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All Saints’ Cambooya: a brief history

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Rev. Rick Gummow shares a brief history of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Cambooya and its important role in the surrounding district.

“Why!” wrote a perplexed Patrick Leslie in his diary in 1848 regarding the choice to base a new settlement at Drayton.

“It has only the Public House, (first called The Fiver, then the Bull’s head), two shanties and just one well!”

This is a direct quote with Leslie’s exclamation marks used.

By 1840, land for “free settlers” [sic] was made available on the Darling Downs and Drayton was the first village.

This lack of water meant that, some years later, the new settlement moved a few kilometres north and east to what we now know as Toowoomba.

In that same year, The Rev. Benjamin Glennie, who had only been in Australia for seven months, came from Moreton Bay.

He held the first public church service on the Downs at the public house in Drayton, which according to (historian) Kathleen Simmons was “certainly the smallest and possibly the least civilised that he had visited.”

Drayton was then part of the Diocese of Newcastle, which stretched from the Hawkesbury all the way to Cape York and had a population of just 40,000.

Glennie travelled first, however, to the little town of Cambooya, the name of the residence of the Commissioner for Crown Lands, Christopher Rolleston.

Glennie lived in Cambooya for the first six months of his 40 or so years in Drayton and the Downs.

The little township of Cambooya, about 20 kilometres out on the Downs from Drayton, has always been an integral part of The Parish of Drayton.

In 1904 the first All Saints’ Anglican Church was built in Cambooya. It was paid for by 1905, but was destroyed in a tornado in 1914.

Work started on the new All Saints’ soon afterwards and is the one we still use every Sunday at 10am.

It is a beautiful example of an early 20th century Queensland timber church, and is the largest in the parish.

It is quite a bit bigger than the beautiful stone church of St Matthew’s, Drayton.

It was built by Patrick Doyle for £798 and paid for by local parishioners with donations of between “sixpence and 100 pounds.”

The new All Saints’ was dedicated by the Archbishop, The Most Rev. St Clair Donaldson, on November 7, 1915.

Commenting on its destruction and rebuilding, he said: “the result is the parish is ten thousand times better off than it would have been had the old building not been blown away.”

The only material change to the building since has been the relocation of the pulpit.

The old one was found to be a “rather imposing structure that acts to hide the Lord from the congregation on the north side of the church.”

By “Hiding the Lord,” they meant some of the congregation couldn’t see the priest’s actions at the altar during the Great Thanksgiving.

When the parish had five church centres, Cambooya was its geographical heart.

Because of this, many parish and town celebrations were held there.

Even now, the three denominations in Cambooya have this same sense of unity.

Four times a year, on the fifth Sunday, we still all meet together to worship, moving between the Anglican, Uniting, and Roman Catholic Churches.

But some things do not change. The Rev. Joseph Taylor, at his first Parish Council meeting in 1941, remarked on two things: the beauty of the parish’s churches and the parlous nature of the parish finances!

Drayton is an aging, yet enthusiastic and growing parish, but the beauty of our two main parish churches, St. Matthew’s in Drayton and All Saints’ in Cambooya, requires a startling amount of money to maintain.

Our vision for our communities on the Downs is to truly show the great love of God as we go out into these communities in the faithfulness and grace of Christ – just as it has been since Benjamin Glennie first came by horse to this “small and uncivilised” area of what was formerly part of the vast Newcastle Diocese.

Originally published in Anglican Focus.

On Our Selection News 8 June 2023

This article appeared in On Our Selection News, 8 June 2023.

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