By S. N. Lynch

Reproduced from "Back to Learmonth" Centenary Celebrations 1937.

On the 13th March, 1857, a meeting was held at the farm of Messrs. Robertson & Ross, Burrumbeet, to take into consideration the erection of a Church, Manse and School at Weatherboard hill, in connection with the Free Church of Scotland. The following were present:- Messrs. Robertson, Ross, Strachan, Hossack, McDonald, Howard, Draffin, Laidlaw, Blair, McDougall and Gilchrist. The following Committee was appointed to carry out the object in view :- Messrs. Robertson, McDonald, Hossack, Draffin, Gilchrist, Laidlaw and Strachan, with the Rev. Mr Hastie as Treasurer, Mr. howard as sub-treasurer, and Mr. A McPherson Grant as Secretary. At a meeting held on the 8th of June 1857, it was resolved to build the Church on the north side of Lake Learmonth,on the 12th June it was resolved to apply to the Government for a building site on the north-west corner of the Reserve situated on the north side of the Lake.

On the 7th July, it was decided that the Minipresbyterian_churchster should hold Divine Service at the Burrumbeet School House once every Sabbath for at leats 12 months after his induction. It was also agreed that the dimensions of the Church should be 50 x 28 feet and 12 feet walls. On 12th October, 1857, a meeting was held at the residenceof Mr. McDonald. There were Present:- Rev. Geo. Mackie (chair), Messrs. Howard, Stachan, Robertson, McDonald, Hossack, Gilchrist, Draffin and Laidlaw. It was resolved to buildupon a portion of a 45-acre block on the east side of the Lake. It was also resolved to apply to the Presbytery of Geelong for Ministerial supply of Gospel Ordinances.

In the meantime the Church and Manse were erected, for we find that on the 1st January, 1858, a meeting was held in the Church, when it was agreed to apply to the Geelong Presbytery for the services of the Rev. Geo. Mackie for three months. Three weeks later, at a meeting of the Committee held at the Manse, Lake Learmonth, it was arranged to hold services alternately at Lake Learmonth, Mt. Blowhard and Burrumbeet, and the Rev. Geo. Mackie was authorised to treat with the Government for the land on which the Church was built.

On March 10th, the Rev.W. Henderson, of Ballarat, presided at a Congregational Meeting held in the Church, when a call was given to the Rev. Geo. Mackie. The stipend was fixed at not less than 350 pounds and not more than 400 pounds. The Mt. Blowhard Committee agreed to pay one-third of the amount.

The first Trustees of the Church property were:- Rev. Geo. Mackie, Merrrs. Angus Gilchrist, Alexander McDonald and James Hossack. On March 23rd 1859, the first Annual Meeting of the Congregation was held, and it was resolved to sever connection with the Mt. Blowhard portion of the charge. Mr R B Williams was elected Secretary of the congregation in the room of Mr. Grant, and Mr. Jas. Baird was elected to the committee.

On the 2nd Sabbath of May, 1859, the first Communion Service was held: Messrs, James Brewster and Robert Dickie officiating as Elders. During the same year the following were elected and ordained and inducted as Elders of the congregation - Messrs. Robert Dickie, James Hossack, John Mackie Snr., Alex McPherson Grant and James Brewster. In October, 1860, the Rev. Geo. Mackie resigned the pastorate of Learmonth and Burrumbeet owing to failing health. In March, 1861, the Burrumbeet portion of the charge formed themselves into a congregation of their own, instead of a joint Committee.On June 20t, 1861, Rev.John Downs was inducted by the Presbytery of Ballarat. About a year afterwards Mr. Downs accepted a call from Clunes. At this time the arrangmements existing between the Learmonth and Burrumbeet congregations terminated, and a new charge was formed consisting of Learmonth and The Springs (now Waubra). Burrumbeet joined with Windermere in forming a separate charge.

In March, 1863, the Rev J B Steel, of Creswick, presided at a Congregational Meeting, when a call was given to the Rev. Robert Hamilton, M.A. The ordination of Mr. Hamilton took place on May 20th, 1863. In march, 1900, Mr. Hamilton resigned the chatge and retired from the active ministry of the Church owing to failing health.During Mr. Hamilton's long ministry of 37 years, two substantial stone churches were built, one at Learmonth costing about 1250 pounds, and one at Waubra costing about 800 pounds. In addition to these, the present Manse was completed in 1890 and cost about 870 pounds.In the same year the sum of £132 was contributed to the Jubilee Fund of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

The foundation stone of the present church at Learmonth was laid by the late Sir Samual Wilson, of Ercildoune, on 24th November, 1875, and the church was opened practically free of debt on 19th March, 1876. In the year 1881 the present fence in front of the church was erected by the late Mr. Alexander Wilson, of Mt. Emu, at a cost of 42 pounds,and presented to the congregation.On 27th May, 1877, Messrs. Wm. Brewster and Wm. Rain were elected and ordained to the office of ruling Elders in the congregation. On 28th November, 1900, the Rev. J A Crockett was inducted as Minister. In February, 1904, Mr. Crockett was translated to Brunswick, and Rev. John Smiley, B.A, was inducted in November, 1904. On 13th October, 1907, Mr. John Baird was ordained to the office of ruling Elder in the congregation.

In 1909 a Sunday School, built of stone, was added to the church at a cost of £600. In 1913 the Rev. J Smiley accepted a call to Sandringham, and Rev. J K Robertson was inducted on the 7th MAy, 1914. In 1916 he accepted a call from Murrumbeena, and Rev. J H R Halford was inducted on July 27th, 1916. In 1924 Rev. Halford transferred to Mansfield, and on February 19th 1925, Rev. J J W Scott was inducted. In 1927 Burrumbeet was joined to the charges of Learmonth and Waubra. In 1930, Mr. Wm. Rain, who had been Secretary of the church for 60 years, passed away, and Mr. D Baird was elected to fill the position. In 1936 the Rev. Scott accepted a call from Warracknabeal, and in November, 1936, the Rev. K K Luck, B.A., B.D., was inducted, and is the present Minister of Learmonth, Waubra and Burrumbeet charges.

The office-bearers for 1937 are:- Minister, Rev. K K Luck, B.A., B.D.; Elders, Messrs. A Patterson and D Baird; Committee, Messrs. D Blair, A Bain, C Crick, E Kinnersley, R W Crosthwaite, W Rain, H Patterson, J Gordon, Dr. Barnaby, S N Lynch; Hon. Organist, Mrs. R W Crothswaite; Hon. Treasurer, Mr. J G Sellwood; Hon. Secretary, Mr. D Baird; Sunday School Teachers, Miss Rain (Supt.), Misses O Collings, J Baird, D Patterson.

The local Presbyterian community, meeting on March 1857, planned to build a church at the Weatherboard side of the lake. They began raising funds for the erection of a church, manse and school, the school to be kept in the church until sufficient funds could be collected.
By June, it was proposed the church should be in the Learmonth area and several sights were looked at. As the town blocks weren't allocated, the church committee was able to choose what they considered to be the best site, on the east side of the lake. In August1857 plans were adopted for a church and manse. The 50 ft x 28 ft wooden church building and the manse of 4 rooms with a centre passage and front verandah were opened in February 1858. The first minister of the church was Rev George Mackie who was instrumental in developing many churches and schools of the Presbyterian faith in the district.

The only early mention of a school connected with the church is in correspondence from the Wesleyan minister in October 1860, which said it was the wish of the Wesleyans that the Combined School became a Presbyterian school and that it be removed to the Presbyterian Church. (further notes – see "Learmonth Common School").

Sir Samuel Wilson from Ercildoune laid the foundation stone of the present stone church on November 24th 1875, the church opening was on March 19th 1876, almost free of the £1250 ($2500) debt.

In 1890 a new manse was built and this building, with an interesting garden, still survives. The stone Sunday School was added to the rear of the church in 1907. In the 1950s a fence was built using stone from a bluestone building given for that purpose by Mr Max Griffin. Mr James Gordon presented the wrought iron gate at the same time.

The Rev Robert Hamilton served the congregation as Minister for 37 years between 1863- 1900 and in 1925 Mr Rain resigned his position of Secretary after serving for 60 years.

During the year of 1977, the last service under the name of the Presbyterian Church of Learmonth was held, as it became a member of the Uniting Church of Australia.


Researched and written by Mrs Claudette Crick.

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