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Craven-Sands, Colin de Clouet (1917–1987)

by Vilma Page

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Colin de Clouet Craven-Sands (1917-1987), Anglican seamen’s missioner, was born on 13 April 1917 in North Sydney, son of Adelaide-born George Colin Craven-Sands, ironmonger, and his wife Rachel Marguerite, née de Clouet, born in Sydney. After studying at Moore Theological College (Th.L., 1940), Colin was made deacon on 2 March 1941 and ordained priest on 8 March 1942. He served as an Anglican curate at St Stephen’s Church, Port Kembla (1941-42), and as an assistant at the Missions to Seamen, Sydney (1942). An honorary curate (1942-46) at St John’s Church, Rockdale, he married Beryl Ruth Knox, daughter of the rector, there on 3 October 1942. On 16 September he had been appointed as a temporary chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy, an event which he described as the determining factor in his future ministry. He served in HMAS Australia (1942-44) and in shore establishments before being demobilised in February 1946. Moving to England, he was appointed as curate (1946-47) at Chadderton, Lancashire, and as vicar (1947-51) at Lannarth, Cornwall. He returned to Sydney, where he was rector at Castle Hill for two years.

In 1953 Craven-Sands joined the Missions to Seamen, Sydney, as senior chaplain, leading a team who worked for the spiritual and social welfare of seamen. The chaplains visited men on board their ships, in hospital and in gaol, and provided recreational activities for them. The Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla branches amalgamated in 1966 to form the Missions to Seamen, New South Wales. Continuing as senior chaplain in Sydney, Craven-Sands also became State secretary. He began researching conditions at sea as containerisation was reducing the time merchant ships spent in port and increasing the seamen’s isolation. Chinese comprised the largest non-English-speaking group and he appointed the first Chinese chaplain. Later, chaplains from Japan, Korea, Pakistan, the Netherlands and Denmark worked in the mission. He visited nautical colleges, unions and government departments worldwide, and undertook relieving duties in major international seaports, including Yokohama, Japan, where he learned the language. A popular speaker at home, he visited clubs, churches and schools, and attended overseas conferences. He gained media exposure for the mission, partly through his appearances on the television programs `Captain Fortune’ and `A Visit to the Flying Angel’.

Following the death of his wife in 1969, Craven-Sands married on 6 June 1970 at St Paul’s Church of England, West Tamworth, Maaike Lafebre, a 23-year-old secretary born in the Netherlands. In 1977 the mission moved to larger premises, Flying Angel House, in Macquarie Place, Sydney. Craven-Sands had been appointed MBE in 1975 and in 1980 the Japanese minister for foreign affairs presented him with a letter of appreciation. A tall, bearded, athletic man, he was later described by colleagues as a dominant, dynamic and flamboyant missionary-minded Christian of great vision and enthusiasm, who achieved monumental work. Yet he himself lamented the limited influence that he exerted in the Church, especially locally.

In 1980 Craven-Sands travelled to England, where he worked as chaplain at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. On retirement from the mission in 1982 he became priest-in-charge at Holbrook, Ipswich, Suffolk. He died of thrombosis of the vena cava on 16 August 1987 at Ipswich. His wife and their four sons and daughter survived him, as did the two daughters of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • Missions to Seamen (New South Wales), Annual Report, 1966­80
  • Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 7 Aug 1966, p 11
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Apr 1977, p 16, 19 Jan 1980, p 6
  • New South Wales Flying Angel, Sept 1987, p 1
  • A6769, Craven-Sands (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Vilma Page, 'Craven-Sands, Colin de Clouet (1917–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/craven-sands-colin-de-clouet-12365/text22217, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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