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Trudgian, Clarance Samuel (1896–1981)

by Geoffrey Swan

This article was published:

Clarance Samuel Trudgian (1896-1981), Churches of Christ clergyman and welfare worker, was born on 2 March 1896 at Gympie, Queensland, fifth of seven children of David Trudgian, a miner from Cornwall, and his London-born wife Jessie Mary, née Dick. Clarrie was educated at One Mile State School, Gympie. At 14 he began work as an office-boy and shop assistant in a hardware store. Tutored by his older brother Edward, he passed the post office examination and became a telephonist. After further evening study at the Gympie School of Arts and Technical College he was promoted to telegraph operator. Influenced by his mother, he was involved in the local Church of Christ as a Sunday-school teacher, youth leader and lay preacher.

Having been active in the Citizen Military Forces, Trudgian enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 31 August 1915 and was commissioned next year. In 1916-18 he served on the Western Front with the 42nd Battalion. Assuming leadership roles easily, he held the temporary rank of captain in June-October 1918. His comrade Jules Tardent described him as ‘alert, highly intelligent with a great capacity for work’. Trudgian won the Military Cross for fearlessly leading his company in an attack and then reorganising it to beat off a counter-attack near Péronne, France, on 31 August 1918. Returning to Australia in the troop-ship Themistocles, he performed the duties of education officer, arranging many activities as alternatives to drinking and gambling. He was demobilised as a lieutenant in September 1919.

Trudgian returned to Gympie and worked in real estate. He then managed a newsagency but surrendered the lottery licence because of his strong opposition to gambling. In 1921 he became full-time secretary of the Gympie sub-branch and secretary of the Wide Bay and Burnett district branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia. He enrolled in theology at the Churches of Christ College of the Bible, Glen Iris, Melbourne, in 1923. Due to ill health, he returned to Gympie and completed the course by correspondence. On 11 March 1924 at the Church of Christ, Gympie, he married Ivy Annie May Alder (d.1952), a shop assistant. He took an active part in local affairs and helped to organise the ‘back to Gympie’ celebrations and its publication Historical Sketch of Gympie (1927).

In April 1939 Trudgian was appointed superintendent of the Brisbane City Mission. Soon after he was ordained a minister in the Churches of Christ. Setting about reforming and expanding the mission, for the first ten years he accepted no salary, maintaining his family on savings and money earned from selling flowers that he and his wife grew on land at Sunnybank. His guiding text was ‘the Lord will provide’; he described himself as a ‘bit of a wowser’ and as a person ‘who didn’t do much believing, just a lot of praying’. He assiduously ministered to the residents of the Peel Island leper colony. A successful administrator, he built up the mission’s volunteer base and in 1978 moved the enterprise to larger premises, Trudgian House, at Fortitude Valley. He claimed that ‘the sun was never allowed to set on unanswered mail’.

On 30 July 1954 Trudgian had married with Congregational forms Dorothy Lena Leggett, a welfare worker at the mission. He was appointed MBE (1966) and AM (1979). Failing health and diminishing critical faculties prompted him to resign in 1980. Survived by his wife and the three daughters and one son of his first marriage, he died on 23 March 1981 in Jerusalem and was cremated. His widow published his memoir, The Good Samaritan of Fortitude Valley, 1896-1981 (1988).

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Tardent, The Swiss-Australian Tardent Family (1982)
  • R. S. Melloy, Time Will Tell (1993)
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 5 June 1977, p 13
  • Brisbane City Messenger, June 1981, p 6
  • B2455, item TRUDGIAN CLARENCE SAMUEL (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Geoffrey Swan, 'Trudgian, Clarance Samuel (1896–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 29 March 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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