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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Forsyth, Samuel (1881–1960)

by A. E. Vogt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Samuel Forsyth (1881-1960), Methodist minister, was born on 1 May 1881 at Aghyaran, Tyrone, Ireland, fifth of six children of Samuel Forsythe, farmer, and his wife, Mary Jane, née McElroy, devout Methodists. After primary education at Carricoughan National School, Forsyth was apprenticed to a draper in Castlederg. In 1901 he migrated to Brisbane to stay with his uncle William, father of Major General John Forsyth. Samuel junior went to New Zealand in 1902 where he helped with open-air gospel meetings.

Forsyth spent 1905 studying mission work at Rev. W. L. Morton's Hope Lodge at Belair, South Australia. He and fellow student Tom Willason then became successful freelance evangelists on Yorke Peninsula: Forsyth's preaching was loving, he never denounced or scourged.

At Minlaton on 2 October 1907 he married Ida Rosely Nankivell who shared his work as gospel soloist; they had a daughter and a son. Next year Forsyth was accepted as a candidate for the Methodist ministry at Maitland. At Moonta in 1914 he influenced Lionel Bale Fletcher to take up evangelism. Forsyth was ordained in the Kent Town Methodist Church in 1912, when a minister at Broken Hill.

From October 1916 he served as a chaplain with the 10th Training Battalion for a year in Britain. Later South Australian Church appointments took him to the country and suburbs. After the death of his first wife, Forsyth married Ida Muriel Brummitt, a returned army nurse and writer, at Medindie on 29 March 1923; they had one son. In 1929, after a six-month tour of British central missions, Forsyth was appointed superintendent minister of the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission.

As a result of the Depression Forsyth was soon haunted by the tramp of single unemployed men on the dole: he envisaged a scheme to start a farm-training settlement to help them gain jobs. He personally raised £5000 by public subscription and obtained land at a low rent from the government near Willunga. In June 1930 he opened Kuitpo Industrial Colony where men could work for their board and lodging, 'thereby retaining their self-respect, and a sane outlook on life until they could find a job'. It was run on good-humoured, non-militaristic lines. His Church was dubious about it and never backed the undenominational colony, but after financial struggles it flourished and over 7000 men were helped. An employment agency was set up in the city to help 'colonists' find work. Next year Forsyth formed the South Australian Council of Charitable Relief Organizations; he was its chairman. In 1937 he was appointed O.B.E. and next year became president of the South Australian Methodist Conference. The Kuitpo Colony became a rehabilitation centre.

In 1943 Forsyth negotiated for the mission to run the Adelaide radio stations 5KA and 5AU, and was chairman of directors of the companies involved. He saw the radio as an outlet for the Christian message and the source of much-needed additional income to finance the mission's social work. Next year he initiated a Central Mission Old Folks' Home (Aldersgate Village) at Felixstow. Forsyth retired in 1952 and died of cerebro-vascular disease at the home on 24 August 1960. His second wife had predeceased him and he was buried in Payneham cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • I. Forsyth, He Came from Ireland (Adel, 1952)
  • Methodist Church of Australasia (South Australia), Conference minutes, 1960
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 Apr 1933, 23 Feb 1954, 25 Aug 1960
  • N. Hicks, Kuitpo colony (manuscript, prepared for Uniting Church in South Australia Historical Society, Adelaide, 1978)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. E. Vogt, 'Forsyth, Samuel (1881–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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