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John Shedden Adam (1824-1906) Presbyterian and governance philanthropist

John Shedden Adam from Graham W Hardy, Living Stones, the Story of St Stephen’s Sydney

John Shedden Adam was born in 1824 in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, to James Adam (1771-1849) and Janet Shedden (1788-1863).[1] James and Janet married on August 10, 1807, and they had eight children of whom John was the youngest son. John’s father was a man of many parts being an estate manager or factor, a land improver, a Writer to the Signet and the inventor of a screw propeller for naval ships.[2] James was originally from Lochwinnoch where he had a small property and in 1807 was appointed the factor on the great Drummond estate. On his own account, he was later involved in land improvement schemes at Barr Loch from 1813 until 1815; these proved a financial disaster.[3] Fortunately, by marrying into the Shedden family and through the wealth and generosity of Janet’s uncle, the Adam family did not face ruin and were later to inherit significant wealth.[4] These Barr Loch holdings were sold by 1820[5] and on quitting agricultural pursuits and leaving Garpel near Lochwinnoch, James practised as a Writer to the Signet (solicitor) in Edinburgh, a profession to which he had been apprenticed.[6]

Around 1821, James returned again to the role of factor (property manager) moving his family to Lewis where he worked for Mackenzie of Seaforth at least until 1826.[7] Around this date, he moved back to Edinburgh and recommenced his business as a Writer to the Signet.[8] John Shedden Adam, despite the strong family connections to Lochwinnoch where all his siblings were born and his relatives had significant landholdings, spent his childhood initially on Lewis and then from 5 years of age in Edinburgh.[9] He went to school at the Royal Naval and Military Academy, Lothian Road, Edinburgh.[10] This institution was commenced for the purpose of ‘affording education to pupils destined to serve in the army or navy, or East India Company’s service’. The Academy taught a range of practical subjects such as mathematics, science and engineering and languages but, importantly for Adam’s future work as a draftsman, it also taught landscape and perspective drawing.[11] In 1841, John was awarded the Master’s prize in senior mathematics and first prize in civil engineering.[12]

The Adam Family and New Zealand

By 1841, the extended Adam family had decided to seek their fortune in New Zealand. John’s brother James and his wife Margaret took passage to New Zealand on the Brilliant and arrived in October of that year. The Adam family had been convinced by the New Zealand Manukau and Waitemata Company to invest £1,200 in shares for land[13] and were led to believe that the wonderful city of Cornwallis was ready and waiting for energetic young immigrants, such as themselves, from Scotland.[14] The settlement was a disaster. Where settlers expected there to be a town there was nothing but wilderness, and they had been duped by exaggerated promises.[15] Sadly, the settlement leader, together with James Adam and several others, going on an errand of mercy to get medicine for a sick woman (Mrs. Hamblin, wife of the Missionary at Manukau) were drowned in November of 1841[16] and the plans of the Adam family were thrown into disarray.

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The Sydney YMCA and World War I

YMCA Logo

YMCA Logo

The story goes that an English lad, brought up on the land on his father’s farm, was sent to town with a load of hay. This young horse and cart driver wasn’t looking where he was going and so he managed to tip the load into a ditch. His father said “George is no farmer and to the city he shall go”. So young George was sent to London and became a draper. The lad was George Williams who, with eleven of his fellow drapers, began an association in London on June 6, 1844. The association was the Young Men’s Christian Association – the YMCA. [1]

Over 70 years later, with the outbreak of WWI, this organisation would become an integral part of the war effort through sustaining the morale of young men who faced the greatest challenge of their lives, lives which in many, many cases were tragically cut short. Like the war itself, the story of the YMCA stretched over many continents and many countries where the war was fought and from where young men came. This paper, however, will focus on impact of the YMCA and its WWI effort in one sending area of Australia, the state of NSW.

The Founding of the Sydney YMCA

The YMCA had an uncertain start in the colony of NSW when in June 1853, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) encouraging the formation of a YMCA along the lines of that which existed in Great Britain and in Melbourne.[2] In September 1853, the YMCA prospectus was published on the front page of the Sydney newspapers.  It advised that the YMCA was to be under the Presidency of John Fairfax and with no less than 18 clerical vice presidents. Their presence was designed to indicate the support of the protestant Christian churches (there were no Catholic priests listed) and to show that the new organisation would be no threat to them. The motivation for forming the organisation was: (more…)

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