The Drummond Bible

When in June 1839 South Australia’s first Presbyterian minister, the Rev Ralph Drummond, arrived aboard the ‘Sir Charles Forbes’ with his wife and seven children, one child having died on the voyage, he brought with him what was perhaps his most important possession – a Bible.  A large volume, printed in 1793, it had been his pulpit Bible back in the Grail Secession Church in Fife for seventeen years, and he was to continue to use it throughout his ministry in Adelaide in the Scotch Kirk he established in Gouger Street. 

During the recent History Festival, when the Bible was displayed amongst our historical possessions, the Communications Committee became aware of the poor condition of this old Bible.  Jeffrey Schapel writes: 

The Rev Ralph Drummond was the first Presbyterian Minister to preach in South Australia.  He held his first service in 1839 less than 3 years after South Australia was proclaimed as a British province.  He was a member of the United Succession Church, a group of Presbyterian churches which had broken away from the established Church of Scotland.  Rev Drummond brought with him from Scotland a pulpit Bible.  This Bible was printed in 1793, so it was over 40 years old when it arrived in South Australia. 

After preaching in several places around Adelaide, Ralph Drummond and his followers built a small church in Gouger Street in 1842 called the “Scotch Kirk”.  The Bible was used in this church on a regular basis.  When Ralph Drummond retired in 1855 the Bible was passed to his son and then his grandson.  Finally a descendent of Rev Drummond passed the Bible to Scots Church for safe keeping. 

When the United Succession Church (by then part of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland) outgrew its Gouger Street Church, its members built a church in Flinders Street (opened 1865) almost opposite the current Flinders Street Baptist Church.  In 1929 the two remaining Presbyterian churches in Adelaide, Chalmers Church and the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church, amalgamated to form one congregation called “Scots Church”.  The plaque to Rev Drummond first installed in the Flinders Street Church was moved to the eastern wall of Scots Church North Terrace when the Flinders Street Church was sold and demolished.  So we at Scots have a direct connection to Rev Ralph Drummond and his Bible. 

During the May History Festival 2017, the Drummond Bible was put on display for History Tour participants to see.  The Bible was well worn, as you might expect, was falling apart at the front and the back, although the centre was quite sound, and the cover was partially detached.  While the Bible was on display, Ms Penelope Horn, a member of Scots and the proprietor of D. A. Horn Antiquarian Books, Adelaide, saw the Bible and said that it could and should be repaired.  She suggested that Dr Michael Mathew, a competent book restorer she had used in her business, should look at it. 

The Church Council gave permission for the Communications Committee to get a qualified view of what should be done to either stabilise the Bible against further deterioration or to restore it  Michael Matthew’s view was that the Bible needed “repair” and not “restoration”.  Repair is a stabilisation process to prevent further deterioration occurring when the Bible is put on display (permanently or temporarily).  Restoration returns the Bible to its original condition as far as is possible.  The former leaves the Bible in a more authentic state as it shows the wear and tear it has endured since 1793. Michael Matthew completed work on the Bible in very prompt time, and the newly repaired Bible was displayed in the Church (and afterwards, in McGregor Hall during morning fellowship) on Sunday 16th July. 

This Bible, because of its provenance, will become one of Scots most valuable and, I hope, most loved artefacts. 

The Church Council and Communications Committee would like to extend their thanks to Penelope Horn for all of her advice and assistance for this project.
Jeff Schapel

© Scots Church Adelaide  Ph. 08 8223 1505