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Gregor, John (1808–1848)

by K. Rayner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

John Gregor (1808-1848), clergyman, was born on 14 December 1808 at Forgie, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of James Grigor and his wife Jannet, née Leslie. He was educated at King's College, Aberdeen University (M.A., 1831). He was ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1837 and on the recommendation of its colonial committee he immediately left for New South Wales with a group of Presbyterian ministers assembled by Rev. John Dunmore Lang. In December 1837 Gregor arrived in Sydney in the Portland and was soon involved in the current dissensions in the Presbyterian Church. He declined admission to the new synod of New South Wales which Lang organized, but joined the already existing presbytery there. After a brief ministry at Williams River he accepted the call of a group of Presbyterians at Maitland, despite the presence there of a Presbyterian minister of Lang's synod.

With the reconciliation of the two Presbyterian groups in New South Wales in 1840 the new united synod of Australia instructed both ministers in Maitland to withdraw. Gregor, who had meanwhile founded a boarding school, refused and was suspended by synod in 1841. He then decided to seek Church of England orders, and was made a deacon by Bishop William Grant Broughton on 18 September 1842 and ordained priest three months later. Licensed as minister of the district of Moreton Bay, which had just been opened to free settlers, he arrived at Brisbane on 17 January 1843 with Captain John Wickham, the first resident police magistrate. Gregor was the pioneer Anglican priest at Brisbane. A priest, John Vincent, had ministered for eight months as chaplain at the penal station in 1829 but had no lasting influence. Gregor was responsible for the whole inhabited area around Moreton Bay, running for 120 miles (193 km) from north to south and up to 200 miles (322 km) west. During his incumbency the population rose to several thousand, of whom almost half were Anglicans. His main work was in Brisbane where he secured the lease from the government of a crude building attached to the lumber yard for conversion into a church, named St John's. He also visited Ipswich regularly, and undertook annual pastoral visits to the Darling Downs. On one occasion he made a long and arduous tour as far south as Tenterfield. He supervised three small day schools, two in Brisbane and one in Ipswich, which met in private houses. Teaching standards were poor and the enrolment at none of the schools exceeded sixteen, but they provided the only education available at Moreton Bay. He also conducted a small Sunday school at St John's.

Gregor worked conscientiously, but he lacked qualities of leadership and he failed to establish a close relationship with his people. The effectiveness of his ministry was severely hampered by the extent of his territory, his own inexperience in the ministry of the Church of England, and the religious indifference of the majority of the population. His first report, 'Two Journals of Missionary Tours in the Districts of Maneroo and Moreton Bay, New South Wales in 1843' (S.P.G., The Church in Australia, London, 1846), showed much enthusiasm, but the next revealed his growing discouragement. He was under constant financial strain, and only grants from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel enabled him to continue. From 1845 he lived out of Brisbane at the German station at Nundah, and this further estranged him from his flock. He was drowned in a waterhole at Nundah on 22 January 1848.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 20-21, 24
  • K. Rayner, The History the Church of England in Queensland (Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, 1963).

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Citation details

K. Rayner, 'Gregor, John (1808–1848)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gregor-john-2121/text2683, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 December 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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