Truth or Fiction. I’ll tell you at the end.
My father was asleep. He was getting old. Actually, the story I’m about to tell happened when he was about as old as I am now. I walked in and he woke up. We talked for a while and then I asked him, “Did you ever have any pets when you were kids?”
“No. Not that I remember. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just because you always had animals and you always had a farm even when you were teaching.”
He sat and said nothing. Closed his eyes. Then a gentle smile .”We had a swan.”
“When we lived in the Vicarage,” Dad said, “Arthur and I found a baby swan and we asked Father if we could keep it. But it was not legal in South Australia then, I don’t know about now, but back then you couldn’t keep a native bird or animal as a pet without permission. So Arthur said we would ask for permission. We went down to the Police Station and spoke to the Sergeant who was a good friend of Dad’s from the boxing club.”
“From the what!” I exclaimed.
“The Boxing Club. Do you want to know about that as well as the baby swan? I’ll tell you next time but now about the swan.”
“No! I haven’t heard anything about a boxing club. Tell me that now. The Swan can wait.”
“OK. Your Grandfather was quite an accomplished amateur boxer and as the local Anglican Vicar he got to know some of the bad young lads around town. So whenever he was talking with them he would invite them to church. But of course they never came.”
“Dad, while I remember. You keep talking about the Vicarage but I though we were supposed to be Presbyterians.”
“Well that is all to do with the boxing club so this is your lucky day. As I was saying.The bad boys never came to church. One day your Grandfather was down at the police station when Sgt McIntosh was trying to restrain a fellow who was a bit drunk and aggressive and the drunk was a big fellow and McIntosh was having a bit of a struggle so George, I’ll call him George because your sister gave him that name. She thought he looked like King George, the Queen’s father and his face was on all our stamps at the time.”
“Get back to the boxing Dad.”
“Anyway, George walked up to the drunk and punched him neatly on the chin and knocked him out. McIntosh was impressed and George told him about his Amateur career. The next morning Your Grandfather was called to the Police Station. The drunk was sober now and wanted to say something. When George arrived the drunk walked up to him and shook his hand and said he’d like to know how he knocked him out because no one had done it before.
The end of the story was that George started a boxing Club in the stables at the back of the Commercial hotel. It was McIntosh’s club officially.
The next part of the story is the outcome. The Vestry of the Church weren’t happy and one night at a meeting of the Vicar and his vestry they passed a motion that declared their desire for the Vicar to have nothing more to do with ‘the drunks and layabouts of the town’. My father said that he was rather of the opinion that Jesus would have probably spent more time with the drunks and layabouts than with the so called ‘decent’ class of people. But the Vestry insisted. So Father stood up and said I will therefore resign, effective immediately. There was a hoo haa and Father left.
He went back to the Vicarage, told your Grandmother to wake all the children and get them ready to move house. It was about nine o’clock at night. As it happened, and George of course knew, the local Presbyterian Manse was vacant. The Pressies didn’t have a minister at that time. So he went around to the Manse and very carefully opened a window at the back, opened the front door, went back to the Vicarage, collected the family and settled them in to the Manse. Mother, of course said very little. She was used to her husband doing strange things now and then.
Then he went around to the Clerk of the Presbyterian Session. He said, and I quote, because he told us what he said a couple of times and I remember it well. The conversation went this way; ‘Mr Davis, I believe you are still looking for a Minister. ‘ Yes, said Mr Davis, we are’. – ‘Well,’ said father, ‘If you are prepared to take my recommendation then I believe I have found the man for you.’ – ‘ We are quite happy to accept anyone that you would recommend.’ – ‘Then tomorrow morning, if you go around to the Manse I will ask my wife to introduce the fellow to you.’
The next morning Mr Davis knocked on the door of the Manse, Mother opened the door, invited him in, made him a cup of tea and said she supposed Mr Davis would like to meet the man. Mr Davis said that he would and you grandfather walked into the kitchen and said, ‘I am your man if you’ll have me.’ ‘But you are an Anglican.’ ‘I was an Anglican last night but this morning I have become a Presbyterian. All the necessary papers have been posted to the Church Authorities.’ ‘Then welcome to the Presbyterian Church.’ ‘There is only one small condition,’ your Grandfather said, ‘I wish to continue running the boxing club at the back of the Commercial Hotel.”
And he did.
All of the above is true. He really did run a boxing club and it was at the back of the Commercial Hotel and he did resign from the Anglican Church and he did become a Presbyterian and the conversation did go the way I reported it.