The Pipe Organs

The first organ (1929)

By R. W. (Bill) Hughes

Not a great deal of detail is known about the original church organ. However, despite the financial difficulties of the 1920s, the Church managed to have a pipe organ installed from the year of its commencement. In his report of August 1929 to the Baptist Union of Australia, the first Minister of the church, Dr Waldock, includes in the long list of memorials in the Church “an organ [donated] by a Church member”.

We do know that this first organ was second hand and it was made in the 19th century. It came from Sydney. It had 2 manuals and 10 stops and was located where the choir now sits. It served the Church for almost 30 years. We also have a photograph of the organ and this is shown below.

Image of the original Church Organ

The original Church Organ

When the church decided to replace this original organ, it was advertised for sale in church newspapers around Australia. It was subsequently sold in 1958 for the equivalent of $400. After being sold it was dismantled and split into two parts. Part went to East Chatswood NSW to be added to a new organ being built there. The remainder went to Mortdale NSW which was also having a new organ installed.

The second organ (1958)

The Hackworthy Memorial Organ

In April 1958 a new organ was installed as a memorial to the Rev Harold Hackworthy. Rev Hackworthy was the second Minister of Canberra Baptist Church, during the period 1948 – 1952. He retired to Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains in 1952 due to ill health and died a short time later in Concord Repatriation Hospital (in August 1953). A plaque on the organ briefly records his service to the church. It reads:

This organ was erected to

The glory of God

In memory of the Reverend

Harold George Hackworthy MC MA

A beloved Minister of

This church 1948 – 1952

Called – Chosen – Faithful

13th April 1958

The impetus for a new organ was very much due to the work of the then organist, Mr R H D White, who provided the diaconate with a detailed report on the matter at its February 1955 meeting. The formal decision to purchase the organ was subsequently made by the church at a special meeting held in September 1955.

A committee of deacons, which included Mr White, and Mr W H Knight, undertook further research and detailed planning. They sent specifications to various parts of the world in their search for a suitable instrument. They eventually negotiated a price for the organ that was less than half of the other quotations received and was within a small church’s budget.

The new organ was designed and constructed by Mr J C Eagles, a Sydney organ builder. Mr A J Gray of Canberra was responsible for the design of the platform and screening and Mr C T Tobler of Canberra undertook structural alterations to the pulpit platform and approaches. Electrical installation was undertaken by a Church member, Mr Ron Howe. Installation of the organ was undertaken during March 1958.

The organ cost the equivalent of $7,500. To finance the purchase, a loan of $4,000 was raised through the Commonwealth Bank. An organ fund was established to pay off the loan and the money was raised by several means, including allocations over several years from the Church’s annual thank offerings, funds raised through an appeal to church members and adherents, individual donations and from the proceeds of the sale of the old organ ($400).

The second organ had a bank of pipes, which were installed over the main entrance at the front of the Church. It had 2 manuals and a wide selection of stops.

On 13 April 1958 the opening of the organ and its official installation as a memorial to the Rev Hackworthy was conducted by the Rev F P McMaster. Mrs H G Hackworthy unveiled the organ at the 11.00am service on that date. The organist for the service was Mr R H D White. A copy of the program for the Memorial Service and Opening of the Organ is held in the church archives.

Rebuilding the Hackworthy Memorial Organ (1982)

At their meeting on 22 May 1978 the deacons received a report on the organ that indicated emerging problems. The organ was now 20 years old. While the pipe work was basically sound, there were fundamental problems with the electrical system and wind supply. Other problems included unreliable action, instability in tuning, unworkable parts and very unsatisfactory regulation .

Three alternatives were suggested at the time:

  • (a) the church members to rebuild the organ – the estimated cost was $5,000;
  • (b) quotations to upgrade or replace the organ to be obtained from reputable organ builders – the estimated cost was from $10,000 to $25,000; and, (c) the organ to be replaced with an electronic organ – the estimated cost was from $10,000 to $15,000.

The diaconate initial reaction was to seek further advice on the matter. When more details were available the issue was to be further considered. Little happened, however, until August 1979, when a committee was established comprising Mr Richard Bauer (Convenor), Ms Merilyn Carey, Mr Geoff Churcher and Mr Norm Evans. Some discussions were held with Mr Peter Trandafilovic, church organist. The work of the committee continued during the remainder of 1979 and through 1980 and 1981.

During this period the committee wrote to several pipe organ builders to get a more accurate idea of costs. It also held detailed discussions with two pipe organ builders and others including Mr Garth Mansfield of the Wesley Uniting Church, the Anglican Diocesan Organ Committee, Mr Terry Lloyd of the Boulevarde Music Centre (an agent for Rodgers Electronic Organs) and church members. A number of options were developed for consideration by the diaconate and these were presented in a detailed report in November 1981. Quotes were obtained on the various options available to the church.

It was eventually agreed that the organ needed to be rebuilt. The view was that rebuilding would make the organ serviceable for a further 30-40 years before the next overhaul became due. As occurred with the 1958 purchase, a fund was set up to raise funds to pay for the rebuilding work. The cost of rebuilding the organ was mainly met by allocations from church funds and from donations by members.

On 12 February 1982 the Church contracted with Mr Anthony Welby, Pipe Organ Builder, of Queanbeyan NSW to rebuild the Hackworthy Memorial Organ. The cost of the rebuilding was $20,000. The organ was dismantled and moved to Mr Welby’s factory. Work on the organ was completed and it was formally handed over in September 1982, although the organ had been back in service a month earlier for testing. The whole project was overseen by Mr Bauer’s committee from beginning to completion.

At their meeting in February 1982, the church members had decided that the restoration of the organ should be undertaken in memory of Mr R H D White and his late wife. Mr and Mrs White’s son, Mr Don White, unveiled the plaque. The rebuilt organ was re-dedicated on 22 August 1982 and now carries a second plaque which reads:

In memory of

Reginald Henry Donald White,

Church Organist 1940 – 1969

and to his wife Marjorie White

loyal and faithful servants of God

this organ was rebuilt.

Re-dedicated 22 August 1982.

A commemorative brochure containing a photograph of Mr and Mrs White was issued with the Order of Service for the dedication ceremony on 22 August 1982.

A copy of that brochure is held in the church archives. Mr White died on 18 December 1980 and Mrs White died on 13 June 1982. Mr and Mrs White transferred to Canberra in 1940 from Sydney, where they were foundation members of the Strathfield-Homebush Church. Mr White was a deacon of Canberra Baptist and became a life deacon. He served as organist until 1969 and was Choirmaster from time to time.

He also was Sunday School Superintendent for some years. In public life Mr White was the First Assistant Director-General of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Mrs White served as communion attendant and floral steward for many years, and taught the Bible Class.

Image of the New Church Organ

The New Church Organ


Fifty Capital Years, R K Robb (Editor), 1979, pages 53-55; Correspondence file, Organ rebuilding, 1982; Rev A J Waldock DD, Canberra Commissioner’s Report to the Baptist Union of Australia, August 1929; Canberra Baptist Church, Opening of Organ Installed as a Memorial to Rev Harold G Hackworthy, 13 April 1958; Canberra Baptist Church, Church Meeting Minutes, 15 February 1982; Canberra Baptist Church, Archival document recording the dedication of a plaque on the rebuilt organ acknowledging the contribution of Mr RI1D White, church organist, and Mrs White, in Correspondence file, Organ rebuilding, 1982; Discussions with Mr Don White and others.