ON THE SUBJECT of pomp and ceremony I previously referred to with the appointment of two new assistant Anglican bishops for Tasmania (Off your bikes  March 6), there was also the ceremonial marking the change in leadership of Tasmania’s Freemasons, with Norman Cooper taking over from Julius Kearon as Grand Master. This was a big occasion held at Wrest Point Casino with 800 in attendance, as reported by the Mercury. What could also have been noted was another major marking of this changeover, when hundreds of Masons attended service at St David’s Anglican Cathedral.

It underlined a long-standing link between Freemasonry and the church from the early days of Hobart. And it’s a pity that those who went to the cathedral were unable to also go to Holy Trinity Church. For therein lies a fascinating connection, because a clergyman who served Holy Trinity, Richard Deodatus Poulett-Harris, was also the first Grand Master of Tasmanian Masons. And impressive he looked in his Masonic regalia, as photographed by the notable J. W. Beattie.

Poulett-Harris was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1817, and after an education in England that saw him attend Cambridge’s renowned Trinity College, where he gained B.A. and M.A. degrees, he decided to become a schoolmaster. As well as prominent positions at various English schools he was also ordained a deacon and then a priest in the Anglican Church. The dual roles of education and religion were to stand him in good stead when he was persuaded that other opportunities for his ability were open to him on the other side of the world.

He accepted the post of rector of Hobart Town High School (founded in 1848 by leading Presbyterians and Free Churchmen) and arrived in Hobart in 1857 to take up his duties.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography has a lengthy entry on his educational achievements in Tasmania, and they were many, some aspects controversial. But under his rectorship his high school pupils were big achievers, winning many awards. The dictionary notes they headed the degree list nine times, a record approached only by his competitor, Hutchins School (named in honour of the Venerable William Hutchins, first Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land, and who played such an important pioneering role in having Holy Trinity built).

But back to the significance of Poulett-Harris to the church.

The Story of Trinity, the book by Frank Bowden and Max Crawford to mark Holy Trinity’s 100 years from 1833, recorded the “great assistance” Poulett-Harris had provided to Archdeacon Arthur Davenport when he was the incumbent there (1854-1880). There was Poulett-Harris giving “much gratuitous help” with church services and of being a “very liberal” contributor to its funds, providing an annual subscription of twenty pounds.

He was widely read in the sciences and modern languages, establishing a prize in French at the high school. He was also proficient enough in German to conduct divine services for German migrants in the 1870s, and took charge of the German Consulate when the counsel was away.

The Mercury of the time showed the interest Poulett-Harris, and the church, took in the many migrants who arrived in Tasmania during the 1870s. The newspaper of November 22, 1870, reported a special afternoon service the day before at the church in German. The service was attended by the captain and officers of the migrant ship Victoria and about 120 German migrants. The service was read in German and the Mercury said Poulett-Harris preached an “admirable sermon” taken from Proverbs, 12th chapter, 26th verse: “The righteous is more excellent (or ‘is better off’’ as the German translation put it) than his neighbour, but the ways of the wicked seduce them.”

The Dictionary of Biography recorded of Poulett-Harris: “A member of the Tasmanian auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society and a thoughtful expositor of the scripture, he was in demand as a preacher, especially at Trinity Church where he was a communicant.”

On education, Poulett-Harris argued that secondary schools were of importance for a university. It eventually came into being and he was appointed the first warden of the University Senate.

All this plus the Masonic Lodge and a keen interest in cricket. He eventually retired to his home, Cliff House, Peppermint Bay, Woodbridge, and died on December 23, 1899.

He is commemorated at Holy Trinity by a window erected in his honour, with a memorial brass plaque below it - another of the historic memorials there that reflect the devotion of the many ministers who so ably served Holy Trinity and its congregations over 160 years.

Percy from the Pews

The Australian Dictionary of Biography has a lengthy entry on his educational achievements in Tasmania, and they were many, some aspects controversial. But under his rectorship his high school pupils were big achievers, winning many awards. The dictionary notes they headed the degree list nine times, a record approached only by his competitor, Hutchins School (named in honour of the Venerable William Hutchins, first Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land, and who played such an important pioneering role in having Holy Trinity built).