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Hugh Rowlands Gough (1905–1997)

by Stephen Tong

This article was published online in 2023

Hugh Rowlands Gough (1905–1997), Anglican archbishop, was born on 19 September 1905 at Sialkot, Bengal, India, youngest of three children of Charles Massey Gough, Church Missionary Society missionary, and his second wife Lizzie, née Middleton. During a furlough in 1908, Hugh’s mother decided to raise her children at Bournemouth, England, while Charles returned to the mission field for the next twelve years. In 1919 Hugh was sent to Weymouth College, Dorset, where he was school captain, before studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1924 (BA, 1927; MA, 1931). A natural leader, tall and athletic, he was deeply pious throughout his life, having been imbued with a strong evangelical faith by his parents and at school.

At Cambridge, Gough served as president of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union for five terms during 1926 and 1927, and won a Blue for rugby. After graduation he studied at the London College of Divinity, following which he was made deacon (1928) and ordained priest (1929). His curacy was served at the evangelical parish of St Mary, Islington. On 17 April 1929 he married Madeline Elizabeth Kinnaird, daughter of Lord Kinnaird and his wife Frances Victoria, née Clifton, at Rossie Priory Chapel, Inchture, Scotland. He was successively perpetual curate at St Paul’s Church, Bath (1931–34); vicar of St James Church, Carlisle (1934–39); and vicar of St Matthew’s, Bayswater, London (1939–46).

After World War II broke out, Gough joined the British Army as a chaplain and was posted to the 1st Battalion of the London Rifle Brigade. His jeep was blown up at El Alamein, Egypt, trapping his legs until a group of Australian soldiers rescued him. He served as senior chaplain to the 1st Armoured Division in Tunisia in 1943, and that year became deputy assistant chaplain-general to XX Corps in Italy. Mentioned in dispatches in 1945, he was appointed OBE the same year. He returned to Bayswater, before becoming vicar of St Mary’s Church, Islington, in 1946. In 1948 he was consecrated suffragan bishop of Barking, and simultaneously served as archdeacon of West Ham.

When Archbishop Howard Mowll died in 1958, Gough won a tight election to become the seventh archbishop of Sydney. He was elected as primate of Australia the following year. The last Englishman to date to be appointed directly to these offices, he was seen as ‘a necessary choice for the tasks that needed doing’ (Hastings 1961, 13), just as Australia’s ‘cultural cringe’ was beginning to wear off. As the only bishop to have publicly supported Billy Graham’s 1954 Harringay Greater London crusade, he held the reputation as ‘the rising hope of all evangelicals’ (Loane 1997, 24) in England during the 1950s. Sydney Anglicans were thus encouraged in their new appointment, who arrived in the diocese one month after Graham’s 1959 Australian crusade. However, unable to shed his identity as a ‘pukka’ Englishman (Loane 1997, 24), Gough never fully captured the heart of his diocese. The clergy never really got to know him on a personal level; he was distant and aloof.

Gough’s most enduring success was the Archbishop’s Commission Report of 1965, a wide-ranging review of the administration of the diocese that aimed to rationalise, modernise, and centralise administration and financial structures. A second major institutional policy was to accept state aid for Anglican schools in the diocese of Sydney in response to the decision of Sir Robert Menzies’s government to fund science education in non-government schools. His episcopate also saw an increase in visits by evangelicals, such as the theologian John Stott, to the diocese as well as a rise in the number of women studying theology at Deaconess House. In 1965 he was appointed CMG. He was unafraid to speak on social issues. A 1961 address before the Australian Legal Convention caused a furore in the media, since he attributed what he perceived as the sexual and moral degeneration of youth to communism and the anti-theistic philosophy taught by lecturers such as John Anderson, the Challis professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney.

The adoption of a new constitution for the Church of England in Australia (1962) sparked a significant disagreement between the archbishop and some senior clergy in the diocese of Sydney. The principal of Moore Theological College, Broughton Knox, viewed it as potentially undermining the Reformation heritage of the Church. As primate, however, Gough desired to bring Australian Anglicans ‘a little closer together’ (Hastings 1961, 14). His support for the constitution thus prioritised the broader Anglican Church over the evangelical position of the Sydney diocese. Gough realised that his episcopal office did not carry the same authority that he might have assumed were he in England.

Gough left office on medical grounds while in England in 1966; cultural differences were another factor in his decision. Rumours of a different cause, an affair with a married woman, were never substantiated in written records, and remain hearsay. He became vicar of Freshford in the diocese of Bath and Wells in 1967, and retired from paid ministry in 1972. Thereafter he and his wife lived a quiet life, first at Bath and subsequently at Over Wallop, Hampshire. In his later years he experienced increasing heart troubles and suffered a serious stroke; he died on 13 November 1997 at his home in Over Wallop, survived by his wife and their daughter. A portrait hangs in the chapter house, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Blanch, Allan M. From Strength to Strength: A Life of Marcus Loane. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015
  • Cameron, Marcia. Phenomenal Sydney: Anglicans in a Time of Change, 19452013. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2016
  • Franklin, James. Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia. Sydney: Macleay Press, 2003
  • Hastings, Peter. ‘The Primate’s “Good News.”’ Bulletin, 12 August 1961, 12–14
  • Judd, Stephen, and Kenneth Cable. Sydney Anglicans: A History of the Diocese. Sydney: Anglican Information Office, 1987
  • Loane, Marcus. As Seen Through My Eyes: The Long Line of Primates, 1836–1989. Marcus Loane, 2007
  • Loane, Marcus. Men to Remember. Canberra: Acorn Press, 1987
  • Loane, M. L. ‘The Right Rev Hugh Gough.’ Independent (London), 29 November 1997, 24
  • Moore Theological College Archives. 200/2, ‘Archbishops Mowll and Gough, 1950–1959’
  • Murray, James. ‘Simple Faith, But a Forthright Reign.’ Australian, 27 November 1997, 17
  • State Library of New South Wales. MLMSS 10244, John Reid papers and photographs of and concerning Archbishop Marcus Loane, 1934–1992
  • Trengove, Alan. ‘No Preaching Please, Says Dr. Gough.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 1965, 16

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Stephen Tong, 'Gough, Hugh Rowlands (1905–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2023, accessed online 21 June 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Hugh Gough, 1959

Hugh Gough, 1959

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L33289

Life Summary [details]


19 September, 1905
Sialkot, India


13 November, 1997 (aged 92)
Hampshire, England

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.