Monday 20 July 2020

Bert Broadley

Lancelot Herbert Arthur Broadley was born 9 May 1907 in Aldershot UK, to Lancelot and Florence Broadley. His father was in the British Army, a veteran of the Boer War. When his mother died, Bert was four years old. From London he was taken to York, where his father remarried. Then followed postings to Edinburgh and Gibraltar.

Back in England, Bert got a job at Babcock & Wilcox in Farringdon Street, London, where he worked for the next three years. By 1921, the family lived in a tiny flat in Bermondsey. Bert was learning accountancy at evening school and attending a boys’ club in Jamaica Road, Bermondsey. This club still functions today as the Salmon Youth Centre.

After an incident in one of his father’s alcohol fuelled rages, Bert left home. He found lodgings around London, but, for 10/- per week, soon ran out of options. When the need of accommodation was urgent, Bert was allowed to lodge at the club, on the condition of helping in it. While there, Bert came to a strong and clear Christian faith and thought about becoming a minister, but with no idea how he could afford it. So, he changed to studying for the matriculation.

When a club visitor, just home from Australia, was discussing Bert’s plans he said, “Why not go to Australia? Make up your mind to sail for Australia in six months’ time.”

Told about the Dreadnought Scheme, Bert arranged to go. He was broke, but with help from his aunt and club friends, he managed to have one pound twelve shillings for pocket money. By cautious handling, he arrived in Australia with 1/6d. Leaving Tilbury Dock on 14 August 1924 in the SS Themistocles, Bert reached Sydney 45 days later on 29 September 1924. He was met by a local staffer from Babcock & Wilcox, who took him home to his family in Berala, and a good welcome to Australia. The next day, with 38 other boys, Bert took the train to Mulgrave, where they were taken on to Scheyville Training Farm.

After ten weeks training, Bert accepted a position up near Tabulam on the Clarence River. He went by train 770 km north to Tenterfield, then by mail car another 100 km east to Tabulam. After a 25 km trip by store cart next day, he arrived at Charlie Knighton’s farm. 

 Eighty milking cows were mustered and milked twice a day. Apart from milking and separating, there were other farm jobs such as cutting saccaline for cow feed, castrating piglets, pig feeding and cleaning sties, husking corn, cutting chaff and cutting down scrub suckers in the paddock. Sometimes on Sundays, with a few hours off, he rode a horse to a neighbour’s place. 
Once it rained for six weeks non-stop. The ground was water-logged and boots were never dry. An infection from the cows caused lumps on the back of his hands, and the bush nurse took him off milking. It was time for a new and different job. His next placement was to be near Griffith – a thousand kilometres away to the south-west.

This job was on a soldier settler’s farm. Bert worked with this disabled man for some months until the government allowance cut out. Bert got another job nearby working for a sick ex-miner. The wife used to hobble the horses and put them out on the road to feed overnight. Sometimes they wandered and a long time could be spent looking for them - on foot.

One day while out looking for a horse, Bert was given a lift in a car. The young driver offered Bert a job on one on his mother’s farms. Bert got the job on her old farm and was there for two years, first on wages, then as a share-farmer when she moved to another of her farms. The owner paid the expenses and Bert got one third of the income. It was lonely but he was content milking the cow, irrigating, picking and packing fruit, taking it to the railway or packing house.

Bert was asked to take on the Anglican Sunday school at nearby Hanwood. With others helping, the Sunday school got under way, but not without a working bee to paint the church hall, and another to prop the building up after some high winds gave it a big slant.

His aim had been to enter ministry, and it became clear after a while, that it was time to do something more about it, therefore he made arrangements to leave his job and go to Sydney.

In May 1927, he got a job at the Sydney plant of Babcock & Wilcox, but a month after reaching twenty-one years of age, Bert was given notice to finish up. The local rector in Berala gave him a full-time catechist’s job. He returned to his studies and matriculated eighteen months later, afterwards attending Sydney University and where he passed first year Arts. During this time, he was living in Moore Theological College, and working as full-time catechist at Lilyfield. The university work became difficult to fit in, and stalled at the end of the second year.

On 21 December 1933 Bert was ordained as priest and, while curate at St Paul’s, Castle Hill on 3 January 1934, was married at St Mark’s, Lilyfield to Thelma Cunningham,.

Early in 1935 he was appointed to St Philip’s, Church Hill in the city. However, it wasn’t to last - his rector died in July and, with the ensuing changes, Bert faced another move. After discussions with the Bush Church Aid Society, Bert left St Philip’s and the couple went across to South Australia in October 1935, to take up the vacant Ceduna Mission. The next four and a half years were spent in ministry - to the farming communities scattered around the mission area (Bert understood rural life from his experience as a Dreadnought Boy), - to BCA staff manning the hospitals and operating its Flying Medical Service. Ministry to seamen in the port of Thevenard,was also involved. Then came a return to Sydney, but after twenty-two months at St Mary’s parish in Western Sydney, they were asked back to


This time, there was extra work. Now the Penong area, visits to the big sheep stations and the Transcontinental Railway Line, were included in the ‘Parish’. This meant that every three months the long trip was taken, over the tracks or barely formed roads across the Nullarbor. It included going out to Colona and Nullarbor homesteads, then up to Cook on the Trans Line calling at sidings and camps along the line, holding services wherever possible. After following the line all the way to Zanthus in Western Australia, the trip went back to other homesteads, such as Mundrabilla and Eucla, between the coast and the Trans Line, then to Fowlers Bay, Penong and home to Ceduna. The trip of over 2300 km took three to four weeks.

In July 1946, after another four and a half years, it was back to NSW with Thelma and three children, and the start of 27 years of effective parish ministry in the suburbs of Sydney.

Bert maintained his link with the Bush Church Aid Society. In their 2019 centenary publication “Never too far, never too few” it notes ‘Bert Broadley….was the longest serving missioner at Ceduna…..He ministered to people over a vast distance in South Australia, and later in Sydney, he served for about 25 years on the BCA Council. Truly a life devoted to BCA in every way.’

Lancelot Herbert Arthur Broadley died on 23 November 1976, in his 70th year.