Obituary: The Right Rev Hugh Gough
Saturday 29 November 1997
Hugh Gough was the last bishop to come direct from England to a Metropolitan See in Australia. He was appointed Archbishop of Sydney in 1958 and left an enduring mark on the church he had come to serve.
Gough never ceased to be "pukka" English, but he fell in love with Australia as a country still rich in adventure and excitement. He and his wife arrived in Sydney in May 1959 and soon began to make their mark. His style of leadership was quite new where clergy were concerned; it took them by storm. They never came to know him, or he them, as intimately as his predecessor, Archbishop Mowll, but they liked his direct manner and clipped style of conversation.
Gough had no previous experience of church government through an annual synod and its standing committees and he never really adjusted to this democratic system. He moved his office from Church House to Bishopscourt, where he carried out routine administration and correspondence with the help of a domestic chaplain and personal assistant. But this made him more remote and less accessible for the ordinary clergyman.
He held a regular meeting of his bishops and archdeacons; this kept him informed about diocesan needs and problems. He delegated responsibility and willingly trusted colleagues to carry on at their own discretion - his most constructive decision was to appoint a commission to examine the structures and finances of the diocese.
Gough was too outspoken to escape media criticism. He was always prone to act first, and then reflect later. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph treated him with dignity and respect, but he was subjected to a long and hostile campaign in the pages of the Anglican and in some secular publications such as Nation.
Hugh Gough came from a strong Evangelical background. He was born in 1905 in the then undivided continent of India, where his father was a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary on the North-West Frontier. School at Weymouth in Dorset led on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became President of the Cambridge Inter-collegiate Christian Union and took his degree in 1927. After 12 months at the London College of Divinity, he was made deacon in 1928 and ordained to the priesthood in 1929. A curacy in Islington was followed by parish appointments at Bath, Bayswater and Carlisle. He served with distinction as an Army Chaplain and then, in 1946, became vicar of St Mary's, Islington, until 1948, when he was consecrated as Bishop of Barking in the diocese of Chelmsford.
He had been the first Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Inter- Varsity Fellowship, was closely associated with the Evangelical Alliance, often spoke at the Keswick Convention and was one of those who issued the invitation to Billy Graham for the Harringay Crusade of 1954. No other bishop would identify himself with Billy Graham or support the Crusade until Archbishop Fisher took his seat on the platform for the final meeting. But Gough had taken his stand without regard of the cost in official favour; he was the rising hope of all evangelicals in the Fifties but his election as Archbishop of Sydney took him away from England.
He was elected to the Primacy of Australia by the Diocesan Bishops in October 1959 and he filled this role in a way that won well-deserved respect. The new Constitution for the Church in Australia came into effect on 1 January 1962 and it fell to Gough to preside over the first General Synod in May that year. As Primate he travelled widely in Australia, attended the World Council of Churches General Assembly at New Delhi in 1961, and took part in the Anglican Congress at Toronto in 1963. He carried out visits to CMS in Pakistan in 1964 and to the Australian Armed Forces in Malaya and Vietnam in 1965.
But the nervous strain of seven strenuous years took their toll in a serious breakdown in health early in 1966 and he resigned from the See, just seven years after his enthronement. For a short time, he was vicar of the little parish of Freshford in the diocese of Bath and Wells; then he retired altogether and made his home first in Bath and then in the Hampshire village of Over Wallop.
Those who knew him well will never forget the warmth of his friendship or his courage in adversity. He had a high and adventurous spirit, coupled with a very humble loyalty and devotion. He kept in touch with Sydney affairs, welcomed many Sydney visitors in his home and followed church life in Sydney with unfailing interest.
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