Alexander Edgar (1850 – 1914) Methodist minister and social reformer
A tall, broad-shouldered man with a magnetic personality, Edgar was a dynamic preacher and persuasive evangelist. His organizing ability and sympathetic understanding of and sincere activism in social problems extended his influence. Asked why he helped the undeserving, he replied, ‘I spend my life in giving men another chance’.
Alexander Edgar, Methodist minister and social reformer, was born on 8 April 1850 in County Tipperary, Ireland, second of five sons and four daughters of Edward Edgar, engineer, and his wife Mary, née Haslam.
The family landed in Melbourne in February 1855, camping on arrival at Fitzroy, then residing at Windsor where Alexander went to All Saints’ School. They moved in 1857 to St Arnaud, where he attended day school until he was 14. He was successively pupil-teacher, gold prospector, tutor, prospector again, and assistant to the district surveyor.
A tall, broad-shouldered man with a magnetic personality, Edgar was a dynamic preacher and persuasive evangelist. His organizing ability and sympathetic understanding of and sincere activism in social problems extended his influence. Asked why he helped the undeserving, he replied, ‘I spend my life in giving men another chance’. He was an excellent lecturer.
In 1893 the Methodist Conference established the Central Methodist Mission at Wesley Church, with Edgar as superintendent and A. J. Derrick as secretary. At this time there was great public concern over the exploitation of labour by many employers during the widespread unemployment of the early 1890s. In 1893 the government appointed a board of inquiry into the Factories Act, particularly the practice of sweating. Edgar joined a deputation of tailors and bootmakers to the chief secretary in 1894. Meetings on ‘The sweating evil’ were called at the Central Mission on the following Sunday afternoons and both were filled to capacity to hear Edgar, S. Mauger and Dr W. Maloney, who was an inquiry member.
As a result of his anti-sweating activities, Edgar was appointed chairman of the first Victorian wages board—the clothing—and later the coopers’ and jam boards. On 19 September 1901, in giving evidence to the royal commission on the operation of the factories and shops law, he stated that as board chairman he had negotiated agreements without ever having to give a casting vote. He was also a member of the board of inquiry on unemployment (1899-1900).
Other social activities initiated by Edgar in the depressed 1890s included the village settlement at Kardella, Gippsland; free labour bureaus; unemployed committees; the Sisterhood and Sisters’ Home; South Yarra Central Mission Rescue Home for women; Central Mission Hospice for men; Tally Ho boys’ farm at Burwood; Bichloride of Gold Institute of Victoria for alcoholism and drugs; and the annual Old Folks’ At Home gathering.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080433b.htm
History of the Wesley Church – Alexander Edgar : http://wesleychurch.org.au/history.html
Tally Ho Boys’ Village : http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01464b.htm
Abel Hoadley – Tally Ho Boys’ Training Farm : https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/abel-hoadley
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