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James Hay (1865–1962)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

James Hay (1865-1962), Salvation Army officer, was born on 25 May 1865 at Govan, Scotland, son of Samuel Hay, blacksmith, and his wife Mary, née Barnes. After primary schooling he worked as a grocer but in September 1881 was converted by the Salvation Army and decided to become an officer. Entering the new training college at Clapton, London, in November 1882, he was commissioned and served seven years in various corps in England and Ireland. At Dumfries, Scotland, about 1885 he married a fellow officer, Jeannie Gwen Waugh; they had a daughter and four sons.

Promoted to the staff in 1890, Hay became field secretary, then chief secretary for Great Britain and, after promotion to commissioner, principal of the Clapton International Training College. In 1909 he was appointed territorial commissioner for Australia and New Zealand and arrived in Melbourne with his wife on 6 September. He immediately began to tour his vast command by rail until eventually given a motor car by (Sir) Sidney Kidman. An enthusiastic Puritan, he deplored the regime of his recalcitrant predecessor Herbert Booth, ordered the removal of his name from foundation stones and closed down his motion-picture work. In 1912 his load was reduced by the establishment of a separate territorial command in New Zealand.

Hay went to the army's international conference in London in 1914 and was returning to Australia when war was declared. On arrival he launched a campaign of work with the troops which burgeoned later into the extensive Red Shield organization. He became well known to most of the nation's political leaders and in 1918 was appointed O.B.E. During 1921 he carried out the separation of the Australian administration into two territorial commands. Promoted to British commissioner that year, Hay left an organization which had been immeasurably strengthened by his land dealings, the purchase of 426 new buildings and the creation of forty new institutions. Some of his subordinates later achieved high command, notably George Carpenter, the army's commanding general in 1939-46.

Soon driven out of Britain by ill health, Hay commanded South Africa and Rhodesia in 1922-26, New Zealand in 1926-29 and Canada and Newfoundland until his retirement in 1934. He chose to retire to Melbourne, built a house called Clydebrae in Camberwell, and became an elder statesman of the army in Australia. He wrote a great deal and was in constant demand as a speaker in Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand. His wife died on 16 October 1951 and was commemorated by the building of a Jeannie Hay Memorial Wing in the Bethany Eventide Home for Women which Hay had founded. In the same year he published an autobiography, Aggressive Salvationism. He had been the first officer in the world to receive the badge marking fifty years service but he lived on long after and won world-wide interest as the oldest officer in the army. On the eve of his ninety-sixth birthday he delivered a public lecture but died in Melbourne some months later on 22 March 1962. He was buried in Box Hill cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Salvation Army, Property Souvenir, Australia (Melb, nd)
  • B. Bolton, Booth's Drum (Syd, 1980)
  • War Cry (Melbourne), 30 June, 7, 14, 21, 28 July 1962.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Hay, James (1865–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 May, 1865
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


22 March, 1962 (aged 96)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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