen's visit to Elizabeth in 1963.  Her Majesty gave a short public speech at Windsor Green to those gathered.  Here is what she said.

The Queen arrives at Windsor Green
"I am delighted to find that Elizabeth has grown into such an attractive and thriving community.

No one could fail to be impressed by the design of the houses, each with its carefully attended gardens, with the green open spaces, the avenues of trees and the general air of well being.

I have visited several of the 'new towns' built in Britain since the war, including Hemel Hempstead, which I am glad to hear has such close ties with Elizabeth.

The test of any community is its ability and willingness to govern itself for the benefit of all its members.

My husband and I have been delighted to be able to come and see Elizabeth and so many of its people and we are most grateful for your very kind and loyal welcome.

May this town and its people prosper and develop in the years to come".

Her Majesty unveiling the fountain in Windsor Green


Her Majesty leaves the Holden's factory