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In the early days the colony was noted for its religious toleration. Members of denominations helped each other with donations for buildings and attended each others' services, although this wasn't readily taken up by Scotch Baptists. On the same ship with those who came out from Kilmarnock in 1839 was Alexander Anderson, wife and daughter. This daughter was Rosina who married George Donaldson. He was the son of George Donaldson and wife, members of the Scotch Baptist church in Morphett Street. Anderson bought sections of land that he later developed and became the t ownership of Morphett Vale. He was financially well off, having married into money. He was an Anglican from Northern Ireland but believed in freedom of worship, donating to the Irish community a section of land where they built in 1846 St. Mary’s church, the first Roman Catholic church in South Australia. Anderson also donated the ship's bell from the wreck Nashwauk to the Free Scotch Church in Morphett Vale. This church was originally the Old Church of Scotland commenced by Alexander Brodie in 1840, the building being erected in 1841 and called the John Knox Church.

As the transition from Scotch Baptist to Churches of Christ was far from complete the Lawries and Greenshields worshipped with the Scotch Baptists upon arriving in Adelaide. Although the Lawries moved south not long after their arrival, the Greenshields lived in Black Forest for over twelve months before they too moved to Noarlunga. The Scotch Baptist church was familiar to the Lawries and Greenshields as John their elder brother had at one time been a fellow member with the Neill family in the Scotch Baptist church at Kilmarnock, Scotland.

In the early 1840's there were very few people in close proximity to Alexander Murray whose arrival and settling at Noarlunga has been described previously. Land was still being surveyed and opened up in the south, and much of the land that was sold was not settled. Those who lived near to Alexander and Jane Murray were James and Janet Craig, Archibald and Marion Greenshields, Robert and Margaret Lawrie; James Lawrie. Most of these people were related, lived in close proximity and would have belonged to the Noarlunga Scotch Baptist church. Members of this group were a source of Alexander Campbell’s writings being in the Adelaide Scotch Baptist congregation around this time; if from the Lawries, originally from John Lawrie.

But the little congregation in the south only survived for about four years. The financial crisis in the colony change their fortunes. By mid-1842 James Craig had to mortgage his properties, and the property that Archibald Greenshields managed was sold due to default on a bank loan. Alexander Murray after taking Robert Lawrie into partnership around 1842, was forced to sell his property in 1844. The Noarlunga congregation no doubt broke up when Murray left for England in 1845 and the Lawries moved to Lonyunga in the Myponga Hills.

It was around this time that John Lawrie (now at Craigman, New Cumnock, Scotland) became concerned about the brethren

scattered in these wild prairies. (1)

John persuaded John Aird who had been his fellow elder at Newmilns to come to South Australia to take charge of the little flock in the south. Aird accepted the reasoning that by going to South Australia he would be better able to provide for his family, but he felt the reason of equal or greater importance would be to gather together the group of his fellow Christians who had been for a long time in the colony, and provide them with spiritual oversight. Aird found it a great trial to come to the decision to leave his native land, his relatives and his fellow Christians at Newmilns. For a time he was quite undecided and perplexed at what he should do, but being urged by some of his fellow brethren, in particular John Lawrie, Aird decided he would go. If he could establish a congregation in Australia he would fulfil all the hopes of those who were to remain in Newmilns.

Word was sent ahead and when the party, which included the John Watsons, arrived at Port Adelaide on the Lady McNaughton 16th October 1847, they were met by members of the Franklin Street Scotch Baptist church and taken to their homes. The next day they broke bread with these brethren. (Itinerant visitors were able to participate in the Lord's Supper . Residents had to qualify for membership before being able to do so.) Aird called the members of Franklin Street disciples indicating a high degree of uniformity of position with himself. It may indicate, though, that the letter written four years after his arrival only reflected the present designation of that congregation.(2) Aird was writing in 1851, twelve months after the reformation of the Franklin Street church with Thomas Magarey as Secretary, a strong advocate of the name Disciple.

During the fortnight after his arrival, Aird travelled t he area south of Adelaide contacting the brethren who were

scattered over a thinly-inhabited country. (3)

On October 31st. a few of these people gathered to celebrate the Lord's Supper and then on November 7th. a church was officially formed at Noarlunga. Aird was appointed to preside. (To assist in instruction and encouragement John arranged with the editor of the Christian Messenger, James Wallis, to provide twenty copies of his publication.)

John Aird was a good pastor to his people shepherding and teaching them, but he often despaired of ever holding his little congregation together as they were always moving from one place to another in pursuit of employment or land. Some fell away from the church, their time devoted to material interests resulting in a loss of love for their Lord.

Two months after the arrival of the group from Newmilns and Beith the Franklin Street church split over the doctrinal issue of baptism for the remission of sins. Thomas Magarey and his wife Elizabeth became members at Noarlunga in 1848 returning to Adelaide two years later.

In 1851 the church in the south was meeting at Willunga, having 21 members, ten joining them that year. For the sake of convenience and with the difficulty of travel on ill-made roads and distance, the group met alternately at Noarlunga in the District of Willunga and Towinga, seven miles south of Adelaide.

John Aird was a keen advocate of Alexander Campbell's writings. The family library, which he brought with him to South Australia, consisted of ten volumes of the Christian Messenger, The Christian System, The Christian Baptist, Campbell and Owen Debate, Campbell's debate on Baptism, and his Translation of the New Testament. He also brought twelve volumes of the Bible. Aird felt that if this did not supply enough spiritual food and keep them healthy in the faith then it was their own fault. Sadly he reported that his wife of thirty years had died on April 10th. 1851.

Alexander, another member of the Lawrie family, arrived in November 1851, marrying Jane Watson daughter of John Watson in 1855. The officiating minister was the Reverend Edward Baker, minister of the independent Church, McLaren Vale. Baker, prior to coming to South Australia in 1845, had been a missionary and printer on the Island of Mauritius. Alexander sought his fortune on the Victorian goldfields and met with considerable success.

By the mid-1850's a distinct group of people had congregated in the Myponga Hills, consisting mainly of the Lawries and Greenshields; then there was the group at Noarlunga or thereabouts made up of the Craigs, Airds, Watsons and others.


  1.  J. Lawrie, Report, British Millennial Harbinger, 1851, p.190
  2. J. Aird, Report, B.M.H., 1851, pp.287-288
  3. Ibid.