Back to those organists of St Matthew’s

Hard work polish and Aust Womens Weekly 1958

This is the basis of an article I wrote recently for the Hawkesbury Gazette. I am researching organists of St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor, New South Wales, and during my research I found some interesting family genealogical information. William Johnson of Johnson and Kinloch, who built the organ and installed it in 1840, came from a family of organists. What is doubly interesting to me is that as William Johnson and his brother were great-nephews of the Reverend Richard Johnson who arrived in the Colony with the First Fleet, they are all related through the Johnson line to my daughter’s ancestors – the Vance, Johnson, Pitt line. Anyway, this is the article which was printed on Wednesday, 4 June 2014:

Long tradition of organists…

Apart from periods of renovation, the pipe organ at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor has been used to accompany services in the church from when it was first placed in the gallery in 1840. The first person to play the organ was William Johnson of Johnson Bros (William and James Johnson), who were great-nephews of Reverend Richard Johnson who arrived on the First Fleet in 1788. William Johnson built the organ with John Kinloch of Sydney, and he opened the service on Sunday, 8 November 1840, with the hymn All People That On Earth Do Dwell to the tune ‘Old Hundredth’. Since that first hymn, a long tradition of fine organists have had the privilege of playing the first organ built in the colony. Compiling a complete record would be a difficult task but fortunately, newspapers from the 1870s to the 1940s proved to be a valuable resource.

After renovation of the organ in 1873, the position of organist was filled by Clara Ridge (the daughter of John and Charlotte Ridge [Cobcroft]), who married Joseph Eather in 1883. From about 1877, the organist was Frederick Mortley, the Mayor of Windsor who was also a bootmaker in the town. Mortley remained organist at St Matthew’s until February 1895, after which Mrs Eather (Ridge) was reappointed. Both Clara Eather and Fred Mortley had previously been organists at St Peter’s in Richmond.

By June 1895, during the incumbency of Reverend S.G. Fielding, the organ had been moved from the gallery to the south-east corner of the church. Fielding’s wife Lucy (Johnson) was a niece of William Johnson who built the organ. Mrs Eather continued as organist at St Matthew’s until 1918. In 1922, Lizzie Savage was appointed organist and by 1929, Fred Palmer (organist at St John’s, Wilberforce) was appointed. His position at Wilberforce was filled by his brother, Stan Palmer.

In 1937, robes for members of the choir were introduced and Mr E.W. Munro was appointed organist. He remained in the position until October 1942 and at some time during the mid-1940s Mrs Billings filled the position. Miss Dorothy Campbell then took over as organist and remained in the position until the early 1960s. Over these years many visiting organists played at St Matthew’s, amongst them Arthur and Joseph Massey, Mr Livingstone Mote (Deputy Director of the State Conservatorium of Music) and Frank Johnstone from St John’s Parramatta.

During the incumbency of the Reverend Canon Harold Rawson, the organists from 1966 until the mid-1970s were Edward Barry Gibbons, Margaret Terry (Noble) and Ted Chislett, with assistance from Carol Vance (Cammack), Don Cobcroft and the current organist, Graeme Hunt, who was appointed in 1977.

The well-known organist David Kinsela has often played St Matthew’s organ. It was on Kinsela’s advice that a complete reconstruction be carried out by Knud Smenge in 1985-1986, after which the organ was placed back in its original position in the gallery.

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