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Strange, Arthur Thomas (1893–1987)

by Pauline Payne

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Arthur Thomas Strange (1893-1987), Methodist minister and social welfare administrator, was born on 23 August 1893 at Cherry Gardens, Adelaide, seventh of eight children of English-born parents Henry Strange, market gardener, and his wife Charlotte Susanah, née Ricks.  Arthur, who left school at 13 to work on the family farm, began preparations for the ministry at W. G. Torr’s Methodist Training Home, Brighton.  He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, Australian Army Medical Corps, in May 1915, serving in England and on board hospital ships until he was discharged as a sergeant in July 1919.  His personal experience of isolation while on leave in London led him to vow to minister to lonely people.

Ordained in February 1920, Strange engaged in further studies (1920-21) at the Theological Hall, Queen’s College, University of Melbourne.  On 6 September 1922 he married Winifred Elizabeth Mealy (d.1936) in the Methodist Church, Sandringham.  Back in South Australia, in 1922-35 he served in country circuits—Ardrossan, Kadina, Yacka and Solomontown—and from 1936 in Adelaide, first at Prospect North and then at Glenelg.  He married Estella Janet Cooper, a nurse, on 7 June 1937 at the Pirie Street Methodist Church, Adelaide.  During World War II he served as a part-time chaplain, initially with the Australian Military Forces and then with the Royal Australian Air Force.  He was to be known as 'Padre Strange' for the rest of his career.

In 1944 Strange was appointed to Archer Street Methodist Church, North Adelaide, and, under his dynamic leadership, the declining church was transformed.  The Methodist Conference, recognising the need for a revitalised ministry, created the North Adelaide Mission in 1945 with Strange in charge.  He devised new programs to meet community needs, including regular hikes, weekend billets and social events for servicemen on leave.  In 1948 he established a men’s hostel in the mission hall.  The mission ran services for postwar migrants and developed youth groups, women’s groups, counselling services and hostel accommodation for young people from the country.  Stella Strange played a significant role in mission projects, working tirelessly to support these ventures.  Strange broadcast a popular weekly radio program on 5AD.  He was skilled in instigating services, raising funds, recruiting volunteers and working with management committees.

Strange visited mission centres in England, Ireland and continental Europe in 1950; he returned inspired to provide aged-care services in South Australia.  The first home, built in 1951, was at Riverton and in 1954 he opened the Helping Hand Home for the Aged, North Adelaide.  Hostel accommodation for young country people attending schools and training centres began in the 1950s.  Aided by Commonwealth capital grants, more accommodation and a nursing-home wing were added.  Properties were bought and in 1958 planning for independent living units began.

Appointed OBE in 1957, Strange retired in December 1963.  In February that year he had seen the replacement of the old church building with the modernist North Adelaide Methodist Memorial Church.  A big man physically, tenacious and resolute, Strange 'led from the front' with tremendous energy.  He and Stella were renowned for working long hours.  Finding it hard to relinquish his leadership role, he remained actively involved, both in fund-raising and organising activities for elderly people through the Hackney Mission.  Survived by his wife and their two daughters and the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died on 18 September 1987 at Norwood and was cremated after a funeral service at the Wesley Church, Kent Town.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Hunt, This Side of Heaven (1985)
  • P. Payne, Helping Hand Aged Care 1953-2003 (2003)
  • South Australian Methodist, 10 January 1964, p 4
  • South Australian Methodist, 24 January 1964, p 3
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 28 May 1982, p 5
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 21 September 1987, p 5
  • A9300, item Strange A T (National Archives of Australia)
  • B884, item S3130 (National Archives of Australia)
  • B2455, item Strange Arthur Thomas (National Archives of Australia)
  • D2994, item Strange A T 5288 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Strange papers (Uniting Church of South Australia archives)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Pauline Payne, 'Strange, Arthur Thomas (1893–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strange-arthur-thomas-15738/text26926, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 July 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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