Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Snowdon Hay (1867–1943)

by Louis V. Daniels

This article was published:

Robert Snowdon Hay (1867-1943), bishop, was born on 24 September 1867 at Bishop Auckland, Durham, England, youngest son of James Hay, house-painter, and his wife Elizabeth, née Blair. Robert adhered throughout his life to his mother's strict Sabbatarianism. He was educated at Bishop Barrington Preparatory School, James I Grammar School, Durham, and Hatfield Hall, Durham University (L.Th., 1888; B.A., 1891), where he showed outstanding ability as a student and athlete. He led the Bishop Auckland soccer team to victory over several seasons. After a period as classics master at Durston House School, Ealing, London, Hay was ordained deacon at Auckland in 1891 and appointed curate of St Ives, Leadgate; in 1895 he was curate at South Hylton, Sunderland.

In 1897 Bishop W. T. T. Webber of Brisbane visited England to recruit clergy and offered Hay a parish. On 10 November at St George's Parish Church, Bloomsbury, he married Maud Caroline Glenny, a trained nurse, and three days later sailed for Queensland with his wife, to be incumbent of the parish of Laidley. Originally intending to remain in Australia only five years, in 1903 he moved to Bundaberg, then to St Mark's, Warwick, in 1907, and St Andrew's, South Brisbane, in 1911. Among his many community activities he formed the Lockyer Cricket Association and the Bundaberg Gordon Club and took an intense interest in Pacific islanders and Chinese in the Bundaberg district. He established a large branch of the Church of England Men's Society in Warwick. His success as a parish priest resulted in his election as an honorary canon of St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, in 1909.

In 1916 Hay succeeded Joseph Bertram Kite as dean of Hobart and in 1919, when Bishop Reginald Stephen unexpectedly resigned, he was unanimously elected seventh bishop of Tasmania by a special session of synod. He was consecrated on St Bartholomew's Day by the primate of Australia, Archbishop J. C. Wright, in St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, and enthroned in Hobart on 9 September. During the troubled inter-war period Hay offered security to the diocese through firm leadership and loving pastoral care. An active champion of the cause of Church reunion, he strongly supported the United Social Services Committee, a body that drew the Protestant denominations closer together. During his episcopate St Wilfrid's College at Cressy was closed, and a new Christ College opened on the Queen's Domain in Hobart. Five new urban parishes were created, St David's Cathedral was completed, and St John's Hospital in Hobart and Broadland House Girls' Grammar School in Launceston were founded.

In August 1942, although ill, Hay presided over the centenary celebrations for the diocese. A holiday followed, but his health did not improve and after an operation he died at East Melbourne on 3 February 1943. His had been the longest term of any bishop of Tasmania. His body was sent back to Hobart for burial in Cornelian Bay cemetery. Predeceased by his wife in 1940, he was survived by three sons and four daughters. A portrait by Florence Rodway hangs in the board room of Church House, Hobart.

Select Bibliography

  • W. R. Barrett, History of the Church of England in Tasmania (Hob, 1942)
  • Church News (Hobart), July, Sept 1916, July, Sept, Oct 1919, May, Dec 1920, Dec 1921, Aug 1939, Sept 1942, Aug 1973
  • Mercury (Hobart), 4 Feb 1943.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Louis V. Daniels, 'Hay, Robert Snowdon (1867–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 June 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]


24 September, 1867
Bishop Auckland, Durham, England


3 February, 1943 (aged 75)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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