Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Talbot, Albert Edward (1877–1936)

by K. J. Cable

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Albert Edward Talbot (1877-1936), Anglican clergyman, was born on 18 August 1877 at Salford, Lancashire, England, son of Edward Talbot, milk dealer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Rothwell. Educated at Manchester Grammar School, he worked as an estate agent before winning a scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge (B.A., 1904; M.A., 1908). Awarded several prizes and the Tyrwhitt Hebrew scholarship, he obtained a double first in the theology tripos. Made deacon in 1905, he was ordained priest by the bishop of Manchester on 10 June 1906. Despite tutoring at the conservative Church Missionary Society's training college, Islington (1907-09), he held liberal views and, as rector of Stowell memorial church, Salford (1909-12), joined the 'Group Brotherhood' (Anglican Evangelical Group Movement).

In 1912 Talbot was appointed dean and archdeacon of Sydney by a fellow brotherhood member, Archbishop John Wright, who expected him to make St Andrew's Cathedral the centre for an Evangelical social gospel. Talbot responded vigorously. A powerful preacher with a reformist message, he joined the Anglican Church League which stood for a general low churchmanship; he later became its president and wrote for the Australian Church Record. Synod and its social questions committee became an important forum. His growing interest in Labor politics, stimulated by his association with Premier James McGowen, set him apart from his colleagues.

Having enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as senior Anglican chaplain, Colonel Talbot married Adrienne Elizabeth Vert in St Andrew's Cathedral on 5 September 1914. Next month he embarked for Egypt with the 3rd Battalion. On Gallipoli he developed a strong rapport with the troops and demonstrated his ecumenism. Wounded at Lone Pine in August 1915, he returned to Australia next February. Demobilized in March, he retained his connexion with the Australian Military Forces until 1933. He succeeded Hugh McIntosh in 1916 as president of the Returned Soldiers' Association.

Dismayed at the polarization of the conscription referenda, Talbot refused to advocate a 'Yes' vote. His opposition to government policy during the 1917 strikes and his co-operation with the Catholic priest Maurice O'Reilly fuelled Protestant suspicion. Talbot, however, was no firebrand: he saw the Church as the mediator in a disjointed society and the advocate of a better Australia. He helped to form the short-lived Australian Christian Social Union and supported the Industrial Christian Fellowship founded by Albert Willis in an attempt to bring Christian values into Labor politics.

Tall, athletic and impulsive, Talbot generally agreed with Wright's moderate policies and promoted the call for a new constitution for an autonomous Australian Church and a revised prayer book. Yet, his pugnacity and his support for a fellow-member of the Heretics' Club, Rev. Samuel Angus, alienated many conservative Evangelicals. With Wright's death and the election of his conservative successor Howard Mowll in 1933, Talbot left the Anglican Church League to form the Anglican Fellowship. In November he delivered the Moorhouse lectures, published as Church of England Divines and the Anglican Tradition (1934), but his influence waned. In 1935 he visited England. Survived by his wife, he died of pleurisy in St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst, on 9 July 1936. His ashes were placed in front of the dean's stall in the cathedral.

Select Bibliography

  • M. McKernan, Australian Churches at War (Syd, 1980)
  • S. Judd and K. Cable, Sydney Anglicans (Syd, 1987)
  • Church of England, Proceedings of General Synod (Syd Diocese), 1912-36 and (New South Wales Province), 1917
  • Drover, 1 Aug 1936
  • Labor Daily, 10, 11 July 1936
  • Australian Worker, 15 July 1936
  • Australian Church Record, 16 July 1936
  • Church Standard, 17 July 1936
  • R. V. L. Russell, The Search for Social Justice: the Protestant Churches and the Labour Movement in N.S.W., 1914-1919 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1987).

Citation details

K. J. Cable, 'Talbot, Albert Edward (1877–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/talbot-albert-edward-8742/text15309, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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