Originally published in HAFS Newsletter No 7, February 1994, p5: see A Presidential Profile by Patricia H Newth [E.4.1a.6b.2c.2d].
Melville Cooper Newth [E.4.1a.6b.2c] was born at Manly, NSW, late on 3 August 1914. The guns, for some reason, were firing at the heads of Port Jackson, and a few hours later World War I broke out. His parents commented that he must have been one of the causes of the Great War but it didn’t get into the history books!
Like his distinguished relative, the Reverend Septimus Hungerford who lived to be almost 102, Melville was not expected to live and was hastily christened.
He came from a close-knit family, being the second eldest to six children, born to Adrian Hastings Newth, a prominent pharmacist, the sixth child of Jessie Hungerford, eldest of the family of nine children of William Moore Hungerford and Agnes Winder. His mother, Kate Gwendolyne Goodwin, was descended from the Rose Clan of Scotland, and the present Baroness of the Castle, Elizabeth Rose, has exchanged visits with the Newth family over the years.
Melville was educated at Strathfield Grammar School, then Trinity Grammar, where he won a University Exhibition and graduated BA from Sydney University after completing training at the Sydney Teachers’ College under the leadership of the famous Alexander Mackie. He served in schools in Sydney and Newcastle with distinction, when, like Septimus Hungerford, he was deeply disturbed in spirit and found himself unable to continue on in the teaching profession which held out such high prospects of promotion. Realising he was being challenged to enter the ministry and not wanting “to be disobedient to the heavenly vision”, he forthwith resigned and entered Moore Theological College late in 1939. He graduated ThL from the Australian College of Theology in 1941, was ordained deacon that year and later priest in 1942 by Archbishop HWK Mowll, who also officiated at his marriage to Sister Hope Kirkwood, of Deaconess House, on 3 October 1942.
After serving a curacy at St Peter’s Cooks River, Melville was appointed to the staff of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, in 1941 where he has remained for over 50 years to the present day. For 38 years he was headmaster of the Cathedral School, developing a small Choir School of only 32 boys into an important and significant institution for primary and secondary education with a sound Christian basis, the enrolment being 542 when he retired and now exceeding 700 boys.
He was awarded the OBE in 1978 in the Queen’s New Year Honours List “for services to Education and the Church”. For seven years he became, also, the precentor of the Cathedral (1947-1954), and sang the service on the occasion of the Queen’s first visit to Sydney and St Andrew’s in February 1954. In 1978 he was also elected FACE, the highest award, a Fellow of the Australian College of Education. He was appointed first a Minor Canon and later an Honorary Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral.
He was elected member of the Sydney Diocesan Board of Education for 30 years from 1950-1980 and its Deputy Chairman 1960-1971 as well as Chairman of its special Teachers’ Training Fund for 30 years. He was a member from 1949-1960 of the Council of Abbotsleigh School where his three daughters Margaret, Patricia and Rosemary were educated, was Chairman of the Council for three years and co-founder of the Abbotsleigh Parents and Friends Association. Earlier on he was elected to the councils of Tara and Arden Schools and to the Council for the Promotion of Sydney Diocesan Church of England Schools. From 1981-1986 he was the Archbishop’s representative on the Board of Directors of SCEGGS (Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School at Darlinghurst) and from 1982-1990 he was a Foundation Member of the Board of the peninsular Anglican Boys’ School.
He has had a life long interest in and concern for less fortunate boys and girls and has served for 17 years on the Board of the Church of England Homes. For 35 years he has played a special role with the Royal NSW Institute for Deaf and Blind and Multi-handicapped Children who honoured him by making him a Life Governor. Melville is a Foundation benefactor of the Lord Robert Barden-Powell Society, having been a King’s Scout in his boyhood years, proudly carrying his Troop Flag on the occasion of the visit to Australia of Lord Baden-Powell himself. He is also a Foundation benefactor of Zadok, the Institute for Christianity and Society.
Of special note is his keen interest as a Foundation member from 1955 of the Church of England Historical Society, becoming its Senior Vice-President in 1975. Now, since 1990, he has been honoured by being appointed Foundation president of the Hungerford & Associated Families Society Inc under the patronage of Dr Thomas Hungerford.
He has since been further honoured by being made an honorary Life Member of the Society. The prayer of the American poet Emerson seems so pertinent, Canon Melville Newth declares, as one reviews the progress of the Hungerford Association with its remarkable research over such a short period:
“Lord grant me the lift of long look forward the lift of a long look back.“
The Reverend Melville C Newth, passed away on 21 October 2004, at Hornsby, NSW.