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Hector Harrison (1902–1978)

by Godfrey Laurie

This article was published:

Hector Harrison (1902-1978), by unknown photographer

Hector Harrison (1902-1978), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24017853

Hector Harrison (1902-1978), Presbyterian clergyman, was born on 5 April 1902 at Northam, Western Australia, third son of Thomas Allan Harrison, a hospital orderly from England, and his South Australian-born wife Hester Ann, née Bray. Educated at Northam State School (dux 1915), at the age of 14 Hector became a Salvation Army bandsman before serving (1918-20) with the Australian Military Forces' Reserve Band in Perth.

In 1922 Harrison entered the Salvation Army Training College, Melbourne. After being commissioned, he worked for two and a half years in the inner suburbs of Richmond, Fitzroy and North Melbourne. Because of his beliefs in regard to the sacraments of holy communion and baptism, he decided to prepare for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. He studied part time for the Intermediate and Leaving certificates while acting as a home missionary for the Church. Entering Ormond College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1930; M.A., 1932), he preached at North Essendon on weekends and obtained his B.D. (1933) from the Melbourne College of Divinity. At St John's Presbyterian Church, Essendon, on 30 May 1931 he married Doris May Sarah Ann Tear.

Appointed to the parish of New Town in Hobart, Harrison was ordained in 1933. Next year he was commissioned as a chaplain in the Militia. In 1936 he transferred to Claremont, Western Australia, whence he accepted a call to be minister of the Church of St Andrew, Canberra; arriving in May 1940, he was to serve this parish until his death. He encouraged corporate worship, visited his parishioners regularly and comforted the sick in hospital; his drive and enthusiasm led to the establishment of new Presbyterian parishes in the Australian Capital Territory. A counsellor and friend to the highly placed and the humble, he spoke nobly when he conducted Prime Minister John Curtin's funeral in 1945. Harrison was a part-time chaplain at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and at the naval depot, H.M.A.S. Harman. In 1953 he was appointed O.B.E.

Harrison was moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales in 1950-51 and moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in 1962-64. He was appointed a vice-president of the World Presbyterian Alliance in 1964. While he was on friendly terms with his fellow clergymen in Canberra and believed in spiritual unity among the Christian denominations, he thought that only 'the religious romantic' could envisage 'one great world church'. He criticized the Federal government's efforts in the 1960s to increase state aid to private schools, and he continued to be totally opposed to alcohol and gambling.

Tall, sparely built, soldierly in bearing and with piercing brown eyes, Harrison had a dynamic personality, abundant energy and a keen sense of humour. From an early age he suffered from a hearing disability. He died on 19 November 1978 in Canberra Hospital and was cremated; his wife, son and three daughters survived him. Alan McIntosh's portrait of Harrison hangs in St Andrew's Church.

Select Bibliography

  • Presbyterian Church of St Andrew (Canberra), On the Life of the Very Reverend Hector Harrison, O.B.E., M.A., B.D., memorial supplement of the Echo (Canb, Dec 1978)
  • Hector Harrison papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Godfrey Laurie, 'Harrison, Hector (1902–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Hector Harrison (1902-1978), by unknown photographer

Hector Harrison (1902-1978), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24017853

Life Summary [details]


5 April, 1902
Northam, Western Australia, Australia


19 November, 1978 (aged 76)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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.