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John Tait (1809–1860)


The Presbyterian Church of Victoria has just sustained a heavy loss, in the death of the Rev. John Tait, who died at his residence, the Manse, Skene-street, Geelong, on the morning of Monday, 19th March. Mr. Tait had been ailing for a considerable time, and his decease was not unexpected. The labour's of a useful life, the anxieties of a sensitive mind, and the effects of long residence in a trying climate, told at length on a frame never robust, until he sank under a general exhaustion of nature.

John Tait was born at Moffat, in Scotland, in the year 1809. As, a student in the Glasgow University he showed great proficiency and ranked among his friends such scholars as Halley and Robert Johnson, afterwards missionary at Madras. He studied theology under Dr. McGill, and was one of the many earnest students whom that celebrated professor sent forth some thirty years ago to revive (under God) the evangelism of the Scottish Church.

Mr. Tait was licensed early, and entered at once on missionary work in Glasgow, Greenock, and other places in the west, where a savour of his name is still retained in many godly families. His chief field of usefulness, however, was to be Australia; and he was led, after much exercise of heart and prayer for guidance, to offer himself for the colonial church in New South Wales.

He landed in Sydney some twenty-three years ago, and was soon appointed to the charge of the district of Illawarra, where he laboured so abundantly as to form the nucleus of what are now six flourishing congregations. After a ministry of three years at Illawarra, he was transferred to Parramatta, then a centre of much influence, in consequence of that township being the main seat of the penal establishments in New South Wales, and the residence of many government officials. He continued in Parramatta ten years; and such was the value entertained there for his ministry, that on his removal to Geelong, in Victoria, several of his people followed him, one of whom assisted in nursing him with touching tenderness during his last illness, and another of whom was observed at the funeral shedding tears over his grave.

The disruption of 1843 in the Church of Scotland produced a profound impression on Mr. Tait's mind, and he resolved, though at a great sacrifice, to cast in his lot with the Free Church. This, and the breaking up of the penal establishments at Parramatta about the same time, led to his removal from that scene of usefulness, and he ultimately settled at Geelong, in this colony, where, notwithstanding the disturbing influences of the last nine years, he collected a congregation remarkable among all the congregations of the church for their number, character, organisation, and zeal. As a preacher, Mr. Tait had great power - laborious in his studies, and preparations, scriptural and textual in his discourses, strong in his convictions, impressed with the importance of the Gospel and the value of souls - he appeared in the pulpit every Lord's day with sermons that readily laid hold of the minds and sympathies of his hearers. He was both arousing and edifying. Few preachers are so uniformly equal in thought and preparation as was our departed friend. Mr. Tait, however, was not a mere preacher ; he took a deep interest in all public questions and movements bearing on morals and religion, and he is known to have watched carefully over the interests of the charitable in stitutions of Geelong. Mr. Tait passed through life with a private character eminently pure. Candid, truthful, unworldly, and guarded; simple in his tastes, and abstemious in his habits, living for God, blessed in his domestic relations, and happy in the esteem of every good man who know him - he has gone without a spot on his name. It was, however, in church courts that Mr. Tait was best known to the brethren and to the church at large. With a clear head, large colonial experience, thorough integrity, a natural turn for busi- ness, a deep interest in ecclesiastical affairs, and a remarkable talent for writing minutes and motions; great wisdom in coun- sel, resoluteness in following his object, and in moral courage bold as a lion, he was just the man to guide the policy of a church, and the Presbyterian Church in her short history in Australia had need of Mr. Tait more than once. - The Australian Messenger.

Original publication

Citation details

'Tait, John (1809–1860)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 November, 1809
Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland


19 March, 1860 (aged 50)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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