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Dunstan, Edward Tremayne (1861–1913)

by Ruth Teale

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

Edward Tremayne Dunstan (1861-1913), Congregational minister, was born on 10 January 1861 at Kilkhampton, Cornwall, England, son of John Francis Dunstan, schoolmaster, and his wife Eliza, née Davies. Educated at the Wesleyan Theological Institute on Richmond Hill, in 1879 he entered the Methodist ministry and became a missionary in South Africa, but resigned to take charge of a union church there. He later claimed to have entered the Congregational ministry in 1881. About 1885 he returned to England and was sometime assistant to the celebrated Baptist preacher, John Clifford, of Westbourne Park Chapel. He claimed to be a Baptist minister when he married Jane Louisa Caroline Smith on 13 April 1886 at the Poplar Wesleyan Chapel, London. Assisted by the Colonial Missionary Society, he arrived in Perth in 1888 as minister of the Trinity Congregational Church. His preaching was so popular that he was able to rebuild the church; he also established a school and a journal, the Sentinel, but both failed in 1891.

Dunstan was an impassioned preacher, 'rather in the habit of wearing my heart upon my sleeve'. Invited in 1894 to the Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney, in January next year he was confirmed as its permanent pastor. In 1895-1902 he edited the Watchman, in which he attacked Roman and Anglo-Catholicism and the Political Labor League. In 1896-97 he was chairman of the Congregational Union of New South Wales; until 1902 he sat on its standing committee and was their delegate on the Australasian Independent. He preached from Congregational pulpits in many Australasian capitals, and in 1895-99 published collections of his sermons and his controversies with Cardinal Patrick Moran. He conducted frequent lecture tours, sometimes on behalf of the Young Men's Christian Association and the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

Negligent with money, Dunstan was continually borrowing. On 14 July 1902 as 'T. Duncan', he suddenly left for Brisbane, and soon sailed for Vancouver. He tried to raise funds in the United States of America but was refused pastorates after the Congregational Union of New South Wales had declared his pulpit vacant and condemned his flight. He appealed to the Congregational Union in England, which paid for him to return to Sydney in December 1902. Next February he was declared bankrupt, with unsecured debts of £3106. Although he alleged persecution by the petitioning creditor Thomas Ernest Rofe, the official assignee declared his conduct 'highly reprehensible, immoral and dishonourable'.

In January 1903 Dunstan formed his own congregation, preponderantly of females and proselytes from the Pitt Street Congregational Church. Known as the Whitefield Church, it held services at the Protestant Hall in Castlereagh Street where Dunstan printed, published and edited the Whitefield Press (1903-07). He also conducted elocution classes, established an institute, a Sunday school and a literary and debating society, at which he gave recitals from Tennyson. In April 1904 he established an affiliated congregation at Glebe. In mid-1909 he hastily left Sydney, again owing money, and in October the Whitefield Church applied to re-enter the Congregational Union.

By April 1910 Dunstan was preaching in Seattle, U.S.A., and later became minister of the Congregational Church, West Seattle, where he died of coronary vascular disease on 18 February 1913. He was survived by his wife and seven children.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Independent, 15 Mar 1902, 16 Feb 1903
  • Congregationalist (Sydney), 1 Nov 1909, 10 Mar 1913
  • Australian Christian World, 28 Feb 1913
  • bankruptcy file, 15454 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Dunstan, Edward Tremayne (1861–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dunstan-edward-tremayne-6057/text10361, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 17 November 2018.

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

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