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Newland, Ridgway William (1790–1864)

from South Australian Register

Ridgway Newland, by Townsend Duryea, n.d.

Ridgway Newland, by Townsend Duryea, n.d.

State Library of South Australia, B 3197

The news which we publish in our column elsewhere announcing the death of the Rev. Ridgway William Newland will be received with sadness by many of our readers to whom he was known. His life and labours have for upwards of twenty years been so closely connected with the southern part of the colony, and he has occupied such a public position in the whole of the district of which Port Elliot may be considered the centre, that his unlooked-for and melancholy death deserves more than a passing notice at our hands. Mr. Newland was upwards of fifty years old when he landed on these shores. We believe that for something like a quarter of a century he occupied the pulpit of one of the largest Independent Churches in the Staffordshire Potteries previous to his coming to South Australia, and in this important sphere he was much and deservedly respected. Shortly after his arrival here he selected Encounter Bay as his home and the scene of his future labours, and there he has remained ever since, securing for himself, by the simplicity and transparency of his character and by his unwearied and self sacrficing labours for the secular and spiritual good ? neighbours, the esteem of all who knew him and the affection of not a few.

Mr Newland came to this colony with a view to secular pursuits, and, we understand, brought a considerable amount of property with him. He was one of the first to settle in the Southern District, where he purchased land and at once engaged in agriculture. Like many of the early colonists he had trying difficulties to contend against in the beginning; but his energy, industry, cheerful temper, and 'pluck' enabled him to surmount them. From his first taking up his residence in the district Mr. Newland became a public man. Though he still retained his ministerial character, and soon erected a chapel and gathered a congregation to whom he became the regular and recognised minister, and whom he faithfully served gratuitously for many years, he was always foremost in every public movement for promoting the prosperity of the neighbourhood in which he resided. He was, by common consent, acknowledged to be the principal man in the South. His advice was sought on all matters pertaining to the general welfare of the district; and on important occasions he was invariably put forward as their representative man. For many years he has been a Justice of the Peace and Chairman of the District Council. It would have been impossible for a man of his overflowing energy, practical common sense, and general intelligence to have occupied a retiring position. He was generally selected to preside at all public meetings held in his neighbourhood, where his genial spirit and healthy humour had full play, and delighted many an assembly. He was, we believe, a great favourite with more than one Governor who has presided over the colony; and his home was always open to receive those who sought his hospitality, from the highest to the lowest.

During the whole of his colonial life Mr. Newland has worked hard. He had a splendid constitution, and, although physically but a small man, he could bear a large amount of fatigue and perform a large amount of work. He has more than once in one day, between waking and sleeping, walked from Encounter Bay to Adelaide, a distance of something like fifty miles, carrying a bundle and wading through three rivers. His occupations were of a very miscellaneous character, as might be expected from his position. Every kind of work that a farmer can perform he has done. He has cleared land, ploughed it, reaped the crops, and thrashed the corn. He could drive bullocks, break in young horses, or milk his cows. And none of these humble employments ever detracted from his character or lessened the respect which was paid to him as a Christian minister and an English gentleman. On the Sunday he would be in the pulpit instructing the people, and on weekdays on the farm, or the bench, or occupying the chair at the meeting of the District Council, or perchance presiding over an Oddfellows' annual gathering. And on all occasions he was the same man — genial, healthy, and useful.

To say that he had his weaknesses is only to say he was human. Just like Goldsmith's tillage pastor, 'his failings leaned to virtue's side.' He had a deep conviction, as many of our readers know, that the Southern District had not full justice done to it by the Governments of the day, and he was never slow to tell them so. In public and in private, with a zeal sometimes greater than his discretion, he stood up for that part of the colony of which he was, if not de jure, yet de facto the representative. Probably impartial observers will be of opinion that the neighbourhood in which he lived, and which he had done much to create, had an undue importance in his eyes; but that was a weakness which can be understood and readily forgiven.

In looking at the whole career of Mr. Newland, we can see that he was a fine specimen of an earnest and useful colonist. Possessing no large amount of intellect, he had a healthy and robust mind, which, within its own range, worked with intense energy and restless activity. He was a man of action more than of thought — a good example of what has been somewhat quaintly called 'muscular Christianity.' He had a hearty hatred of shams and conventionalities, which it is possible he sometimes carried to an undue excess. But he was transparent and honest, and in many respects admirably adapted to the circumstances in which his lot was cast.

The late Mr. Stow, who was no mean judge of character, had a great respect for Mr. Newland. He venerated his simple piety and admired his true manly nature. For many years they represented in this colony the denomination of Christians of which they were both respected and able ministers; and but a comparatively short period has elapsed between their deaths. To the Southern District Mr. Newland's untimely death will be an irreparable loss. There is no man who in all respects can fill his place. The district had grown up under his eye, had been fostered by his care, and guided by his wisdom; and no man can ever again stand in the same relation to it as he did.

Another old colonist has gone from amongst us ripe in years, full of honours and of usefulness. In his own place he was a man of influence, of mark and likelihood. The circumstances of his death, as described elsewhere, were very painful and affecting. He preached in Freeman-street Chapel the previous Sunday, and we presume was on his way from Adelaide to his own home when this accident befell him. We believe he was in his 75th year. He has lived a long, laborious, and useful life; and though the circumstances of his death are to be regretted, his numerous friends have the satisfaction of knowing that he has not passed away without leaving his mark on the age and country in which he lived.

The mortal remains of the Rev. R. W. Newland were consigned to their last resting-place, in a vault beneath the pulpit in the Independent Chapel of Encounter Bay, precisely under the very spot where the departed pastor had stood and preached the Gospel for so many years. It was naturally expected, owing to the great esteem in which the deceased was held, that a great number of persons would take the last opportunity of paying their respect to him, but it was not expected to see so large a company as were gathered together on this solemn occasion. In the townships of Currency Creek, Goolwa, Middleton, Port Elliot, Encounter Bay, and Bald Hills all business was totally suspended; from the vessels in the harbour at Port Elliot and Port Victor flags were flying half-mast high, as well at all the hotels. The funeral procession included most of the public functionaries in the district, ministers of religion, Magistrates, District Councillors, the police, and others, who all came to offer an unfeigned tribute of deep respect. The mournful cortege started from Southcote, the residence of Mr. B. P. Laurie, S.M., at 1 o'clock. Through the kindness of Mr. T. Goode, of Goolwa, his wagonette had been converted into a hearse, and every necessary arrangement was made in order that the great number of persons present might join in the procession without confusion. On the procession reaching the junction of the Port Elliot and Hindmarsh Valley roads, where from 130 to 200 persons were waiting to fall in, final arrangements to be observed along the whole line of route were then made. The procession then started again in the following order — First rode the officers and members of the Loyal Goolwa House of Oddfellows, with the funeral insignia of the Order; then the Rev. Messrs. Hotham, Hodgee, and Wylie; next followed the officers and members of the Bald Hills, Encounter Bay, Port Elliot, and Middleton Independent Churches; after which came several carriages, containing some of the more intimate and personal friends of the deceased; then the hearse, driven by Mr. T. Goode. jun., closely following which were several carriages, containing the chief mourners; next followed a long line of about 60 vehicles; after which about 200 ladies and gentlemen on horseback. The length of the procession was considerably increased by the time it reached the Bay, a great number having joined it at Victor Harbour and at the Alexandra and Newland Bridges. Before it reached the Bay the Sunday-school children with their teachers fell into the ranks. During the journey from Port Elliot the weather had been excessively hot; but on reaching the Bay, about 4 o'clock, a gentle and refreshing breeze sprang up. On arriving at the chapel the coffin was placed upon supports in the chapel-yard, where a temporary reading desk had been put up. This was not only a wise but a necessary precaution, as it would have been impossible for two thirds of the numbers present to have gained admission to the interior. The service commenced by the Rev. J. Hotham giving out the 731st Hymn in the Congregational Handbook, beginning with

''Hear what the voice from Heaven proclaims
For all the pious dead.'

Mr. Bayers, jun. presided at the harmonium. After the hymn had been sung, the 90th Psalm and part of the 15th chapter 1st Corinthians were read. The Rev. J. Howie, of Maclaren Vale, then offered prayer. The Rev. C. Manthorpe delivered a short address. In the course of his remarks the rev. gentleman said death was a sad as well as a most mysterious event— it was an event which must happen to all. But though it was such a strange as well as a mysterious thing, to the Christian who had hope in Christ it was only the portal to an eternal life of blessedness and peace. Nevertheless the loss they had sustained was a great one. They had to mourn the loss of a father, a brother, and a friend, who had been taken from them by a stroke of God's providence. They would never more hear the loving voice; the kindly smile and the friendly hand that were wont to greet them had forever passed away from their midst. He felt it was neither the time nor the place for him to eulogize the character of the departed one, or to say much respecting his labours amongst them. Another opportunity would be afforded him for that purpose. He rejoiced, however, in knowing that the departed knew no fear, he knew in whom he had believed, and his confidence in his saviour had removed all fear. He (the speaker) had seen their departed friend a week previously in the metropolis, and he had told him that he had been to see his medical adviser, and begged him to tell him just what he thought of him, for, added he, 'I have no fear.'' When the departed left his native land with a young family, there were those of his own friends, as well as the members of his Church and congregation, who questioned the propriety of that step; but their friend trusted in his God. He had no fear, and God had blessed him; and during his long labours in the colony, and while engaging in many public matters where the benefit of his fellow-men were concerned, however difficult the work might have been, he had no fear; indeed, it was seen in all he undertook that he was a man with no fear. And when the last struggle came—when flesh and spirit were about to part—he still had no fear. Perhaps there were many who could have wished that their departed friend and pastor might have gently breathed out his life in their midst. They would, no doubt, have rejoiced to have heard his parting words—to have received his dying counsel—but God had willed it otherwise; and, it was in great mercy that God had been pleased to do this. There had been no long sickness; no long and weary days and nights of pain and wearisome watchings; but he had been mercifully spared all this, and had been taken away as with a stroke with but little pain. He had been suddenly taken to his glorious rest, and had, he felt assured, received an abundant and triumphant entrance into that kingdom which was prepared for all the true followers of the Lamb. The Rev. J. B. Austin, of Macclesfield, then offered up a short prayer; after which Mr. Hotham gave out the 735th Hymn, beginning with the words—

'Rest from thy labour, rest;
Soul of the just set free!
Blest be thy memory, and blest
Thy bright example be.'

The body was then conveyed into the chapel, preceded by the Rev. F. W. Cox, of Adelaide, who read the burial service. On arriving at the vault the coffin was gently lowered into its resting-place. Mr. Cox then delivered a very short but deeply impressive address, in which he urged upon all present the absolute necessity that existed for preparation for the solemn event of death that must sooner or later overtake them all. It was true, death might not come to them as it had done to their departed father and brother; and yet his was such a death as might have happened to the youngest present. By the course of nature they could not have expected to have had their departed friend amongst them much longer; indeed, his last words to the people in Adelaide, where he had preached on the previous Sabbath, seemed significant of this, for he had told the congregation that it was probably the last time they would ever hear his voice again. But while all of them knew that he was nearing the close of his life, none were prepared for the mysterious stroke which had removed him from their midst. It was right that natural grief should have its course; but they could in the midst of their deepest grief rejoice in the fact that their departed father was now at rest. Yes, he had reached the land where all sorrows cease, where no pain could enter. He was removed for a time, but they would see him again; for a day was coming when, at the sound of the archangel's trump, the earth and sea must give up their dead. He hoped at that solemn day the members of their departed friend's family, his Church and congregation, and all who mourned his loss, might then meet as one unbroken family above. The rev. gentleman, after praying a few minutes, pronounced the benediction, when the vast concourse, which could not number less than 400 or 500 persons, slowly and quietly dispersed. I am happy to say that not the slightest accident of any kind occurred during the day. After such an exhibition of public respect it would only be superfluous to say anything respecting the character of the departed. He has, to borrow the language of the Register, 'left an impression on the age in which he lived.' He has passed away, but his influence will long be felt. It may be said of him, as a Christian minister, that he was decidedly denominational without being offensively sectarian. He promoted the preaching of the Gospel in many places where there existed no means of spiritual instruction. And while he sought the enlargement of his own Church, he rejoiced in the efforts of usefulness made by other denominations of Christians. His character as a Christian gentleman and Magistrate was in keeping with his standing in the Church; and the men of the world, as well as his professing brethren, afforded their willing testimony to his fidelity and uprightness.

'Rest, sainted spirit, rest,
Thine earthly race is run;
Thy home is with the blest,
Thy victory has been won.
Thou hast laid down thy shield and sword,
To rest for ever with thy Lord.'

According to announcement made a week previous that the Marriot Brothers would give a vocal and instrumental concert at the Port Elliot Hotel, those gentlemen arrived here yesterday; but on finding that the funeral of Mr. Newland was taking place, they, with a promptitude which does them great credit, resolved on postponing the concert announced to take place at Port Elliot and Encounter Bay for a few weeks. This consideration for the feelings of the settlers here will no doubt be duly appreciated, and when those gentlemen shall again make their appearance they will, no doubt, receive a cordial welcome.

The Congregational Chapels in the city were hang with mourning on Sunday, March 13, as a tribute of respect to the late Rev. R. W. Newland, who met with a fatal accident during the past week. The service at Freeman-street Chapel was rendered peculiarly solemn and impressive by the reference made to the fatal occurrence, and also to the death of a young lady, a member of the congregation, Miss Maria Louisa Clark, aged 20, the daughter of Mr. Joseph Mark, of Adelaide. The Rev. J. Jefferis preached, and before entering upon his sermon he made a few introductory remarks upon the two events which had darkened the homes of two families, and torn the hearts of many with bitter anguish during the last week. He said it was the duty of the Christian minister to exalt his Saviour rather than to eulogize men, but there were times when it was very profitable to dwell upon the lessons suggested by the living and the dying of some who had spent simple and earnest lives in the service of God. A week ago the voice of Mr. Newland was heard by them in that place earnestly declaring the truths of Christ, but that day it was resounding in the choral harmony of heaven. There were, he said, peculiar claims upon that congregation of reverence and regard for the deceased, and of sympathy for her whose earthly stay had been removed, for he had died in their service. Having occupied that pulpit on several occasions, he was returning home, when he perished by the way. He (Mr. Jefferis) had recently had the privilege of spending a night under the roof of Mr. Newland, and in conversation was struck with his simple earnest faith, and his glory in having been permitted to labour so long for Christ. He should not attempt to analyze his character. Large-hearted and liberal in his opinions— simple as a child in all he did and said — the beautiful freshness of youth was with him even in a green old age; and leaving out of sight the peculiar circumstances of his death, it was a most enviable one. He died as a warrior should die, with the armour of battle upon him, and with his feet to the foe. At a time of life when others seek rest and retirement, he was still at work. 'His eye was not dim, nor had his natural strength abated. 'Might they die the death of the righteous, and might their end be like his. During the past week also one of that congregation had been called away. Strange contrast between this departed sister and their late brother. He had lived the three score years and ten—she was just entering on life's maturity. He engaged in the most active service, and she was laid aside by a dangerous and distressing malady. And yet they were one in this—they served the same Lord, and had now entered the same home. It would not be at all inappropriate, he thought, to dwell upon some of the lessons which events like these were calculated to teach them. The same invisible foe would speedily strike them down—their last day must come, and there would be no hope in the hour of dying unless they rested in faith upon their risen Lord. He then preached an eloquent sermon from the words of 1st Cor., 15th chapter 20th verse—'But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.'

The Rev. A. R. Phelps, of Truro, preached a sermon at North Adelaide Congregational Chapel in the morning, having reference to the event which had saddened the past week. His text was taken from Thessalonians, 4th chapter 14th verse— 'For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him,' and his discourse was listened to with deep attention and earnestness.

The Rev. W. Harcus preached at Freeman-street in the evening from the 2nd Cor., 4th chapter, 8th verse — 'We are perplexed, but not in despair.' He spoke of the many sources of perplexity in this world to the child of God— the doubts which are started by a consideration of the world of nature— of the greater mystery of the spiritual being in man— of the many dispensations of mercy sent by God among themselves personally. These doubts, however, existed only when they dwelt upon the details, but when they looked at great principles all was confidence and trust. In referring to the mysterious dispensations which occasionally were permitted by God to visit His people, Mr. Harcus spoke as follows with respect to the recent sad accident:— 'During the past week an event has been permitted by His Providence which, at the firt sight, very much perplexes us. Last week, at this hour, a venerable minister of the Gospel of Christ stood in this place to preach to you the words of eternal life, and in a short time, when his days seemed hardly have come to an end, he is cut down suddenly, with a stroke—a man whose weight of character, whose influence, whose mellow Christian experience seemed to promise that the decline of his life would be even of greater usefulness than his previous career. And yet he is suddenly taken away, and we ask how is it that a man of his strength and energy and usefulness should be removed under such sad and affecting circumstances. We are perplexed by this thought, but we are not in despair. We know God has a right to recall life when He thinks fit. We hold our souls only by the tenure of His will, and he can recall to himself that which He first gave; and it may be that in the day of the Lord, the death of our venerable and beloved friend occurring as it did and full of mystery to us, was one of God's grand purpose for this conversion of some of the people in this colony. It may be that some will be saved by his death who would never have listened to the words of his teaching in his life. We may be perplexed by this dispensation, but we will find satisfaction in the sure word of God to keep us from despair.

On Sunday evening the Rev. F. W. Cox preached a sermon in the Hindmarsh-square Congregational Church to a large and attentive audience, selecting for his text the 11th verse of the 6th chapter of Romans—'Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead ann indeed unto sin, but alive unto God. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.' At the outset the rev. gentleman observed that this was one of the Apostle's favourite metaphors, and pointed to the others in the preceding verses. He then descanted at some length upon his topic, and towards the close of his discourse gave a brief but interesting outline of the career of Mr. Newland from the period of his landing on these shores down to his decease. In the first part of the rev. gentleman's sketch, reference was made to the recent visit of Mr. Newland to Adelaide. He said he had been informed that the subject of this notice was led to the profession of religion early in life. He was of a sound intellect, and of a vigorous and active character. He entered on various occupations and acquired an insight into several secular pursuits, which he (the Rev. Mr. Cox) considered very beneficial. In youth his thoughts were directed to the preaching of the gospel. When 20 years old he entered Hoxton University, and studied under Dr. Tunpson. There he acquired the elements of a good substantial education, and remained until his 24th rear. He then commenced his ministerial labours in the potteries' district, Staffordshire, where he remained till his 50th year. His health failing him, he was compelled to resort to other occupations, and for some time cultivated a small farm, and by the exercise which this work afforded he succeeded in arresting the progress of disease. Twenty-six years ago he came to South Australia, which had then not long been established. His intention was to preach the Gospel, and, on his arrival, settled at Encounter Bay, which it was very generally thought would be the site fixed upon for the capital of the colony. When he landed he had some property, considerably more than when he died; for not only was he disappointed in the progress of that district, but he distributed his means in his efforts to do good. He often preached three times a day, and to do so had to travel seven or eight miles, wading and swimming across rivers sometimes as often as six times a day. Having made some further remarks bearing upon this subject, the reverend gentleman passed on to speak of the deceased gentleman's personal character. As a preacher he was thoroughly warm and earnest, and was possessed of a large amount of natural eloquence. While in Adelaide he could not proclaim the truths of the Gospel with such power and pathos as while at home in his own little chapel. He was a preacher of the olden school. His whole life was one of activity. He, like many strong-willed men, had a great horror of change. His knowledge and scholarship were greater than most people gave him credit for, inasmuch as his simple style induced in some the belief that he was comparatively unlettered, and in others that he was even illiterate. He had a practical and mechanical turn of mind, and in his sphere he was eminently useful. He was exceedingly humble, notwithstanding his great popularity in the district on account of his usefulness. The rev. gentleman here read a letter received from Mr. Newland about a month ago, the language of which was indicative of his humility of mind, and the shame he felt— not for what he had accomplished— but for what he had left undone. Another feature, in addition to his boundless activity, was his broad and genial spirit, which was displayed in a variety of ways— whether of a social or political nature— and he was the friend and patron of every useful work. Just before he left town, in speaking to a young minister to whom he was deeply attached, he expressed his conviction that he should not be long in the world; and in reference to his spiritual condition, made use of the words— 'I have no fear'— which the rev. gentleman to whom he had spoken made the key of an address to those assembled round the grave of the deceased. The rev. gentleman said these words— 'I have no fear'— were characteristic of the deceased through life. In engaging in secular pursuits perhaps other men would have been more scrupulous than he had been. After some further remarks in reference to the deceased, the rev. gentleman remarked that his valuable and noble life was terminated while travelling over a road which had been notorious for years past as being the scene of many disasters. He then detailed the circumstances attending the death of the deceased, who, he (Mr. Cox) said, was not aware of the extent of the deadly injuries he had received. In concluding, the rev. gentleman said he was persuaded that the deceased had no fear, and could say with the apostle— 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me: and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.'

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'Newland, Ridgway William (1790–1864)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/newland-ridgway-william-2505/text25895, accessed 22 November 2017.

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