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Tucker, Gerard Kennedy (1885–1974)

by Ruth Carter

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

This is a shared entry with Horace Finn Tucker

Horace Finn Tucker (1849-1911) and Gerard Kennedy Tucker (1885-1974), Anglican clergymen, were father and son. Horace was born on 13 October 1849 at Cambridge, England, third child of Joseph Kidger Tucker, clergyman, and his wife Elizabeth, née Finn. Joseph was appointed Australian agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the family arrived in Sydney in 1861.

Educated at Moore Theological College, New South Wales, Horace was made deacon in 1873 and ordained priest in 1874. On 10 September 1873 he had married Caroline Lavinia, daughter of William Adams Brodribb at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Brighton, Melbourne. His first parishes were in central Victoria where his sermons and pioneering spirit attracted the attention of Bishop Moorhouse. Promoted in 1880 to the prosperous Melbourne parish of Christ Church, South Yarra, Tucker set up three mission churches and established a grammar school.

During the depression of the 1890s Horace and Rev. Charles Strong promoted a scheme for resettling the unemployed in country areas. In 1892-94 Tucker Village Settlements, of about 200 families, were established in Gippsland and central Victoria, but were unable to continue due to lack of capital, worsening economic conditions and mismanagement. Recognizing their efforts, the government passed a Settlement of Lands Act (1893) to provide for future village community settlements. Horace published The New Arcadia (1894), a novel based on the ideals of the Tucker settlements, as well as a book of verse, After Many Days (1905), a study of the Christian saints, Lights for Lesser Days (1909), and articles on social issues.

Elected in 1894 a canon of St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, he retired from Christ Church in 1908, but continued parish work in outer suburbs until he died of a cerebral haemorrhage at Glen Iris on 22 December 1911. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery. His wife, three daughters and three sons survived him. A tall man of striking appearance—bald in later life—with a high forehead and luxuriant dark beard, Tucker was remembered by his parishioners for his good-humour, compassion and public service.

His son, Gerard Kennedy, was born on 18 February 1885 at South Yarra, Melbourne. From childhood he wanted to follow his father and grandfather into the Church. His years at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School were undistinguished; small and slight, he had a severe stammer which seemed likely to prevent him from entering the ministry. On leaving school, he worked briefly in a sugar factory and on a relation's farm, but neither experience proved successful and his father finally agreed that he should study for the priesthood. In 1908 Gerard entered St John's Theological College, Melbourne; with four other students, he approached Archbishop Henry Lowther Clarke, offering to work as celibate priests among the poor in the inner city. The idea was rejected as impractical, but it foreshadowed Tucker's later achievement.

Having failed his final examinations through extreme nervousness, in 1910 he offered his services as deacon to a parish in north-west Australia; he was totally unsuited to outback conditions and after a few months returned to Melbourne. There he was ordained priest in 1914, becoming curate of St George's, Malvern. On the outbreak of war he asked to be posted overseas as a chaplain. When this request was refused, he enlisted as a private soldier and sailed for the Middle East in December 1915. Three months later he was appointed chaplain to the Australian Imperial Force and served in Egypt and France until late 1917 when he was invalided back to Australia. In 1919 he published As Private and Padre with the A.I.F.

In 1920 Tucker was appointed to a parish near Newcastle, New South Wales, where he met Guy Colman Cox who shared his dream of a community of serving priests and in 1930 they founded the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Its four original members pledged to remain unmarried while part of the brotherhood, to live frugally and to practise an active community life. The first B.S.L. Quarterly Notes were published in 1932 for their supporters; over the next forty years they aired many important social issues.

At the invitation of Archbishop Head, in 1933 the Brotherhood of St Laurence moved to Melbourne where Tucker became curate at St Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, and missioner of St Mary's Mission, Fitzroy. In 1937-42 he was vicar of St Cuthbert's, East Brunswick. His first project was a hostel for homeless, unemployed men. In 1935 he devised a plan to move them and their families to a nearby farming community. Like his father's earlier schemes, this project was not altogether successful, but Gerard's settlement at Carrum Downs remained and by 1944 had become an effective community retirement village. It provided housing and activities for the elderly and later expanded to include self-contained flats for the infirm, as well as a cottage hospital.

Other major welfare schemes initiated by Fr Tucker included a hostel for homeless boys, a club for elderly pensioners, a seaside holiday home for poor families and an opportunity shop. His slight frame, clear blue eyes, horn-rimmed spectacles and hesitant voice became familiar to the people of Melbourne as he campaigned for the abolition of slums. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1956.

Gerard had moved in 1949 to Carrum Downs where he soon embarked on his new project, 'Food for Peace'. He encouraged residents at the settlement to contribute from their pensions to send a shipment of rice to India. Supporting groups formed throughout Australia and in 1961, as Community Aid Abroad, they became a national organization. Tucker published pamphlets in support of the project and, in 1954, an autobiography.

Another settlement for the elderly, St Laurence Park, opened at Lara, Victoria, in 1959. Tucker moved into its first cottage where he remained until his death at Geelong on 24 May 1974. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • I. R. Carter, God and Three Shillings (Melb, 1967)
  • C. R. Badger, The Reverend Charles Strong and the Australian Church (Melb, 1971)
  • J. Handfield, Friends and Brothers (Melb, 1980)
  • People (Sydney), 20 Dec 1950, 27 Mar 1963
  • Australasian, 4 July 1896
  • Argus (Melbourne), 23 Dec 1911
  • Herald (Melbourne), 6 Sept 1947, 5 Jan 1957.

Citation details

Ruth Carter, 'Tucker, Gerard Kennedy (1885–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-gerard-kennedy-9259/text15571, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 1 November 2014.

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

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