Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Bardon (1886–1969)

by Ian Gillman

This article was published:

Richard Bardon (1886-1969), Presbyterian clergyman, was born on 4 July 1886 at Randwick, Sydney, only child of Richard Bardon (d.1886), a civil service clerk from Ireland, and his Victorian-born wife Elizabeth, née Harding. Raised by his mother at Ipswich, Queensland, Richard attended Ipswich Grammar School in 1900-02.

He taught for six years in state primary schools, before studying at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1912). Close contact during his youth with the Presbyterian clergyman Peter Robertson attracted Bardon to the ministry; he was later to describe Robertson as 'caring for the widow and the orphan in the day of trouble—and for many days afterwards'. In 1912 Bardon entered the Presbyterian Theological Hall within Emmanuel College, University of Queensland. On 21 January 1913 he married a schoolteacher Elsie Mary Florence Watson (d.1966) at the Park Church, Glenelg Street, South Brisbane; they were to have four children.

Following his student pastorate at Bald Hills, Bardon was ordained in late 1914 and settled in the parish of Killarney. There he developed a distinctive ministry characterized by 'a deep insight into human problems and a strong pastoral sense'. In 1920 he responded to a call to Mackay where he and his family were to stay until 1944. Over almost a quarter of a century he traversed an area that spread from Proserpine to Sarina, sharing and leading in the pioneering work of church and society. In the same manner as they had assisted the Mackay community to recover from the losses of World War I and the cyclone damage of 1918, the Bardons responded during the Depression to the needs of the unemployed in practical and sensitive ways. He held affection for country folk, helped the disadvantaged, and showed concern for single mothers and for the mentally ill. Outside his pastoral responsibilities, he contributed to the local newspaper and radio, and captained the town's cricket team.

Bardon lectured to theological students in 1918, 1929 and 1950-52, and was acting-principal (1929) of Emmanuel College and chairman (1949-51) of its council. In 1933 he was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland and was clerk of its assembly in 1944-57; he was also moderator-general (1951-54) of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and, with other church leaders and prominent jurists, was a signatory to the 1951 'Call to the People' which aimed to promote moral values in society. Having served in the Brisbane parishes of Wilston (1944-48) and Kalinga, he retired in 1952 and was appointed O.B.E. in 1954. He had edited (1945-50) The Presbyterian Outlook, completed The Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland (1949) and was to write a perceptive biography, James Gibson MA, DD (1955): his clear style was strengthened by discerning comment and enlivened by wit.

Devoted to reaching and serving ordinary men and women, Bardon confronted them, and the Church, with the hopes and demands of the kingdom of God. His ministry reflected his search for truth and relevance, and his belief in 'the strength of kindness'. Survived by his daughter and two of his sons, he died on 6 August 1969 in Brisbane and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Presbyterian Life, 30 Aug 1969
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 8 Aug 1969
  • Presbyterian Church of Queensland Archives, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
  • private information.

Citation details

Ian Gillman, 'Bardon, Richard (1886–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 July, 1886
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


6 August, 1969 (aged 83)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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