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Flockhart, David John (1889–1964)

by Joan Mansfield

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

David John Flockhart (1889-1964), Presbyterian clergyman and administrator, was born on 11 December 1889 at Waterloo, Sydney, son of John Flockhart, a blacksmith from Scotland, and his native-born wife Catherine, née McGee. David was educated in public schools and worked in business before deciding to study for the Presbyterian ministry. Having attended night-school, he entered the University of Sydney (B.A., 1917; M.A., 1919) where he won the professor's prize for philosophy in 1916 and graduated with first-class honours in logic and mental philosophy. He tutored in Hebrew and in 1919 was awarded the Mitchell prize at the Presbyterian Theological Hall, St Andrew's College.

At St Stephen's Church, Phillip Street, on 15 November that year Flockhart married a clerk, Jean Isabel Ingram (d.1955). In February 1920 he was ordained and inducted into the charge of Tamworth. He ministered at St Andrew's, Newcastle, from 1923 to 1927, and at St John's, Wahroonga, from 1927 to 1956. In his first year he encouraged his congregation to establish the Wahroonga Preparatory School, and, throughout his ministry at St John's, taught divinity at Knox Grammar School.

A trustee (1927-60) of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, Flockhart served on numerous committees, particularly those associated with the administration of Church structures and with the training, placement and support of the ministry. He was a council-member of Knox Grammar School (1929-64), St Andrew's College (1941-56) and Presbyterian Ladies' College, Pymble (1949-64). At the Theological Hall he taught homiletics—as Steel lecturer—in 1935-37, and theology in 1941-44 and 1953. He served as a chaplain with the Australian Military Forces in 1940-41 and on occasion acted as troubleshooter in cases of congregational crisis. Flockhart was elected moderator of New South Wales for 1949-50. As a representative (1926-59) at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, he contributed to a wide variety of committees and was convener (1942-57) of the assembly's Canberra executive. He was moderator-general for 1957-59 and promoted moves towards church union.

Combining social conservatism with theological liberalism and ecumenism, Flockhart abhorred radical political policies and urged a return to God and Christian moral principles to counter economic and social ills. In the controversy over the liberal theology of Professor Samuel Angus, he staunchly defended Angus. Flockhart was highly respected as an energetic, clear-headed and strong-willed administrator, and as a scholar. Younger ministers often regarded him with awe. In his parishes he was held in affection and esteem for his preaching and energetic leadership. One parishioner described him as 'a brilliant preacher and a prince among organisers'.

Flockhart enjoyed playing bowls and belonged to the New South Wales Masonic Club. He suffered a severe stroke in 1958, struggled on to complete his term as moderator-general, but never fully recovered. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 20 July 1964 in Ballina Private Hospital, Gordon; after a service at St John's, Wahroonga, he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. White, The Challenge of the Years (Syd, 1951)
  • B. Mansfield and F. Richardson, Knox (Syd, 1974)
  • New South Wales Presbyterian, 30 Jan 1930, 7, 21 June, 11 Oct 1933, 20 May 1949, 5 Apr, 20 Sept 1957, 7 Aug 1964
  • Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales, 1931, p 64, 1955, p 214, 1965, p 18.

Citation details

Joan Mansfield, 'Flockhart, David John (1889–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flockhart-david-john-10205/text18035, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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