Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Smith, Pierce Galliard (1826–1908)

by P. Wardle

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Pierce Galliard Smith, by Hubert Newman, n.d.

Pierce Galliard Smith, by Hubert Newman, n.d.

State Library of New South Wales, 186584

Pierce Galliard Smith (1826-1908), Church of England clergyman, was born on 27 October 1826 at Lochvale near Langholm, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, son of Eaglesfield Smith, military officer, and Judith Ann, second daughter of Sir Paulus Aemilius Irving. He was educated at Durham University (M.A., 1852), ordained in 1851 and for the next three years held a curacy and a chaplaincy in Northumberland. In 1851 he had married Emily Philippa Davies of Llangynidr, Wales.

His cousin, Bishop F. Barker, offered Smith an appointment in New South Wales as rector of Canberra with a stipend of £200 and the Church of St John the Baptist, already built by Robert Campbell of Duntroon. The Smiths and their two children sailed from Liverpool with the Barkers in the Mermaid and reached Sydney on 25 May 1855. They stayed with the Campbells until they moved into their rectory at Acton whence, for the next eighteen years, Smith administered his large parish and school. In 1873 the family moved to the new rectory built on the glebe near St John's. At both rectories Smith made large gardens, growing fruit, vegetables and small crops such as lucerne. A countryman at heart, he noted daily in his diaries the state of the weather and many agricultural details as well as his parochial work. Until he broke his leg in a fall from his horse in July 1898, he rode on his journeys. Tall, thin and bearded, he carried seeds, seedling trees and simple medicaments in his saddlebags and often acted as physician as well as minister. Far-flung clumps of pines, elms and oaks today mark the peregrinations of 'Parson' Smith.

Smith refused all offers of promotion except a canonry of Goulburn Cathedral in 1876, but his connexion with Barker and Bishop M. Thomas was close. George Campbell, peppery but kindly 'squire' of Duntroon, and his wife liked the Smiths, saw much of them in Canberra and corresponded with them from abroad. Reserved, touchy, Calvinistic and somewhat intolerant of those outside the Anglican pale, Smith yet had a basic goodness and simplicity that endeared him to children and his intimates. His wife was capable and practical, with a kindly sense of humour. Failing sight and hearing compelled him to retire to Queanbeyan where he died of heart failure on 18 November 1908, survived by his wife, two of his three sons and three daughters. He was buried in St John's churchyard and a memorial tablet was erected in the church by his parishioners to mark his fifty-one years ministry. Smith's second daughter Mary married George, son of L. F. D. Fane De Salis, in 1878, and his eldest son Pierce was well known as 'Savannah' Smith, a squatter in Northern Australia from the 1880s to 1907.

Select Bibliography

  • F. W. Robinson, Canberra's First Hundred Years (Syd, 1927)
  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of the Diocese of Goulburn (Syd, 1937)
  • L. F. Fitzhardinge, St John's Church and Canberra (Canberra, 1959)
  • E. Lea-Scarlett, Gundaroo (Canberra, 1972)
  • P. Wardle, ‘Some new light on the Rev. Pierce Galliard Smith as revealed by the De Salis letters’, Canberra & District Historical Society, Papers, 1960.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

P. Wardle, 'Smith, Pierce Galliard (1826–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Pierce Galliard Smith, by Hubert Newman, n.d.

Pierce Galliard Smith, by Hubert Newman, n.d.

State Library of New South Wales, 186584