Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Abraham Quick (1820–1915)

by Renate Howe

This article was published:

William Abraham Quick (1820-1915), Wesleyan minister, was born on 3 March 1820 at Exeter, England, son of Abraham Quick, furrier, and his wife Abigail, née Biffen. After a brief elementary education he was employed as a solicitor's clerk. Through his mother's influence he became a Wesleyan local preacher and in 1841 was accepted as a probationer for the ministry and appointed to the Liskeard circuit, Cornwall. After ordination in 1842 he married Margaret Saturley and as missionaries they sailed for Freetown, Sierra Leone. Because of trying physical conditions Quick returned to England next year, and served in circuits in Cornwall, London and Glasgow.

In 1855 Quick was sent to New South Wales under the direction of the Missionary Committee, and after his arrival at Sydney in December was superintendent of circuits at Maitland and Newtown. In 1859 he was appointed president of Horton College, a Wesleyan secondary school at Ross, Tasmania, and theological tutor for Tasmanian ministerial probationers. While at the college he capably filled important administrative positions within the Church and was chairman of the Tasmanian District in 1861-71 and president of the Australasian Conference in 1866. In 1872 he resigned from Horton College, and conference appointed him to Wesley Church, Melbourne. He was superintendent of circuits at St Kilda, Ballarat East and Richmond until 1884.

Although lacking formal theological education, Quick read widely and was an independent thinker. In Victoria he was a controversial figure among the Wesleyans. At the 1874 conference he initiated debate on the conditions of church membership, advocating that the test be attendance at Holy Communion rather than the weekly class meeting. Opposition to this proposed alteration was led by Rev. John Watsford who feared that the change would open membership of the denomination to those without religious experience. A further organizational change stressed by Quick was the need for a city mission in Melbourne and he served on the committee responsible for the establishment of the Central Mission at Wesley Church in 1894. Convinced of the importance of an educated ministry in forming a more liberal and progressive denomination, he and Rev. Lorimer Fison advocated the improvement of theological education and selection of candidates for the ministry. In 1879 he was appointed to a committee to raise funds for the establishment of a Wesleyan College to be affiliated to the University of Melbourne. Despite ill health Quick devoted himself in 1882-83 to raising money. The eventual establishment of Queen's College with its improved arrangements for theological education was largely a result of his determination. He was president of the College Council in 1888-1908. Widely respected in both church and community, his last years were spent in retirement at Brighton, where illness and failing sight kept him bed-ridden until he died on 12 November 1915. He published several theological pamphlets and a book, Methodism: A Parallel (London, 1889).

A portrait is in Eakins Hall, Queen's College.

Select Bibliography

  • Illustrated Australian News, 10 Aug 1874
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 30 Mar 1901
  • Spectator (Melbourne), 19 Nov 1915
  • R. Howe, The Wesleyan Church in Victoria, 1855-1901: Its Ministry and Membership (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1965).

Citation details

Renate Howe, 'Quick, William Abraham (1820–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Abraham Quick (1820-1915), by John Cochran

William Abraham Quick (1820-1915), by John Cochran

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, National Library of New Zealand, ATL ref. A-042-011

Life Summary [details]


3 March, 1820
Exeter, Devon, England


12 November, 1915 (aged 95)
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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