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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rentoul (Rintoul), Thomas Craike (1882–1945)

by Ian F. McLaren

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Thomas Craike Rentoul (Rintoul) (1882-1945), Methodist clergyman, was born on 23 November 1882 at Metcalfe, Victoria, one of eleven children of Alexander Rintoul, schoolteacher, and his wife Margaret Macdougal, née Craike, both Victorian born. He was educated at Deniliquin Grammar School, New South Wales. After employment as a grocer's assistant at Deniliquin and Kensington, Melbourne, he began his ministry in 1908 at Neerim South, where a former parishioner described the tall, young home-missionary as 'like a sapling with a head on it'. He was accepted into the ministry in 1910 and appointed probationer at Goroke; next year he trained at Queen's College, University of Melbourne, where he won the William Quick oratorical medal. Probationer assistant at Yarraville in 1912-14, he served at Barkers Road, Hawthorn, in 1914-16 and was ordained in 1915.

Embarking as chaplain in March 1916, Rentoul served in France with the 59th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. He established a soup-kitchen on the Somme River front and frequently crawled over the battlefield through heavy shell-fire to recover the personal belongings of men killed before writing to next-of-kin at home. Suffering from the effects of gas, he was invalided back to Australia late in 1917. Two of his brothers were killed in action.

Appointed to the Malvern, Melbourne, circuit in 1919, Rentoul served at the new Epping Street Peace Memorial and Darling Road churches, visiting the many ex-servicemen who built their homes in the area. On 23 April 1921 he married Ivy Victoria Comben at Wesley Church, Melbourne. Next year he was appointed assistant director to Rev. A. T. Holden, general superintendent of the Methodist Home Mission Department, and took over Holden's position in 1932; in that year Rentoul became resident principal of Otira Home Mission Training College at Kew. In 1937 he was appointed director of the Methodist Federal Inland Mission where he inaugurated and edited The Inland Link. He travelled widely throughout the remote areas of northern, central and western Australia.

Rentoul's vision, judgement, conviction and speaking and debating ability led to high appointments as leader and administrator in church and community. His influence in social reform, housing and soldiers' welfare extended beyond the bounds of the Methodist Church. He was a thinker and a tireless administrator, with a keen sense of humour. In 1940 he became president of the Methodist Conference of Victoria and Tasmania, and in May 1945 was elected secretary-general of the Methodist Church of Australasia.

In 1937 Rentoul had been appointed Methodist chaplain general with the rank of major general, and he saw service throughout World War II in Australia and overseas. In 1945 he was appointed to an inquiry into offences against military law, courts martial and detention systems.

In his youth he was a competitive road cyclist; later in life he enjoyed reading, carpentry, gardening and fishing. At the time of his death at Heidelberg on 28 December 1945 Rentoul was planning the establishment of peace memorial homes for children at Burwood. He was cremated with full military honours; his wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Methodist Church of Australasia, Victoria and Tasmania Conference Minutes of the 49th Annual Conference … 1946 (Melb, 1946)
  • W. H. Bossence, Epping Street (Melb, 1978)
  • D. Adams, Memories of Darling Road Uniting Church (Melb, 1985)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 28, 31 Dec 1945
  • Age (Melbourne), 29 Dec 1945
  • Argus (Melbourne), 29 Dec 1945.

Citation details

Ian F. McLaren, 'Rentoul (Rintoul), Thomas Craike (1882–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 15 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Rintoul, Thomas Craike

23 November 1882
Metcalfe, Victoria, Australia


28 December 1945
Heidelberg, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence