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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Trower, Gerard (1860–1928)

by E. W. Doncaster

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Gerard Trower (1860-1928), Church of England bishop, was born on 3 December 1860 at Hook, Yorkshire, England, son of Arthur Trower, Church of England priest, and his wife Jane, née Lawford. From Merchant Taylors' School, London, he proceeded to Keble College, Oxford (B.A., 1885; M.A., 1888), and to Ely Theological College. Made deacon in 1888 and ordained priest in 1889, he was curate at St Mary's, Redcliffe, and at St Alban's, Birmingham. From 1895 he was rector of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney. His High Church leanings provoked some controversy: he introduced altar lights and costly vestments, and responded to a 'Reformation Festival' by preaching on ritualism, auricular confession and sacerdotalism. A tall, strong man, he usually hurried, dressed in an overcoat, with a flat clerical hat perched on the back of his head, and a book or umbrella tucked under his arm. Though a stern rector, he was a sound administrator and a witty preacher. His parishioners sent him a pectoral cross of gold set with amethysts when he left in 1901 to become bishop of Likoma, Nyasaland, Africa.

He was consecrated in Westminster Abbey next year. At Likoma he undertook a massive building programme: there were 68 schools when he arrived and over 150 when he departed; a hospital, a cathedral and a theological college were established. A corresponding spiritual growth reflected the bishop's energy and devotion. He doubled the indigenous ministry and supported the Universities' Mission to Central Africa. Regarded by the local people with affection, Trower proved himself a popular prelate who thrived on toil. He left Africa reluctantly to become the first bishop of North-West Australia, being enthroned by Bishop C. O. L. Riley in St George's Church, Carnarvon, Western Australia, on 4 July 1910.

The bishop's new task was twofold: to establish a diocese and to found an Anglican mission to the Aborigines. He had many difficulties with which to contend: he rented rooms to live in for the first four years; there was an inadequate number of priests; the little church at Broome had to serve as a procathedral; there was no synod and little money. These problems were compounded by a decline in the pearling and pastoral industries, and by the travails caused by cyclones and remoteness. With five others, he set off in 1913 to establish a mission at Forrest River (west of Wyndham); it survived, but did not flourish. Trower's attempts to form a brotherhood pattern of ministry and to erect a cathedral also failed. His only ordination was that of the first Aboriginal deacon, Rev. James Noble, in 1925. Bishop Trower was seldom happy in the North-West where he had been an outspoken critic of those with whom he disagreed and those whose views he did not understand. He resigned in 1927.

Trower returned to the Isle of Wight, England, where he was rector of Chale. He died on 25 August 1928 at Ryde.

Select Bibliography

  • A. E. M. Anderson, The History of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa 1859-1909 (Lond, 1909)
  • L. M. Allen, A History of Christ Church, S. Laurence (Syd, 1939)
  • C. L. M. Hawtrey, The Availing Struggle (Perth, 1949)
  • E. W. Doncaster, Spinifex Saints (Perth, 1985)
  • Anglican Messenger (Diocese of North-West Australia), May 1980
  • Western Australian Church News, 1 Sept 1928
  • H. W. Boake, In Memoriam (transcript of sermon preached at Broome, Western Australia on 16 Sept 1928, privately held).

Citation details

E. W. Doncaster, 'Trower, Gerard (1860–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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