Australian Biography: Eva Burrows
On the world stage women have been excluded from leadership roles in the Christian church. Eva Burrows (1929–2015) is an outstanding exception.
From humble beginnings, this unusually capable and wise human being went on to become world leader of the Salvation Army. Her life has made a genuine difference for good in the world.
Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Well, my parents were already in their 40s actually, and my father and my mother were Salvation Army officers in a small suburb of Newcastle, which was called Tighes Hill. They had been Salvation Army officers, by that time, for probably about nine, ten, years. So they were, first of all, preachers of the gospel and they organised and preached in this small Salvation Army church, which was next door to the house where I was born. And they also, like most Salvation Army officers, tried to see what they could do in the community to help people and care for people. So they were like the clergy. And of course my mother was a preacher as well, because in the Salvation Army both husband and wife are ordained to the ministry. And we were already a very big family, so we had a lively household.
Well, at that time I had four brothers and three sisters, so I was the eighth child. And then there was one sister who came after that, when we moved later to Lismore in New South Wales.
In the end, yes. Big family. But a happy family, actually.
Oh no, not at all. And of course I was born in 1929, and we often think of that as one of the key years for the Depression in Australia. And my parents have told me -- and I've read some of my father's diaries about that time -- there was tremendous poverty in Australia, unbelievable poverty. And as Salvation Army organisers in the Salvation Army Corps, as we call them, my parents would be dependent on the giving of the members of the church. So naturally, they didn't have very much to live on. But my mother seemed to be an amazing person at making do, making many things out of nothing. And I don't remember ever having new clothes until I was quite a big girl, because Mother could make do with my older sisters' clothes, or even Father's trousers could be converted into skirts and things like that. I would say we shared the life of poverty of the people around us.
No, we didn't. Not at all. We were a very lively family, and I think the happiness that we had together [came through] being very involved in the Salvation Army, because it's surprising how the Salvation Army fills your whole life. Because you don't just go on Sunday. You're involved during the week: maybe at the Bible Study or the Children's Meeting or playing in the band, or learning to play the tambourine. And it seemed to be quite a total lifestyle for us. And of course, my parents were involved with the people in the community. So it was like the limits of our life. But it was involved with people, and I think that's where I learnt to really enjoy doing things for people, helping people. And my father was a very keen musician. He played the violin and quite a few instruments. And my brothers all learnt music. So we often had a lot of music at home. And quite a lot of fun. I think we had a lot of family fun; we didn't have to find our fun outside. We didn't, for example in those days, go to the movies very much, or have to find any other pleasure outside.
Well, that's very interesting, because I have difficulty remembering until I was about six. Five or six. My parents moved a great deal. In actual fact, though I was born in Tighes Hill, I jokingly say I was only born there to be near my mother, because they moved pretty quickly after that. And then they moved again and we pretty well moved every two years. So all those early experiences I find difficult to remember. But I do have a really amusing early memory, must have been because it was a sort of a traumatic experience. We were living in Maryborough in Queensland, and I would probably be about five, and the police had come to the house because one of my brothers, he must have been smoking in the dunny (as we used to call them, the outside toilet) and must have perhaps dropped a match or something in the sawdust that you used to use in those days. And I can remember very [clearly] the police coming. I can't remember what happened, but I know it was a drama in the family. So my brothers were often getting into quite a lot of difficulties.
Oh, they'd have got … no, they'd have got a beating. My father did believe in corporal punishment. Not so much for us girls but the boys did. In those days men used to often shave with a razor, and he would sharpen his razor on the razor strap, which was kept in the bathroom behind the door. And then he used to use the razor strap for giving my brothers a bit of a tap. But we've learned since of all the escapades they got into. Walking under the sewers in Maryborough. Mother didn't know and Father didn't know, but they were obviously very adventurous boys.
I think, relatively good. I think I was a bit of a show-off when I was small. And I liked to be noticed. And in the Salvation Army we often had concerts where we would sing or act and things like that. And I think probably that I was very pleased when people noticed who I was. Perhaps in a family when there are a lot of you, if you come at the bottom end of the family, you've got to fight for yourself. But I was a fairly obedient child at home. I think my sister that came after me and I were ready to follow what our parents taught us. But in our family of nine, we're all quite different.
Well now, the family was like this. There were two girls and then four boys and then three girls at the bottom end. So naturally we were looked upon as the ones who would help with the washing up or help with the duties around the house. But actually, it's my father who always did the washing up. We jokingly later used to call him Brother Lawrence, who was the famous saint who...[INTERRUPTION] [used to run a kitchen in a monastery in France in the 1500s].
Well, I think, because the family was structured like this -- there were two girls and then four boys, one after the other, then three girls at the end -- my older sisters were like little mothers to us. And then we were expected, because the boys were all ahead of us, to take part in the household duties. But I can always remember being very happy. I didn't feel put out by the fact that I was at the bottom end of the family. I think we all shared everything together. And I never felt that there was any problem, you know, that I didn't perhaps have a special place in the family. My mother had a wonderful way of making us all feel very important to her. It didn't matter where we came in the family. I was very proud of my father, I thought he was very clever and could preach well. And I really loved my mother. And she was the person who kind of organised the whole household. We were always very happy.
Oh yeah, yeah, we had a lot of fights. We were actually quite aggressive in some ways. If we felt something or we believed something, we would have a good argument. We could argue marvellously and then we would have -- even fisticuffs, you know, punching or hitting each other. Even rolling on the floor. And then as soon as that was all over, well, we forgot about it. We were never a family that held grudges, you know, if you had a disagreement, well, that was gone. And next day was another day. So that's why I suppose in a way we were a very happy lot, even if we did have rows.
What did you think of being part of the Salvation Army? Do you remember, as a child, whether or not that was a source of pleasure and pride to you? Or were you ever embarrassed, for example, about the fact that you had public meetings and that the other children from school saw you out there in a public place? Was that a source of pride or embarrassment for you
Oh, it was more pride really. I was quite happy to be known as a member of the Salvation Army when I was young. It was when I went into my teens that I became a rebel, and didn't want to go at all. But when I was younger, we used to stand in the street, have street meetings, which have become popular with some churches these days. But we were doing them long ago in the Salvation Army, right from the very beginning. And even when we were tiny, we would go with our parents and stand in the street. I played the tambourine, even when I was a little girl, perhaps five or six. So that that was part of our whole family purpose. We identified with our parents in that. But it was later, I think in my teenage years, when I went to high school and felt that perhaps I knew …
I did very well at school. I loved school and I used to run off to school every day, enjoying it very much. I can't remember all my teachers, but I can always remember being so pleased because I did well in the class.
No, no, it didn't with any of the family. And, in fact, you know, sometimes it's when you move from place to place -- you're pushed into being outgoing towards people and I think that is never a disadvantage for a child -- that you have to learn how to present yourself to new people, and prepare for a whole new set of situations. So we adapted very quickly. I know these days you often hear when children move [that] they have psychological hang-ups and so forth, because they've left their friends. We accepted it as part of our lifestyle and in fact there was a certain excitement about going to a new place. And certainly it didn't affect my schooling. I seemed to always do quite well. And then during the Second World War years, my father became a welfare officer with the Salvation Army Red Shield section, that travelled with the troops everywhere. Father didn't go beyond Australia because he was an older man, and he also had very poor eyesight, but he was away from home for quite a number of years. So that meant that I did get a section of my education as a stable opportunity. For example, I went to Brisbane State High School for the whole of the four years leading to university. So in that sense I think it would be much more difficult at the secondary level to be changing all the time. But in primary it didn't seem to matter very much.
Well, no, I think my brothers were quite good at school, but they had to leave school and go to work, and my eldest brother for example, his name was Beverly, he was a very good student. But because the family didn't have resources he had to leave and go to work after he'd done two years of high school. Later on, he joined the forces as a private, and became a major in the Australian army. So he was obviously a gifted young man who could rise in the ranks without having been to the officers' training school. So I would say that the family, generally, were fairly bright. My sister above me, it was very interesting, she hated school, and she didn't -- she wanted to leave school as soon as possible, whereas I wanted to stay as long as I could.
Well, that's because, by that time the family wasn't in quite as great a difficulty financially, and my father was away with the forces. And my mother was very keen for me to continue my education. My mother was, you could say, ambitious for me. She wanted to see me develop the opportunities that came to me. In Queensland in those days you stayed at school until you were about 14. School leaving age was 14. And many, many young people finished school at primary. They didn't go to secondary school at all. And in Brisbane, you could only get to the one state high school by a good result in the Grade 7 scholarship (it was called in those days). So I got a good enough result to allow me to go to high school. If you had money, of course, you could go to the Church of England grammar schools and the Brisbane Grammar and the Catholic schools. But there was only one academic state high school. And now, of course, there are dozens and dozens in all the suburbs. So I worked hard for that. And so my mother said, 'Well, you've got to stay at school.' And when my father came back from working with the forces he thought, you know, maybe I shouldn't stay at school, that I needed to get out and find out what it was like to work out in the world. But my mother was my great supporter.
Yes, I think I was, ambitious in the sense that I was the first one in the family to go to the university. And I think in the Salvation Army at that time not many people would have g one to the university. And I saw that as a great opportunity for myself. Not long range, because I didn't know what the future was going to hold, but I wanted to do well and I wanted to be an achiever. I think -- yes, I think you could put it that way. I wanted to achieve.
No, I don't think I did at that time. I had, for a long time, wanted to be a doctor. But then I changed my mind when I was at high school and decided I'd become a teacher. I'd already realised that I had skills in leadership, because at Brisbane State High School I not only was elected the form captain every year … [INTERRUPTION]
Well, I think I didn't have any long-range ambitions. I just knew I wanted to do well, I wanted to achieve. I felt I had certain abilities and therefore I wanted always to do well. And I already knew I was going to be a leader of some kind because at Brisbane State High, which was an excellent school and still has a wonderful reputation, I was elected by my peers as the form captain every year. And then I became the school captain of the whole school. Mind you, in those days, it was a mixed school, co-educational, but we hardly ever saw the boys. Not like now. The girls had their own assembly. The boys had their assembly. And we organised the girls ourselves. And we really didn't have much to do with the boys. But I can even remember standing at the door in the afternoon as the girls went out. We'd check them on how they were wearing their hat, and if they had their gloves on. And you know, I did that with aplomb. I'm sure I couldn't to it today if I was that age. But in those days girls accepted you very well as the leader. I think I was quite a popular leader in the school.
Oh yes, I think I was a bit bossy. But on the other hand, I think I was also popular. So that always helps you if you're a bit bossy, if they like you. And I think they liked me. And I was good at sport too, and that always helps. I wasn't a brilliant student at State High. I didn't come top all the time. But I did well.
Yes. I think I'm a better all-rounder than, say, an intellectual. I never became an intellectual [but] I'm intelligent, I've got good common sense, I'm not an intellectual. I don't live in my mind. I can only live in relation to people. And that's why I think, you know, I enjoyed other goals and we had wonderful time at sports. I played netball and tennis and, for example, I could always inspire them to do well, you see, so when we had our big sports competition against the grammar school, and the Church of England schools, when we won, you know, we thought we were so good. But, you know, you'll be interested to know that they still feel like that, because this year it was the 75th anniversary of the school. And when I was in Brisbane I was invited to come and greet the principal and I met the prefects and they were asking me what it was like, you know, when I was at school. And when I told them that, they said, 'Oh, General, it's just like that today. We like to beat everybody else.' So that, no, I enjoyed my school life but it was at that time that I became quite rebellious. I really thought that I didn't want anything to do with the Salvation Army. I think, probably, because I was popular at school and the Salvation Army was so strict about -- in those days -- about your behaviour.
You couldn't go to dances for example. And you weren't supposed to go to the movies. We've moved on fortunately since those days. So I wanted to do all those things, because I was organising them often. So then I just felt I couldn't be bothered going to the Salvation Army, because it was too strict. I wanted to be so free, and choose what I wanted to do, not just what I was told to do. I suppose you could say I was flying my wings and wanting to be myself. And at that time my father was away with the forces. So we didn't have his very strict disciplinary style. And mother was a bit soft I think. She virtually let me do that.
I gave up after a while. And I said to my mother, you know, 'I'm not going now. I'm old enough to choose for myself.' For a little while, very interesting, my father was a padre at a military camp at Redbank, outside Brisbane. And on Sunday he would hold a big service. And I used to have a good singing voice, and so Mother and I and my sister Margaret, we would go to the camp and help father in the service. And I would sing. And Margaret and I often sang duets together. So that kind of took me away from a settled Salvation Army Corps, or church. So that I would go on Sunday with Mother and then gradually when Father moved away I didn't go anywhere. One interesting experience we had there, when we used to go to Redbank camp, was that all the Australian troops went up north to go to Papua New Guinea. And suddenly the whole camp was filled with Americans, and they were all black. I suddenly realised that in the American forces the black and the white never fought together. They always fought in separate brigades. There was total racial separation in the military forces. But to me it was beautiful because these Negroes, or as they now call them Afro-Americans, they loved these services on Sunday. And they would sing -- you know, Afro-Americans are marvellous singers -- and so I learnt many of the songs that they sang, and learnt to sing the American national anthem. And then many years later, when I became the General, and went to America -- and they always begin everything in America [with] put your hand on your heart and sing the American national anthem -- I was singing the American national anthem. Everybody thought, 'Oh, isn't that wonderful, the General has even learnt our national anthem.' But it goes back to the days when I used to sing with the Afro-Americans in the camp.
Now, as you were moving away from your parental control and being rebellious and saying you weren't going to go to services, and going and doing things that they disapproved of, what was happening to your spiritual life? What were you thinking about your own relationship to your religion?
Oh, it was just dropped off me like a cloak, just left me. I had no interest in it at all. Which means that though I had been a regular attender at church and felt that I loved God and served him, I realised that that had been very superficial, must have been superficial, because when I stopped attending, I actually felt very released and very free. It didn't worry me at all.
Oh, well, I was going to say it's interesting, but I often say it was God's hand in my life. I think God, like my mother, was very patient. He waited for me to learn some lessons and learn the meaning of spiritual values. I went to Brisbane University -- Queensland University -- and in my first few weeks we had an orientation course. And I went to all the clubs to see what was going on in all the different societies. And then a fellow, a Salvation Army chap whom I didn't really know well, he said, you know, 'Do you want to come to the Christian Union?' So I went to the Christian Union and found all these very nice young people, all switched on, you know, to the Christian faith. And I think before that I'd probably felt that Christianity was more to do with the older people and strict rules. And here were these young university students following The Bible, studying The Bible, enjoying talking about The Bible. So I went a few times and suddenly it all began to click. And I felt, 'Here's something that I haven't really thought seriously about.' So I began to attend their services. And I also went to a vacation Bible Camp that they were holding. I think it was a young Anglican clergyman there, and he was talking about the letter to the Romans which Paul had written, which shows us how we can turn around our whole life. He was a young man -- Marcus Loane his name was -- and later he became the Anglican Archbishop [of Sydney] and Primate of all Australia. But in those few days in that week he had tremendous impact on my life. So that I really wanted my life to follow the Christian faith.
Well, here again, that's something we'll never quite understand. Except that my father had now come out of the forces and had become a Salvation Army Corps officer. And I began to attend the services where he was preaching. And they put on some very big youth events in the Salvation Army. And I went to this day when we were all young people. And it was during that day that I had a strong conviction. I can only call it an inner awareness that the Salvation Army is the place where God wanted me to be. And that morning I made a very solemn decision. In the Salvation Army when we have an evangelical service, we will often invite people to come forward to a place of prayer -- something like a communion rail but we call it the mercy seat -- and I went forward and knelt, and first of all I asked God's forgiveness for all those years of being so rebellious to his will. I didn't ask forgiveness for rebellion to the Salvation Army but I asked forgiveness for being rebellious to what he would have wanted with my life. And then I said, you know, I give myself to you in dedication. And it was like being at an altar when you bring your gift to the altar. I brought myself, and from that time on there was no question in my mind that my life was to be devoted to God, and within the orbit of the Salvation Army. That's, I suppose, what you mean by conviction.
Well, my mother would often tell me I ought to go to the Salvation Army. But she didn't force me at all. No, my mother was a very compassionate person, and I think she herself understood that I'd found my father's discipline very restrictive. So she was very understanding and I've always loved her very much for that.
Oh yes, yes, very much so, because that's when my father perhaps thought, you know, I should now go off to work, seeing I'd finished secondary school. But I'd got a university grant and that was going to help at home. And my mother said, you know, 'She's going to go to university even if have to go out washing or something.' I mean, she was very determined, and although my mother was not a person who shared things at depth (in the sense of telling me why she did that), she never really told me except to say that she always had felt that I had gifts of leadership and she wanted me to become what she thought I could be.
I did an arts degree at Queensland University. First two years were interesting (we were down at the Botanical Gardens) but then in my final year, the third year, we were the very first students at the St Lucia University. During the war years, that long building, which is now the famous centrepoint of the whole campus, was virtually … that was the only part that was there. And the military, Australian military, confiscated it for their Pacific headquarters. I think General Blamey and others were there. So when I was in my third year, that would be 1949, we went in as the first students. We even used to have our lunch in Nissan huts which were in the grounds. It was a very minimal place, and now when you go there it's one of the most beautiful campuses, I would think, in the world, surrounded by the Brisbane River. But it was a fine [university], and I spent a lot of time in the library. And I majored in English and history. But I also did a one-year subject in education. And during that time I met Professor Ringrose, who was our lecturer, and talked to him about the fact that I wanted to go to Africa and teach. And he said, 'Well, why don't you go to London University, where they have a special course for people who are going to teach in tropical lands,' most of the students being people going out in the colonial service. And at that time I then heard that there was going to be a youth congress in London, so I decided I'd go to the youth congress and then go to the university in London to prepare myself for teaching in Africa. So Professor Ringrose was a help to me on that occasion. I also did a little bit of German. And that was very interesting because one of my fellow students was Keith Rainer, who now is the Primate of all Australia. I'm sure our German teacher never knew who he had in his class.
What gave you the idea that you wanted to go to Africa?
Well, I think because I wanted to be a teacher and by that time I was very interested in the Salvation Army, not just in Australia, but internationally. So in our Salvation Army papers you would read about the educational program that we had in India and Africa, and I think I lived in an age when to be a missionary was something where you felt you dedicated yourself and I had this great feeling that I didn't want to have life just easy. I wanted to do something that cost me something. And so to become a missionary and a teacher seemed to me [that] God was sort of pushing me in that direction. I actually say, at times in my life when I've had to make big decisions, I almost have kind of a feeling as if God is pushing me in the back. And that then became my strong awareness that I must prepare to go to Africa. And the way was opened for me to do that.
Yes, probably. I was quite popular with boys. And I liked … I liked boys. I've always liked men. I enjoy men's company very much. And therefore I had a few boyfriends. I changed them fairly regularly. If they didn't suit me then I just dropped them. It wasn't very kind, was it?
No, not really, no. Not one that I felt that I was so in love with that I wanted to marry. And I also had this strong compulsion that I had to go and be a missionary and go and serve God in Africa. So if a man wasn't ready to do that kind of thing, then I wasn't really interested. I then had that conviction that if the friendship got too close, then I'd have to make my decision to keep to my promise to God.
No, I don't think that was fixed in my mind. But I did know that it could mean that. Because if you go to train as a Salvation Army officer, and are ordained, your husband has to also be an ordained minister. And the Salvation Army's always given single women great opportunities, right from the very beginning of our movement. So that I had seen many single women in the Salvation Army with high ranks and doing responsible jobs. So I was aware that that could happen to me. But that never deflected me from the decision that I'd made to serve God. And I also think in that age, in the culture of that time, to be a single woman was something you almost were proud about. Because all my school teachers were single ladies. In Queensland in those days, once you married, you had to stop teaching. Did you know that? And all the matrons of hospitals were all single ladies. So to be a single lady and to have a profession was something that you admired. And my school teachers were very much people I admired. And I would hope I would be like them. So it didn't worry us at that age that we weren't married. Not like today, [it's] almost [as] if you are not married you're a kind of second-class citizen and something is wrong with you. You didn't have any choice. And I know most of the school teachers are married ladies. So for me to choose to be single was not the trauma that it might be to a young woman today and even girls entering into, for example, convents to become nuns, the number of those applying has been greatly reduced. Because [for] many people to be single [means] that you do have a second-class kind of life.
Yes, that's an interesting perspective on it. I would have thought that at the time you were making that decision there would have still been quite a lot of pressure to think that the married route was the better one. And I wonder whether or not you had a perception maybe a bit ahead of your time. That it was, in fact, going to be a subordinate role if you got married. And that perhaps you felt that you really didn't want to take that on.
I think there would also be this factor, that I was already sensing that I had gifts of my own. And that if I married, I didn't want to have those gifts reduced, or the opportunities for their use reduced. And I think that if I had married I would not have become the General of the Salvation Army.
Well, it's that the wife also has this -- not only the covenant of ordination -- but she had the covenant of marriage, so that to fit together your marriage, the care of your children, as well as your ministry, you work together with your husband, more in a supportive role. Now that is changing these days and it's very interesting. I'm waiting for the future when a married woman officer becomes the General. That could be possible. She can be nominated and elected and in today's situation, and I suppose the cultural views in the Western world today, we could see married women in the Salvation Army receiving appointments separate from their husband, when they have the gifts to undertake that assignment. That is one of the changing areas.
Yes, it's fairly recent.
She could have, but it was not even within the likelihood of possibilities that she would be nominated. When the General is elected you are nominated and you are a member of a very select group called the High Council, Which is very similar to the college of cardinals that elects the Pope, that is, the leaders from around the world. We don't have cardinals, but we have territorial commanders, national commanders. And they all meet, and it is normal for a member of that body to be nominated and elected. You wouldn't think of electing somebody to the General who hadn't had the experience of top leadership in a country. But now, by fairly recent change of our regulation, wives will be present at that body called the High Council. So it is more likely now that a wife could be nominated. And I think I see in the Western world, in particular, the leaders of the Salvation Army giving wives opportunity to serve in appointments which may be different from their husbands, where they actually will be using their own specific gifts.
Now, back there in the '40s, when the young Eva Burrows was emerging from university and thinking about her future, in that circumstance you could see that you had a gift for leadership. And did you think of it ever leading you to be General then?
No, no, never did. I had not the concept of that. Because to us in Australia, as a young Salvationist, the General is somebody so high and elevated, and we had a General visit here in -- early in 1950. He was the General at that time. Because there's only one General in office at a time. And he visited Brisbane. And I had been asked to give the youth speech of welcome. I was so anxious, you know, I really must do this well. And when he congratulated me and said what a fine speech I'd given, I mean I was so thrilled. I could never have imagined myself being the General. But I was extremely pleased to be praised by him when I'd given my speech. And a very interesting thing is that the day after the Sunday of worship with General Orsborn was my graduation day. And by a strange coincidence they had arranged for a great open air service in the beautiful Brisbane City Hall square. They'd built a platform in front of the Town Hall. But I was going into the Town Hall because that's where our graduation ceremony was. The university didn't have their own hall in those days. And I was already with my parents when we were going in and someone had told the General and he came over. And he actually prayed for me. That's just before I went in to graduate. And that was a very significant moment in my life. I never thought I'd be the General one day. But I treasured that. And when I became the General myself, I used every opportunity I had to encourage young people, and even to pray with them and so forth.
Not terribly hard at that stage, because my mind was so focused on becoming an officer in the Salvation Army, to be ordained. And so when I came to London for this great youth congress, the principal of the Salvation Army's theological college in London was an Australian. Here again is another [example of] what some people would call coincidence, but I call providential. And I was going to teach for a year before going in to do that course at university (which Professor Ringrose had arranged for me) when this principal-- he was a commissioner in the Salvation Army -- Commissioner Bladin, he met me, because we girls, Australian girls, were being accommodated at the [Salvation Army] theological school during this great youth congress. And he met me in the grounds and he asked me to come and see him in his office, and asked me what I was doing. He knew my parents well. He knew the family. And so when he heard I was going to teach for a year, he said, 'Oh, why don't you come into the training college this year. Rather than doing it after you finish university, come in now and then you can go to university.' And again, you know, like I am, I said to the Lord, 'What shall I do?', and I felt I should do that. So I made the decision there and then and sent a telegram to my parents, and said, 'I'm going to go into the training college to do my training here in England, rather than in Australia.' So that's what I did.
Well, a great opportunity came and that was to go to London, to a big international youth rally. General Orsborn had felt that the first congress or convention, after the war -- when people could come, you know, travel easily around the world -- should be for young people, which I think was quite a lot of foresight. And so we had to raise the funds to travel there. And I was in a group of about 40 Australian young Salvationists who found the cash to go to England. And we went on a P&O boat called the Otranto, which took six weeks to get to London. And then we had this marvellous experience of meeting with a thousand or so Salvationists from all round the world -- Americans, South Americans, Europeans, Africans, everything. And this again confirmed in my mind, you know, this is a place where I should be.
Yes, yes, we were -- I'm not sure of the number -- I think it was about 40. And some were from the eastern side of Australian and some from the south. And one thing that General Orsborn had said was that the Salvation Army girls in Australia can play the tambourine better than anybody else in the world. And he wanted us to make sure that we would play in London, so that the other young people of the world could see our method. Now we didn't know that it was special, but somehow the playing of the tambourine in Australia has developed into quite an amazingly good musical expression. So every day on the ship we girls would practise the tambourine with a record going. Most of the people on the ship came to see us practising as well. And we used to have Bible Studies and often we would hold meetings for all the kids on the ship and give them a nice Sunday School and so forth. So we were kept very busy on the journey.
The Salvation Army in Australia have learnt to play with choreography, with patterns. And around the world the Salvationists only just hit the timbrel, like a drum -- bang, bang, bang, bang, bang -- to the melody of the tune. But in Australia they've developed all this most graceful and beautiful playing and when we are in the street meetings, like I recently was up in Sydney, down near Central Quay, you know there, when the Salvation Army girls stand out to play the tambourine, everybody stops and listens. And it's a way of attracting people to come and listen to the message. So since that time, the Salvation Army type of playing in Australia has gone all round the world. Girls came to Australia to try and learn how we play. And everywhere you go in the world they play like that now.
Oh, well, that was my mother really. All the time I'd been at university, when my scholarship grant fund came in, she'd never used it, and she'd kept it for the day, she said, when we might need it. And we also did some fundraising events to help. But it wasn't very much. You know that for six weeks on a boat it was £65. Can't believe that. But of course I suppose £65 would be a lot more today.
Well, when I met this training principal (who was an Australian and he suggested that I should go into the Salvation Army College in London), that sort of changed my whole plans. I had intended to train for the Salvation Army in Australia but it seemed to me like kind of divine guidance and I later felt that that was really the right thing to do. So I spent a year in the Salvation Army's College and then I went to university in London for a year, before I then went to Africa to teach. Because the kind of training that I did at the university was all designed for teaching in Third World countries. I did quite a lot in the course of anthropology and studying the culture of the people.
That would be at the Institute of Education, which is at the back of Russell Square just near the Senate House, the London University. And I lived in a Salvation Army students' hostel in Southampton Road. I'd just walk through Russell Square to university every day. And, you know, the university in Britain in those days certainly used the tutorial system. I must say my training in Queensland University in those days was classes and that's that. I mean, nowadays, we've taken on much more the tutorial system, where students are really encouraged to present their thoughts and discuss them out, whereas in my day, university was more like a lecture and you had to just listen, and that was what happened. But I had a very fine tutor at London University, a lady, Mrs Baggott, who had been a missionary educator in Nigeria. So she was very interested in what I was going to do. So that was very helpful to me.
I don't think there's very much difference except that I was with a lot of international students as well as British students because it was called, in those days, the International Training College. And because a lot of us had gone to that youth congress we had a big number of students from abroad. There was Swedes, Danes, Italians, there was a couple of Indians, South Americans. And so it widened my view of the Salvation Army, and I learnt something about how the Salvation Army works internationally, from the headquarters in London.
No, no. No, I think once I'd got into the college I pretty well knew then that I was probably going to remain celibate. So even …
Oh, well, I had this feeling that the Lord had some plan for me ahead. And that going to Africa, teaching there, I probably wouldn't meet men, single men in our movement who would be ordained and whom I would then marry. I would not marry anyone who wasn't ordained because otherwise I would have had to then restrict my ministry. There were a lot of men in that course. There were about 200 students in the Salvation Army training. And probably 110 girls and 90 men. Just like school, it was pretty much separated.
So there wasn't a lot of pairing off. Because of the tradition of husbands and wives both being ordained, one would have thought that would have been exactly the place where matches would have been made?.
They were. It was. But not for me. Quite a few of the girls met their future husband in the group. And although we had these very strict rules about girls, and men and women, in separate sides and we were together in class [and] were not expected to meet up outside. But quite a few disobeyed the rules. But I think also I was the only graduate in the group. It was still fairly uncommon for Salvation Army members to be university graduates. And perhaps I was looking for somebody of my equal. And I didn't -- I looked them over but I didn't see anybody that particularly suited me.
I was probably -- yeah, 21. 21 or 22.
A good … yes, somewhat later. Perhaps later, when I studied at university again, when I was home in Australia on leave from Africa. Once I went to Africa, the term of service -- actually it was to have been seven years -- they reduced it to five while I was in my first term. So you would be allowed to go home after five years. And I decided to go back to university, and I met some people. But by that time I think my convictions were so strong about ministry that I … that is a time when I really did forfeit what might have culminated in marriage, in order to continue in my ministry in the Salvation Army.
I think probably too, at that later mature age, [that] I was ready for such an experience. And perhaps ready for the challenge too.
Well, that was in 1952. I had been at university 1951-52, because it was a one-year course. And in the experiences there it was a fantastic time when I went teaching in the East End of London, the very area where William Booth started his work amongst the really working class. I went -- did my practice teaching there and it was quite an experience. So I had some great experiences during that time. My other assignment at university was in the south of England at Chichester, which was a very sedate area. And I went to say with a lord of the local manor while I did a research of the rural education. So I had, you know, the absolute extremes of British life, because when I stayed at this manor house, the people had not expected that it was a Salvationist that they were entertaining; it was a student, you see, from London. And I had to turn up on Sunday and I turned up in my uniform and they got an awful shock, thinking they were going to have to put up with this Salvationist for several weeks, you see. But then I explained to them that, no, I wore my civilian clothes, I'd just come from the Salvation Army church. And this very posh English gentleman, you know, he used to say -- he used to call me Aussie -- he used to say 'Aussie, tell me about the Salvation Army.' And then, 'What do you mean, Aussie, about being born again?' We used to have some fantastic discussions while we were sipping coffee through chocolate. And all the kinds of things I'd never done before. I had some very interesting experiences. But then, by the end of -- no, no, it was about July -- I was ready to go to Africa, but I would have liked to go home, because I'd been away from home for two years. And the Salvation Army in those days used to arrange for people to accompany children to Australia, on those migrant ships, and look after the children. Anyway, the immigration Salvation Army man, he got me a job with another girl, she was a teacher. She and I took 12 children to Australia for the Fairbridge Society on this six weeks' journey. It was really something. So I accompanied them, and two girls and ten boys I think it was. Looked after them for the whole journey. They were all -- the oldest was about 14. And they came out to one of these Fairbridge Homes. But it was quite an experience because I thought they were all going to be orphans, but they were mostly children from divorced families, and not orphans at all, kids with really big hang-ups. So we used to have a lot of time helping them. So the journey proved very interesting for that reason.
Mmm, it was.
Well, we ended up planning every day with school lessons and games and finally we had just about every kid on the ship with us every day. The parents [of other children on the boat] used to think we were there to provide the entertainment for everybody. So we had some very happy times. It was demanding, and especially because we stopped quite a lot. We stopped at Gibraltar and Naples and Port Said and Aden. So we'd have these 12 kids like in a crocodile line, making sure -- I was at the back and the other one was at the front. I don't know whether the kids realised how lucky they were but -- to have that trip.
I was very distressed really. I was distressed because some of those children had a parent, both parents. They were being sent to Australia because they couldn't fit in with the new marriage or something like that. I've never seen any of them except one again. And I was conducting services here in Australia, and a woman came to the service and she came up to see me. And she told me that she'd been happily married. Her husband was a counsellor and obviously in her case it'd worked out well. Certainly we gave them full attention but, I think coming all that way, such a long way from home and family, they, the kids, used to cry a lot.
Oh, about six. Very sad.
Mmm, mmm, yes. Alan Gill, an Australian journalist who's writing a book about this, he asked me what I thought about it. And I said I thought it was just like tearing a child away from home, because Australia's so far from Britain. It wasn't like being at boarding school, where you can get home to see your parents, and I mean a lot of people criticise boarding schools, but a lot of kids get home every holiday. Some kids get home nearly every weekend. But this was -- they'd never see their parents again. Very sad. But we tried to make it very happy for them. And I think we did, because every [other] kid on the ship preferred to be with us instead of being with their parents.
Well, my parents were by that time living in Sydney. They were in charge of the Salvation Army in Sydney so I stayed with them a couple of months and went up to see the family. So then I went -- sailed to Africa and arrived there in late November, 1952. And I went to Howard Institute, which was a very large mission station, which had a boarding school, teachers' college, theological college for black students, and a clinic, which later became a very big hospital. So it was a very large place. About 200 acres or so. Quite a lot of missionaries. So we had a great missionary family. And from many parts of the world, so you had a lovely family life, as well as the excitement of learning how to teach in Africa.
I was in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and in the northern area amongst the Mashona people. We were part of what was called, in those days, tribal trust area. That's what we would say in Australia, a reserve. It was an area reserved for Africans to live. And nearby were white farmers and so forth, but we concentrated on the work with the African people in the villages. I actually taught in primary school, I taught in the top class for two years, before I then started to train them as teachers for those primary schools.
No. By that time there were a lot of Christians. There was plenty of the old tribal faith, but in most of the centres in that area there was a Salvation Army worship centre, church. That is because in Zimbabwe they didn't have competition between the missions, as had been the case in South Africa sometimes. So in an area, the Salvation Army would be the mission. We would have the school, we would have the church. In this area they'd be Anglicans, in this area they'd be Catholics. So that you virtually had your church defined within that tribal trust area. And in all the villages, the main villages, there would be a little primary school, and then they would come to Howard for their secondary, for their later primary school work. And teacher training. When I went in '52 there were no secondary schools for black students, except I think two run by the government in Harare (Salisbury) and Bulawayo, so the African education hadn't yet risen to that stage. So in the 17 or so years that I was in Zimbabwe I saw not only the development of education itself, but I saw the development of secondary education, mostly on the English Cambridge school level. So I saw a great development in education [and] he building of the university.
It must have been interesting for you professionally as a teacher to be working in Africa when you'd worked before and been trained in a different context. What did you learn in the time that you were in Rhodesia about education?
I learnt a great deal and one of the things was that, first of all, the Africans were so keen to be educated that they work like slaves. Also, most of them who'd been sent to boarding school, they were paid for by their parents. So the parents had sacrificed very much to send them to school. And therefore they wanted to do well, you know, to please their parents as well. So they were very much crammers. They wanted to know what exactly they had to learn and learn it. Actually, I think Africans are more deductive thinkers than inductive, you know, that you give them the rule and then they follow on. I found them not always keen to discuss things and talk about it. They said, 'Tell us what we have to learn and we'll learn it.' And I think sometimes in those days even the examinations, the external examinations, really tested you on what you'd crammed rather than what you'd thought through. But first of all, they were very keen students. We never had any discipline problems in those early days when I was teaching. In fact, if we wanted to punish a child for being … for having misbehaved, we would put them out of school, and they'd cry and ask to come back. You know, they were so upset. To miss a class was the most terrible thing that could happen to them. Which is a bit different now. I think they've learnt a lot of Western ways now. But they were very enthusiastic, very keen. And I loved them. I found it very pleasant to work with the African students. I wanted to try and understand them, identify with them. So I would talk to them a lot about their home, what happened at home, and what they believed at home and so forth. And that's when I used to also go out into the villages myself, to talk with the women. And that's when I began to learn the African language. Because at the mission station everything was in English because the students, once they got to about fourth year in school, everything was in the English medium. It prepared them also for the future. And then they sat exams which were equivalent to the British examination system. So to really learn the language you had to make an effort yourself, get out amongst the people. But I found sharing with them to be a lovely part of my own life's experiences.
I think their exuberance. They were really bright, happy people. No matter what they do they sing. For example, we'd send them to the garden to dig up the beetroot or something, and they'd all be singing away. And in the fields. There's something of a deep sense of happiness about them, even though they had plenty of struggles and they lived in quite great poverty, to our way of thinking. But they seemed to be at base happy people. And also they were a giving people too. They shared with each other. They could sacrifice one for the other. Much later in life I've learnt from a Russian the comment that, under Communism, Russians forgot how to love each other. I think the Africans were a people of a simple outlook on life, they'd lived a very ordinary, simple existence, and they found their pleasures in the simple things.
No, not quite so much. I think I showed a greater interest in that than some of the others. Many of them, because they could do all right with English, they didn't always learn the language either. I used to teach them the language. But some of them got weary in well-doing and gave up.
That was the Shona language. That's the northern part of Zimbabwe. There are two areas of Zimbabwe, and the northern part is the Mashona people -- the majority. And in the south is an offshoot of the Zulus, called the Ndebele, and they spoke a language which was an offshoot of Zulu too. I didn't learn that language. But I took my language studies seriously, because I did correspondence lessons with the University of South Africa, where you didn't only learn the language and fluency, but you learnt all the background and the syntax and morphology and -- it was a very interesting language, quite different from our English style of language.
Reasonably fluent, yes. Because I used to preach, sometimes, but I always felt that in preaching the language, I was so keen to communicate well that if I made any mistakes in Shona, I'd have a translator with me. We had wonderful translators available, speaking to the people in their own language with their own idiom. So idiomatic language is so important, which you don't always learn when you're studying a language in-depth.
Yes. Not a great deal because so many of them were becoming Christians. I think the Christian church, when it went to Africa, appeared like the great colonial power, with all the knowledge expertise, and to be Westernised was like being Christianised. And we have, I think, some guilt in that area, that we didn't always ensure that we preached the message of Christianity in relation to their own culture. I certainly tried to understand their culture enough so that when I taught about the Christian faith, it somehow related to them. So that they became Christians, not just in order to be an educated African, but in order to be convinced that this was the right way to live. One of the most interesting times I had was when we were discussing with my students, who were teacher training students, spirit belief. And there are usually tribal spirits and there are all kinds of spirits, animal spirits. But then the students said, 'We know a man whose spirit is a really good spirit. He doesn't teach the wrong things' etc, you see. And so in that discussion I said, 'well, let's go and meet him and see what he has to say.' So with the students we went to the village where Gwangwadza lived. Now it transpired -- something that I didn't know -- that he had actually once been a student at our mission school and now was a medium for the whole tribe. So when we arrived at the village he asked to be excused for a while while he, the spirit, came upon him, who was this wise and worldly spirit who knew everything about the future. And when he returned he was dressed all in black and he had only a wooden bowl. He had nothing, anything European or Western, with him. Then he was this spirit. Actually his name in English was Chalmers (which I think you couldn't get a more English name than Chalmers, you know). Anyway, once the spirit came on him, he left Chalmers and he was Gwangwadza. And when the students began to question him, he said so many fine things about how you should behave. It was really a very fine exposition of ethical standards. And he even said to the students, you know, 'You've got to make up your mind what you're going to do. You either become a Christian or keep with your old faith. Don't become a double kind of person.' And then I think through a translator I asked him, 'What is your power and how do you look at Jesus Christ?' And then he said, 'Oh, I'm more important than Jesus Christ, because I was there when the world began.' And then he launched into the most wonderful, poetic description of how the world was made, and how the rocks were first soft and then became hard. It was a wonderful speech. But of course that was the crux and then when we talked about it later with the students, we said there's a verse in The Bible that says that any spirit that does not acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the son of God, then that spirit is not the true spirit. But I talked to students and said, 'If he's a wise man and you can listen to his wisdom, even when you still retain your Christian faith, because he said so many wise things to you today.' He was something like a philosopher really. So I wasn't afraid to look at the African faith.
Oh, their belief system is in one high God. And this is what made it much simpler for Christianity to be accepted in all that part of Africa. So this God, Mwari, was a God who was great, powerful, but very far away, and you didn't approach him at all except through the spirits, the spirits of your ancestors or the spirits of people who were great and famous in the tribe. So that there was a spiritual medium to God, and so therefore in teaching Christianity you could say, well, what you have been believing, if you take the next step, that is that God sent someone, Jesus Christ, his son, into the world and he has become the mediator. And we would look at passages in The Bible which taught that you go to God through one way: Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except by me.' And though you may honour the spirits of your ancestors, that it is through Christ that you come to God. And that's why, in many ways, some early missionaries would say, 'No, we must never use anything that belongs to their past belief. Christianity must come in as something entirely new. There's no point of contact. We must bring it in new,' whereas other missionaries felt that it is important to use what they have been trying to understand and grope towards. Now I was in that category.
Oh yes, yes. Well, that also was another aspect of their belief, that you can have powerful evil spirits and there were witch doctors, you know. There were two kinds of witch doctors. There was the good one and he was the man we would now call a herbalist, who could help you cure your sicknesses. His knowledge of roots and all that kind of thing. But then there was the witch doctor who was the one who would … you could come and ask him to get rid of somebody you hated, or he can prophesy. For example, he would throw a certain kind of bones on the ground and tell you your future. Like a fortune teller. But he could also do a lot of harm. I mean, I've had students tell me that, you know, in you go to the witch doctor and he will have a dish of water. And you look in the water and you see the face of the person who has hurt you or harmed you. And then he will prick that water and that person will die. And that was a very strong belief. And I think [with] the coming of Christianity, often, those things were not dealt with. So when there was time of trauma or difficulty, then the African who was a Christian may say, 'I better go and make sure that nobody's got it in for me at the witch doctors or something like that. They were very strong beliefs and beliefs about death. Funerals were very, very important and how the person was buried. You were buried not in a straight grave like that, but they would dig down and then they would dig sideways with a little sort of a shelf. And the body was put in the shelf, so the evil spirits, they come down the hole, but they saw there was nobody at the bottom of the hole. So you would be safe.
No, I didn't, not with a witch doctor who does the wrong thing (according to us the wrong thing). But I have spoken to a witch doctor who had herbal medicines and so forth. And I encouraged people to use African medicines. And in fact, now in Zimbabwe, they have hospitals where they can treat people with that, something like the barefooted doctors in China and in -- when I lived later in Sri Lanka there's Ayurvedic medicine, which is the natural medicine and they have their hospital as well. And I think people are coming to discover that many of those herbal treatments are the best of all.
About 17 years.
Oh, that would be very difficult, because there have been many wonderful occasions. But I think it's the people themselves. The elderly people; I came to be very fond of some of the elders. There were some elderly women, Salvation Army officers, and I would love to talk to them and hear how they have found their faith. And I think that was -- that's the best thing of the lot really. But I mean I had other experiences, such as the vast congresses for example. And in the African life they had many festivals and dances. Beer dances usually, with a lot of native beer flowing and people would get up and the spirits of animals would come and they'd have great celebrations. And all this wonderful occasion. Well, the Salvation Army was able to replace that with what we call congress gatherings, when all the African Salvationists of an area would come and sleep out over a few days, because we would always hold them in a time of the year when there was no rain. That's a good thing in Zimbabwe, no rain from about May til October. So everybody would sleep out under the sky; people would make little thatched shelters. And then we would have all kinds of competitions. The ladies would all bring their new sewing and knitting and things that they'd done. And then the children would play all kinds of athletic games. And then on the Sunday we would have services. And everybody would be sitting down and when we sang joyful songs they'd be all up dancing. I have great difficulty in sitting still in church when there's a good song, there's a good hymn. So it was really happy. I remember those occasions very much and in my younger days there I would just be attending. Later on I would often preach at those services too. So those were very happy times.
Well, it was really a fairly restricted life, according to some people, because we were out in the African area and we very rarely left the mission station, except perhaps once a year when we went on our holidays or, occasionally, to go into town for some shopping. And town, in those days, was Salisbury, now called Harare. But it was really more like family life, and your whole life revolved around the school and the religious activities. And sports. Africans are very keen soccer players. And I also was a netball teacher. And we had competitions with other missions for sports and athletics. So we were always having something after school. We began school about 7 o'clock in the morning and then after lunch we'd start again, because we didn't have afternoons off. It was very serious business. And then in the evening there would be studies at the boarding school and we'd all take our duties there. But the religious life was … the Christian life of the mission station was a very happy experience. Because we had clubs, Christian clubs, and where the young people could learn The Bible. We had the timbrels, the girls played their tambourines. And then we would have the services on Sunday. There were, at that time, probably about 500 students on the mission station. And they sang so wonderfully in the services. And I used to organise all that. I often think now, how did I get that job of doing all that. But probably because the principal knew I was a willing worker. So I did that for many years. And the African students came to love The Bible very much. They are spiritual people. They're not like us Westerners. You know, we are so secular now. But the African people have always been aware of a spiritual world round about them, so that the students very easily took to religion. To them, I mean, to think of somebody not believing in God was absolutely ridiculous. And in fact, I think I read once, an African said the first time he ever heard anybody say there is no God was at Hyde Park corner in London. And he was a student in England. So they are spiritually geared. And they accepted the Christian faith. And of course the person of Jesus Christ was very important to them. He's someone they could admire, want to emulate and, in fact, to really be a good Christian, it means you're going to seek to be like Jesus Christ in your own character. I think one of the verses in The Bible says, 'Let this mind be in you,' which was in Jesus Christ. And a modern translation says, 'You should have the same attitudes as Jesus had.' So I think that they greatly enjoyed studying the New Testament. But the Old Testament was also quite interesting to them, because there was polygamy, the same as their polygamy. And they used to ask questions about why did they give up polygamy. And the Israelites, like Abraham, had a few wives and concubines and so forth. So there was always some interesting discussion. In fact, they liked to discuss a religion more than discuss what they were learning in school.
Yes. That's from the teaching of Jesus. The polygamist kind of housing. That's another thing that I studied and many people think, well, a polygamist household must be a terrible place, where all the wives are fighting with each other, and so forth, but it's not. A man for example has three wives. And they each have their responsibilities and duties. They each have a certain part of the fields. And they work in their field. The little bit of difficulty and jealousy comes about the children, if one child is favoured over another, but the father usually is wise enough not to do that kind of thing. But in the church, if a man was polygamous, he could become a Christian, but he wouldn't be given a responsibility in the church. For example, he wouldn't be made an elder or something like that. But if he took some extra wives, then he might be disciplined in his church membership. But in our women's clubs we would have Mrs Joseph 1 and Mrs Joseph 2 and Mrs Joseph 3. And they'd all be sitting there together with their children around, learning how to knit or sew in the women's clubs. If a young man had no wife and was going to be married, then he was expected to be monogamous.
Oh, they would do quite a lot of that, yes. In the women's clubs they wanted to learn how to make Western clothes, naturally, because they didn't only just have a sarong anymore, they were wearing dresses. And surprisingly, Zimbabwe is high, it was about four thousand feet where we lived at the mission station. So they liked to learn to knit, so they could get something warm to wear during the colder months. But their own crafts they would also have at the women's club. And when we would have these big congresses and we'd judge all these pieces of work from the clubs, there was always the African crafts as well, for which they'd get points. And even at our women's teacher training college, where we were teaching Western kind of cooking and so forth, we also taught them how to use their own cooking methods in a much more effective way. Cooking underneath the ground and so forth. So that the girls didn't leave behind a kind of cookery that their mother used.
The criticism that you've alluded to, that was made of missionaries, was that they were cultural missionaries as well as religious missionaries. Was there, at the time that you were there, really an assumption on both sides of the superiority of the Western ways?
Oh, there was certainly, from the African side. And I knew you would see that in little things, like if a baby was born, a man who perhaps had only had one or two years of schooling will give his baby an English name. So that it would look as if he's been educated. And that's why some of the names were so ridiculous. You'd go around to the schools in the villages, and there'd be -- in the school register -- names like Dictionary or Geography or Typewriter or something like that. Which meant that the father wanted to tell people he knew some English words. So definitely from the African side, that was the feeling. If I can get a Western education, if I can have Western style, I'll be able to improve my lot. On the missionary side there would have been a bit of ambivalence, I think. Many missionaries, like myself, didn't think we had all the answers. And of course we were in the period, still colonial period, where the colonial power was looked upon as the sort of strength that made the country what it was.
Well, I was in Zimbabwe at a time when Ian Smith was working towards -- and then announced the declaration of independence. I think that was one of my saddest days in Zimbabwe. I was so angry I couldn't teach. I didn't go to teach my class. I went out to walk in the forest, in the bush. Because I felt that was so unfair, the whites were so unfair, that Africans who got educated, you know, they were expected to become like whites, and if you were educated and became a teacher or you became a nurse, then that was almost the sort of highest level you could get to. If you wanted to be an artisan, a craftsman, a builder, a carpenter, a bricklayer, you couldn't do that. You know, you just had to be a labourer. So there was no opportunity for Africans to rise in the commercial field. They could stay in the teaching and the hospital field, even to become a doctor or a nurse, but really not to be involved in the economic development of the country. And then when you had the unilateral declaration of independence, and that meant …
Yes, that's right.
Well, you see, the British Government was pressing for greater freedom and opportunity for the African in Rhodesia. But Ian Smith and his henchmen, and his political cohorts, they didn't want that. They wanted to retain the power and authority. Of course, I have to grant them this --that we didn't have apartheid as in South Africa. We had what was called 'partnership'. But always the white man was the senior partner. We were able to go into the same shops, blacks and whites. But there was still the acknowledgment all the time that the white man is superior. And I felt that the Africans were going to get even less opportunity. And personally, I felt that civil war was inevitable. Much as I didn't like that thought, I really say it had to come. That was their only way.
The Africans then began to really organise in a serious way, because they could see that their opportunities were going to be closed off altogether. Did any of the people that were part of your mission, the Africans who were Salvation Army people, join in that struggle?
Well, the struggle had been going on underground. I didn't know too much about that because they didn't let us into the secrets. But I knew that our headmaster of our primary school (which had all the village pupils, where we used to do our practical teaching), his name was Parirenyatwa, and his brother was a doctor who was very much to the forefront in the African movement. So I knew he was involved somehow, and later he disappeared and went to Northern Rhodesia, later Zambia. And one night, I always remember, I was walking in the compound and a car came along late at night and I was so surprised. And when I looked in the car I saw a very famous man (now), and that was Mr Nkomo, the head of the other section of the country, the Matabeleland, who later became Assistant President. He was very vocal.
Yes. And I added, 'Is there anything you want?' And he said, 'can you tell us how to get to Paranatoi's house?', you see. And that was our headmaster. They didn't tell us what they were doing because no doubt they felt they had to keep these things secret to themselves.
Not as great, no. And in a school, although we knew the students were very vocal to each other, it was not like later -- when I had left, Zimbabwe, there was a great deal of tension even in the schools. So that once the freedom fighters were set up by Mugabe and others -- and many students ran away from school to join Mugabe -- even some of our own students went off to give themselves in service to the freedom fighters. And many of them were sent abroad, to China and Russia, to learn how to fight. Some of our Salvation Army officers who are now members of the church were actually trained in China. Some of them know how to speak Chinese and Russian. It's because they felt they wanted to go and serve with Mugabe's forces, and bring about the freedom that they were looking for. But during our time there, there really wasn't a great deal of, shall we say, overt anti-mission feeling. And even later, when some of the freedom fighters came in and murdered missionaries, very often they were people who had been trained in China and Russia, and they thought anybody who was white was against them. In fact, two of our own missionaries were murdered at the school where I used to be the principal. I had left, I'd gone to London on another assignment for the Salvation Army and at the Usher School, the terrorists -- well, they like to be called freedom fighters, I should remember that -- they came in to the mission station and rounded up a lot of the missionaries and then they were marching them down through the school compound when they heard a noise, and they thought it was probably the government troops coming. So they just shot the four missionaries and then ran off into the bush. And two of them were quite young girls who'd only just come to Rhodesia a year or so beforehand. The other two survived; a man and a woman who were somewhat older. But that didn't stop our missionary people from continuing their work because they knew that some of these freedom fighters had been brainwashed against the missions. And now, the situation is so different. Now that there's independence and Zimbabwe governs itself, the attitude to the Christian missions is very different, very positive. President Mugabe has spoken out very clearly that they feel the church has a great deal to give to the country. But it was a difficult time, especially after I left. So I didn't share that period but I know that, just like the fenced villages of Vietnam, in Zimbabwe all the people came in to an area of safety. And, for example, Howard Institute became a fenced village where people could come and shelter with the missionaries.
I would say that we remained fairly neutral, because the Salvation Army has never got involved in political parties and discussions like that. But we would be as supportive as possible. Many of our African teachers were actually killed too. One of my own students, I heard later, he was a headmaster of a school in a very far distant rural area, where the freedom fighters came in and rounded up people and took him away. And he's never been found again. So I think the Salvation Army had to maintain a very careful stance.
Oh yes, yes. And I would probably have been a bit of a rebel in that case. And I wasn't in Zimbabwe, so I don't know what I might have done. But I think the Salvation Army was ready to be supportive to the families of the freedom fighters. We would provide means with which they could have help and food and things like that in the forests. I think that -- where we could help we did. And we had always been keen to develop black leaders. And always, I think, we were keen to hear what they were saying, so that now, in Zimbabwe, our commanders have been black for quite some time.
Well, I didn't leave of my own volition. I was told by the Salvation Army that I would have another appointment. And that's Salvation Army style. You don't plan where you'll go, you just go where you're sent. So they felt that I was to be useful in some other sphere of work. And I was being appointed to the Salvation Army's International College -- [for Officers] in London. So I had to just get up and go.
Oh, my commander would just inform [you] that you have another assignment. And I was due to go home to Australia for some leave. And he said, 'When you go home, you won't be returning. You'll have to go somewhere else.' And he didn't tell me where I would be going. I didn't know for some time.
Oh, very little. Couple of months, few months.
Oh, it was a grief experience. I was mourning inside myself. You know, I really felt that I was leaving part of myself behind.
Correct. And when I went to Africa I thought I'd be there til the rest of my days.
Could you describe to me what it felt like for someone like yourself, who likes to be in control of your life, to be placed in that situation where you had to follow orders without even understanding the reason for them.
Well, I think I interpreted the reason. And the reason was that I had performed well as a principal of a school and had shown leadership qualities, and therefore it was seen that I should go somewhere else where that leadership would be developed. And my commander, interpreting that too, would say well, that's the reason. There's something else up ahead where your gifts will be used in a wider field. So, in a sense, that therefore helps you to accept what has happened, which would not necessarily have been of your choice.
Because the idea of obeying orders is so foreign to the modern contemporary mind, I would like you to describe exactly how it was that that impacted on you at the time, the kinds of thoughts you had and how it felt to be in a situation where you had to follow an order that, in your heart, you didn't feel happy about.
Well, I must say that when you become a Salvation Army officer you accept that as part of the discipline of your life in the ministry, that you are sent where your leaders consider your gifts will be best used. And therefore you really don't argue against it, even if you feel sorry about moving, or feel sorry to leave the people you've grown to love. And you feel, well, I accept this because it is a decision that's obviously for the Kingdom of God, of which the Salvation Army is a part. So if this is going to benefit the Kingdom of God, then I accept it. Now I know that is difficult in the modern context, but in the Salvation Army context it is not so difficult. And if you feel that your hand … you are in the hand of God, and the Salvation Army is the medium through which you express your ministry, then you accept the style of the Salvation Army.
I would say it was a slight inkling. I didn't think it was something like one day being the General. But it was obvious that they had noted my abilities in leadership. And, interestingly, I had been to a course in London in 1967, a two-month course which is rather like in the military; a staff college. It's a refresher course for two months, and there's a college in London, at which I later became the principal [International College for Officers]. I went as a delegate to that course. And I think some people in London who were responsible for Salvation Army grooming, if you like, noticed me and some people said, you know, you really have the gifts to do something of value in Salvation Army leadership. So I mean I kept that in the back of my mind.
Well, when I went, I was just a teacher. Then, by having the responsibility of the church life of the mission station, that had indicated to people that I could organise well. And then I was made the person to introduce a new teachers' college course. When I was on my first leave from Africa, I went to Sydney University and took a masters degree in education. I stayed home for a year, and then I presented my thesis from Zimbabwe on the training of black teachers. So I got the opportunity to begin a new course. And we did a lot of experimental work in training black students for teaching opportunities. So I had shown my capacity. And the Government Inspectorate, who would come and oversee the school and review the school and see how our students were doing, and whether they were decent teachers or not -- we got such really high grades for the quality of education we were providing for teachers. And then I was sent as the head of a mission station in the south of the country in Zimbabwe. So I was the principal of Usher Institute, which was a girls' school, and that was a teachers' college for girls doing domestic science teaching. And a secondary school, boarding school, for girls, as well as a primary school. So I had the responsibility of the whole mission. And that's what I had been doing when I was then appointed to London.
Yes, I'd been there about three years, yeah. And the school was doing very well too.
Well, I was appointed to be the assistant principal of this international college in London, that I'd been at about three years before as a delegate. So I went to live in London. And it's a college on Sydenham Hill in South London, where we had four courses per year. And each course held 24 or 26 students, and they were from all around the world. There would be as many as 12, 15, countries represented. And they had to be officers who'd had at least ten years of service. So this was a place where they would look again at the motivation of the Salvation Army, look at some of the places of our history, because we began in Britain, and we would see the sites where William Booth began the Salvation Army. Then we would discuss something of our administration, our international impact around the world. So it was more like giving these officers an opportunity to see the Salvation Army in a far wider perspective than they would in their own country.
Yes. I didn't think of that at the time, but I realise now that they were having a good look at me.
Yes. That time, when I was on leave, my father died. Actually my mother took a stroke in 1967 … [INTERRUPTION]
Well, in 1967, I had word that I was going to go to London, which I was very excited about (going to that college for a two-month period) when I suddenly got a call from one of my brothers to say Mother had taken a stroke and so I flew home, and spent about a fortnight with Mother. She was in the hospital at that time. Actually it was quite lovely because she hadn't spoken since she'd had the stroke and when I walked into the hospital ward, my mother looked at me and called my name. And she never said anything else after that. Father and I used to spend time with her daily, and other members of the family came in. But I was home with father and looking after him, and then Mother died. There was a lovely thing that happened at that time. I was very anxious because the hospital wouldn't be able to keep my mother and so I wanted to find a place where she would be cared for. And so my brothers and sisters left it to me because I was free, and I went to the Catholic hospital called Mt Olivet and had an appointment with the Mother Superior there. And when I talked to her, she said, 'Look, I would normally say no, I can't do anything for you, we're so full. But because you've given your life so beautifully to God in service in Africa, I'll find your mother a bed.' I thought that was lovely. But then the day she was to move, she died. She didn't go to Mt. Olivet. But I always cherish that because when people [talk] of different denominations, we talk about all the tensions between them [and] that was a beautiful time to prove that we can live together and understand each other well. And then Mother died, and I was going to stay home with Father but he insisted that I went to that course, which was just about to start. And so I left and went to London. And I have other sisters and brothers who were able to keep an eye on Father. But then when I was told I was leaving Africa, I was on my way home to see my father and then get ready to go to London, when I got word that he was very, very ill with cancer. In fact, I got off the boat at Perth and flew home to Brisbane, and when I went to the hospital, somehow Dad sort of perked up as quite often happened. He was so pleased to see me. And the doctor said, 'Well, he can come home. And he won't live for long. But you can look after him at home if you like.' So I said, 'Oh, there's nothing I'd like better.' So for about eight weeks I cared for my father, and looked after him before he died. So I felt very privileged that after all the years I'd been away I was able to be near both my parents at the time of their passing, at the time of what we call in the Salvation Army 'promotion to glory'. That's your last and best promotion, when you're promoted to be with God. So that was beautiful for me.
Yes, well, my parents were in their 70s when both of them died. I know they worked hard all their life and served the Lord. And so therefore death is not something to mourn about at that stage. You realise that they are going to a place of much greater joy and glory than they have known here. And although there's great sorrow in losing them, it's more our loss of them than the fact that they're going. So a funeral service in the Salvation Army is often almost like a joyous occasion, because this person, especially when they're older -- it's different when it's a child and there's so much more reason to try and provide comfort and consolation -- in the Salvation Army we say if a person has lived a good life and their reward is beyond them, then there's a sort of note of jubilation. In fact, I've actually had people say to me, 'I've been to a Salvation Army funeral and it's so different. It was such an amazing occasion. Everybody was rejoicing in the life of this person and the fact of what lies ahead.'
Oh, I think so, because I think I did extremely well, because I had already lived in Africa and therefore was sensitive to those people in the course who were from the Third World. In fact, I was the first staff member of that college who had actually served in the Third World so that was a great advantage to me. I really took an interest in those who -- perhaps their English was not as strong, good, as the Americans and Australians and Canadians-- so I would spend extra time with them. I did all kinds of extra-curricular activities. I'd take groups of them, of the delegates, to the different churches in London, not just to the Salvation Army, to go and hear some of the famous preachers in the Methodist Church and the Congregational Church and the Anglican Church. And also I would take them to some cultural events. I remember one missionary who'd come from Malaysia, she'd been way up in northern part of Malaysia, and I took her and a few others to see Swan Lake at Covent Garden. And she said, 'I know this has been a wonderful course, but I think that day at Covent Garden was the best of the lot.' So I took, I think, a tremendous interest in the students. And then I know that the students themselves, they talked to others. The world for the Salvation Army is divided into five zones. There's North and South America is one, Europe, Africa, South Asia and then South Pacific and East Asia. So each one of those zones has a sort of leader in London, who oversights that area. So his delegates that came from that area, he would talk to them. I'm sure that they said, oh, what they thought about me at the college, and how I helped them, and how I made it as interesting and stimulating and I think challenging as possible. I think that would have been well-known because students are like that, aren't they? They tell on their teachers.
Well, the next big challenge was that, oh, one day I was in the Salvation Army's world headquarters, I was talking to the second in command. We call him the Chief of the Staff. There's the General and the Chief of the Staff. And I'd been talking to him about the college, because I was now the principal. And we were discussing some changes in the curriculum, and so forth, and then he said, 'Oh, this morning we've got a surprise for you. Would you come and see the General?' And when I went to see the General, they said, 'Oh, we have decided that you should have a change of appointment.' Now, I had been five years at the college. I wasn't surprised to get a change, because it's good after a period of time to go somewhere else. You know, especially after five years, and many things that I'd changed, I'd now felt I needed another challenge. But the challenge that they gave me really did nearly knock me off the chair. Because they said to me, 'You are now going to be in charge of all the social work for women in Great Britain and Ireland,' and that was quite a shock. Unlike when I left Africa, I wasn't worried about leaving the college, because I'd done a good job there. But I said to the General, 'Do you know that I've never been in social problems before?' And I'd been mainly involved in education and in international situation. 'No,' they said, you know, 'we feel that you're the one to do it.' So I said, 'Well, I've never refused any appointment before, so don't think I'm going to refuse. I'll accept it and I'll do my very best.' And I said, 'I hope that you're going to ensure that I'm replaced at the college with someone who's been in the Third World, someone on the mission,' who'd been a missionary, someone who had some understanding of other parts of the world apart from America and Britain. And he promised me that that's what they would do. He even asked me some suggestions of names, which I was glad to inform him about. And he did choose one of those.
I think they would have listened. And I must say that today, in today's climate, we do a lot more talking to officers about what their potential is and where they could be best used. And I think many officers know well in advance of the actual announcement now, what's going to be coming up for them. There's still a certain element of going by command but we're much more in a consultative situation. And I myself, as a leader, always considered consultative leadership as one of my styles. But if I'd said no, I wonder what they would have done. They would have tried to persuade me that's why they had chosen me for that position and then I probably would have said yes. But if I'd continued to say no, they would have said, 'Well, you better stay where you are for the present and we'll see what else happens.' But that would have taken every opportunity for future leadership away from me, I think, because I was not willing to abide by the methods, the strategies, of the Salvation Army. And if I was going to be a leader of the Salvation Army later, I ought to abide by what they do.
Yes, I was quite -- once I got there I was a bit trepidacious at the beginning for me. I'm usually fairly confident. But I thought, how can I cope, because actually Britain is very much bigger than Australia in terms of population and social centres. And I thought, how am I going to cope with this wide range of activity. But once I got there and started to have a look at the situation, I was really quite challenged to do something about it. It was interesting because when I came to the end of my five years at the college, I was allowed to come home to Australia for six weeks. And during that six weeks, I was able to go to a few talks by social people here in Australia, [from] which I learnt a lot. I can't remember his name exactly, I think it might have been Michael Scott, but I went somewhere where he was giving some lectures on social problems in Australia and what we're trying to do here. And I was 'specially impressed by his comments about advocacy, speaking up for the people who can't speak up for themselves. And that was a short time but it really was another thing that helped me to feel quite challenged that I could really do something. And then of course I began what was really only a very short appointment but, to me, one of the most significant appointments of my life. Length of time doesn't necessarily tell you how valuable a thing is.
Well, I think I learnt to understand some of the social problems of the Western world. I'd been in Africa. I thought the poor were all in Africa. But then I found the drastic poverty of people in Britain and especially women. I used to go to our big hostels, where we had women who were homeless, lonely, women who had alcohol problems. And they were so desperately sad. Such desperately sad people. And I just realised that here was a tremendous need, and the Salvation Army was trying to provide them with some love, some friendship, a place where they could meet other people and enjoy decent food and so forth. And I think one of my surprising experiences was when I went to one of our hostels -- and we had a lot of them in Britain -- this one was up in Scotland, and in those days the places where the women slept were rather like dormitories. Now we have much nicer hostels with single rooms and so forth. But in those days, there'd be, say, a very big room with about 30 beds, and then beside each bed was a little locker where they kept their clothes. And Matron was telling me something about the women and what a sad sort of lonely lot they were. And then I saw on one of the lockers this Christmas card which I -- I suppose curiosity -- I bent down and was reading it. And it said, you know, 'Christmas Greetings from loved ones across the sea.' So I said, 'Oh well, at least this lady's got someone who loves her.' And Matron said, 'Oh no, no. She would have sent that card to herself. And that was quite a moment for me. I hadn't ever realised that people could be that lonely. So then, you know, I had a whole paradigm shift, as they call it these days, looking at these women, and trying to see what we could do to bring some joy and happiness and meaning into their life. And [looking at] the programs that we had in the centres, not just offering them a bed and some food, but what are we doing with them in the daytime, how are we helping them to find something meaningful. And also at that time too, in British social work, many of our children's centres were closing down, because the idea of fostering became very popular. And keeping children in a Home was not thought to be good for them. I don't necessarily agree with that myself, but they … children were fostered out, only the very, very, difficult children, or children with parents who needed some help over the weekends or something. Our children's centres were changed. And so many of our centres became empty. And that's when we moved into caring for women from violent home settings. What the English call 'battered wives', a phrase I never liked. So we had a lot of that kind of work. So no, I really got very absorbed into it all.
This was your first big organisational job, where you were heading up a large number of people. How many people were you responsible for who were actually working in that section of the service?
Oh, I couldn't tell you the exact number, but there'd be thousands. And that would be not just officers, women officers, but all the staff members in all the hostels. You name any big town in Britain and there would have been a hostel or a centre for the Salvation Army. No, it was a very wide field of responsibility. And I, I had … was fortunate to have a very good man on the financial side who could claim from the government every last cent, or penny. So we were doing all right financially. And I think I was challenging the Salvation Army that though we could do quite a lot ourselves financially, they better fork up a bit more money from the -- what we call the Red Shield Appeal here in Australia. You know in Britain they have a big appeal just like that. And so I said, you know, 'You -- even if we do fairly well, you, the people, are giving for the kind of work that I'm involved in. Therefore you should make sure we get our share of that cash as well.' So I was always very interested in the money side.
I think I am, yes. Strong sense of accountability. I think money is functional. Its value is what you're doing with it. And if you're doing something good with it, you always find you get it. A strange thing. But that's how I believe God supplies. You know, when I used to read Salvation Army books when I was younger, and read, you know, General Bramwell and General William Booth, they always got money just when they needed it, you know, by some kind of wonderful answer to prayer. Well, when I became a leader I found the same thing.
So, when you were doing this, you said that you had not had any experience of the social service side of the Army. Does that mean that when you were a young officer in a bonnet, you weren't one of the people reaching down into the gutter to pick the drunk out, which is the image that was so often associated with those young Sally women in their bonnets, helping people?
No, no. I was in the Salvation Army until I was about 13, then from 13 to 18 I didn't go at all. And then I went to Africa fairly soon, so I never was in the situation of being deeply involved in community programs, and so forth. And those surprising stories about the woman in the bonnet, kneeling down in the gutter, I mean it's absolutely true, because they don't get made up. That's because it actually happened. And I was once dining at the Australian Embassy in London, when Her Majesty The Queen was there. She was about to come to Australia to open our House of Parliament. And they were sitting at the table with us, about eight of us, eating at this table. And there was an English lord, Lord Willis. And he was expatiating about how much he loved the Salvation Army, you know, to Her Majesty, and saying, 'When I used to be preaching my socialist doctrine on one corner, the Salvation Army was having their street meeting. And one day, I saw this beautiful Salvation Army girl in that lovely bonnet, kneel down and wipe the sweat off the brow of this drunken man in the gutter.' Honestly, it was so moving, it must have happened. I mean, you know, sure. No, that's 'specially from our past, because now you don't see so many drunken men falling in the gutter, although I did in Scotland see that a lot. But those stories are really symbolic of the fact that the Salvation Army went and helped people whom they used to call down and out. People that nobody else wanted to know. We don't mind knowing them and we don't mind helping them. But no, I didn't, I hadn't done that.
Well, I think one of them would be inspirational leadership. Most of the staff were women and many of them were working in places that were often very depressing. And so I think I inspired them to see that what they were doing was so important and so valuable. I think also I encouraged the workers to see that what we were doing was significant in the social development of Great Britain. I could also speak out in committees and conferences, you know, about the Salvation Army's position. I became an advocate for people. So I also, I think, was quite good at spotting other leaders. That's been another gift that I've had, bringing on people into leadership who had gifts and abilities. I remember somebody came to me once, many years afterwards, and she had been a Salvation Army officer at the time when I was the leader of the women's social. And she said, 'Oh, you know that what you did for us was you gave us an injection of hope.' I've always cherished that because that's tough work, and sometimes you get your love thrown back in your face. So you know, to feel you're doing something of value, and to feel that it's valued right up to the top, makes people feel much happier about what they're doing.
... Only 18 months.
I feel I made a contribution.
The question of how we look after our poor and how society deals with the fact that there are unfortunate people who have been disadvantaged in life, is really a political issue of great concern in Britain, which divides political parties. How did you position yourself in relation to the political context that you were working in?
Oh, well, definitely, I had to challenge anybody and everybody I met to really take care of the poor. You see, in Britain there are so many homeless people, and so often the government's provision for them would be maybe to find them a bed, what they call 'bed and breakfast'. But then they'd give them nothing to help them find a job, or find a solution to that particular problem. And in the end they drift off and sleep in the streets. So that the Salvation Army then was very keen to do something for the unemployed, the homeless and the poor. Strangely enough, you know, when William Booth lived in London in the 19th century he wrote a very definitive book called In Darkest England and the Way Out. And it was sort of based on [Henry] Stanley, you know, who went to darkest Africa to find [Dr David] Livingstone. And William Booth was showing that Britain was a dark place for those who were disadvantaged. And he set up certain programs. And the three great evils that he pointed out were poverty, homelessness and unemployment. And here we were, all these years later, nearly 100 years later, and still having the same problem. So whenever I had the opportunity I would challenge on that. And I didn't later really hold with Margaret Thatcher's position, which seemed to imply that, you know, if you worked hard you'd pull yourself up by your bootlaces. But so many people who are disadvantaged don't have any chance to pull themselves up.
No, that's right.
Well, they didn't tell me exactly why, but the General at that time was the same General who'd appointed me to the women's social work. And there was coming up in the near future a High Council to choose the next General. And whether he thought, 'I should have a few more women there, and who is a woman who could take a position of leadership in a country so that would qualify her for membership at the High Council' -- that could well have been a sort of motivation. Because I was very young. I was only 47, and I became the Territorial Commander of Sri Lanka. And I was the youngest member of the High Council since the very first one. So I was extremely young in Salvation Army mind. Don't know what the men thought about it. But then the General said, 'I'm sending you to Sri Lanka to be the Commander.' So that was a big job.
Now, women who were appointed at a young age above men who might actually quite like the job, often find themselves in a peculiar position, which means that they come in for a lot of criticism. Is everybody in the Salvation Army so good that none of them expressed any resentment of this young girl racing through their ranks at this kind of speed?
I didn't hear it myself. But I know there were some men who thought that perhaps I was getting too much too soon. Not so much of the men who had seen me at the college, because I think they all felt that I was destined for leadership in the movement. But one thing was, I went to Sri Lanka, and most of the other leaders in that area, in India, Pakistan, were Indians, Pakistanis so they were very happy to have to me there. So, I didn't find that kind of jealousy, if you might like, or feeling that I was getting too much too quickly, from the Indian leaders. They accepted me very readily. And we had a lot of conventions, sort of discussion groups, conferences, in India while I was the Commander in Sri Lanka. And I was wonderfully received by them.
Mmm, it was, it was a whole new set of things to learn, because I'd never lived in Asia before. And I think I felt that I would be able to transfer into Asia the many experiences I'd had in Africa, cross-cultural experiences, identification with the people. And it's true that some of those generalities were possible but when I got there I discovered that cultures are so different that, whereas we often say, you know, east and west, I can now say Africa and Asia. They're different from each other as is the east and west. So I then had to enter into another culture altogether, and try and learn. I had to study more about religions because, unlike Africa, Sri Lanka is a country with long established religious groups. The majority were Buddhists. Then quite a large number were Hindus. Then quite a lot were Muslims. And then another group were the Christians. So then I had to really think about other religions in a way that I hadn't -- I had studied a little about it but now I wanted to, needed to, see it up close. And I think one of my amazing experiences was that I was invited to speak on the radio, which was called Thought for the Day, which I think they have in lots of places. And that was on the English radio because Sri Lanka was Ceylon, a British colony. They'd had -- another thing -- they'd had so many colonial powers. They'd had the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. And now they were independent. That's another thing that, you know, I had to understand, what they felt about non-Singhalese people. So I was quite pleased to be given this opportunity and so I thought I better find out what they do, you know. And normally I was away on Sunday morning preaching so I got somebody to tape these programs for a few weeks so I could learn what they do. And to my great surprise, I discovered that they had four thoughts for the day, one after the other. Five minutes: Buddhists, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. And you know, when I was listening to them, I said to myself you know, they don't sound very much different. Because really, the speakers were talking about ethical standards of life and a good Buddhist is a very good person. A good Hindu is a good person. So I said, what do I have to say, why am I even here, if what I say is exactly the same as everybody else? Surely I have something different to say. And then, as I contemplated this whole matter of religious freedom and what one religion has to give to the other I, you know, realised that what the Christian faith has to give is that Jesus Christ is not just a good teacher, but that he is God. And that he's alive, and that he's not just a way to follow in a book. But he is the living way who is with us. Because I had a very strange experience one day in Sri Lanka. I was visiting a Hindu [who] had invited me to lunch when I was visiting a certain part of the country. And he had a big picture on the wall, and there were four people in this painting: Moses, Mohammed, Buddha and Jesus. And I said, 'Oh, what a beautiful painting.' He said, 'I had that specially done myself.' So I said, 'Oh, why did you do that?' 'Oh,' he said, 'because I admire them all.' He said, 'You see, they were all founders of great religions, Jewish, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, you know, and to me they all have equal value.' And I said, 'Well, I agree with you that they were great men and worthy to follow and they were great founders of religion, but I can't agree with you that they're all equal because Mohammed and Buddha and Moses died. But Jesus arose from the dead and is still alive and therefore his teaching has a validity that I find more powerful than the others.' So those kind of experiences were quite different than Africa because African people had no other religion than their animistic faith, their primitive type of thinking … [INTERRUPTION]
The African situation was so different and that was an illuminating experience for me. And I came to be, I believe, tolerant of other faiths, but at the same time believing that what Christ had taught was the guidance that I believed in and wanted to teach. So it was a valuable experience. We did a lot of social work with the poor. The beggars, we had homes for beggars, and we'd have meals for people sleeping on the streets. We had centres for children who … poor children as well as orphans, and community programs for people where they could come and do some schooling with us in the day time because they couldn't go to school. We had a beautiful home, which had a lovely name. It was called The Haven, where we had women who'd been cast out by their families because possibly they'd had a child illegitimately or something like that. And then we looked after babies. And quite a lot of the babies were just left on our doorstep because many poor families knew that they'd be looked after well with us, and so they'd just given up their child. We could never find the parents -- if we could find the parents we would. But other than that we looked after those children and brought them up. Many of them became fine citizens of Sri Lanka.
Well, what I meant was -- I don't underestimate fostering. It can be beautiful. But what I think is that children in a home environment -- we call it an institution, but the Salvation Army would call it a home -- now many of the children who've lived with us in our homes have been very happy. And, you know, some children just do not settle in foster homes, and then they present back to the Salvation Army. And then they're fostered again, and then they're sent back to us, because they haven't been able to get on with -- it's a certain type of child who settles quite happily into the group home and as long as the people in charge are loving parents -- and that's why many children's homes now have become villages rather than one big building. They'll have a number of houses in the grounds and then they'll have what we call house parents looking after the children. And many of those children have been happy, very happy, in that home. And in fact, I heard only the other day -- in Sydney we have a reunion every now and again, of children who've been in our big children's home up in Stanmore area, and even some of them are coming back after 30, 40, years. They loved it and they loved the officers who cared for them. So I think you can't set one kind of policy and expect every child to be able to fit into that policy. I think the government is doing better now, they're realising that some children do not fit into the foster situation.
Three years, about three years.
Well, it was the beginnings of the time of difficulty between the Tamils and the Singhalese. Even during my three years we had one of those times of uprising and Tamils were really persecuting -- sorry, the Singhalese were against the Tamils, especially in Sri Lanka -- ah, in Colombo where I lived. There was an Indian family just near my home, and when this sort of disquiet arose and they had to run for their lives I went round to try and help them and they'd hardly got away when the house was burnt down. And the Salvation Army was able to do quite a lot of work in the refugee camps. They set up camps for the Tamils, especially in the Singhalese areas like Colombo and up in Kandy mountain area. Since then, of course, the matter has escalated into a real war. Also at that time, too, I helped, I think, to give the Salvation Army a public name, because we had a terrible cyclone in the eastern part of Sri Lanka, when all the coconut tree plantations were decimated. And we went up quickly with clothing and food for the people. And our Singhalese Salvation Army officers were remarkable. They worked so hard for them and I think got a lot of coverage in the newspapers and helped the people to see that the Salvation Army was not just a proselytising church, but that we were there to be involved with the people at their times of emergency and need. And at that time there was a lovely editorial in a newspaper about myself, which said, you know, 'You may think this is a white woman coming from a foreign land, but look what she did and how she helped us.' And I didn't count that for myself but I felt for the Salvation Army that was very important, because we were quite a small church and our social and community program was much bigger than we were as a church itself. I often say, too, in that cyclone, we all learned great lessons in life. In that terrible cyclone, you know, the coconut trees were absolutely just blown over, and that was the livelihood of the people. And we were in a coastal area and I saw a man and his three sons, his family, taking this coconut tree that had fallen down and were making a boat out of it. Because obviously their boat had been destroyed in the cyclone. And I thought, you know, I mean I'm glad to help you, but you are helping yourself. And I've found that a great deal in life. I've never thought of the Salvation Army just handing out things. You also encourage people to help themselves. And when you see them helping themselves, you're more willing to help them too.
No, not really. But we … most of our Tamil officers worked in the north, which then became the area where the Tamil Tigers were fighting against the Singhalese. And we had a children's home up there and several centres. So we mainly sent our Tamil people up into that area. because you could often feel there was tension. If some Tamil got a very high position, more than a Singhalese, then there would be some people who would be jealous. But during the war, our children's home was almost destroyed. And now we've begun work again there up in that area. Now that things are a little bit quieter.
I don't know what's going to happen. Because every time a politician, like the present Prime -- no, she's President now, isn't she [Chandrika Kumaratunga] (her mother's the Prime Minister) --she wanted to make some efforts towards reconciliation, but it really hasn't worked. I mean I wish I could help the Tamils to see that they could live together with the Singhalese. But there you are, they feel they must have a separate state. It's such a small area and such a small number of people, how they would manage economically. So you might say one solution would be to let them have their own country and then see how they manage. But Sri Lanka's very small geographically. It's only about 150 miles across and a couple of hundred miles long. It's very difficult to see how the people will be reconciled to each other. In the Christian church there's far more reconciliation, because when I was in Sri Lanka there was a bishop elected who was actually a Tamil. And he was in Colombo in the very much the Singhalese area. So there were opportunities for the Christian church to show that they were willing to work together as brothers.
You were taking on this job of being a territorial commander without the support of a wife, which is what most of the men in those positions would have. And I imagine that it would be a huge organisational job, that job of leadership. How did you manage?
Well, I hadn't had a wife before anyway. But I think it was a very big challenge to me. And I wanted to really see how best to organise the place. I was fortunate in [that] physically I was well cared for, because in the home where I lived there was a cook and a girl who looked after the house. That was quite common in Sri Lanka, so many people without work, so that to live in a house and domestic service, people are very thrilled to do that. So I didn't have worries like that and it was just as well, because my salary was so small: in the Salvation Army we don't get much salary. And if … my cook would go and buy all the food, you see, and therefore she'd buy it at the Sri Lanka prices. If I'd appeared at the market, I'd have had to pay enough for one or two things that would have taken my salary for a week. So I had those kind of physical help, which I found very valuable. And therefore I could devote myself entirely to the work of organisation. And I also, I think, had good people around me who were willing to support my leadership. At boards and discussion around the table, I think they felt that I had some good ideas coming up.
No, the cook was a Buddhist actually. And she was a very good Buddhist, because she went to the temple very regularly. She had been the cook for the Salvation Army Commander for nearly 20 years when I went there. So they hadn't converted her to Christianity. But she was a single elderly lady. She used to tell me what she did at the temple and so forth.
No, I didn't.
Well, no, because I felt by that time of her life she had settled into what she believed and she was very happy. And she did it most sincerely. And I knew that God looked upon her as somebody who had found a way of life that really she felt was good and right. In fact, she was sometimes better than me, because one day in the house I killed a mouse. She didn't speak to me for a fortnight. Because as a Buddhist I shouldn't have killed this poor little defenceless creature. She was a very sweet lady. And the girl in the house had been a girl in our children's home. And when she had finished at the home she was given a job working for the Commander.
So even though you've described your firm position, that you felt that Christianity was the superior religion of the religions available, you didn't feel that it was vital for somebody to actually shift an allegiance from one of the other good religions to Christianity?
Well, we … I would preach in the street. We had street meetings. And I would make known the message of Jesus Christ. And we did have people who became Christians from other faiths. Sometimes they were not very sincere people of that faith. But then they would become Christians and we would accept them and train them in the faith. But in the case of Alice, as her name was called, I felt that she had so long been settled in her faith that she would have found the whole experience too traumatic. I still communicate with her at Christmas times and send her a few dollars to help her.
Well, that's just the reason. You know ...
Hang on, just before I get to that, there's another question I wanted to ask … You went to your first Council of all the Heads, your equivalent of the College of Cardinals, during that period, did you?\
Oh, that was an amazing experience and it was quite early in my time in Sri Lanka. I think it was about April 1977, yeah... so I had to travel to London and we go to a place outside London, which belongs to the Salvation Army, and we're virtually locked in there. And we spend a great deal of time in prayer, in discussion about the purposes of the Salvation Army. Then we set up a series of questions which we think are important, which we would want to ask from those who are nominated. So there's a nomination period and then a secret ballot time and so forth. So I was really excited about going. But because it was my first time I kept a low profile. I was very young so I thought, no, I'm just going to do the listening this time. I've got more High Councils coming up ahead.
You've said that you've learned things from every situation you've been in. At the end of your time in Sri Lanka, what did you feel that you'd learned?
Yes, I do believe that everything in life makes a contribution if you know how to use it. That's one of my convictions I suppose. And therefore what I learnt in Sri Lanka was an appreciation of the other faiths in the world, an appreciation of the simplicity and sincerity of belief, and also the responsibility of the Salvation Army to care for the people whom no-one else wants to care for. So that there were many lessons I learned.
Yes, I loved the people. I'd always been very sorry that I'd never learnt the language well. Of course the Singhalese language is written in the most beautiful script. So I learnt the script and I learnt to sing from the Singhalese language. And I learnt a certain amount of the language to get me around. But I didn't learn the language at depth. And I had a wonderful translator, the wife of my second in command. She was a perfect English speaker and she travelled everywhere with me. I would have liked to have delved more into the language itself. It's a very rich language, and a very beautiful language to listen to. So I was sorry about that. But nevertheless in Sri Lanka, it's true so many people do speak English, because it's been an English colony and so many people have been to school learning English. So that might be one of my regrets. But, as always in the Salvation Army, I had to move on.
My orders this time were to go to Scotland to become the Commander there. The Salvation Army had a territory in Scotland, separate from England, although you referred to the international headquarters and you co-operated with the Salvation Army in the United Kingdom -- in England I mean. So I had to go on to Scotland. So that was a very big change, climatically, because Sri Lanka is a very, very hot and humid place. I don't think the temperatures were very high, but certainly the humidity was. I'd never been so hot in all my life as I was in Sri Lanka. And now I was going to Scotland, and it was December. So I was going into the winter season. But I was due to come home for a short period so I came to Australia for a couple of months and then went on to Scotland to be the Commander there.
Well, normally, when it was from Africa, it was a longer period, because I'd been away for so many years. So I normally stayed with my parents, and certainly gave them a great deal of my time. Because I'd been away so much, I felt they deserved that. So I would stay with them, visit the family, and then I would spend quite a lot of time going around speaking in Salvation Army venues, about the work in Africa, and encouraging support for our work. I think they normally call that deputation work. So your holiday wasn't entirely holiday, because you did spend quite a lot of time advocating the good work that was being done in the part of the world where you lived. I used to take a lot of slides, and so I would have a slide show in those days, and talk about the work. So it was quite a full time. You were usually not ready to go back at the end. But on that occasion, after I left Sri Lanka, I came and spent most of the time with my sister, Margaret, in Melbourne because my parents had died. So my time was with her and with other members of the family but it was quite a short period and then I dashed off to Scotland.
Well, first of all, it was a very, very change, because I'd been working, really, in the Third World for so many years. And even when I was at the college in London, it was an international college, so I was always thinking of the Salvation Army around the world. So now I was to concentrate more in a Western centre. I was very interested to go there because actually my father had been born in Scotland and migrated to Australia when he was a young man. Unfortunately like a lot of young men who were migrant he lost touch with his own family, and I was hoping I might be able to get some contacts with them, but I really wasn't successful. So it was interesting to go there, but I really didn't know very much about it. And I made the wonderful discovery that Scottish people are so warm and welcoming, and very much like Australians, really, you know, very open and relaxed in their relationships with people. I had the good fortune, very shortly after I arrived to be invited to speak on the Christmas Eve service on the television, which was held in St George's Square in Glasgow. And the Salvation Army band was invited and I was invited to give the Christmas message. And so everybody in Scotland saw me, because it was a very popular program. And after that, when I walked down the street in Glasgow or anywhere, people would come up and say, 'oh, I was so glad to see you and welcome to Scotland, hope you'll be happy.' I really found the Scots wonderful people. No wonder they make very good migrants. They never lose their accent, but they make very good people to move around the world and settle in other countries.
No, in that sense I knew something about the social work of Scotland. But now I was really involved in the evangelical side, the church side of our work. And the Scots are very vigorous Christians. Somebody has said that the Scots are all brought up on the Psalms and rolled oats. They have a great religious history. And I found the Christians in Scotland very energetic and vital Christians, and enjoyed my fellowship with them in the Church of Scotland in particular. But the Salvationists I found very vigorous and forthright Salvationists.
Just about three years.
Well, I think it was to inspire and encourage the Salvationists to greater commitment to witness. We live in a very secular world and Scotland, the same as England, had very secular people as well. So I felt that most of my role would be to encourage greater understanding of the mission of the Salvation Army, that we mustn't compromise on the fact that we are an evangelical force in the Church, and not to become too content by just enjoying worship for ourselves. And I feel I encouraged that in the movement while I was in Scotland. I moved all around Scotland, naturally, preaching here and there, right up to Shetland and Orkney Islands. And a great time in Scotland is New Year. In fact, the Scottish people don't celebrate Christmas as much as New Year, and they actually have two holidays at New Year time. And so at that time I encouraged very big evangelistic rallies, so that we had a lot of outside people, people from outside the Salvation Army, come to our services on the New Year's events.
Yes, I think we saw a good increase in the number of members. We used to go into the public houses, as they call them in England, the pubs, with the Salvation Army paper the War Cry and I always encouraged that ministry because it's often there, in contact with people when you're selling the paper, that you find out some of the difficulties and personal problems in people's lives that lead to a visit. And then perhaps an encouragement of those people to come to the services. A part of Scotland for example, Kilburnie, had a great sort of revival at that time when we had a good number of people [who] came to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and came to join the Salvation Army. And one of them was a very interesting story. A man who had been a terrible drinker, you know, in Scotland they still love their pint a lot -- and he was always in trouble with the police and alway up in court, and the police hadn't seen him for such a long time they'd thought he'd died. So they went to his home to see the family and find out if the poor chap had died. And they discovered that he'd been converted in the Salvation Army and had given up the drink altogether. So those were the kind of experiences that bring you much joy as a leader, to find that the mission and purpose of the Salvation Army is being fulfilled. We did have one rather traumatic time there. It was a period of investigative journalism, when so many journalists wanted to go into places and sort of show that they weren't abiding by their principles. For example, in centres for mentally handicapped people, and so forth.
So, a couple of journalists decided they'd tackle the Salvation Army. So this journalist sort of dressed up as a drunk and tried to get into Salvation Army hostels, and then he had this documentary which revealed that Salvation Army hostels were not as compassionate as they say they are, and so forth. And it was a hard-hitting documentary. There were some aspects of truth about it, but I mean a journalist who's got his own big salary, dresses up as a drunk he may look like a drunk, but he doesn't think like a drunk. And it got a lot of criticism, both from supportive MPs. But in Scotland I had a phone call the next morning and it was the editor of the Daily Record, which is like the Daily Mirror, one of the tabloids in Scotland. And he said, 'Oh, I thought that was a terrible thing last night. I think it was very unfair to the Salvation Army and I'd like to redress that, so could you give my journalists a right to come into your centres and can we interview you?' And so the next day was a big double spread middle page; a fantastic, supportive piece of the Salvation Army. And it did us a lot of good. And I was hitting back at this other journalist. Anyway afterwards, I said to the editor of the paper, 'You know, that was really kind of you and why did you do it?' And he said, 'Well, during the last war I was a soldier in Burma. We'd been in the jungle and we'd been fighting and we came out to a clearing on a kind of a hill. Who should be there but this Salvation Army chap and he even had cool orange drink,' he said. 'I've waited a long time to pay back that orange drink.' So that was a great experience and I think many people thanked me for being willing to speak back. Other people thought we should have not said anything and let the Salvation Army stand for itself. But I felt that a lot of things that the journalist said were unjust. So I believed in having a go at him.
Well, for one thing, that a lot of our hostels were still rather Dickensian. Big dormitories and, you know, as soon as men came in they would go to the corners of the dormitories, because they felt protected there. Men, these days, they were afraid of these great big open spaces. And it's quite true that our men's hostels, and some of our women's hostels, needed to be modernised. We needed money for that, so the Salvation Army set forth on a very big fund-raising project, and I must say now that most of our hostels in Britain have various styles of accommodation. They have small dormitories because there are still some men, homeless people who don't like to be alone, who are happy to stay in a four-bed, six-bed room. Then we have some rooms which are single. Then we have some little flatlets, some flats where there are, say, three bedrooms, single bedrooms and then the men can cook their own food. So we have what we call cluster hostels now. And we've, in Britain, been able to set up a housing corporation because government funding changed and now you have to apply to the housing corporation to get the money for these hostels. But it's been a very big advance really. So it wasn't just that documentary that caused us to do that. We knew that, but it also gave us some clout with the government when we sought money from them to improve the quality of our hostels.
Well, I think he accused us of not being considerate enough. For example, if a man comes to a hostel and he's dead drunk, we do not put him into that big dormitory with all these other men, who are homeless and maybe just disadvantaged people. He will immediately cause a big row and a big problem. The journalist didn't understand that. We usually ask them to wait for a while until they sober up a bit. Now he said that was very inconsiderate. Why didn't they take me in? And he also claimed that we weren't using our funding properly that we received from the public, and then we were able to prove what we did with the money. Where we got a lot of support was from people who said, you know, the Salvation Army workers, the officers, people like myself, we receive a very minimal salary in order that the work that we do may not cost as much as it would cost in the government. And -- that's what I also said. You see, if you have a government centre it costs a great deal of money, because everybody gets very high salaries. And quite a few MPs got on to the press and said, you know, 'Where are these trendy denim clad, university graduate yuppies who are telling the Salvation Army how to do their work? Don't you know the Salvation Army members wash the dirty feet of these people and wipe up their vomit. Where are the yuppies when this is happening?', you know. So I think that we had a lot of support from people who said that the Salvation Army workers in these hostels have to do very, what you would call, demeaning work in order to love and help these people. So in some ways it also was a backlash, a sort of a boomerang that supported us out of that documentary. I don't know how the journalist himself felt. I never met him.
Well, it was also rather traumatic because I had a coronary and spent some time in hospital. Fairly soon after I arrived. I think it was the very big change in climate and the fact that I'd had to rush home to Australia and rush to Scotland. And the fact that I'd been very exercised at the end of my time in Sri Lanka to get everything completed. I really didn't have much time and I was to be succeeded by a Singhalese leader. And I had been very vocal in saying that Sri Lanka deserved a national leader. And therefore I wanted to ensure that he got a very good start. So that quite a few of the projects that I had lined up, I had to ensure that the money was available and that a new program for a college in Sri Lanka for the whole of south Asia was well and truly settled. So I think I really overdid the work and when I got to Scotland and had to face an entirely new situation, I just had this coronary. It was a bit of a shock, it is a shock, isn't it?
No, and I'd never thought it would happen to me. I mean, I know that two of my brothers died with coronaries. And then I've later found that other relatives. So it's obvious that it's something that belongs to our family and our family connections. But you don't think of women having coronaries. I mean that's the thing that surprised me.
Umm, now that was the beginning of 1980. So I would be 51. Ah, 50. And I, funnily enough, immediately thought that's what it was. I have no idea why I should know that. Because I woke up about 4 o'clock in the morning and I had pains down across my shoulders and down my arms. And I instinctively thought this is a heart attack. I hadn't even read up -- I'm terribly ignorant about the body and physical things because I'd never been sick. But I knew straight away and I had … my secretary lived with me at the time so she called the people next door because I was quite new to Scotland. We really didn't have a doctor yet and didn't know a hospital. And it turned out that the hospital, which was five minutes away from where I lived, is the famous coronary hospital in Scotland. And so I was in the hospital very quickly. And they say -- and since my reading has indicated -- that that's the best thing that can happen to you, that you get treatment straight away. So I was taken to this hospital and put in the intensive care, and I was in the hospital for about two weeks. And then I had to take about six weeks off work in order to recuperate, because I was determined that I would obey the doctor. As I told you I'm good at obedience when I know that what I'm instructed in is good for me. So I then spent this time recuperating, and have never had another problem since with my heart.
No, it wasn't angina. It was what they call a myocardial infarction. And that was about 10 per cent of the front of the heart is blocked off. So I suppose you'd say it was a minor coronary and did not involve me in any angina afterwards. So it was a sort of one off. Although I discovered following that, that I've a tendency to build up cholesterol so I have always been very careful to keep the cholesterol down. And that is apparently something that runs in the family, it's a hereditary thing. But I did have an amazing experience when I was the hospital. And that was I woke up in the intensive care unit and I saw a black girl, the nurse, sitting near me. And I thought I was in Africa. And I looked around and I said, 'What has happened? What have I done?' And this girl said, 'Don't worry, Major, you'll be all right', you see. Now I'm a Commissioner by this time, and she's calling me by a much lower Salvation Army rank, and then she revealed that she was one of my students from Usher Institute. She had left school and gone to train as a nurse in Zimbabwe, and she was an outstanding student, and then she went to this hospital for postgraduate training. And here she was looking after me in the intensive care. And I sort of suddenly had a realisation, I'm going to be all right. This is a sign, a symbol. She said, 'You used to look after me and help me to be well-educated. Now I'm looking after you.' So many things in my life, people would call what a wonderful coincidence. But it was providential. But the interesting thing about that girl is she was a very clever girl, and when she finished school nursing was pretty well the only thing available to her, and she couldn't afford to go to university. So later, in Scotland, she took a degree in economics. And recently I was in Canada and she is the High Commissioner for Zimbabwe in Canada. And welcomed me to Canada. Said she was hoping to see me. Wasn't possible this time. So that's something to be proud about, isn't it?
That's right. Lily Chitauro. I remember it well.
And what did you think lying there in intensive care, with this bolt from the blue, just as you were about to take on the next really big challenge there, of your career. What did you make of it in your own mind?
I surprisingly was quite submissive about the whole thing. And I just seemed to say to God, you know, 'If this is end of my life, you know, thank you, I've had a great life and it's been a wonderful life. But if I'm to recover, according to your will, I just devote the rest of my life to you and go ahead and do whatever you require from me.' It's strange. I didn't fight against it. I sometimes have talked about this to people. In fact, medical people have told me the fact that I didn't fight against it and struggle was probably helpful in my recuperation and recovery because I had a friend, a distant friend, who had a coronary almost at the same time as I did in England, and within a year he was dead. I met him one day in London, when I was down on business. And he said, 'How are you feeling?' I said, 'You know, well, I'm just going ahead as I always did and I feel the Lord has given me the strength to do that.' He said, 'Oh, aren't you distressed, aren't you worried about the future?' He was so uptight about it. And he died. So you know, I thank the Lord for giving me that acceptance of a situation, which was to teach me a very good lesson. And that was to not drive myself beyond my capacity, which I had done in Sri Lanka I think. I pushed myself too hard. I didn't obey the rules there. You know, in Sri Lanka and in the very humid tropical countries, you really should have a rest during the day. And I thought I didn't need that. So I think physically I pushed myself beyond -- over the edge. And I've learnt now. Many people would say I'm a very over-reactive person. But no, I've learnt to pace myself and to take a break, to sit down and enjoy a book, go to a concert, things like that.
Yes, I did.
No, no. No, I'm not afraid of death. Not at all. In fact, when the time comes I will welcome death, because I have such a positive faith of what happens. That it's just a door opening into another, more glorious life than the one I've had here. And I have that promise, and what God promises, he keeps his promises. Unlike some of us.
The interesting thing is that you felt that way when you were actually confronted with the real possibility that you might die. Often people can say those things in the calm of a moment like this, but in an intensive care unit, it didn't even flash on your mind for a moment that you were afraid that you might die?
No, I don't think there was a fear. I think there was a feeling that, 'Lord there were a lot of things which I'd like to have done, but if it is your will that I cease my life now, then I accept that.' It was a kind of acceptance I suppose. And if you really believe what has been taught by the Lord Christ, then you do accept that when it comes. Naturally, I suppose most people hope to live longer, but no I'd had a wonderfully full life up til then. More than most people have the pleasure of having.
Well, actually -- can I just mention something about the doctor who cared for me. I was in a public ward, because as a Salvationist and a leader I didn't have any private health care or something like that. So I was cared for by the doctor and there were a lot of students there, because it was this famous coronary area. And I've since discovered that Dr Fulton, Professor Fulton, who looked after me, was one of the great coronary people of Scotland, and the world. And he came to me and he said, 'You know,' -- he always called me Miss Burrows -- 'you know Miss Burrows, I understand why you've come to Scotland and I've seen the reports about you in the newspapers and I would like to be sure that we bring you to full health, so I will take you specially as my patient.' So he took a great interest in me. And then fairly recently I went to visit him in retirement in Scotland. And discovered, even then, what a famous man he was. So I really was well provided for. And I loved being in that big ward in Scotland. I got to know all these Glaswegian women in the beds. And they were such a chatty lot. I felt I got to understand Scots quite a lot in that very big ward, about 30, 35, beds. So it was a great experience. So even the coronary opened up a lot of doors of new knowledge for me. But then we're going to move on, aren't we? I've forgotten your question.
Well, the appointment of myself as leader of the Salvation Army in Australia, in the southern part of Australia, that was my new appointment.
That came from the General of the Salvation Army. It was General … Now can I just have a thought for a minute ... [INTERRUPTION]
How did you feel when you were told that you were coming back to Australia? A position of leadership in your own country where you were born is a little bit different, isn't it?
Yes, that's right, and I think I was quite excited about it, because I was the first woman to ever be a Commander in Australia. And the Salvation Army had been in Australia more than 100 years at that stage. So that was-- for me -- quite a challenge too. The appointment itself had, I think, been in the offing for some time, because although the General at that time was General Wahlstrom, who's a Finnish general, General Brown, the previous General, had no doubt had this in mind. He was Canadian and had taken a great interest, I think, in my development. He sometimes calls himself my mentor. I don't know that he did the mentoring that we normally associate with that today, but he did take a great interest in my development as a leader. He was a General for part of the time when I was in Scotland and encouraged me, and I think he felt that it was a good time for a woman to come to leadership in a prominent Salvation Army command such as Australia. The other thing that perhaps gave me a little concern, was I wondered if I would be Australian enough, because you see I'd been away from Australia for more than 30 years, hadn't worked and served in Australia yet. And so I thought, I wonder if the Australians will think I'm too much of somebody from afar. And how would I fit into the Australian scene. And it was a wonderful discovery, that I hadn't been back here two weeks when I felt a real Aussie. It was great. That's when I realised that your roots are very significant in your upbringing. I mean I'd been in Australia the first 21 years of my life. And when I was abroad in other places people always recognised me as an Australian. Something of my Australian-ness communicated to people. But when I actually came to live here I felt a real Australian.
I think it would be a relaxed style, an openness, a readiness to meet with people and get involved with people. I think openness is a quality of Australian-ness, if I may say so. And enjoying people, enjoying other people. Maybe it comes from our wide open spaces, I don't know what it is. But certainly that I call being an Australian.
Well there was, I think, quite a deal of interest. I didn't know very much about what the feelings were, but certainly I think amongst the men there was a concern whether I would be able to make it because I hadn't worked in Australia for many years. People knew who I was, but didn't know very much about my ability to lead and command. So I think they were holding their support until they saw how I got on. I think there were some reservations amongst some people.
I think there were certain feelings that perhaps a woman couldn't cope with the demands of a place like Australia, which involved total work of the Salvation Army, both social work and evangelistic work, preaching and teaching and organising. I think amongst Australian men there has been a feeling that a woman is not such a good organiser as a man. I think that's a cultural thing in Australia, which I think is changing greatly now. But it was more, not criticism of women, but protection almost of women. You know, these women really, you know, we must look after them. They can't really cope with the demands of this very heavy job.
You'd been in Scotland and in England and in Africa and Sri Lanka, and yet you seem to be suggesting that Australian men had more scepticism about the capacity of women than the men in those other countries?
Ah, I don't know if it's more. But I think in Australia we hadn't had women leaders at the top level. Australia had had -- let me put it this way -- the Australian Salvation Army had had women in leadership at the local level, but not at the top administrative level. I think perhaps men here in Australia had, at that stage, not realised that women had the capacity to do that. I know we hear a lot about mateship and all that sort of thing in Australia, but perhaps it's taken Australian men a little more time than some others to come to accept the ability of women in administrative positions.
Well, of course, I worked mostly with men, in the close administrative positions. I think I was sensitive to the fact that I had to walk a little carefully. My style, I think, is one of consultative leadership, so that I involved the men in the group in my decision making. I think that's important. And I was not an authoritative leader, dictatorial, but shared leadership. And also I think I tried to be non-confrontationist. I think you often win many arguments by disarming rather than confronting. So that I didn't use it as a technique so much as the fact that that was my style. So I would say, 'Well, I haven't had a great deal of experience in this area, but what do you think about this?' So that didn't lay on the fact that I knew a great deal about Salvation Army leadership too quickly. And then I think the men who worked with me discovered that I did have wide experience, experience beyond what they had had themselves. And so then I think some of their scepticism may have turned to admiration.
I think my style at the administrative boards, for example. Unlike a lot of people I actually do enjoy the cut and thrust around a board table. The Bible has a verse which says 'Iron sharpeneth iron.' And I enjoy that. And I often find that, in that discussion, what emerges is something of great value, which is much better than what I had in mind in the first place. So I appreciate the views of other people and when I accept their views I acknowledge it too. I don't take it as my view. I will admit where it came from in the first place, and I think men appreciated that because that's not always the style of a leader. If he gets good ideas from somewhere else they usually come out as his own ideas. I think also my tremendous interest in people gained admiration, because as I would move around the area of my responsibility, I would get to know people and be able to call them by name, and refer to them when we would have discussions at the headquarters. Now, some of the men still find that interesting, and even surprising. Because, you know, when a man is married and his wife is with him in his ministry, I've noticed everywhere I've been, that he often says to his wife, 'Who was that person, dear?' or 'What was the name of that woman we met so and so?' Because so often he depends on his wife to remember the names of the people that they've been involved with. But I had to do that myself, I had no wife. And I was interested in people. So I think that was another point that was valued very much. I think my style of preaching, which was significantly a communicative style. I was not a heavy preacher with great theological implications in my services, much more a topical preacher. I think people found my preaching helpful. And I think generally my style, which is again not to stand on my dignity, but to really enjoy people and to come up close to them and get to know them. And in that too, there was a great joke that I was always the last person out after any event. And that was because I would stand and greet the people. And the people would all be gone and my second in command would say, 'Aren't you ever going home?' Those kinds of things I think were among various aspects of my leadership that made people warm to me.
Well, I think I encouraged everyone to take their own responsibility. I, for example, gave to the divisional leaders a new level of responsibility, and I think that also encourages them to take their part with a greater effort, so that you felt the whole territory was working together. I also established a church growth sector, which was to emphasise the evangelistic work in Australia. Like many Western countries, we were not exactly going down, but we were just keeping a sort of -- in the graph --plateau, in the number of our membership. And when I heard about a new style of encouraging growth within the church, then I sent a couple of our best officers to Canada to take part in a seminar and course. And then they came back and we established a Growth Department where I put two of our best people, and Australian Salvationists said, 'Well, she's putting her money where her mouth is. She's setting up this new scheme for evangelistic growth. Not only putting her money into social programs.' I developed a very interesting program called Employment 2000 for unemployed youth so I was supporting our social community program, but I was also supporting our evangelistic program, so that our evangelism and social work were being treated as equally important in my eyes. So, to get those kind of things going and supporting the public relations people in their fundraising, doing everything I could to show them that that work was a very spiritual work just as much as it's an economic and financial work. When they raise funds for the Salvation Army, it's for the good of God's Kingdom.
The public relations side of the work and specifically the advertising that the Salvation Army engaged in at that time led you into controversy, didn't it? There was a particular campaign …[INTERRUPTION] … In relation to Australia, you mentioned that it's a very prominent command to have the Australian command. Why is that? Is the Salvation Army particularly big in Australia?
The Salvation Army is strong in Australia, and it is a very significant part of community life. You see, the Salvation Army began in Australia in 1880. The actual name, the Salvation Army, came into being in 1878 in England. So we were very early in the world to become the Salvation Army. And it happened in a most interesting way: in Adelaide, where free settlers had established that particular colony, two men who had become Christians (as we say, converted, in the preaching of William Booth in England) were now settlers in Adelaide. And they -- there was no Salvation Army so they had turned to some church, perhaps Methodist or something like that. And in the service this day, the preacher had said something and one of these men shouted out in good Salvation Army style, 'Hallelujah!' So they met afterwards. One said, you know, 'Did you hear the preaching of William Booth?' or something like that and they discovered that they had become Christians in Britain under William Booth. So they decided, oh, we should start the Salvation Army. I mean that's real Australian, isn't it, taking that sort of initiative. So they wrote to William Booth and asked him to send an officer to help them begin the Salvation Army amongst the settlers in Adelaide, and they didn't get an answer for quite a time from William Booth, so they decided they'd take the law in their hands and start themselves. So they had their first meeting in the Botanical Gardens in Adelaide, which was a place like Speakers' Corner, where politician's and anybody could get up and have a spruik. And so they took a greengrocer's cart and they had an organ and a couple of other supporters. And they held their first meeting under this big gum tree. And in actual fact -- a lot of people came around to listen. And something that one of these men said on that occasion is very significant, to me. He said, 'Oh, we're going to have a service here today, we're going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but let me say this: if there's anybody here who hasn't had a meal today, after the service you can come home with me and I'll give you something to eat.' I like that, because right in the very first meeting of the Salvation Army in Australia, unofficial, informal, a man illustrates this duality of our purpose, which is to proclaim the gospel and to help people at a point of need, either to feed them or to clothe them or to help in their particular problems. So when I came to Australia as the Territorial Commander and went to Adelaide for the first time in my life -- I'm ashamed to say that I was an Australian who had never yet visited Adelaide -- I asked if I could go and see that gum tree. And we went and stood under that gum tree, there was a plaque there, and we prayed. And I prayed that God would help me to have that same adventurous spirit that those very first two men had, who began the Salvation Army all those years before.
Quite a lot, yes.
Well, I've always felt that money was very important. I've never scorned money like some religious or over-pious people do. I think money is important because you're going to use it to the betterment of society and for the building of God's Kingdom. So I always considered the financial side very important. With a greater sense of accountability, I really felt we had to go out and try and get as much as possible, so I was a great encourager of the Public Relations Department, which had those two sides of seeing that the public's informed about what the Salvation Army does, but also asking them for money. And I have always made it very clear that we can never ask for money unless we're doing it. So that if anybody is asked to support us, I should be able to take them to any Salvation Army social and community centre and they can look at what we do. And it's often when they come and see what we do that they become even more generous subscribers. I'm not averse to approaching wealthy people to help us. For example, at that time when I was beginning this program for unemployed youth in Australia, we could sense that we wouldn't get too much government support. So I needed plenty of funding to get it launched. And then I thought, well once we're doing it and the government sees what we're doing, we'll get more support from the government. And so a very generous philanthropist here in Australia, I went to lunch with him, at the very nice Windsor Hotel in Melbourne, and persuaded him to give up a lot of money.
Sir John Reid. And he was very generous to us on other occasions as well. And he was able to support that program, and as it developed, then we were able to expand it to all the other capitals. We started in Perth actually and now it's right throughout Australia. And the government came and interviewed us and we explained the program and then we received very good funding from the government. Not total funding, but part funding. And some of the government schemes themselves, I could see little echoes of our projects. So I was never averse to asking for money. I didn't ever feel, you know, I was like a pauper going to ask some rich person to help me. I was going to ask a wealthy person to share in this great endeavour that we were involved in. And many wealthy people have actually said to me, 'Thank you for the privilege of supporting this.' And when I prayed with them and asked God's blessing upon them, and even asked God to bless the use of their money, they've said to me, 'Oh you've given me more than I've given you.' I even had opportunity to ask Rupert Murdoch once to help us.
Oh, very well, thank you. It was in London and it was in our great bicentennial year. And the High Commissioner for Australia, Doug McClelland, who was very I think supportive of the Salvation Army, he invited me to quite a few events in order to pray at the meal, you know. In Britain it's always important to have grace said at any big event such as a dinner or something like that. So there was to be a big dinner dance, I think it was at the Dorchester in Park Lane, and I'd been invited to come and say the grace over the banquet. And I said I'd be leaving before it came to the ball part and the dancing. So just before the dinner we were in the room with all the chief guests -- the Duke and Duchess of York were there. And that's the first time I met Rupert Murdoch and in our conversation he actually said, you know, any time I might need any help, he would be able to. So I immediately capitalised on that and said yes I would because I felt that the Public Relations Department in Britain, while I was the General in London, really could do with a little revamping. So he said, 'Write to me.' And I did. And then he arranged for that great company called Saatchi&Saatchi to come and give us some good advice and help on how to improve our public relations. So I was always ready to capitalise on opportunities to get money. And, I may say, a woman often has a greater advantage than a man in doing this … We won't say how.
No, I didn't. I don't use feminine wiles, but I think a woman can have a style in approaching people which is again less confrontationist, and perhaps more with a sympathetic, compassionate, sort of style. Not as a trick, no, no, no. But I think naturally. Our founder's wife, Catherine Booth, always said that women are not in competition with men. Women and men complement each other, because women have their gifts, their psyche, and if you use those gifts which you have to the glory of God, then God has a wonderful way of turning them to great value.
Well, I think it was twofold probably. One is the encouragement to the Salvation Army to be a church and to be known as a church. That's what I call the Church Growth Department and the movement we made. And the realisation that Australian Salvationists should reach out to people in their community, not just with the helping hand and food and clothing, but to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the introduction of friends' and neighbours' services, where Salvationists who perhaps have never brought a neighbour to the church before, were encouraged to bring them on these occasions, when we would have a service which was more geared to people who'd never been to church before. And to see a growth in the membership of the Salvation Army as a church. And to try and help people generally to know that the Salvation Army is a church, a denomination, as well as a charity. And then I think I quickened the conscience of everyone who came within the orbit of my influence towards unemployment and the homeless. I often had the chance to speak to the media about this.
Ah, Premier Cain was the Premier of Victoria. And I had quite a lot to do with that. In the central government was Mr Fraser's government. But I think the opportunities came more within the state parliaments than the federal parliaments. We did set up, at that time, a central office in Canberra for the whole of Australia because in Australia the Salvation Army has two territories with a headquarters in Melbourne and a headquarters in Sydney. So you co-operate together. And we've now set up a ministry in Canberra that also approaches the government there. We had very good friends who helped us to find a location in Canberra to set up our central national office. And in that office we now approach the government together, both the territories of Australia. And also through that office we seek support from US aid for projects in the Third World as well.
Had you any idea, as you were getting this succession of high-level appointments, moving, as it were, up the career ladder within the Salvation Army, that you were being groomed to be the General one day?
No, I don't think I had the feeling that I was being groomed for it. I know that a lot of people here and there …
Well, first of all with state governments we had a very good and close relationship, through our state commanders. But with the federal government, the leadership had changed from the …
Well, we at that time had the big change from the Fraser Government to the Hawke Government. And I must say that during the time when Mr Hawke was in power, he was certainly very supportive to the Salvation Army, and particularly to our social programs. I was invited, at that time, to sit on the Tax Summit and that was a great experience. I actually sat next to Peter Hollingworth, who was then working in Melbourne, but now of course is Archbishop in Brisbane, who is a very involved person in community affairs. But I also had the chance to speak there and I think that was a time when Mr Hawke realised how passionate I was concerning the poor and the disadvantaged and the unemployed in Australia. You know that was the time when Mr Keating, who was treasurer, was seeking to bring in a consumption tax. And actually I spoke against the consumption tax, because I had some statistics which revealed that charities would be tremendously disadvantaged if the tax had come in. And I asked for exemption for charities, especially on certain things such as food and so forth. Anyway, the next day, after I'd spoken, it was announced that charities were going to be exempt from the consumption tax. So I don't know whether my speech moved the heart of Mr Keating as well as Mr Hawke.
No, no, I wouldn't actually. I have a somewhat different view because I've lived in other countries where a consumption tax is very common. In Britain for example, it's 17 and a half per cent on everything. And I realised that for those who have much, the consumption tax means that they have to pay up. You know, in Australia, we've always been famous for the number of people who can evade and avoid tax. Quite legally. So that very often the very rich hardly pay any tax whereas they have to pay consumption tax. And of course, they buy more expensive things than the poor. And so, for example, if they buy all their designer clothes, they're paying a tax on those clothes. So at least it's one way to catch the wealthy who don't pay their tax. And therefore, if the government is careful in the introduction of a consumption tax, to protect poor by giving a larger non-taxable section of your income, or ensure that certain products in foods and things that are used a great deal are not taxed. So I think with careful working out, we could see that consumption tax would be beneficial. Except it should not be as high for example as in Britain. For 17 and a half per cent is a very big hit. And when John Major not so long ago tried to bring in the consumption tax on your telephone, and your fuel, you know, heat and light and gas and electricity, he even lost that vote because many of his own Tories went and voted against him, because it's the poor who need electricity and gas. And even now in Britain in the winter, many of the poor die because they can't afford the electricity and fuel to keep the place warm. So he actually lost it when he tried to put the consumption tax on gas and electricity. So when I say a consumption tax may be useful, I think you have to have it well and carefully worked out. I know Australians think they're very heavily taxed, but in fact not having a consumption tax, they're better off than a lot of people.
It was while you were in Australia that you attended another High Council to elect the next General. Had you been aware that a number of people, for some time, had been watching you and thinking about you as a possibility for that role?
Well, they didn't tell me, certainly. But I knew that, for example, General Brown, who was no longer an influence actually, had felt that I had the capabilities of being a General.
How did he know that?
Ah, not in so many words. He'd never once said, 'I think you'll be the General' although he once hinted to my housekeeper that there was a possibility that one day I might be the General. But I think that other people had often said [it] to me, even when I was in Sri Lanka. We had a group of businessmen who advised and helped us. We called them the Advisory Board, and the Chairman of our Advisory Board was a prominent businessman in Sri Lanka, and when I had my farewell and goodbyes he, you know, he publicly proclaimed, 'Well perhaps we'll see our Commissioner one day returning as the General of the Salvation Army.' So people had said that. And I think that my wide experience in the Third World and the fact that I was proving that I could hold leadership of a Western country, and an extensive territory like Australia, that would have made people think I was a possible contender for the Generalship.
Well, in my mind, it was that I had already been to two High Councils. I knew the whole set up. I knew the facts that what emerged from the High Council was really God's will for the Salvation Army, because everyone who goes takes this matter very seriously and very spiritually, because what they want above all else is to elect the person who is God's choice for the movement. So that you don't get lobbying as you might in any political sphere, or even a business sphere, when people are competing for the top chairmanship of something or other. I was never lobbied to vote for anybody at any of those three High Councils. And I would say that that is true of those situations in the Salvation Army. So I knew that I was going to spend considerable time in prayerful contemplation as to who would be the most suitable person. I had an awareness that it was likely that I would be nominated, no question about that. I hadn't been told so much by people, except they may have hinted that, 'You're likely to be nominated.' So I went with that fact, but I didn't go with anything prepared. You know, if you are nominated for the Generalship, normally you have to answer great list of questions about the Salvation Army's motivation and purpose in the world. And then you have to give a speech. So I did not sit and sort of say, 'What will I answer if we get this kind of question?' Or 'what will my speech be?' I never prepared a speech. Some nominees may have thought of it before, but they would never give any indication that they'd prepared the speech before they arrived. No, I think we accepted the fact that if we were nominated it was at the High Council that we would be ready to answer and to prepare our material.
Not entirely, no. Because in the Salvation Army internationally the leaders get to know each other quite well. We have fairly regular international conferences of leaders. And so you see each other, you meet in discussion, you make your observations of people. Salvation Army's a very closely knit organisation internationally. So that you would naturally know quite a lot about the other members of the group before you go there.
I can't remember the exact number that were nominated, but there were seven who accepted. And it was quite an interesting occasion because it was the first time that we had had a non-Westerner nominated. That was an Indian leader, Manam Samuel, whom I knew well from my time in Sri Lanka and whom I admired very much. And it was the first time that a member of the High Council who didn't have the highest rank was nominated, and that was a Colonel; Colonel Wesley Harris was nominated. So that there were quite a few interesting factors and, of course, I was nominated and I don't think there'd been a nomination of a woman for any years since about 1930 or something like that.
Correct, yes. And that was 50 years before. That was Eva Booth, sometimes called Evangeline Booth, the daughter of our founder, William Booth. And she actually became the General when she was 69 year of age. In those days the General remained in office 'til 73. And she concluded her time about … just as the war started in 1939. And you know, I was very young. I was 56. So I know that many members of High Council would have thought, 'Well, if she's going to be the General, we'll wait 'til next time' which would probably be five years later. And that would be more like the age that we've had as a General. So some of them would have thought I was a big young.
In the procedures for the High Council, which are very carefully devised by the actual High Council itself -- each High Council is autonomous. But you have the procedures from previous High Councils, so you normally discuss your methods of procedure on the basis of what's happened before. Under our constitution, the ballot goes on three times when you get -- you have to get two-thirds majority. So the sooner you get two-thirds majority, then you are the General. Or after the third ballot, it's then by simple majority. So no, I didn't go in right at the beginning. It often happens that the General doesn't get in the first time. I can remember once that happened when there were only two who accepted nomination, and it was quite clear who the person was. So no, I didn't get nominated right at the beginning. I think there were those who perhaps thought, 'Well, it's not quite her time to go in.' But I must have had a good number of supporters.
Well, I really had a difficult time. The President of the Council, who's elected by the group, we'd spent already quite a number of days and I think he wanted us to get on with the election. And we really didn't have much time to prepare our speeches and all these answers, because it's a very strict rule that you have to have your answers and your speech in writing. And you must keep to that speech, because you go and speak in front of the whole group and the other nominees are present. And if you hear something from one nominee that you'd like to add to yours you can't do it, because you must keep strictly to your text which is in front of the President. So to prepare that needs, you need, some good time. But I was already past midnight now and I was still preparing my speech. And I was preparing a speech about what I thought would be the most productive administration of the Salvation Army from the international headquarters and the international leader, when I had a strange awareness this wasn't the most important thing. That it was not just whether the General was a good administrator or not. But whether the General was leading in the style of our great model, Jesus Christ himself. And then suddenly I had this awareness and I wrote a speech very quickly, which seemed to me to you know, be an inspirational thing that came from above, if you like. And I prepared a speech on the style of the leadership of Jesus Christ, and it wasn't a long speech. Only about -- I'm not sure --15-20 minutes. And when I finished it I felt very much at peace about it. And I pointed out that Jesus Christ was a pastor and a prophet and a priest. A pastor in his love for people, care for the disadvantaged, and his compassion. And a prophet, he declared so many things that were against what society thought were important, that he had a prophetic voice and spoke not only of the future, but he challenged people about the present. And then he was a priest standing for the people, praying to God for the people. And he's still our priest, we read in The Bible that he intercedes for us at the right hand of God. So I -- these things came to me. And so I felt very happy, because I was speaking about a quality of leadership that was non-secular and that it was in line with what a spiritual leader should be.
Well, I felt a great sense of awe I think. That's my first emotion. That this great and honoured position was coming to me. I felt a great sense of awe before God, because I knew that I could only do this work if his wisdom and guidance and discernment became my portion also. I think I also felt it as a phenomenal challenge to me. Then I had a great sense of gratitude to God. Because I thanked him for the wide experience of the past -- African, Asian, social, evangelistic -- the kind of background experience that would help me to understand the Salvation Army internationally quickly. And I suppose I thought of my mother and my father and, of course, they had long since died and many in the family said perhaps they're looking over the battlements of Heaven. And I didn't think that, but I felt something of my mother in me. My father too, but my mother very much so. So I think it was gratitude to them for having brought me into this environment where now I was able to put into effect some of the deep convictions that I had.
Yes, I was sad about that. In fact, there were several things that my parents missed in my life and one was when I was ordained in London. They were not able to afford to come to see my ordination. They never came to Africa, much as I encouraged them to come, partly because they said they couldn't afford it but I think also that it was so strange and foreign to them. So I think they missed a lot, but they did have a great deal of joy in seeing me be an officer, because of the nine children that they had, I was the only one who actually entered the Salvation Army and became ordained. Other members of the family are members of the Salvation Army, but I'm the only one who actually, in that sense, followed in their footsteps.
I think there was great pleasure around the world. Actually, you know, at the headquarters -- the world headquarters of the Salvation Army, is in London and the General is elected at this place outside of London, in Sunbury Court on the Thames River. So back at the headquarters, they're longing to know who's going to be the next General, who's going to come and actually work at the headquarters. And so as soon as the General is elected, the General in office [is] informed who the General designate is, and then almost the first in the world to hear are the people who are called to come to our hall, in our [headquarters] building and they're all sitting in this hall, waiting to hear who the new General is. And I have since heard that when my name was announced there was a great cheer. So much so that it was heard on the top floor for a people who hadn't come down to the meeting. So that was a good sign, that I was to -- I was well accepted by the people with whom I was going to work closely. And I was well accepted by my fellow leaders, because even though some had not voted for me, immediately when you're elected, you come to the podium and every one of those leaders comes and shakes your hand and they stand far enough from each other that they can't hear what each other says. And every one assured me of total and absolute support and loyalty in my leadership. So even those who may not have voted for me, they accepted the fact that my election was a God-appointed task. And when you become the General and you find out how demanding the role is, what you are required to be responsible for and how you've got to keep up to date and keep on your toes and keep well and keep moving around the world, you know, you wouldn't do the job unless you really felt that there was some kind of divine power behind it.
I was asked about my health. Yes. And I explained truthfully what had happened since my heart attack. And that I had now worked in Australia, which had very great demands upon me, especially for travelling, because I'd travelled to -- from Melbourne to Darwin and Perth and Tasmania; all over the place. So I'd had a lot of travelling, and I'd recently been in Indonesia on a 12-day campaign which was very demanding and exhausting. So that I'd told them that I didn't have any medication or angina. So I gave them a full account. They could have asked for a medical report, but they did not. They took my word for it. Proved I was right.
Yes, I felt daunted, but I also felt a strong sense of confidence from the fact that if you emerge from the High Council as the General, you do sense that it's by divine appointment and not just of man's choosing.
But you were about to run what was, in effect, an absolutely huge multinational corporation, with all the administrative, financial responsibilities of that, as well as those of spiritual leadership. Did you feel that you were really well prepared, in a secular way, for the task?
Well, no, if you would ask me how many management courses I'd been to and how many 'search for excellence' books I'd read, etc, no I hadn't, I hadn't done a lot of that. Although I tried to keep up in reading on management. But in a sense I think I'd come by that time to realised that I instinctively had an ability to organise and administer. And I think that gave me confidence that I'd already done it in three territories of the world and not everybody gets that privilege in the Salvation Army. Quite often you come to leadership later whereas I had had 10 years of leadership -- Sri Lanka, Scotland, Australia. And this had been great preparation. So that I felt -- although the General, the General has the whole world -- that was a good preparation. And I think also that I had got to know our Third World work so well [and] I knew that wouldn't be quite the problem it had been, for example, if an American had been elected who'd never worked anywhere but in America -- he has to get to know the world first. Whereas I knew a great deal about the world.
Was it because of your knowledge of all those other aspects of the international operation of the Salvation Army that led you to that major administrative venture that you took on, of re-organising the Salvation Army under your Generalship so that it was truly international and not something led from England?
Yes, well, I think that's the part that gave me the greatest anxiety. I felt I could deal with the world and the world program and our mission throughout the world, but there'd been a long-standing unease in Britain because the Salvation Army began in England. So that then when it went all round the world, to Europe, Australia, America, those countries sort of set up their own Salvation Army departments and headquarters according to the culture and the laws of those countries, and they were all bound together by their joining with the General in an international global movement. But in Britain, the Salvation Army was really administered from the international headquarters, because that's where we'd begun and that's where our roots were. And for many years they had discussed how you could separate the Salvation Army in the United Kingdom from the international Salvation Army. So that really the international would become global and the Salvation Army in Britain would run its own show like the Australians or Americans did. And I think it had been discussed for three or four decades. And although other Generals had thought they should do something about it, somehow they'd never felt they could. My predecessor had tried to deal with the matter, but he -- at the end of his Generalship had come before he could do anything really. And so I felt I should take this on too. And in fact, at the High Council, in answer to one of the questions, I said I would tackle this. And I knew this was the thing that was going to cause me the greatest mental concern and management challenge. But then we did have a go at it, and managed it in the end.
Well, I first chose an officer in quite a high position in the Salvation Army who had, over many years, been very critical of the Salvation Army's structure in Britain. He was a young Turk, we might say in Australia, but now he was the principal of our theological school. And I thought, now, he's had some fine thoughts over all the years about this, so I appointed him to come into the headquarters and to view the whole situation to see what were the areas that we must concentrate on, the legal, the constitutional, the economic and financial was a very big problem because we were so interrelated to the Salvation Army in Britain that our financial work was very difficult to separate. So he was a man of great creative gifts, but also he was a very fine analytic mind. So I, I'd been thinking about whom I could choose. And his name was John Larsen and he came in and for a year or so he investigated the whole situation to see whether some of the things he'd said could happen, really could happen. And then we called in a management consultancy firm. The thing about John Larsen was that he was someone admired and respected, so when he knocked on doors to talk to people about how things might change they were ready to talk to him. So he had talked to a lot of people and got a lot of views. He'd looked into the financial situation, the constitutional situation. Because the Salvation Army constitutionally is rooted in the British Parliament, because that's where we began. So that in many ways he'd done an excellent job and we put forward through him and discussion some things that we thought we could do to change the situation. So then we called in the management consultancy firm and they were very interested. We had several people apply for this task, and we chose a firm, Coopers & Lybrand. And they came in and were very interested, because they'd never actually worked with a charity that was a religion as well. So that we said, 'Here is what we think we could do. What do you think about that from your knowledge and experience?' And one thing I did, which I didn't realise was so wise, but in the end it proved to be wise -- this is one of these intuitive things -- I said to Coopers & Lybrand, you know, 'I don't want you to go out and do and come back with your results. I want to be talking with you all the time so that we can see if you're coming up with things that are quite impossible in the Salvation Army culture we can give you that in understanding.' So that the first day the Coopers & Lybrand people came to give their first presentation I really was very anxious. I was anxious because I wondered if they would catch the true meaning of the Salvation Army, what our true purpose was, which was not just to be a charity. So we're sitting there in the Advisory Council room and the screen went up, and the first transparency came up on the screen: 'Purpose of the Salvation Army -- to lead men and women to Jesus Christ through the following means.' And I just said thank you Lord, very much, you know, they've got, they've got it. And from that time on we had such a positive relationship. And out of that emerged a whole new structure that would help us to launch the Salvation Army in the United Kingdom. We were again very careful to make sure that the Britishers knew everything that was happening. So we kept them fed with information as to how we were getting on. And on the day on which we made the decision we ensured by the British postal system, which was very accurate in those days, that everybody in the Salvation Army who had a position of responsibility received the material at the same day, so that nobody could say, 'I heard this from somebody else.' They all got the outline of the new structure and I was waiting for all those letters of criticism and, you know, 'You made a mess of whole thing.' I never got one.
No, in the Salvation Army that's one thing you can't do with a person ordained, just say well you must go or something. So Coopers & Lybrand had to learn that. They had to understand that we were not just like a corporation, where I can say to half a dozen people, you know, that's the end of you, finished. You have got these people working for you. They're ordained to the ministry and if what they're doing is now no longer needed, then you have to deploy them somewhere else. And we're fortunate that we have a wide range of activities where we can deploy people who perhaps don't fit in here; we can put them there. No, it worked out well, but the bonus to me -- I think my first motivation was to give the United Kingdom their freedom, like spread their wings themselves but it actually had a very high bonus in that we structured, restructured the global headquarters of the Salvation Army. We brought in a Resources Department that had not existed before, which could help the whole world to receive information from other parts of the world. Now, for example, in that department we are now on the internet, the world wide web, where the Salvation Army from London tells what we're doing. And there's a big debating forum and all the rest of it. That department is now proving to be an excellent thing for the future.
I think we were moving in that direction, but I think the restructuring helped people to see that we could move into a modern era. I mean, when we actually called in management consultants, some of our people were a bit worried about that, because that seemed such a secular thing for a spiritual organisation. But I think I was able to help people realise that the church must be well-managed, just as well as anybody else. That God expects us to be efficient and well-organised, to be accountable for our money. And I think people came to realise that the Salvation Army leader has to have this worldly knowledge of how to run an organisation well.
During the period that you were General of the Salvation Army a major opportunity opened up for you, I imagine, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, initially, and the end of the Cold War. How did that change the way in which Christian churches in general, and the Salvation Army in particular, could operate in Eastern Europe?
Oh yes, this was a wonderful opportunity really. In fact, I think in my Generalship I was often anticipating certain things that would happen. I always liked to look ahead and try to plan. But this was something nobody could plan for. It was the unexpected moment. And so when the Berlin Wall was breached and we saw those phenomenal scenes of them shouting 'Freiheit!' Freedom, freedom. Then the Salvation Army had to suddenly say, 'What are we going to do about this?' Because East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the whole of the Soviet Union had been closed to the Salvation Army. Soviet people, under the philosophy of Communism, felt that they should ban the Salvation Army. We often wondered, because they didn't exactly ban all Christian churches, but I suppose because the only army is the Red Army, they wouldn't have any other army in existence. So, about 1923 we were finally banned in Russia, and banned in Czechoslovakia and Hungary probably about 40 years before. And so it was up to me to call the troops together and sort of find out what our strategy should be for the future. And so we decided we must return immediately to central Europe, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany, and so I called some of the European leaders together and we decided to go immediately back to those countries and to see what opportunities we would have. That wasn't so difficult, because there were still some Salvationists with whom we had contact in those areas. Although they couldn't belong to the Salvation Army, most of them belonged to the church. We did have some contacts with them so, to then initiate a strategy, what I did was to ask Switzerland to look after Hungary, and the Netherlands to look after Czechoslovakia, and West Germany to look after East Germany. And therefore to plan their strategies from that sort of Western Europe helping eastern Europe and central Europe. And that was quite exciting. And then of course came really the downfall of the Communist philosophy in Russia with the introduction of Perestroika and Gorbachev opening up a field there. And so that was the biggest challenge of all because Russia is a great country, and -- the Soviet Union as it was then particularly -- and to return again to that area would take tremendous funds and personnel, and people. That was a very big challenge.
Well, in the first case, in the case of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, we had some excellent contacts. I even went there. I had a wonderful experience in that in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall went down, I was a speaker at a world conference in Manila. It was an evangelical conference of many churches, not run by the Salvation Army, but I'd been invited there. And after I had given my speech at the rostrum, a man came up to me and introduced himself, and he said, 'My name is Pavel Titera. I come from Czechoslovakia.' And it was the first time people had been allowed to come out of those areas, because things were loosening up a little bit at that time, especially in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And he revealed that he had been a member of the Salvation Army and a candidate for ordination when we were banned. And he said, 'It's wonderful to see the General today Oh, I hope, I hope you can come back to Czechoslovakia.' And he revealed that he was principal of the Baptist theological college in Czechoslovakia and the General-Secretary of the Baptist Church. I was quite proud of him so we kept in touch. And so when Hungary opened to us, he actually introduced our Salvation Army leaders at the press conference. He conducted the first service for us and introduced us, and that was a wonderful contact. Again, seemingly coincidental, but providential, I was able to contact the leaders of the city in Prague and in Budapest and by those contacts we discovered that the Salvation Army was well-known as a world charity and a church. And we were given a warm welcome. One of the most interesting discussions I had was with that great leader in Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel. He had been imprisoned during the Communist era. A great playwright and a man of great intellect, poet. I was looking forward to meeting him. And when he came in and we sat together he -- actually he looked quite shy. I was quite surprised, I expected a much more forthright authoritative person. And he was smoking quite a lot. And in the end he said to me, 'General, I shouldn't smoke, should I?' But anyway, he said, 'You know, during the Communist era, the Salvation Army's name was made to be a disreputable name. Your reputation was pulled down by the Communist people. Now, you know, on the television, we have seen your people feeding the hungry on the stations, and giving a place to sleep to those who are sleeping rough in the doorways. You only have to show that on television and people know all those stories were lies about the Salvation Army. We are so pleased to welcome you back.' And after that time, the authorities gave us many buildings. And the deeds to those buildings. And land. Mind you the buildings were in a terrible state, and we had to spend the money to recondition them. And now in Czechoslovakia we have a lot of centres for the homeless, for the elderly, disadvantaged people, as well as a church centre in each place. So that was, that was, well I could say, relatively easy. But the matter of Russia was another one. I had thought at first to give the responsibility to Norway. Again, from the point of view of European helping European but the opportunities then escalated so much that we had to take it under the wing of the international headquarters, because it mushroomed far more quickly than I could have imagined. And it was beyond the capacity of one country like Norway to care for such a large expanse of work. So since then, Latvia has been looked after by Sweden, and Estonia by Finland. But Russia itself, and now what's called the CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, has been cared for from our international headquarters in London. So it was a very big challenge.
Oh, both actually. There were tremendous needs, socially, far more than the Salvation Army could handle. But the response to the spiritual message was tremendous also. It was as if the Russian people were waiting again to hear the Christian message, something of which they'd been deprived. For example, children had never heard about Christ or didn't know anything about The Bible. And parents were sending their children, parents were even coming to the meetings for the children to learn themselves. They wanted their children to know about the Christian faith. And this was, to us, you know, tremendous encouragement.
Well, we had an immense respect for the fact that Russia was not a totally atheistic country. Communism is atheistic, but the Russian Orthodox Church was there all through the Communist period. We had respect for that. And also the underground churches, and particularly the Baptist Church, which was a Protestant Church which had maintained a presence under great persecution. We didn't feel we were going to replace them, but to join with them, because we had once been in Russia. We had not been there a long time, about 10 years. So we felt we would like to go again, and there had been certain signs to me. For example, we began to get letters from Russia, even before we returned there. We had letters from a group in St Petersburg. They were trying to start a charity. Because under Communism, charities were not allowed.
I mean, the state provided everything. There was no social policy of any kind, because everybody had work; even if you didn't do anything you got your pay and your salary. And there were supposed to be no social problems at all. So charities as such did not exist. So here was Communism breaking down, and here were some Russians wanting to start charitable groups. We had a contact from a group in Moscow, called Movement For Peace, something like that, asking 'Can the Salvation Army give us advice on how we can sort of manage and organise this group?' So we knew that there were people in Russia ready to receive us. The thing that I was anxious about was that the Russian Orthodox Church accepted us in good faith and when I went on my first visit to Moscow, which was in I think May '92, I sought an appointment with the head of the Orthodox Church. The Patriarch was absent, but I was well-received by the Metropolitan of Moscow, rather like in the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of the whole of the city of Moscow. So we went to the monastery where he lived and where he had a sort of an audience room. So we had gone in and we were waiting for him. And naturally we were praying very earnestly that we would be well-received, not as competitors, but as supporters to the Christian church in Russia. And then in walked the Metropolitan in his marvellous robes. And you know he looked straight at me and smiled. So I thought, things are going to be all right. So in he came and we discussed together what the Salvation Army was doing. I wanted to explain to him why we were coming back to Russia and how we'd been there before. And he said, 'Oh, you don't have to tell me all about the Salvation Army. I know a lot about the Salvation Army.' Then he revealed that he'd been the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the World Council of Churches, and that he had met the Salvation Army at some of their special gatherings, their conventions. And he knew our work. And he said, 'welcome'. And then I said, 'Would you give us your blessing?' So he then prayed for us, and asked that God would bless the beginning of the Salvation Army in our return to that country. And then after he prayed, he said, 'You know, during the Communist era, the Church has sought to maintain its life. We've lost so much, so many of our great cathedrals and worship centres have been taken over and used as museums and art galleries. And we were not allowed to do any social program. But now we will be. And we will also be able to co-operate with you, because you are very experienced in social and community work.' So I was really praising the Lord for such a gracious reception, because I know that since then the Russian Orthodox Church has quite often opposed some of the groups who've been coming into Russia, not least the way-out religious groups that come under the Christian fringe, if you might call it that.
Well, we were,we think, approximately two million people.
Yes. Just about a hundred. Just under a hundred countries in the world.
Umm, no perhaps in some ways not. The Anglican Church, of course, works in many, many, countries. But they don't have the same central strong binding family feeling of all belonging together because even the Archbishop of Canterbury is, in a way, something like the head of the Anglican Church of the world. But yet, when all the bishops come to London for the Lambeth Conference and so forth, he is just one amongst them all. Whereas in the Salvation Army, we -- the whole Salvation Army looks to the General, as the Catholics look to the Pope, as the head of the family.
Yes, yes. And for that reason, for example, the Anglican Church in Russia works mostly with the English-speaking people, more the Diplomatic Corps and those who would go to the Anglican Church there. Whereas we,yes certainly, have in our membership people of every kind of nationality, culture and language.
So you were truly an international religious leader and, like the Pope, the other major international religious figure, you actually met with leaders, secular leaders of the world in all the countries in which you operated?
You had some quite interesting experiences doing that, didn't you? Especially in places that were quite unusual to find the Salvation Army. Like, for example, speaking of Communism and your opportunities there, you went to Cuba, didn't you?
Yes, the Salvation Army had worked in Cuba, and was still at work in Cuba. But very small. And so when I was visiting the Caribbean area of the Salvation Army, we did get visas to get into Cuba. And strangely enough, here was a Communist country that had a minister of government who was called the Minister of Religion. And you don't even find that in Western countries. I mean in Australian parliament, in the Cabinet, you don't find a Minister of Religion. I was quite surprised about this. And the Minister of Religion came to the airport to meet me and I was quite surprised when he said, you know, 'We hope that you'll be able to have an interview with President Castro.' So I thought, oh, well, if the chance comes I'll use it, because we were hoping to develop our work in Cuba. We had Cuban leaders and we didn't have any foreigners in there of course. And so I spent a great few days visiting our centres and especially encouraging our young people. And there were many young people who were offering to be trained for the ministry. And we were planning to send them to Mexico where there's a Spanish-speaking theological school. So I thought, oh, if I get to Castro I'll ask him to see if we could get visas for them to get into, to go to, Mexico, to get out of Cuba. So I began to be, you know, a little disappointed, and then I thought, oh well, looks like he isn't going to give us the opportunity to speak with him when suddenly I was sitting on the platform of my last meeting [and] I was just about to get up and preach, when a little note was sent along the line to me. And when I opened it, it said, 'President Castro will see you at 10.30 pm.' So I just scribbled 'that's alright, we'll be there' and sent it back, you see. And so I had heard that he was a night bird. And you read that about him, that he does more at night than he does in the daytime. Sure enough, we arrived at 10.30 and were ushered in.
And [I] had this amazing conversation with this man. And you know, when it was midnight, I said, 'Excuse me,' -- I thought it was awful to have to do it -- but I said, 'excuse me, but I'm afraid we may have to leave Mr President, because we have a plane to catch very early in the morning, about 6 am.' He looked at his watch and he said, 'My goodness, what are you leaving so early for?' But in that conversation he discussed the Christian religion and he talked a lot about church history. And he revealed a tremendous compassion for his people. He could tell me how many handicapped, disabled people [were] in the country, where they were cared for -- and he was challenging me, you know: 'What can you do for us that we can't do for ourselves?' And I spoke about our purpose and our ministry. And then he, he had a little joke about the Catholic Church, because he said, you know, 'You sitting there, you're the head of Salvation Army Church. When is the Catholics going to have a woman Pope?' But then he revealed that in the chair before me had sat Mother Teresa. And how much he was willing for her to continue her work, to come in and bring her sisters in. And he gave us every indication that we were free to do anything in the country. So I plucked up courage to ask him about the visas for the theological students. And he gave us approval to the Minister for Religion. And I actually then said to the President, 'Would you mind if I prayed for your country, yourself?' And he said, 'Yes, that's all right.' So I had with me a black leader from Jamaica, and he prayed the prayer, and now it's so interesting because I see that President Castro's even been to visit the Pope. That'll be interesting to see what an outcome there is from that.
Yes, he did. He said he'd been educated by the Jesuits. Obviously the Jesuit brotherhood had been there, established their schools and, as you know, great educators. He said actually that they'd put him off religion, because they'd taught him to fear God and not to love God. So naturally we had quite a discussion on the fact that God is love. And how God's love can infiltrate your whole life and mind. Then, after that, I felt that he became very open in discussion. Before that I felt almost like he was teasing me, you know, baiting me about Christian religion and that it wasn't worth following. But then later he became very sort of much more composed and quiet. And I looked at him, you know, he had the most piercing eyes. And this beard, you know, that he had. And for a strange moment, I thought of William Booth, you know, who had the long beard and had marvellous eyes. And I thought what a pity that Castro had never found the truth in the Christian faith. And had found his ideal in the Communist philosophy. I still pray he might change his views.
But when we returned to Russia, I was very exercised as a Salvation Army leader as to whether we should go, whether it was too much for us, because we had no Russian Salvation Army members. Seventy years is a long time and in the last few years, before we were banned, we were treated very badly in Russia. So I really had to find some kind of guidelines or some kind of divine sort of impulse. I was in that conference in Manila, and not only did that man from Czechoslovakia speak to me, but a man, another man, came up and said, 'Oh, we were very interested to hear you speak.' And this is the delegation from Russia. Now there were 50 people from Russia at that conference. And again, it was the first time Russians had ever been allowed to come out of the country to a religious gathering. Because they'd been so often persecuted. And this man was translating for this group, and he said to me, 'We've just been talking. Wouldn't it be good if the Salvation Army could come to Russia.' And I said, 'Well, we were in Russia from 1914 to 1923,' and they didn't know. They never even knew who we were. And I said, you know, 'When we were banned, some of our people joined the Baptist Church'. You've even got some of our Salvation Army hymns in your Baptist hymn book. And he said, 'Oh, well, can you tell me some.' And I said, 'Well, all I can tell you is that there's one that was written by William Booth and it goes like this, you know, 'Oh, boundless salvation …', and I recited the first verse of this great and famous Salvation Army song. And he's ticking over in his mind like a translator would. And then he said, 'Is that the one that goes la da...?' I said, that's it!', and you know, all those Russians sang William Booth's song. And that was like God pushing me in the back. I didn't know then the Berlin Wall was going down. That was just before. So that was one sign.
And then I was in America and I was staying in a hotel, and I picked up the paper they push under the bedroom door. It's called USA Today. It's a kind of national paper, not very inspiring actually. And on the back page -- it was sitting on the side locker over near my bed --I saw a Latin phrase and I thought what is Latin doing in an American newspaper. And it was the column of that chap Safire, great American writer, and he had a column in the newspaper. And the Latin was 'Carpe Diem.' And he was explaining its meaning, which is of course, 'Grasp the day. Take the chance, take the opportunity.' And again, that was as if God was saying, 'That's what you've got to do.'
And at that time I was in discussion with American leaders and leaders at international headquarters and, it became my awareness, this is what we had to do. And through prayer I felt God was leading us to do that. Not long after that a woman wrote to me from America. I had not -- didn't know her, never heard of her, and she said that she'd read in a newspaper, probably the Salvation Army paper called the War Cry in America, she said, 'I read that you said if you had a million dollars you would use them all to evangelise in Russia. So I'm sending you the enclosed cheque.' And I must admit I looked at the cheque before I finished the letter. And it was a cheque for a 100,000 American dollars. And then she said, 'I will send you one of these every month for the next 10 months.' And so that was a wonderful sign. And then she said, 'I hope somebody else takes up your challenge.' And not long after that I was in Atlanta, preaching at a big convention of the Salvation Army. And in the very last meeting, they said, 'We are so inspired, General, by your move back into Russia, we want to support that,' and they gave me a cheque for a million dollars. So you know, I just felt that the Lord's approval was upon that work. And the Salvationists around the world were asked to contribute, and many of them gave very sacrificially, to add, you know, their two million to all those other millions. So that we had good initial funding to start. So it often happened like that in my life, that I had to take the step of faith and then afterwards God will also come with signs of his approval. That's what faith is. You often have to step out in the dark, as it were, because you believe that's right. Sometimes you're never quite sure, but you believe it's what God wants. And then the confirmation comes afterwards.
Yes, several of them impressed me. I had a most amazing conversation with the King of Belgium. Now he had, in his youth, wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest. And after the Second World War his father, who was the king, had to abdicate because he had married a German woman, and the Belgians could not accept a German after the terrible situation, period of occupation by the Nazis. So the father abdicated and Baudouin became king. So I knew he was a very spiritually minded man. But it, to me, was a most illuminating conversation because when we got to the Palace, I had a group of Salvation Army people with me, Belgian people, and we were told by the protocol man that they were to wait outside and that the King wished to see me by myself, and that the King would then come out and also greet them. And when I went in to talk with the King, he immediately asked me matters which were deeply spiritual. He said, 'You know, I'm always very interested in why people offer for the ministry, why they enter the priesthood. Could you tell me why you knew that God wanted you to be his servant?' And from that point on we had one of the deepest conversations I've ever had [with] a person of high position in a nation. And as the conversation was beginning to wind down, I was just about to say to the King, 'Would you allow me to pray with you?' when he surprised me and said, 'Well, General this has been a most blessed conversation, and would you mind if we prayed together. I'll pray first, and then you pray.' And that was something to remember, that I don't actually talk about very much, but now His Majesty has died and I think it would be lovely for people to know what a man of depth he was. And he told me that every day in the Palace in the morning, he and his wife Fabiola went to Mass, because they could not get through a day unless they felt the Lord's presence and power with them.
That was interesting. I had some interesting conversations like that, when I was in the Oval Office for the first occasion. President Reagan was the leader of America at that time and I was accompanied by several Salvation Army leaders of America. And we'd had just an interesting conversation about the Salvation Army and he commended us for what we were doing. He was well acquainted with our work in America and the American leaders would then tell him some of the latest developments in our emergency work, in times of disaster and so forth. And then he gave me a brooch to wear and so forth. And so I said, 'Well, Mr President, may I pray with you?' 'Oh,' he said, 'that would be great. You know, President Lincoln used to say that he got his best directions when at prayer on his knees in the Oval Office.' So we prayed and then we had, later on, a raft of photographs of that visit with President Reagan and we were so surprised to find a beautiful photograph when we were all praying with our heads bowed. And probably in the Salvation Army we would not have taken that picture, but of course we didn't have any cameras there; you're not allowed to take your own camera into the Oval Office. They have their own photographer and so they took that lovely picture and we were given permission to publish it. And they say that's the first picture that's been published of a President at prayer in the Oval Office.
I've met President Mitterrand of France. Now you know France is a very secular country. And you might think that the General would not be received by the leader of the state. And yet the Salvation Army has extensive social work in France, especially in the city of Paris. And Mr Mitterand said to me, you know, 'The Salvation Army cares for people others don't want to know.' Just prior to that I'd met Jacques Chirac, who was then the Mayor, you know, of Paris. Now of course, he is the President. And they'd said to me 'When you go into see Mr Chirac, if things go well, ask him if he'll come and open our new program of a couple of buses that are going to go around Paris picking up the people sleeping in the streets.' When we got there to his beautiful apartment, he was so positive about our work that after our conversation I said, 'Would you do us a favour?' He said, 'Well, what's the favour?' So I said, 'Well, you know our work with the people in Paris, the homeless. We've not only got that great centre, which is called the City of Refuge, but we also have the barge on the Seine where we take people. But a lot of them wouldn't come unless we could give them transport, you see. So we're going to have these buses moving around at night, picking up the people and taking them to the City of Refuge on the barge.' 'Oh,' he said, 'I'd love to do that.' So then I later -- I wasn't in Paris -- but he later opened them and gave a good speech, which always helps our public relations. And I discovered something interesting when I was in Paris. This great hostel we have there called Cite de la Refuge, I discovered it was designed by the most French architect, Le Corbusier. And the French Government keep it restored, painted, look after it. Nobody's allowed to do anything to it. Because he designed that for us when he was not very famous or well-known. So it's always surprising things happening when you travel the world.
You met all these world leaders when you were General [but] you also met some spiritual world leaders too, didn't you? You had a meeting with the Pope?
Ah yes, not actually when I was the General, but I had met the Pope previously, when I was Territorial Commander in Scotland. And that was very interesting because it was Pope's first visit to Great Britain and, in fact, I think the first visit of a Pope to Scotland since John Knox had separated from the Roman Catholic church. And there was a lot of discussion as to whether, you know, the Scottish Church would actually receive the Pope but in the end the head of the Church of Scotland agreed to meet the Pope himself. And of all places, they met under the statue of John Knox himself. But the Cardinal of Scotland, Cardinal Gray, invited all the church leaders in Scotland to come and meet His Holiness the Pope in a private room at the Cardinal's home. And I was very pleased that they included me, even though I was a woman leader of a church. So on that occasion I greeted the Pope and amongst the things he said was to greet my brothers and sisters in the Salvation Army. Actually, I had greeted the Pope with a handshake, and then I gave him the Salvation Army salute, which is one finger pointing towards God. And the next day in the British press there were quite large photographs of myself and the Pope. There was the interest first of all that I was the only woman in the group. And underneath was the caption, 'Commissioner Burrows making a feminine point with His Holiness the Pope.' Anyway, several Salvationists, including a retired General, General Coutts, wrote to the newspaper and said they were quite incorrect. I wasn't making a feminine point that way, I was giving the Salvation Army salute, and explaining its meaning.
I did meet Billy Graham when he came during my Generalship to do one of his great crusades in Britain. That was lovely because I met him privately before one of his meetings. He asked to see me. And when we'd been having a talk about evangelism in the world he then asked me to pray for him as he went in, once again, to preach. Even though the greatest evangelist really the world has ever known yet there was, you know, a trepidation before he went out to deliver the word. And he said, 'Oh I would be so grateful if you would pray that I would be able to give God's message tonight.'
But I did have a great privilege of meeting Mother Teresa in Calcutta and I love to remember that because we spent about half an hour together. She's a little birdlike creature. And she came in and she hadn't been very well actually. But she said she wanted to see me and we worked very co-operatively with Mother Teresa, and especially in the feeding program in Calcutta. And we talked together. And you know, when I meet world leaders, I'm particularly concentrating on the conversation. But I'm very keen to remember what they said. So usually I get too interested to remember everything, so my secretary was always with me and she would copy down things that people said. And one thing that Mother Teresa said that I think is wonderful, I'd had the temerity to ask her, you know, how did she cope with all the praise she got around the world and really the adulation (because the whole world knows and loves Mother Teresa and praises her). And she looked at me and in that very heavily accented English that she has, she said, 'Oh it matters nothing at all, nothing at all.' And then she sort of paused and -- 'But one thing I've done, I think is very important. I've helped people to talk to the poor and not just about the poor.' I think that's a wonderful statement, that the poor are people, they're not just an en masse troublesome sector of the world population. That she's helped people to talk to the poor, because they are people, they are individuals, they do need our concern. Rather than just about them in some kind of objective distant way.
There's been some criticism of Mother Teresa and her work, on the basis that she's not really tackling the underlying problems, which are structural and political, but simply ameliorating the effects of those underlying problems. What do you feel about that yourself?
I think that was ridiculous, really, because it's again another one of these investigative journalists who feel that they often must say something detrimental about some much loved figure. Mother Teresa is not really in the business of advocacy. I mean, there are plenty of people to do that advocacy, going to the parliament, challenging the politicians. And Mother Teresa's called to do that ministry of love and compassion, which is Christ-like really, and I don't think she's the kind of person to do that kind of work, which the journalist is challenging her about. Why doesn't he do it? I mean, why doesn't he stand up and challenge the world about poverty? Instead of challenging Mother Teresa, he should be going to the parliament himself and challenging. Why doesn't he go and live in Calcutta amongst the people who are suffering, and then he'd have something to say. Mother Teresa is not a Gandhi. She's not a political figure, but I think she's a figure on the world stage who is a symbol of compassion and love, the kind of things we should all do. The kind of things people admire the Salvation Army for. And actually when people give us money in Salvation Army, they're really saying, 'We'd like to be doing what you're doing, but we can't do it, be we'd like to help you do it.' And in actual fact, Mother Teresa did say to me, she said, that she was doing this ministry of compassion. She said, 'People say I'm doing a wonderful humanitarian social work. No, I'm not. All I'm doing is demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ.' And then she said, 'And that's what you're doing in the Salvation Army.' Which I treasured very much.
Well, I think it's because people trust us, the Salvation Army. They also think we're a charity that doesn't spend all its money on overheads. You know, even in America a couple of years ago, Fortune Magazine did a study of 100 charities, and the Salvation Army came out top. In those who spend least on administration and most on program. People know that Salvation Army workers don't get the kind of salary that other people do. So I think there's a great trust. And I also think that another thing is many people have been touched in some way by the Salvation Army. Either some relative or some friend or somebody has been in touch with the Salvation Army. Perhaps in the bushfires, perhaps when there's been a gas explosion in a place and the Salvation Army has been there to help. Or floods. Or perhaps a relative has … [INTERRUPTION]
What I was really meaning too, about people in the family who may have been helped …
That's what I wanted you to say again. Because we missed the start ... I'll give you a question. Do you think that people feel warmly towards the Salvation Army for reasons other than just the fact that they trust them?
Yes, I do, because I think we are in all sorts of areas and very often somebody in the family's been helped, maybe in the bushfires or during a time of floods, or when a gas main explodes, and Salvation Army always comes to help and be of assistance. And really I think this happens everywhere in the world. I mean I can give you an example. Once in Scotland, for example, I was opening a new building and the Mayor of the city was there. When we had a cup of tea after the event, the Mayor said, 'Oh, I've always had a great respect for the Salvation Army' and he comes out with a story. 'My brother, when he was a teenager, he ran away to London and we were all so upset and in the end the Salvation Army had found him sleeping in a station and got in touch with us and brought him back home.' And I said, 'Oh, what happened to your brother?' 'Oh,' he said, 'you'd be quite interested to know, he's now a professor of theology.' But there are lots of stories and I've had them told to me in so many places, because the Salvation Army is involved with lots of people. And the other thing is, too, I feel that people believe that we spend as little as possible on administration.
Well, it happens so rarely that when it happens it really becomes a big issue. I remember once it happening in a place where I was working, and I said to the newspaper people, you know, 'If a Salvation Army man steals some money you put big headlines "Salvationist steals this money.'' You don't say Methodist steals, Baptist steals, Roman Catholic steals. Why do you say Salvation Army man steals?' 'Oh,' they said, 'we don't expect it from you.' So that, yes, it usually becomes, you know, quite an interesting headline in the popular press. So you have to try and deal with it honestly and with accountability.
No, it doesn't affect the way people give very much. I think people understand that sometimes there can turn up a bad penny in any lot at all. Certainly it didn't affect our work here in Australia when there was a man who was supposed to have misappropriated funds from our collection of furniture, and so forth like that. And in Britain, before I retired as General in office, we had a big financial crisis for the British Salvation Army. The very group that I'd given the opportunity to run their own affairs, they got into financial difficulties, because they had invested money in what turned out to be a fraudulent enterprise, one of these fake rollover schemes, and so they lost about eight million dollars through several fraudsters. So we had the press down on us like hounds, of course. And many people questioned the Salvation Army's wisdom in investment of its funds. So we had to do an action where we explained how we looked after funds and how this had happened and how it was something that had happened to many corporations, let alone the Salvation Army. But we came under the scrutiny of what is called the Charity Commissioners in Britain, who oversight all charities and we invited them to come in and look at our methods of investment policy, and we have taken their advice. And now we have brought onto our investment board, qualified people who are not necessarily officers of the Salvation Army, and who need not necessarily be Salvationists, so that we have got the very best advice. However that story turned out wonderfully well, because we got all our money back from the crooks and we got it back with interest, and we got it back plus lawyers' fees. So then the press had a great heyday. And they said, 'The Salvation Army should change the band around their caps and have the heading "The Lord looks after his own.''' Because apparently the journalists in the business section of the press had never heard of money actually being brought back to the original source, with interest. And apparently many corporations who get cheated in this way never reveal it because they just hide it in their figures. But we were open about it, so the Lord blessed us by sending it all back again.
You were saying that the Salvation Army is very careful to make sure that it doesn't spend too much money on administration, and that people work on low salaries. But you have taken steps to improve the conditions in which your officers live. And people live reasonably comfortably, don't they? You yourself live reasonably comfortably. How do you work out at what pitch you should live?
Well, once upon a time they would take the salary of a working man and that would be the salary of a Salvation Army officer, but it would be that we provide a home for people and a salary enough for them to live on. So that, for example, if an officer has children he would get more salary than an officer who doesn't have children. And even when I was the General, many Salvationists would have had more money than I had, because they were married with a family. So that I think normally we'd say there should be an element of sacrifice, in that you don't have money, it's not your own home, it's not your house that you're building up for the future. So one thing we have tried to do is to see if we could provide accommodation for the clergy, our officers, when they retire. And so we have tried to build small two-bedroom units or something like that, into which they can go in retirement, so that they don't have the trauma of not having a place to live when they retire, because they will have to move out of whatever accommodation the Salvation Army has provided for them through the years. But I think we all come to accept the fact that we are not here in order to make money, but that we are here to serve and give our life in service. And if our provisions are enough for living then that's all we expect.
Well, some years ago there came the introduction of a new method, so that a General could be extended. This order and regulation, we call it, says that towards the end of the five-year period, if the leaders of the Salvation Army vote for the General to stay on, then the General can be asked to extend up to three years. And actually that happened in my case. There has to be at least seven world leaders who send the nominating letter and then, by secret ballot around the world, ballots are then [sent] to our lawyer. Then you find out whether they've voted you to stay in or not. And I was virtually unanimously asked to extend, and I often joke and say the first time I was elected it was on my potential. The second time I was elected was on my performance. But I said I thought two years would be adequate to complete some of the tasks, especially the return to former Soviet countries, so that I didn't leave some of those things hanging for my successor. So I felt that seven years would see my work completed.
Well, it's a new regulation in the Salvation Army, fairly new, that a General could be extended beyond five years if the other leaders of the world felt you were doing a good job. So that they asked me would I be prepared to stay on. They then took a vote around the world. I'm glad to tell you it was almost unanimous, asking me to continue. I could have continued for three years, but I said no, two's enough. I think I'll be able to complete the work that we'd started in regard to Russia and also the restructuring to see how it worked through. So I also said seven is a sort of holy number, in The Bible it's the perfect number. So I thought, that's enough, and therefore when I retired I was not reluctant to retire.
No, not at all. I'm not sure of the vote, but it was virtually unanimous. There may have been one or two who didn't vote for me and I often jokingly say, when I was first elected, I was elected on my potential, and the second time I was elected on my performance. I think the leaders around the world were pleased that I'd tackled that administrative query of many years old and that I was doing something about Eastern Europe.
Well, I have been called the People's General, probably because of my intense interest in people. Yes, it's an interesting thing, they've often spoken about each General with almost one phrase. General Orsborn, for example, was a wonderful writer of hymns, poems. He was called the Poet General. General Coutts was a great scholar and thinker, theologian, so we called him the Scholar General. I don't think they'd ever call me the Scholar General, but the People's General was a title that I loved, really. And one of the things people smilingly say about me [is] that, for example, if I was in some part of the world and we were having a great congress or convention, then I would stand and people who would want to come and greet me were allowed to do that. And the queue would be out through the door, and I would stand there maybe an hour or so, greeting people. It was important to them that they had actually met the General and looked into your eyes and felt, you know, part of this great, international Salvation Army.
Yes, very much so, because the General has really a threefold role. First of all you're the spiritual head of a church, a denomination, to preach the gospel, inspire your people to follow the Christian faith. Secondly you're an administrator, you are in charge of this great international organisation involved in social programs in the Third World. You also have to see that we have funding provided for that work. And then thirdly, you are the head of the world family of the Salvation Army, so you have to be visible, and therefore you travel the world a great deal, conducting meetings, looking at our work, reviewing our work, discussing our work. So I would say about half my time I was travelling. I travelled more than a million miles by air in that time.
Oh, that was great thrill, yes. I went to Zimbabwe when they were having the centenary. It was a hundred years since the Salvation Army had moved to what was then Rhodesia so that was a tremendous thrill for me because there were special events in the cathedrals, and also right out in the open air, celebrating a hundred years since we actually came into that area … [INTERRUPTION]
Oh yes, of course. And that was very exciting, particularly when I went back to Zimbabwe, because the Salvation Army was to celebrate a hundred years since our first wagon had rolled in to Salisbury from South Africa. In fact, the Salvation Army was in Rhodesia right at the very beginning. And the first white child born in Rhodesia was the child of Salvation Army missionaries. So we were going to have great celebrations, meetings in the cathedrals in Harare and Bulawayo. But one special celebration was phenomenal. We had invited the black Salvation Army band from Brazzaville in the Congo and we had a choir, a black choir from Soweto in South Africa, and then we had all our own musicians in Zimbabwe. And we had invited President Mr Mugabe to come and be there. And when he came in and saw this great crowd of about 6,000 Salvationists, and he came and sat down and listened to this music he kept saying to me, 'Oh, isn't that marvellous.' And he would be translating the Zulu from the Soweto songs, because he'd been educated also in South Africa. And then it was his time to speak. And he gave an amazing speech. And he said quite definitively that the government of Zimbabwe valued very much the work of the church. He said, 'A newly independent country needs two things -- discipline and strong moral values. And who gives that but the home and the church. Look at all of us politicians who were freedom fighters. Where were we educated? We were educated in the missions. So don't be afraid. I will support the church.' And then he revealed the many Salvationists who he had been friendly with over the years, and he announced with great pleasure that the national anthem of Zimbabwe was written by a Salvationist poet. So the Salvationists were so exuberant we could hardly keep them down for days. But the whole church in Zimbabwe was delighted, because that was time when Mr Mugabe spoke out on behalf of the church, so that my visit had a lot of value for the area. And of course, I met so many of my former students. That was great too.
And back at head office, you had this responsibility for running the organisation and, as you say, the administrative side. In that leadership of people who were organising and running the Salvation Army, you must have encountered the same sorts of problems that any chief executive of a large organisation does, with people who perhaps weren't doing their job as well as they might and so on. How did you go about that business of leading the team that were themselves leaders?
Well, there are many similarities with the heads of great corporations. But there's a big difference, and that is we are all people whose first motivation is to do God's will, and to build up the Kingdom of God through evangelistic endeavours and through social and community programs. So when we sit around the table, we're not looking just to promote our own ideas, nor are we ambitious in the sense of wanting to take the seat of somebody else. We don't have any stabs in the back in the Salvation Army.
No, it's true.
No, I can look you straight in the eye and say no. No, because there is this awareness that a General's position is a divine appointment. And even though [there may be] members, mostly I would think men, who may think [he's] got the gifts to be the General, he knows he can only be the General by going through the High Council and prayer and concern for what God wants. So that if his ambition is very secular, very human, he probably knows he'll never get it anyway. So there is a great deal of co-operation. And the other advantage is that I called my style of leadership 'consensus in the spirit' because every time we had a meeting we would pray and ask that God would guide us, give us wisdom and discernment. And that the Holy Spirit would lead us, and therefore we were seeking, not just our own views, but what God would provide for us to find as best for the Salvation Army. If people were inefficient, that's a different matter. Then you would have to move them. You would be able to talk to them, discuss the reason why they were not filling the job effectively. And then provide another assignment for them. And that goes right down through the levels of the Salvation Army. Because a General doesn't decide on everyone. The General decides on the key positions, rather like the Archbishops of the world or the Cardinals of the world. The General appoints the Territorial Commander and the Chief Secretary, the two top positions of every nation where we work, every territory. But whereas in the early days it was done by William Booth himself, now the General has what is called the Advisory Council. And I have a certain constitution, and therefore I would have to, if I was deciding to appoint somebody, send it before the Advisory Council and if they said from their experience they knew more about this person than I did, he is not suitable, then I would take their advice. So I had help in my decision-making.
If a person were inefficient as a result of not having the appropriate abilities for the job, then you'd find them a job that they were more capable of doing. What if it was because they weren't applying themselves properly?
I think the only thing there is discussion, counselling and help. The Salvation Army, like business organisations, have evaluation systems. So the evaluation would have gone on much lower down, but when it comes to a top level, I would think that the General would, in a visit to that person, when I would be travelling around the world, would discuss what I felt was lacking in what that person was doing. Which is very difficult. But I've always felt myself that I've benefited [from people having] told me things where I had fallen short of the mark. And therefore I've found that most of the Salvation Army leaders are anxious to do well and to develop the Kingdom of God, so they're listening. Yes, I've had some occasions like that. Not easy.
Why are you called Eva?
Well, I was named Eva by my parents and actually it was after the first woman General of the Salvation Army. Little did my parents know that one day I would be a General Eva. But Salvationists, especially of earlier days, they so admired the Booth family that they called many of their children after the names of the Booth children. For example, the General after William Booth was his son Bramwell, which is a very unusual name and it was the surname of a great evangelist in Britain. And William Booth named his son after this great preacher. Well, now, I mean, so many Salvation Army boys are called Bramwell so if you meet someone called Bramwell, I assure you he'll be a Salvationist or have a Salvation Army background. I have a brother Bramwell. And I was called Eva. And jokingly many people later said I was General Eva number two. It was really quite amazing because, as you know, I was only the second woman General after so many years.
Well, it came about through my mother's side. My mother's mother lived in a squatter's family, a sheep station in New England. And she fell in love with a shearer who came round to shear the sheep. And you know, the squatter families were very aristocratic. And she eloped with this shearer so she was sort of cast off from the family. And later, she and her husband met the Salvation Army in a rural town in northern New South Wales. And they joined the Salvation Army. And their daughter Ella, my mother, grew up in the Salvation Army. And then my father had migrated from Britain and when he came to Australia, he was probably about 18 or something like that. In those days you went to sort of conscripted work if you were a migrant. And they indicated what kind of work there was available, dairy farming, sheep farming, and they said banana farming. My father had never worked in anything like that, so he said he'd go to this banana farm, so he was conscripted to work up in the area where my mother lived. And my father had really no religious background at all. In fact, he said that when he went to work in this place, he worked so hard, he said it was terribly hard work in a banana plantation. He thought it was going to be just picking the bananas. He didn't know he'd have to do all the hoeing and lots of tremendously physical work. And so when he was free at the weekend he used to go and drink in the pub at the town nearby which was called Murwillumbah. And one day he heard a group of Salvation Army people standing in the street, having one of their street meetings. And he was a bit tipsy and standing on the verandah of this pub. And he listened. And he was so struck by a young man who was speaking his witness, telling why he was a Christian, that later -- I don't know if it was in that meeting but in a later street meeting -- my father went and knelt in the street and asked to be a good man and to become a Christian. And then he joined the Salvation Army. And my mother was the sister of that man whose witness he heard in the street. He actually was invited by Salvationists to go and work for them in a dairy farm. And he used to tell us that they treated him like a member of the family. And the first day he went in to breakfast, they said, 'we will pray', and he said they all put their heads down and prayed. He said, 'I'd never prayed in my life like that.' So everything was very new to him. But he was a very ardent Salvationist and then having fallen in love with my mother, they had their wedding there in Murwillumbah. And later were accepted to train in the Salvation Army college in Sydney. And he describes how he tried to learn the doctrines of the Salvation Army: Later he used to drive a cart delivering groceries in Murwillumbah. This was another job he had. And as he would be driving the horses and his dray, he would be memorising the doctrines of the Salvation Army to really show them he knew what he was about.
Why is it the Salvation Army? The idea of a sort of military, a military concept alongside a religious concept, is a rather odd thing to our ears today. Why was it called an army and why was it organised that way?
Well, we believe that is under the inspiration of God because when William Booth first began to preach in Britain, he was a Methodist minister, an ordained minister of the Methodist New Connection. And he discovered that he had this great gift of preaching as an evangelist. And that when he preached many people felt the need to find repentance and begin life as Christians. So he would invite people to make decisions, like evangelists do everywhere in the world. So that he asked the Methodist Church if he could be released to do that kind of work. And they have their Methodist Council, which meets annually. And so when his application went forward, they took a vote and said, no, he was to stay in the one place. And his wife, who was present also, said to him 'No, you are called to this itinerant evangelistic ministry. So we don't accept that decision.' So they moved out of the Methodist church and for a period were doing evangelistic services. And then, it seems by coincidence, but we believe providential, he was walking down the Mile End Road in the East End of London, a very poverty-stricken area, when he saw a group of missioners holding a street meeting outside a pub which is called the Blind Beggar. You know how English pubs all have a name. And it's still there and you can go and see it today. And he was wearing clerical dress, and they invited him to speak. And they were so impressed with what he said, that they invited him to join them. So they were holding mission services there. They were already a sort of well-organised group. And then they became so impressed with him they asked him to become the head of their mission. So that was called the Christian Mission.
Now the Christian Mission expanded in parts of London and one or two places in Britain, in England. And they had a motivation to be evangelistic, but then when William Booth got working in the East End and he saw the poverty of the people, he came to this great awareness that you can't preach to people about feasting in paradise or wearing heavenly robes in glory, if you haven't given them a meal or if they haven't got a shirt on their back. So he came to this great awareness, that you must not only preach the gospel, but that you must care for people. And at this time, the mission began to expand and the mission convention said to William Booth, you know, 'You've got so much inspirational power, we don't need conventions and committees things never get decided in.'
Well, he first of all he was made leader of the mission in a new way that they didn't depend on committees and so forth. And so you had this quite aggressive evangelistic stance in the work of the mission and this community work, when some of the people who were working as missioners were saying things like, you know, 'We must get out and really fight for God.' And they took some of those aspects of the New Testament, which says be a good solider of Jesus Christ, fight the good fight. And up in Newcastle in England, there was a member of the Salvation Army who was actually calling himself 'I'm the captain of this movement,' you know, 'let's go out to fight against the forces of evil.' And meanwhile, back in London, a very strange thing happened. They produced a little journal from the mission. And William Booth was looking at some proofs of a new journal, where it said we are a volunteer army. And he crossed out volunteer and just wrote the word salvation. And when they had their next convention, they actually [called] it a war council. And so almost, you might call it fortuitously, but we say providentially, the awareness that we were the Army of God, came to us like an inspiration. Nobody designed it. Nobody sat down with William Booth and said, 'We will be the Salvation Army.' It happened. Well, once it happened and we called ourself by that name, then we began to set down orders and regulations, conditions of service, training program, all that kind of thing. Then we became a very disciplined and organised movement. But to actually become the Army of God, as we're often called, was I believe at the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. It's a conviction of mine.
Well, the Salvation Army has always been seen as, kind of, the evangelistic, aggressively evangelistic, arm of the church. And we have a doctrinal position which is very similar to the other Protestant denominations so that I think we have a place in the church of Jesus Christ as that wing which may not have great scholars. We have not contributed to the great theological dissertations of the world but we are practical Christians who want to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, both in our preaching and in our compassionate welfare program. Because William Booth became both dynamic preacher and also a compassionate champion of the poor. He fought for the poor.
Yes, very much.
It came naturally to me, I think. I know that in the Salvation Army we do have fine thinkers and theologians. But they then go on to do further study themselves in that field. But you see, I had this motivation to go and serve in Africa, and therefore my direction was more in educating young people to open their minds to the modern world and open their hearts to the teaching of Christ. So that really I didn't get involved deeply into the theology of the church although I consider that I did a lot of personal study. And as the General, I actually refounded what we called the International Doctrine Council. We have a book which outlines in great detail our theological position. I felt it was rather old in terms of the expressions in the book, very wordy, not up to date. So I set up a Doctrine Council, which was very international, on which sat an African, an American, a Canadian, Australian correspondent, British people. So we had a view of our doctrine from all round the world. And now, I'm pleased to say, we are just ready to print the new doctrine book, expressed in modern language, with the thinking of the Salvation Army today. So though I may not be a great theologian myself, I know how to use the people who have got that theological knowledge. The group, who have been working, many of whom are PhDs in theology, certainly having doctorates and masters degree in theology. One of them is a woman from Denmark, who is very prominent in the Council of Churches in her own country and in Europe. So I feel that we must know what we believe theologically and have an answer to give to all those who ask, but we are people who, as Bramwell Booth once said, 'We carry our theology in a knapsack because we're all pilgrims.'
You were at home and took naturally to the general direction of the Salvation Army and what it stood for in the Christian spectrum of churches. What about the hierarchical structure that had come with the army organisation? Was that as natural for you to follow? Or did you do things to relax that very, very strict line of command that came from the British Army model?
Yes, well, I'm not that kind of a person really. And the Salvation Army was changing. I mean there used to be the comment that the Salvation Army was under the hat of William Booth. Everything was under his hat. And he made the decisions. And it was very authoritarian. Then we began to talk about beneficent authority, so that though you had the chain of command, you were concerned for people. But then we moved into a new era, when we began to think more of consultative leadership, which was my style really. And I think that I enjoyed much more making decisions in the group, than thinking I had all the best ideas under my hat, or bonnet, whichever it was.
Well, I know we have ordained women to the ministry since the very beginning of our movement, right back in the 1860s. And that was because of Catherine Booth, the wife of William, whom we often call the co-founder of the Salvation Army. She was a deeply religious woman, but a great student of The Bible, a very incisive thinker. And at that time in Britain, there was a woman evangelist from America preaching and she had received a lot of criticism from other churches. And Catherine Booth produced a pamphlet which was called Female Ministry, in which she supported women's ordination, and not only from the point of view of women's gifts and abilities, but also she took all the passages of Scripture that people would say meant that women couldn't preach, such as 'Women should be silent in church.' She was a great Bible scholar, and she produced this pamphlet in support of women's ministry. At that time she wasn't even preaching herself. But then one day she felt this impulse to stand up and speak in the pulpit. And she went up to her husband who had just concluded his preaching and she said, very modestly, 'May I have a word?' And that word has been a very big word ever since. Because then women had the great opportunity of two privileges in the Salvation Army -- to be ordained and preach, and to have any position equal with men in the ministry. So that right from the very beginning we ordained women. I think women had been ordained in America before that. But not in Britain. And many young women took the great opportunity in the Salvation Army to be released to preach the gospel very effectively.
There was criticism from other denominations. In fact, it is quite an interesting period in Salvation Army history: the Anglican Church, very impressed with William Booth's ministry and his ability to, what they call, attract the masses to the gospel, they actually approached William Booth about the Salvation Army becoming a section of the Anglican Church. Several bishops would come in mufti (you know, in ordinary civilian clothes and not in their clerical robes) and sit in our meetings because they wanted to see what it was about William Booth and his people that attracted the working class to the gospel. But when the discussions went ahead, we did not become an order within the Anglican Church, partly because of the ordination of women. And it was a long time later when the Anglicans themselves came to the decision in Britain to ordain women to the ministry.
Yes, because I felt that I led in a feminine way. When I became the leader of the whole world and I travelled the world and met people of every denomination, I was always so warmly welcomed. And I think that people were pleased to see a woman who could [have] a spiritual role in the world. Certainly I didn't have any antagonism from people.
I consider it did, because I had no emotional concerns regarding family. My brothers and sisters all had their own homes and family. My parents were no longer alive. And I could concentrate entirely on the work itself. Many parents these days, even Christian parents, have anxieties about children, divorces in the family, perhaps children who don't follow what their parents have taught. These provide anxieties which certainly I didn't have to face so that in many ways it was to my advantage I think to have been single.
But you also had to sacrifice that sense of having another person, a man, who was complementary to you and supporting you in that work. And the love of a man in your life. Was there ever a time where you wavered in your determination to remain single because of somebody that you thought you might have been able to share your life with?
I did think about it at a certain stage but never seriously enough to ever actually contemplate marrying. And therefore, no, I really would say that I believed that my role was to live a celibate life and therefore I have found God's grace sufficient for that. Because I believe that what we sacrifice for God, he more than repays to us. So what we give up for him, I think God has given me so much more, and although I didn't have one person with whom to share all my decision-making and all the problems that I faced, yet I had family all round the world. The Salvation Army was my family. And the people were my children. No, I never felt that I'd been cheated by God.
The moment that you had to decide --the period where you'd met somebody that you found you were attracted to -- that must have been a real valley of decision for you to make up your mind at that point. What were the circumstances there?
It was just the fact that I had to make the decision and prayer is always a guiding light. And I think this inner conviction that I had gifts that I wanted God to use within the Salvation Army, and therefore I would have to accept that unless I married someone who was himself ordained, and prepared to be ordained, then it was no.
No, that's correct.
I was in my late 20s.
Was it a struggle? The reason I'm asking this is that quite often when you talk to people who've made a decision to dedicate their life as a single person to God, they've never really actually been seriously tempted to depart from that course. And you were somebody in a religious order, or working in a religion, which would have allowed you to do that if you'd wanted to. You could have married. And yet you made that decision that way, and that's why I think it's interesting, because we're all confronted with decisions in our life. And this one that you made at that time, I wondered whether you'd like to just talk a little bit about it, so that we'd have an insight into what you went through emotionally at the time.
Well, I must say that I did not allow the friendship to go too far when it would be too hard to draw back. Partly because of my own convictions. And therefore I had to break the friendship at that time, when it was not as difficult. If I had let myself go further in the relationship, then it would have been really tough. But at that stage I felt this is the time for the decision, this is it.
Well, all decisions like that are hard.
Choosing between marriage and family, and a life which is a natural, normal life of people, which is such a joyous and happy way of living, home and family. And in fact God ordained families as the method by which our society functions. And it's so sad when people break families. So I knew that I was giving up a thing which to me was a beautiful way of life. But then what God ordained for me was, to me, even more beautiful.
No. Actually I don't believe in regrets. I feel that what you've done you did with the very best intentions so you can't waste time in regrets. Actually I'm what you might call a 'now' person. I live in the now. I believe that what you do now is significant for the past and for the future. There's a great Christian writer, a Roman Catholic of many centuries ago, de Caussade [Jean-Pierre]. He wrote a book called The Sacrament of the Present Moment. And I greatly believe in that, that what I decide now is something that I've done with the very best intentions. And God has an amazing way of turning the things that have happened, even when you've made mistakes, he turns them into value. For example, you know, my rebellious period when I disappointed my parents for example, by not wanting to go to church, not wanting to follow the way that they'd taught me. I mean, I could say I regret that, but really that had taught me a great deal. And now I'm very sympathetic to young teenagers. That's why when I'm invited to speak to teenagers I often say, 'Oh, I'm too old.' 'Oh,' they say, 'no, come on, come on, you can talk to us.' Because I know what it was like for myself as a teenager. So, many errors which you might regret in the creative will of God can be turned to good use. So if you live in the now, what you do now becomes past almost as soon as you've finished it. I mean if it's now, then a minute later it's not now. It's past. So if you're now doing what is right, and according to what you feel is God's will, then you're looking after the future and you're looking after the past too.
But a lot of people would believe that but find it very hard to put into practice. What do you think it is about your character that enables you to do that, and also to achieve a lot of the other things that you've achieved in the course of your life?
I think I have a very positive attitude to life. That's always been with me. Even before I became a dedicated Christian, I was always looking to see how things could happen and what we could do, and this sort of positive outlook on life has always been there. And in a sense, when you devote your life to God, what you are isn't changed. I mean, God doesn't turn a cheerful person into a morbid, pious or Holy Joe. God takes the natural talents that you have and we would say sanctifies them, takes them and uses them, so I've always been very positive in that sense. And I think also I've had a strong sense of integrity and honesty. Not doing things secretly. I've always been very much against secret deals, cover-ups, you know, that kind of thing. I like to be open. I hope I'm transparent in that sense.
Well, I always say that you should always be aware of the fact that you're fallible, that you're vulnerable. And usually your strong points are your weak points, you know, like the two sides of a coin. I'm very decisive, very positive. But the other side to that, which is my weakness, [is that] I can be bossy and try and organise everybody so that they do what I think we should be doing. I'm also, I think, a very compassionate person, concerned with people. The other side of that is that when there is a big problem with a person I can be a bit soft. So that, yes, I have plenty of weaknesses. I think another is that I've never suffered fools gladly and I discovered that, so often, if somebody had done something that was of poor standard, I would really lay into them a bit. But then, you know, I discovered that encouragement is much more effective than really scolding people. As a school teacher for many years in Africa I think I did learn to encourage and help people to make great use of their mistakes. But I think always that's something I've had to struggle with, especially if the person could do better. It wasn't so much that they made a mistake or did wrong, but that they didn't live up to their own capabilities. I was always trying to bring out the best in other people.
You were a very hard taskmaster, you say at times. You asked a lot, you had very high standards, and you wanted -- had a sort of element of perfectionism in your character. A lot of people like that also are quite hard on themselves. Do you think sometimes you -- have you ever [been] fairly hard on yourself over your high standards?
Yes, yes, I was. I would think I expected great effort from myself so that sometimes I could over-extend myself in terms of doing too much, rather than perhaps taking a break. That's why many people would say you know you must pace yourself, and that's why when a biographer came to write my story, he wanted to put me down as a workaholic. But he was so interested that he had comments from several of the readers of his manuscript who said, 'No, that's not right. She's not a workaholic, she's an activist. But she can take a break, she can have a rest, she can sit and chat in the middle of the most demanding period.' And I think that's something I learnt as I went along. I would say earlier in my life I did work myself too hard. The other thing is, I'm inclined to work late into the night. And when it's probably time when I should take a rest, I didn't. The other thing was that I was a good sleeper and that's wonderful. I would go to bed, I would normally sleep about six hours. And I never took my problems and anxieties to bed with me. So I think that's what helped me to cope with everything, demanding as it was.
There's a great air of confidence about you, and you're somebody who, when asked about your gifts, speaks very frankly about your strengths as well as your weaknesses. But you are not reserved about being clear about what you're capable of. It seems to me that for an Australian, and especially for an Australian woman, that that's an unusual quality, to be able to be strong and assertive about your own capacities in that way. Do you think that that might have been one of the gifts that you were given that let you rise to a position of leadership? Or was it ever a problem that people felt you were a little too confident?
Oh, I think it certainly helped in my own leadership but it's not a sense of self-confidence or self-pride. It is an awareness that those gifts have come to me from my parents, from God and from my own hard work efforts. And therefore I shouldn't be ashamed of them, I shouldn't pretend I haven't got them. And it's in order to thank God by using them that I can be confident so that in that sense there is a spiritual dimension to the fact that I can explain my gifts and accept them. I think earlier in my life I was arrogant about that. I perhaps had a tendency to think, well, I can preach better than somebody else. And if people were to be chosen to preach at some place I'd say, 'Oh I'll do that,' because I thought I could do it. But as I developed and matured, I began to realise that it wasn't so much what I did that was important to God, but what I was. So I concentrated much more on being the person God wanted me to be, and let him use me as he would. And therefore I really am not proud, I'm not a proud person. I'm a grateful person, grateful for those gifts that I have. But, I think I said, I'm quite happy to be transparent. People can see through me. And I'm therefore uncompromising about the fact that I have been given this ability to lead.
And I better do it, because you see in The Bible it tells us a story. When Jesus was teaching, that some people are given ten talents and some five and some one. In those days, talent was an amount of money and the story was about a landowner who left the stewards with responsibility for his money. When he came back he asked them what they'd done with his money. And the one with ten said, 'I've got ten more.' And the one with five, 'I've got five more.' And the one with one said, 'Oh I buried mine and I just wanted to be so careful I didn't lose it.' And Jesus said he judged the one who'd done nothing with what he'd been given. And that word talent has come to mean gifts, hasn't it? And therefore if you have ten talents -- and strangely enough, many people have said to me 'Oh you're a ten-talent person' -- but then I've got to answer for that one day before God's judgement seat. We believe that what we've done with what God gives to us, we'll have to answer for. And that's why I have such a strong sense of accountability. In fact, I could almost be in awe and fear that when I stand before God I haven't used what he's given to me. So if somebody is a five-talent person and they may envy me, I say, 'You don't have to envy me. I've got to answer for what I've got. You have to answer for what you've got.' And therefore I can encourage people with a five talent, because they can use them to God's glory. So I think I haven't ever been shy about that. But I'm grateful that I lost some of that arrogance that I had when I was younger. Probably people would tell you that I was arrogant.
When I read the biography I was very interested in the comment of one of my friends, who said that he'd never seen anybody go for confession at the mercy seat more than me. And I thought over my life, and I think at that stage when he knew me, when I was working on the mission station, perhaps I would realise that I'd been arrogant or I'd been overbearing a bit, so then I wanted to go and confess it, and ask God to forgive me, and sort of help me not to do it again.
Well, that God I know through Jesus Christ. That God is, to me, a great, wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, majestic, loving father. So the Father gives a sort of humanity to our God and the God that I worship. But I know him more through Jesus Christ. And so my awareness of God and my relationship to God is also concerned with my relationship to Jesus Christ, his son and my saviour and friend. And quite often when I pray, I may be praying to God through Christ, or I may even be praying to Christ. So that though God is great and majestic and powerful, it is his loving fatherhood that means most to me.
No, I never think of a person when I'm praying to God. I don't even see a likeness of a father, as some people I think find helpful. But I certainly sense his presence with me. And at certain times in my life -- this doesn't happen all the time -- but I think in the discipline of the religious life, you often have the sense that when you are doing his will and you are following his teaching, then he breaks through in unexpected ways. So you keep a disciplined life, because I think spiritual discipline is very important to be aware and knowing who God is and how he can break through into your mind. But Jesus Christ is a very real person to me. I speak to him quite often. A prayer isn't just something I do in the mornings, although that's a fairly regular habit with me. But I can also discuss something and say 'Lord, just guide my thinking on that.' I'm … because I'm an activist I'm not naturally a contemplative. Therefore prayer and knowing God has been something that I really had to learn to discipline myself about. And when those moments of awareness come, they're worth all the discipline that's gone before.
Some people, theologians, modern theologians, are questioning the masculinity of God. Now it's interesting to ask a woman church leader what she thinks about that. I mean, there's a question about whether God has to be he, whether God could be she. Or whether God might be neither. Or both. What do you think about that?
It doesn't matter one bit to me. I don't know why they get so uptight about it myself. I've never been in the feminist movement. I think feminism has helped a great deal in Western culture, particularly in recent decades, it's made people more aware of the feminine factor, and that every society is better when we give women an opportunity to share government, in the law courts, in teaching, wherever you like to name. But in the matter of God, I don't only just think of God as the father. I think of him as having all the qualities of both men and women. You read many of the Psalms and the teaching of Jesus, that indicates just like a mother comforts her children, so the Lord comforts us. But we have been given in our Judeo-Christian writings, The Bible, that God is called Father, Jesus was his son, he called him Father. I see no problem in using that. Why feminists have to insist that we change The Bible and put she did this and she did that, referring to God. I don't know that it matters a great deal, because God is neither male nor female. He is totality. He is all in all. We are made in his image, so some of us are women and some of us are men. And I've always felt that men and women have different psyches. I've never been in favour of this unisex business, we must always be the same. No, we are different. And we have different gifts.
So, if we're made in the likeness of God, then we're like him, and he's got all those qualities. But Jesus Christ did come to earth as a man. You can't say he was a woman. And he lived within the culture of that time. And many people say, as some denominations do, some churches do, we can't have women priests because Jesus didn't have a woman disciple. One of his 12 wasn't a woman. I don't see that argument at all because in that culture, if Jesus had had a woman moving around with them, sleeping rough and so forth, I mean that would have been so shocking. But you look at the way Jesus treated women, it was far ahead of his time. He treated women as equal. He discussed some of his deepest thoughts with women. He was prepared to break all kinds of cultural barriers, such as when he talked to a woman who had a bad reputation by a well one day. His disciples came back and were very shocked. But he didn't put them in his close band of followers. It was not suitable. But he's given us every kind of indication that women are equal with men. And in fact many women in groups followed him. And it actually says in The Bible that they contributed, he accepted money from women to help him in his work. So that I think Jesus showed us within the limitations of that culture and he limited himself by being incarnated as a human being. It's like, in The Bible, Paul says, 'Slaves, obey your masters.' Does that mean that a great Christian like Wilberforce was wrong for working for the freedom of slaves? No. No, that was within the culture of that time. And I think the fact that women are now receiving a greater freedom than ever before, I think Jesus Christ would approve of that very much.
How long do you think it's going to take for other churches to do what the Salvation Army did all those years ago, and right from the very beginning, and welcome women as ordained members of their flocks?
Well, I think it's really almost now a foregone conclusion because apart from the Roman Catholic church, Protestant churches do. And even the Anglican Church, which agonised over this for so many years in their great synods in London, they never said that the Bible was against it. It was more the traditions of the church. So that they have moved a great deal. And now many people in the Anglican Church have come to accept a women in the pulpit. But the Roman Catholic Church, I don't know how long it will take for them to make this decision. I did hear an archbishop, the Archbishop of Milan, who was here recently, who is thought as a possibility of being the next Pope. I thought some of the things he answered the press about indicated a willingness to look further, perhaps for women in the Roman Catholic Church to become deacons; that was the first step in the Anglican Church. I'm not sure whether, as many people think, a change in the celibacy might be the first change. And then perhaps women coming after that to be ordained. I don't know. I think the Catholic Church has got such a great history and tradition and they do feel that they were brought into being by Christ and that he ordained Peter, and Peter started the Roman Catholic Church. So they've traced their history right back to Christ himself. But many of the things that they've introduced have not gone right back to Christ. So perhaps there might come a day when a great illumination will come to them that women have responsibility to use the gifts that God has given them in the ministry.
In presenting the Salvation Army to the world in your person as General, you've paid quite a lot of attention to how you appear, haven't you? You've been concerned to make sure that the way you spoke and your appearance, and so on, was something that was an appropriate vehicle for the message that you were bringing. What have you done to make sure that you -- I mean you've got an interesting accent, the way you speak, and so on. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your appearance and your person?
Well, I do think it's very important for a woman Christian leader to look good. You know, a lot of people who think of missionaries, for example, they think of them as bobby sox wearers, dowdy, uninteresting people. But we're not at all. And I have always felt that I wanted my appearance to be such that people said, 'Oh, perhaps this missionary is with it after all' or something like that. So, from that time I've always been careful about grooming. In the Salvation Army we have a uniform, which I think is quite smart and attractive, and therefore I've always taken trouble to see that I appear in a way that everyone in the Salvation Army could be proud of. And it became something of interest to people, the way I did my hair. I thought, isn't that funny, here's a lady General, they'd never ask a man General, 'Oh, how do you arrange your hair?' But I think that's nice if young people feel that you are presenting an image that they'd like to imitate or copy. And in the case of my voice, of course, the accent is such an international mixture. It's partly Zimbabwean, partly English, partly Australian. It's a sort of a mixture. But early in my life, when I was preparing to be a teacher, I was taught that it's much more pleasant for women to speak with a low-toned voice so I did make a definite effort to lower the range of my voice. And so I've always found that that was true, because I've often noticed when somebody has perhaps almost stridently introduced me in a big gathering, then I will come on and just speak quietly with a low tone [about] my great pleasure in being with them that day. And you can almost sense a sort of change in the atmosphere of the congregation. And I don't manipulate that but I certainly make good use of my voice. We don't know exactly about it, but my father said that his grandmother, one of his grandmothers, was an actress in London. And maybe I've inherited some dramatic qualities. But I think when you are a preacher and you want to illustrate what you're saying, it's good to have a rather dramatic or emotional voice that can help people to see what you're saying rather than just listen.
The consciousness of the way in which you present to the world and the way in which the Army presented to the world, led you to being very concerned about the PR section of the Army, and you had Saatchi&Saatchi come and help you with it. The drive to advertise in a way that would reach a modern audience led you into some controversy too, didn't it? Over the kind of advertising you were doing.
Yes, that was when I actually was the General, and was here in Australia on a visit during the great bicentennial year. The Salvation Army had used some advertisements which the public had found very hard-hitting. And in fact some people criticised them because it showed young people, you know, sort of, giving needles and taking drugs. And a lot of people said that that was too hot, you know, it was hot stuff. And the congregation couldn't -- the audience couldn't take it. But when asked about it, I just said, well, you know, sometimes people have to be shaken out of their complacency and have to realise the problems, the social problems, particularly relating to young people. Drug problems. The absolute despair through unemployment, and in Australia we've got to take a good look at ourselves, because we have one of the highest suicide rates amongst teenagers in the world. So I think it's important that the Salvation Army should quicken the conscience of the watching public, or the listening public.
No. When I have strong convictions about what I'm saying.
Now, you do have strong convictions, but one of the things that everybody notices about the Salvation Army is that it's so non-judgemental. You do help people who no-one else would be bothered with. You don't talk about the deserving poor. You seek out in some ways the undeserving, to help and assist. Why is that such a strong thing that comes from our understanding of the Salvation Army?
Well, I'd like to thank you for that word non-judgemental. Because that is what we want to be. And where do we get it? We get it from Jesus Christ. I mean he was never judgemental. He could criticise hypocrites, but for the lepers and for those in great need, for the poor and the distressed, he never judged them. He reached out to them and I think that the Salvation Army wants to do that. And when people have sometimes accused us of using our social program to be like a hook to angle souls into the Kingdom, we've never looked upon it like that. We want to help people, we want to meet their need, and then we offer them this wonderful life transforming message that we believe exists in the teaching of Jesus Christ. Then if they find Christ through our ministry and then even go to another a church, we're not upset. Because we have helped somebody to find the right way to live, and to begin a whole new lifestyle. So yes, I really believe that that non-judgemental stance is a thing we treasure in the Salvation Army. And you can especially ask men who served in the First and Second World Wars, you know, that were helped by Salvation Army -- not just chaplains -- but welfare, padres, and they'll tell you all the time, you know, 'They were right with us on the front line.' Never judgemental.
Well, very early in the Salvation Army's ministry we had some centres for Aboriginals, something like small mission stations. But mainly we just welcomed Aboriginals into our church, we didn't sort of have special Aboriginal sections. And so throughout the whole of Australia, into the Salvation Army, came Aboriginals of various types and kinds. And then I think we realised that there were so many people working missions that our concern would be just to make the Aboriginal feel they belonged to us as much as any other group in Australia. Then as many Aboriginal social problems developed, we were concerned very much with helping them in our centres for care of, rehabilitation of, alcoholics, people who were homeless. But it's just in recent years that we realised that perhaps we should have a more specific role, and just recently commissions have been set up and an Aboriginal Salvationist has been appointed to help to design a program that best suits the work of the Salvation Army with Aboriginals today. But certainly, if you go up to Alice Springs, we have many Aboriginals who worship with us. But now, we've set aside a special service for them, to which we invite white Australians. But we try to do it within the cultural context of the Aboriginal people. So I think we're trying in a way to contextualise our Christian message, that will fit in with the Aboriginals' way of thinking. I think this is a step forward for us and I'm very pleased because I've been invited to sit on that committee.
The Salvation Army has always been very ecumenical in its stance and has worked with other churches very closely, and in a very non-judgemental way about the work of the other churches. What is the reason for that? What is the attitude of the Salvation Army towards the ecumenical movement?
Well, many people may be interested to know that the Salvation Army was one of the few churches that set up the World Council of Churches earlier [in the 20th century]. We were involved in that, we were part of that. Because I think we've always felt that we were only one section of the body of Christ, the Christian church, that we had been given a particular mandate, that is to be both an evangelistic forthright church with a social element. So that we saw ourselves as being that sector of the church. We think of all denominations as being together part of the body of Christ. And so each one has a particular reason for being there. So that the diversity and styles of worship, for example, mean that many people will feel more at home with the Anglicans than the might with the Baptists, and certainly than they might with us. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Salvation Army is that our worship style has always been very bright, s that when William Booth tried to bring in the 'unchurched masses' as they were called, he actually used music hall songs with religious words because the people didn't know hymns. And many of our hymns in the Salvation Army, they don't even know. But they originally were, you know, She Tripped Amongst the Sno', or something or other. And little choruses. Even a great Salvation Army song is one that is based on Click Go the Shears, Boys, a great song here in Australia. It goes 'Marching along, the Salvation Army is marching along'. They sing it all over the world, nobody knows it's a shearer's song. Because we try to use elements in our worship that make people feel at home, comfortable, joyous. Now I mean you wouldn't do that in the Anglican Church or some of the more ritualistic liturgical churches. I think every denomination you know, has some particular aspect to contribute to the whole church of Jesus Christ. So we appreciate all the others.
Your placement though has been very strongly in the Protestant sector of the Christian church, and yet you're a great admirer of Mother Teresa. Would you tell us a little bit about why you admire her so much and about your own meeting and work with her?
Well, I think that the Catholic Church, for example, has had its own special mission in the work of Jesus Christ in the world, and I'm certainly not judgemental regarding the Catholic Church. And you know, when you are a missionary, and you work in another country, with many other denominations, you all work together so co-operatively, because you are doing the same thing but in different styles. So that it has never worried me that I find a great model in a Roman Catholic. In fact I'm a great admirer of Roman Catholic saints. My favourite saint is St Teresa of Avila who, after the Reformation, when the Protestant Church broke off, the Roman Catholic church had its own kind of counter-Reformation. And Teresa of Avila was a greatly spiritual woman but, at the same time, a great activist. She reformed the convents and she did so well that they had her reform the monasteries as well. Now, I have a great respect for people who can balance a beautiful spiritual life with an active service life. So Mother Teresa is herself a woman like that, very saintly. I wouldn't be surprised if she's canonised. Certainly she's canonised in the minds of many people today, and therefore on my visit to her in Calcutta, I treasured the fact that we could pray together. And I could look into her face and see shining there the light of Jesus Christ. And his compassion. And I think the fact that she's become so well-known in the whole world, so that the most secular minded people can think of Mother Teresa as a modern Christ. And really, that is the great purpose of a Christian, to live a Christ-like life. Mother Teresa is showing us in reality. That's why I admire her.
Well, I think one of the big factors of leadership is to exude inspiration, so that people want to follow… I often say that it's a terrible thing when a leader looks behind and there's no-one coming. And that inspiration isn't just for religious leaders, I think it can be for business leaders and politicians too, to be able to inspire people with the validity of what you're saying so that they want to be with you in the campaign or fight, if you like. I think inspirational leadership is very significant. I think character is very important, integrity, honesty. Also, the ability to know that you don't know everything. Also, what we might call qualities of the mind such as wisdom and discernment, and that much treasured thing by me called commonsense. And then I think you've got to really be concerned for people so people know you're ready to listen to them, that you're available to them, and that you want to train and encourage them. And when you see those with gifts and abilities, to prepare the leaders of the future. So a leader must be training and preparing leaders, which I've always thought was a very significant factor. And in my period as the General in office, the development of Third World leaders was one of my great priorities. So that there are many aspects to leadership. But perhaps I should say, first of all, it's vision. Have a vision, or as Martin Luther King said, 'I have a dream.' The expression of vision as a dream has become very popular since he said that. So have a dream of what could be, what's the possibility. So it's important to be a visionary but you've got to add to that perseverance because it's no good having a vision if you can't bring it to reality. So you have to persevere, often with people who you have to bring along with you on that vision. And so you also have to have equality, which I sometimes call the big C -- not cancer, but courage. You have to have courage to stand for what you believe. And as a Christian leader, distinct from a corporate leader in the business world, that courage to take risks is also the courage of faith. Because you have faith in God that what you have dreamed is what he wants.
Do you think a leader in a very senior position such as you were with the responsibility for a whole organisation needs a lot of courage?
Yes, I often call courage the big C. I know in Australia the big C is usually cancer, but you need a lot of courage to take the risks and in a sense every leader, business corporation or politics, needs courage to go ahead with what they believe is right and their convictions. But as a Christian leader you have something extra. And that is that the risks are the risks of faith. And so often you have guidance from God that you can take this step. And he, in a wonderful way, may confirm that. So I think it's very important in leadership: courage to follow through on your dream.
Well, I think it's more like an awareness that something is right. For example, if you have to make a decision and there are three choices, then you pray that God will enrich your mind so that your thinking will be straight, that your motivation will be totally unselfish, that you're not looking for yourself out of this. That you're really looking to choose what's the right thing for the work of God at that time. And I believe he guides your mind. I mean when I offered my life to God, he sanctified my mind as well. And I believe he guides you to the choice which is the right choice. If down the road a track you find something was wrong, then you have to regroup and just ask for guidance to see how you could change the direction. But normally I haven't felt that I'm as cocksure. Not that. But the decision was made under the guidance of God.
Well, perhaps they reconcile themselves in that in order to show that what we have decided upon has been in the group, then it prevents me from being bossy, because it's their shared decision with me. And I think consultative leadership really came to be the way I enjoyed it as well, because I like to hear what other people think. And therefore I find that working with the group is also more deeply satisfying. Leadership is very lonely, it's lonely at the top, not just when you're single. It's lonely when you have to make decisions. And therefore the more ideas you can have filtering up to the final decision which you have to make, and I think of myself as being someone who really did have the final decision, then it's much better when you can feel that you're bringing everybody with you, because it's a decision you've made together.
Well, everybody makes mistakes, and I've made my mistakes with everyone else. And if you discover that those mistakes have been made, then you have to be honest and admit it. And then come back and consult again. Look at the whole situation -- perhaps in the choice of a person, it turns out to be wrong person, then you have to consider how best to remedy that situation.
Having had all the interest, the responsibility, some would say the power, of being the General in the international Salvation Army, how did it feel when it came time to retire? And you had to step off out of the limelight, out of that centre stage position. Was that a hard thing for you?
Many people ask me that because they think that perhaps I couldn't cope because there was, as with Mother Teresa, there was a great deal of adulation for me. Not so much from the world in general, but certainly from the Salvation Army world. There was a great deal of admiration because I had accomplished so much. I'd taken us back into the Third World, I'd restructured the Salvation Army, I'd had the courage to do many of the things people had talked about for a long time but somehow had never managed to do. So yes, I knew that it was going to be a very different lifestyle. But in the Salvation Army, after your name when you retire, they put an R, which stands for retired. But I often say for me it did not mean reluctant. I actually came to retirement feeling I had accomplished something for God and my life had been used to his glory, and to the growth and development of the Salvation Army. And seven years was longer than most Generals of the Salvation Army, apart from the early Generals. So I felt I'd been given plenty of chance and opportunity and therefore I must again positively look to the future to see what I could do. I knew I would get lots of invitations to speak, to address people in seminars and things like that. So I wouldn't lose that great privilege of speaking and preaching the gospel. But I was going to greatly miss the camaraderie around the table at those discussions and board meetings. I think I thrived on that. So what was I going to do? So I was ready to offer myself to all new kinds of assignments, but then quite surprisingly, very unexpectedly, I had an invitation to become a director of an insurance company called ANSFA, which has its mother house in Sweden. ANSFA is a word that means, in Swedish, responsibility. And it had been a total abstainer group who used all their profits to educate especially young people on the problems that arise from alcohol and drugs, alcohol abuse. So I thought, 'Oh, well, I'll accept that and just see how it goes,' because that would fill that little void. And it's turned out to be a most exciting and thrilling assignment. And I feel that I've been able to encourage the group themselves to see that important responsibility of using that sector of our profits that we can release to definitely go to many programs which are quite exciting that we're supporting in schools throughout Australia.
Well, in the Salvation Army we actually don't say we get a salary, we call it an allowance. And in the Salvation Army you are provided with a house and furniture and everything in it. And you're normally provided with a car to do your work in ministry. But none of these things belong to you, of course. And a small allowance to make sure that you can live properly. As the General I think I would probably have got about 10,000 Australian dollars a year. And with that I was quite content, because I had a house and I had everything I needed in that sense. But you don't need a lot of money, you know.
Well, I do know that one of the most outstanding women in America is Mrs Dole, wife of the man who stood for the Presidency [Bob Dole]. She's the head of the Red Cross in America. I think her allowance or salary is quarter of a million dollars a year. I never think of money in that sense. As long as one is comfortable and has enough on which to live, that's the important thing, and money doesn't bring you happiness anyway. And the Salvation Army is now making greater provision for their officers in retirement particularly.
I have an apartment which they provide, sort of grace and favour, as you say in Australia I think. And I have a small, very small pension, because I receive a government pension, because that is expected of us. We would not have money to live on our own pension. I think my pension would be similar to the amount that a single woman could earn without losing her pension. So, of course, now that I actually work at ANSFA, I lose half of the money I receive from ANSFA because for every dollar I earn I lose 50 cents of my pension. But I don't mind about that because of the stimulation of that camaraderie at the directors' meeting, where several of the members on the board are outstanding Christians and good thinkers and businessmen.
Well, one thing I really hope is that I get promoted to glory and die with my boots on. I hope I'll be able to keep active and vital and that I will just die. I know I can't be sure of that. I know I could get Alzheimer's, like many people, and need care and attention. I'm really delighted that in the Salvation Army we have a beautiful provision for senior citizens in our retirement villages and we have many nursing homes. So I have this assurance that I would be cared for. Not necessarily just by my family, but the Salvation Army would see that I would die in comfort and that I would be cared for and loved. So that as a person suffering you may not be aware when death comes. But if you die with your boots on, you know, you can really rejoice, because that means you've been able to go straight to be with God. No, I don't know how long I'll live. I could live a long time. I hope I'll fill it up with everything that's worthwhile and take the opportunities that are given to me. And I not only have opportunities in the Salvation Army, even from other denominations I'm invited to speak and share my experience with them. I was even invited by the previous Prime Minister to share in that special day he held when he was looking for a strategy for the 21st century. I would be very grateful for those kind of opportunities. So I'm not going to be sitting around waiting for the day I die. That'll be a glorious day.
Well, The Bible has a lot of picturesque imagery, but I don't think I'll be playing a harp and just sitting there enjoying a sort of idle life. I think there's enough in the Scripture to show us that when we die and go to the life which is beyond this life -- about which we don't know a great deal [and] I'm not worried about not knowing that -- I believe it's also a place of growth, that there, you know, I might even be able to share in the theological discussions and I think it's a place of spiritual and mental growth. And it's a place of great contentment and joy. The Bible tells us there'll be no sorrow or weeping or sighing. You'll be in the presence of God Almighty, so it will be an exhilarating and more wonderful life than ever this life has been. And I'm a very fortunate person, I've had such a wonderful life. But that one's going to be even more wonderful. I wonder if the Apostle Paul will be having classes in study of the Romans? I don't know. It's going to be great.
Yes, there are some parts. We are not working in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq and other centres, Lebanon, Egypt. The Salvation Army was interested in going to Egypt much earlier in our history but they wanted to give permission for us to come as a social and charitable agency and not to bring our religion with us. So we said, 'Well, if we can't do both, then we won't come at all.' And of course, nowadays, with the tremendous demands on resources of personnel and finance, you have to think very carefully before you actually initiate work in a new part of the world. And you also look to see what is already being done there by other denominations. We're not in competition, so therefore we may say well, that's a place where we decide not to go. But we are certainly in over a hundred countries in the world.
Yes, yes, we of course are very strong in India, but we are also working in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, in all those areas. Yes, we do have a good presence there. And of course, the Christian church has developed so much in Korea, and the Salvation Army is a prominent part of the Christian church there. Not so big in Japan, of course, because the total Christian church in Japan is only about one per cent of the population. But the Salvation Army has been very much appreciated in Japan. Interestingly enough, when we began there we also had some hospitals. Tuberculosis was a big problem in Japan, we had a TB hospital. We even had Japanese officers who were doctors and one, a woman Japanese officer, who was a Salvation Army Colonel. And the royal household had a great appreciation of us. We also made a dramatic impact, because we marched into the areas where all the prostitutes lived. The Geisha girls. And there'd been passed a law which said a Geisha girl should be free to leave if she wanted to. But nobody was allowing any of these girls to leave, so the Salvation Army took support for these girls and offered them freedom and that brought us into a lot of controversy in Japan. And I think we became very well known for our concern and compassion for people. So much so that the Imperial family still give a donation, every year, to the Salvation Army. Our leader, who is Japanese, he would arrive at the palace and receive his gift. So much so that when I as a General visited Japan, I visited there on two occasions and on both occasions I was received by the Imperial family.
Yes, that's been a great privilege. Mostly it is because of the acknowledgment of the Salvation Army and its work in a country. Yes, I met the Emperor, Emperor Akihito of Japan, which is considered a great honour...
I met the Emperor of Japan and it was about three years after I'd met him previously and when I came in this time, he greeted me warmly. And said, 'I'm so pleased to you again.' He had no papers with him to remind him of what to say. But he spoke knowledgeably about the Salvation Army, and then said, 'General, there's one reason why I'm glad to see you. Because the Salvation Army has opened the very first hospice for the terminally ill in Japan.' And with a gracious Japanese bow he thanked me. I have met leaders in other parts of the world as well. One who impressed me was the Prime Minister of Norway, a woman Prime Minister, Gro Brundtland. And when I went to see her she commented on the fact that I was a woman leader, and then she was proud to tell me that half of the members of the Norwegian parliament are women. And I remember what she said because I thanked her very much because the Norwegian government is very generous to the Salvation Army in the Third World, through their overseas aid program, which is called NORAD. I thanked her for that, because they'd supported our work for AIDS sufferers in Central Africa. And she said to me, 'Oh we are very happy to help the Salvation Army, because you not only meet people's physical needs, but that you also help them to stand on their feet and begin life for themselves afresh.' Yes, she was quite impressive.
Well, as they say, the uniform gets you noticed. No, the uniform says we're visible, and we're available. Even as the General, I would be in some airport in the world and someone would come up to me and say, 'Could you tell me where I can find some help for my tickets?', or something like that. As soon as people see the uniform, they know that we're available to help them, so it's part of being a Salvationist. If you are an officer, you wear your uniform regularly to your work. If you are a member of the Salvation Army you don't have to wear a uniform and we do have now many members who prefer to wear civilian clothes. And it's rather nice when we have our church services that everybody's not in uniform. Then people who aren't in uniform feel that they are quite welcome. But for a person who is ordained and fully involved in ministry, then I think it's important that we are visible.
Oh yes, really quite significantly I think, because although our Salvation Army in India is very strong, we are at work in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia. And we are hoping to return to China. That was one of the great privileges when I was the General, to go to China and to meet some of our old Salvation Army colleagues. We are doing a great deal of social program projects in China still. And now, for the first time, we've set up a Salvation Army headquarters, mini-headquarters in China.
Oh yes, I wouldn't say tempted, even. I think that's pretty natural. And I have liked a lot of men in my life, enjoyed their company, and had a strong friendship with them. But perhaps I was as if tempted to move away from my vocation, my calling, when I came back to Australia after I'd worked in Africa for some years and had a friendship which, to me, was a natural and beautiful one. But I had to come to a very serious decision -- was I prepared to give up my ministry, my ordination, because this person was not ordained and had no desire for that kind of ministry, and felt no calling to that. So that it was therefore a very big decision for me. It's always a decision whoever you marry, of course, and as a Christian you would always consult God and be sure that the person was the person who was going to be the right person for your life. But in my case so many things about the matter seemed right and natural but yet it would mean compromising that decision and vow which I'd made to serve God in the ministry. So before the friendship got too far I had to withdraw.
It was painful, yeah. I'm pretty normal.
And you say that you like to live in the present and not to regret. For a period after that, after you'd made that decision, were you able to put that conviction into practice? That you didn't look back?
Absolutely. I did not look back and ever regret that decision because I felt that God would have directed me to change my mind and go back and have marriage and home and a family. But that redirection never came. And so I didn't contemplate what might have been. I went ahead with my life and you know that in Africa, when I returned to Africa, life there was so absorbing. It was so thrilling to be encouraging and helping these black young people to achieve something with what you've been able to teach them, that the work itself was very absorbing. I didn't have to do a lot of this so-called sublimation really. Because God is no man or woman's debtor. Whatever you give up for him, he always give you much more in return. And as you will have discovered, I doubt whether I would ever have been the General if I had been married, even to an ordained Salvationist.
Yes, yes. One of the things that I think's so important in life is to seek to identify with the people with whom you work, and to understand their mind, to get sort of get inside their skin if you like. And when I was in Africa, I really tried to understand what it was like to be an African. That's why I tried to learn their language and spent time with the elderly people in the villages. So it was a great joy and unforgettable moment for me when one day a very elderly black Salvation Army officer, in talking to me -- I was a captain -- I remember she said to me, 'Captain, if I thought my prayer could be answered, I would pray for you to be black.' I call that a great compliment. He knew I could never be black, because I'm a white person, but what he was telling me was that I'd tried to be like them and that they would be pleased to have me as a member of their race. So of all the compliments that I've received over the years, and they've been from the highest sources, I consider that the best of the lot.
You've been given secular honours as well as the honours that you've had from the Salvation Army. You were made an AO for your services in the Australian context. And then on your retirement as General, you were elevated to AC, which is the highest order in the Order of Australia, the Commander of the Order of Australia. What do you feel about these kinds of honours from the secular world? What do they mean to you?
I felt very honoured to receive those, because they were in Australia, that I had contributed something to the life of Australia, even though I'd spent all those years in Africa and Asia and the UK, in Europe. Yet something I'd done was of value to this nation. And I felt that was a wonderful privilege. And so the day we went to Yarralumla House in Canberra, with my sister and her husband, that was a very special day. I indeed felt honoured. I have received honours, the other honours would mainly be from universities and receiving honorary degrees, one of which was very important and that was in Korea, where the Salvation Army is a very vital movement. And I was invited to receive an honorary Doctor of Law or Doctor of Humanities [Doctorate of Liberal Arts], I think it was, in the Women's EHWA University [Seoul]. This had been a mission school belonging to the Methodists and it had gradually developed to become a university for women, thousands of women. And the principal, the chancellor of that university, was a woman, so it was an occasion when I felt honoured to be amongst women. And I suppose the other one that gives me great pleasure was when my own university, Queensland University, asked me would I receive an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy at the graduation ceremony, at the very campus where I had been a student. One thing about honorary degrees, you always have to give a speech. So that day I was able to speak something of my own convictions.
I think that's precious. This is the land of my birth, this is where my roots are, this is where I belong. Everybody has to belong somewhere. It's lovely to have a sense of belonging. And you know when you go and work overseas, to come home it really is a sense of coming home. And perhaps I'm sentimental enough to enjoy that song I Still Call Australia Home. No, it is my home. And I think it's a fine country. And in recent years we've, I think, shown to the whole world that we could accept into this land people of many different races. Someone has said, and I'm not sure if it's true, but Australia has received more immigrants per head of the population than any other country in the world, apart from Israel. And we have become a culturally diverse country. We've been an example to the world. So I pray that some of this latest discussion about Australians possibly being racist will soon die out, because we are not racist. We are very welcoming people. And although at the beginning perhaps we would want a person from Hong Kong or Philippines to become an Australian, I think we're realising that people bring with them their own cultural background and that that can enrich Australia, and that we're now, more than ever, able to look upon ourself as a culturally diverse land.