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Nash, Clifford Harris (1866–1958)

by B. B. Darling

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Clifford Harris Nash (1866-1958), Anglican clergyman, was born on 16 December 1866 at Brixton, London, son of Frederick John Nash, merchant, and his wife Ellen, née Holden. He was educated at Oundle School, where he became school captain and won a classical scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1885. A tall, handsome young man, he was, as at school, successful academically (B.A., 1888), in debating and in sport. The Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union fostered his evangelical faith and introduced him to students from Ridley Hall, where he studied theology (1888-89).

Too young to be ordained, Nash taught for eighteen months at Loretto School, Musselburgh, Scotland, under its progressive headmaster Dr Hely-Hutchinson Almond. He was made deacon in 1890 and moved to the busy industrial parish of St Peter's, Huddersfield, Yorkshire. After a short tour of overseas missions, he was ordained priest in Wakefield Cathedral on 26 February 1893.

Two years later Nash's promising career was curtailed because it was alleged that while engaged to his vicar's daughter he had made advances to her younger sister. In February 1895 he sailed for Tasmania, where he worked on a sheep station, then became superintendent of a new settlement for unemployed people at Southport.

In February 1897 Bishop Saumarez Smith of Sydney invited Nash to resume his ministry and appointed him assistant at St Philip's, Sydney. He became superintendent of the Mission Church at Ultimo and an honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Association. On 31 January 1899 he married Louise Mary Maude Pearse, at St Philip's.

After a short term as acting rector of St Paul's, Redfern, Nash became in January 1900 incumbent of St Columb's, Hawthorn, Melbourne, a thriving parish. He also became involved in home mission work in the Dandenongs and planned the building of St Hilda's, a training house for deaconesses established in 1901. Canon of St Paul's Cathedral in 1903-07 and a Melbourne diocesan theological lecturer at Trinity College (University of Melbourne), Nash was in great demand as a preacher and teacher at Church functions and student meetings. A founder of the Parker Union formed in 1902 as a brotherhood of evangelical clergy, he was elected in 1905 as a clerical member of the provincial synod of Victoria.

At Archbishop Lowther Clarke's request, Nash moved in 1906 to Christ Church, Geelong, where he was also chaplain to Geelong Church of England Grammar School. But in October 1907 the archbishop called a special meeting of the cathedral chapter and confronted it with reports of Nash's affection for a young, female Hawthorn parishioner, at the same time alluding to alleged past indiscretions. Nash was required to resign, despite opposition from fellow clergy and laymen, many of whom felt that he should have been properly tried by the Court of Ecclesiastical Offences. After Nash's renomination to the incumbency of Christ Church was vetoed by the archbishop, a Geelong committee paid for him to travel to England to vindicate himself. Attempts by the archbishop, in England for the Lambeth Conference, to investigate further Nash's past behaviour were terminated when they aroused strong criticism. Nash was relicensed in August 1908 and invited by Dr Pain, bishop of Gippsland, to become rector of St Paul's, Sale, and archdeacon of Gippsland.

On 16 October 1909 a slanderous article was published by John Norton in Melbourne Truth, attacking the 'condemnable, contemptible, cowardly conduct' of Clarke in 'crucifying his clerical confrere, Canon Nash'. The archbishop took successful legal action but the incident damaged the Church and in particular Nash, whose alleged improprieties became public knowledge. For the third time he resigned from the Anglican Church.

Nash's turbulent middle life preceded another forty years of active ministry during which he continued to exert a profound influence through his teaching, preaching and pastoral work. In 1913-15 he ran a boys' school at Kew, and in 1915-21 was pastor of the Prahran Independent Church and principal classics master at Caulfield Grammar School.

In 1920 Nash began the most significant work of his life by starting the Melbourne Bible Institute (Bible College of Victoria) at Prahran. He trained over one thousand students before retiring in 1942. On his sixtieth birthday in 1926 Archbishop Harrington Lees relicensed him. In 1927-41 he served as curate at St James' Old Cathedral, Melbourne, and from 1941 until his death assisted at various parishes.

Unfailingly active in the wider concerns of evangelical Christianity, Nash was a council-member of the China Inland Mission in 1916-43 and a member and first president of the Bible Union of Victoria. A popular convention speaker, he also organized and led city Bible classes from 1925. In 1927 he joined the committee of the Church Missionary Society and helped to form its League of Youth. In 1936 he was a founder of Campaigners for Christ. In his later life he led various ordination retreats in Sydney.

Nash died at Royal Park on 27 September 1958. After a service at St Paul's Cathedral he was buried in Dromana cemetery. His wife, three daughters and one of his three sons survived him. His writings included two books, Christ Interpreted (1940) and The Fourfold Interpretation of Jesus Christ (1946).

Select Bibliography

  • D. H. Chambers, ‘Tempest-Tost’ (Melb, 1959)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Nov, 5, 6, 7, 21 Dec 1907, 18 June 1910, 10, 14 Feb 1911, 18, 19, 20, 21 June, 1 Aug 1912
  • Bulletin, 30 Jan 1908
  • Punch (Melbourne), 3 Sept 1908
  • Truth (Melbourne), 9, 16 Oct 1909
  • Herald (Melbourne), 14 Dec 1926
  • Age (Melbourne), 29 Sept 1958
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 29 Sept 1958
  • bibliographical file (State Library of Victoria)
  • newsclippings, Clarke v. Norton (1912) (held at Trinity College Library, Melbourne).

Citation details

B. B. Darling, 'Nash, Clifford Harris (1866–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nash-clifford-harris-7726/text13535, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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