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The Hunter Organ

The Organ, while being a fairly modest instrument, is remarkable for its endurance and originality.  It was given in memory of Thomas William (Willie) Kite, son of Thomas Kite of “Woolstone”.

It was manufactured in Clapham, London in 1883 and shipped across the world by ship and bullock wagon to its present site.  It was first played on Sunday 29 July 1883.

The maker, A Hunter and Son, showed great understanding of the Australian circumstances which existed at the time.  The organ lacks any reed stops, no doubt because such stops require regular tuning and he anticipated the lack of skilled people to do this work. 

The organ has been in use every Sunday with the exception of a period during 2020 when church services were prohibited due to Coronavirus.  To the best of our knowledge it has never broken down and remains in “almost” original condition, with the exceptions of an electric blower, an electric light, and a modified swell pedal.

Originally the organ was installed on a mezzanine level above the entrance to the church, but was moved to its current position in 1894.  The manual pumping handle, which is still serviceable, would appear to have been moved from the left hand side to the right hand side at this time.

The manual pumping provision was used as recently as 2019 when the electrical supply authority needed to carry out maintenance and decided that shutting off electricity would cause minimal disturbance if they did it on a Sunday morning.

The specification of the organ is limited, but despite the small number of different ranks, the builder has provided an adequate variety for normal use in leading church worship.  It is not a concert instrument, but represents a masterly compromise in the selection of a limited number of stops which allow it to deliver from some quiet string pipes for meditative voluntaries, up to a full chorus for lively congregational singing.

The following is a link to the organ’s entry on the Organ Historical Trust of Australia website.

Nowadays we are again faced with a shortage of skilled organ builders and tuners, but we are fortunate that Ian Brown and Associates attends once or twice a year from Ballina.  Conveniently,  they also maintain the organ in the Bathurst All Saints Cathedral, which is a much bigger instrument than ours and requires attention about four times a year, so it is possible to schedule visits to both organs during the same trip. 

Time has taken its toll on the organ and the most significant things are the drying out of the timbers in the windchests leading to cracking and air leakage, drying and deterioration of the stoppers in the stopped pipes, which affects their tuning and tone, and deterioration of the leather in the bellows, which while not giving any trouble so far, cannot be expected to last much longer.

The cost of a rebuild would be in the order of $50,000 to $80,000 and we cannot see it being possible to make such an expenditure at the present time.

This was not the first organ installed in this Church.  In 1841 a Barrel Organ was installed which played 12 tunes.  At the time it was the largest musical instrument brought over the mountains.  In 1863 it was converted to allow it to be played from a keyboard.

The Original Church Hall has now been sold and is in private ownership. There was an organ installed in that Hall which has recently been reinstalled at West Granville. Details of this organ are available on the Organ Historical Trust Website.