Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur John Waldock (1872–1961)

by Niel Gunson

This article was published:

Arthur John Waldock (1872-1961), Baptist minister, was born on 6 June 1872 at Kew, Melbourne, son of John Waldock, an English-born schoolteacher and Congregational lay preacher, and his wife Mary Hannah, née Day, from Jersey. Arthur was educated in New South Wales and trained for the ministry under the Baptist education committee. Assistant pastor at Bathurst from 1892, he completed his training in 1896 and was sent to Hinton. On 28 October he married Charlotte Godfrey (d.1946) at Raglan. He was ordained next year at the Bathurst Street Church, Sydney. While pastor at Auburn for nine years from 1899, he published a volume of sermons; he was president of the Baptist Union of New South Wales (1906 and 1918) and from 1915 of the New South Wales Baptist Theological College where he lectured on Church polity; he also served on federal Baptist committees.

When Waldock was superintendent (1908-24) of the Baptist Home Mission Society, the number of churches more than doubled, staff increased from five to forty and the annual income grew from £230 to £10,000. In 1922 he represented Australia at the Baptist World Alliance meetings in England and travelled for eight months in North America and Europe, coming home with an honorary doctorate of divinity from Georgetown College, Kentucky. Due to 'internal dissensions', he resigned his superintendency in 1924, claiming that no man could work for the denomination 'while certain elements were in it'. As pastor of the Mosman Church (1924-29) he sought to mobilize Protestant opinion against what he regarded as the unnatural religious malaise of the Australian people. He was appointed president of the New South Wales Council of Churches in 1928, but was not prepared to support wireless dramatization of Bible stories on the grounds that it would 'cheapen the Bible in the estimation of the coming generation'.

In 1924 Waldock secured a church site in Canberra and was to chair the interdenominational church council. The first Baptist minister in Canberra, he made frequent pronouncements on moral issues and denounced the government's proposal in 1930 for a local lottery to relieve unemployment. He was an ardent advocate of the Empire Day movement and commended the White Australia policy: while he thought that multiculturalism would create problems of identity and weaken Australia's 'British' moral character, he regarded Dutch and Swiss migrants as capable of becoming 'safe' citizens. A militant Christian, he held fast to nineteenth-century values.

Waldock maintained a vigorous ministry until his retirement in 1948; his sermons appeared weekly in the Canberra Times. Having attended conferences abroad in 1936, he returned to initiate the 'forward movement' which raised money for extension work, including a homes trust and a business college for girls. During World War II he was president-general (1941-44) of the Baptist Union of Australia. With receding hair and a dark moustache, he had a subtle sense of humour and had been the lead tenor in the (Royal) Sydney Philharmonic Society. A well-known and respected figure in Canberra, he served on numerous committees ranging from the Australian National University council to a hockey club. Predeceased by his son and daughter, Waldock died in Canberra on 1 May 1961 and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • A. C. Prior, Some Fell on Good Ground (Syd, 1966)
  • R. K. Robb, Fifty Capital Years (Canb, 1979)
  • R. D. Holly, Further Capital Years (Canb, 1989)
  • Australian Baptist, 10 May 1961
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Sept 1918, 19 July, 26 Sept 1924, 2 May 1928, 2 Dec 1930, 9 Sept 1941
  • Waldock papers (Baptist Church Archives, Canberra and Sydney).

Citation details

Niel Gunson, 'Waldock, Arthur John (1872–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 June, 1872
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


1 May, 1961 (aged 88)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.