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Dodd, Josiah Eustace (1856–1952)

by Bruce Naylor

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Josiah Eustace Dodd (1856-1952), organbuilder, was born on 16 August 1856 at Richmond, Melbourne, son of Ebenezer Daniel Dodd, London-born clerk, and his wife Johanna, née Moloney, from Tipperary, Ireland. After education at St Stephen's Church Schools, Richmond, he was apprenticed to the firm of George Fincham, organbuilder. On 10 April 1879 at Richmond, Dodd married, with Baptist forms, Jessie Lovat Fraser, from Inverness, Scotland; they had two sons and a daughter.

In 1881 the firm opened a branch in Adelaide with Dodd as co-manager and, from 1888, manager. In 1894 he purchased the Adelaide business and began many notable instruments, the three most significant in Adelaide being those for Clayton Congregational Church, Norwood (1897), the Methodist Church, Kent Town (1898), and the Elder Hall, University of Adelaide (1901), now in St Mark's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Port Pirie. Dodd had almost a complete monopoly on organ-building in South Australia. He set out to discourage Church authorities from importing English organs, and there was virtually no competition from local builders because of his immense technical ability and business acumen. He expanded the activity to include pianoforte renovation and, from 1918, theatre organs, employing twenty hands. In 1903 the firm established a branch in Western Australia managed by Dodd's eldest son Ebenezer, and the organ of St George's Cathedral, Perth, was rebuilt and enlarged. In 1918 a branch was opened in Melbourne under the aegis of the second son Eustace (D. E. Dodd).

The firm built over eighty new instruments and rebuilt and renovated countless others in all States except Queensland. The organs at St Mary's Cathedral, Perth (1910), St John's Cathedral, Napier, New Zealand (1910), Patterson Street Methodist Church, Launceston, Tasmania (1912), St Carthage's Cathedral, Lismore, New South Wales (1912) and St Joseph's Church, Malvern, Victoria (1917) were good examples of his larger instruments.

Dodd's contribution to the art of organ-building was a conception of the romantic-symphonic organ and provision of considerable mechanical aids to give flexibility to the player. He had great ability in the romantic style as a tonal voicer. However, by 1935 he was rather set in his ways. Some members of his firm broke away to form the Gunstar Organ Works, building extension organs with electro-pneumatic action. When during World War II trade declined and parts were virtually unobtainable, the two firms merged to become 'J. E. Dodd & Sons, Gunstar Organ Works', which still operates.

Dodd was a prodigious worker and on one occasion in his old age (he worked until two days before his death), he collapsed and was unconscious for three minutes. When he came to, he pointed to a workman and, typically, said 'That's not the way to hammer that!' He was a Freemason and a member of Clayton Congregational Church and later Trinity Methodist Church, Glenelg. He died of a coronary occlusion at his home at Glenelg on 30 January 1952 and was buried in St Jude's cemetery, Brighton.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1909)
  • B. A. Naylor, Organ Building in South Australia (M. Mus. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1973)
  • J. E. Dodd & Sons, manufacturing catalogues, letter and day books (Gunstar Organ Works, Plympton, South Australia).

Citation details

Bruce Naylor, 'Dodd, Josiah Eustace (1856–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dodd-josiah-eustace-5989/text10223, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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