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Waddell, John A. (1845–1936)

The Rev. John A. Waddell, who retired from the Methodist ministry 11 years ago, died at his home at Rockdale yesterday morning, aged 91 years. He had an intensely interesting career, and retained his health and vigour up till recently. Last year, when he celebrated his 91st birthday, he recounted to a Herald representative his exciting experiences, as a youth, with the gang of bushrangers led by Ben Hall and his associate, Gilbert.

Mr. Waddell was a native of Clover Hill, Ireland, and came to Sydney with his parents at the age of 10 years. His brother Thomas who subsequently entered politics and became Premier of New South Wales was then an infant. At that time the only railway in the colony terminated at Granville. The family travelled by coach to Collecter. It was a slow and tiring journey. Goulburn being reached on the fourth day and Collector on the fifth. Mr. Waddell’s father could not get ploughmen and the son had to leave school and work the wooden plough. The father being a magistrate had occasionally to pronounce sentence on many offenders. These men poured out their grievances to Ben Hall, who, with his gang was in the vicinity, and the bushranger sent word to the magistrate that he would shoot him and burn down his house.

Recounting this experience last year, Mr. Waddell said: "I got a revolver, a Colt with a long barrel and practised shooting with the troopers in charge of the town and district, and I became a good shot—next to Trooper Kelly, who had shot one of the Clarke gang. Then Ben Hall said he would shoot me. I never saw Ben Hall, but I saw Gilbert, who was one of Hall’s men.

"One night I went down to the store. I hadn’t my revolver as the bushrangers were believed to be out of the district. As I went into the store a young man brushed past me. He was in a cabbage tree hat, calfskin waist coat, cord tights and Wellington boots—smart as anything in the bush dandy style. Next morning some of the notes he had paid the storekeeper were sent to my father who, as a magistrate, had a list of the numbers of stolen notes, and then it was found that the man was Gilbert. Had I been a few seconds earlier the storekeeper would have said 'Good evening, Mr. Waddell' and probably it would have been the end of me. But Gilbert was a real smart fellow, not a brutal man like Dunn. He was shot later on when he was at Binalong Creek near Yass."

Mr. Waddell entered the Methodist ministry in 1867 and was stationed successively at Berrima, Young, Orange, Murrurundi, Manning River, Bega and Oberon. After a serious breakdown in health, which necessitated eight years of rest, he was appointed to Rockley, and subsequently served in East Maitland, Lower Hawkesbury, Rockdale, Kiama, Mount Lachlan and Kogarah circuits. He was chairman of the Illawarra Synod in 1902. In 1912 he became a supernumerary but filled engagements as assistant minister in the North Sydney circuit and at the Leichhardt mission. Later he assisted in the Hurstville-Kogarah circuit. When 80 years of age he retired on account of impaired hearing. He was president of the Evangelical Council of New South Wales in 1917.

He is survived by two sons and one daughter. The funeral will take place at the Methodist Cemetery, Rookwood, today after a service at the Rockdale Methodist Church at 1.30 p.m.

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'Waddell, John A. (1845–1936)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/waddell-john-a-1612/text1704, accessed 25 September 2017.

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