Australian Quaker Narrative Embroidery Committee

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Ballarat Friends

Margaret Robertson (an English Friend) and her husband crouched for safety behind a bag of flour in their tent during the nearby Eureka Stockade rebellion of 1854.  Two visiting Friends who arrived just after the uprising found that their tracts ‘The Unlawfulness of Wars and Fighting’ were in great demand.

Some Friends remained in Ballarat after the main gold rushes, notably Joseph Jones, later the Minister for Works in the Victorian Parliament. But none thought the time was ripe to start a regular Meeting for Worship.

However, it was three men of rather lowly circumstances, who, being dissatisfied with “the modes of worship as practised by the other denominations”, announced themselves as The Society of Friends, though they had only peripheral knowledge of the Society.  The first meeting was held on Easter Sunday 1867 in Humphray Street. 

 Soon 43 adults and children were connected with Friends in Ballarat. They moved from a public hall to a more congenial meeting house in 1869, money having been raised for that purpose in England. Later they moved to a more substantial building.

Gradually numbers dwindled, from untimely deaths and movement to other parts. The Howie family moved to California so that their sons would not have to do compulsory military training.  Several fifteen year old boys and their parents attached to the Ballarat Meeting suffered prosecution for opposing this system. Most faithful were the two Lester brothers, a farmer at Ascot thirty miles away, and Robert, a farmer at Bungaree who regularly travelled twenty miles there and back to attend Meeting.   Since then the number of Friends has been small.

 

Information supplied by Charles Stevenson.  Panel designed by Robin Sinclair. Currently being stitched by Ellan in NSW.