Baptist Historical Society of Queensland

Rev. William Higlett 1857-1944


188 pages 50 illustrations

featuring many of William Higlett's own photographs,

and diary & scrapbook notes

only $15.00 (plus $2 p and p in Australia)

Place your orders now

BHSQ Publications, c/- Mrs R. Kopittke, 98 Yallambee Rd, Jindalee, 4074 Q.,

Ph 3376 4339

'A TRUE PASTOR' The life and ministry of William Higlett

Famous for his pith helmet which he wore everywhere (even to formal functions), William Higlett was respected as 'a faithful minister, a true pastor, a wise administrator'. Born in London in 1857 and educated near Royal Tunbridge Wells, he took up a commercial career before being converted under the ministry of the celebrated evangelist Dwight L. Moody. After gaining valuable experience in Christian work with the YMCA, he entered Spurgeon's 'Pastors' College' and served as a student pastor at Cheam Baptist Church. When the Baptist church in Toowoomba, Queensland was in need of a minister, they applied to C.H. Spurgeon for help. He selected William Higlett for the position saying, 'In all things he has approved himself to our love and confidence.'

William Higlett arrived in Toowoomba in 1882 and married Alice Emptage who joined him from London; they had three sons, Ernest, Frank and Arthur. After eight years of pioneering ministry, they transferred to Albion, Brisbane, where he worked for almost twenty years as a popular pastor and effective denominational official. Following the death of Alice, he moved to Grafton NSW with his new wife, Lily Low, leaving his sons in Queensland. Four years of ministry there, with the birth of a daughter, Isabel, was succeeded by another lengthy and eventful pastorate at Haberfield, Sydney, and distinguished denominational service which extended well into his active retirement. Lily also had an extensive personal ministry, especially in support of missionary work. William's death in 1944 brought to an end sixty-two years of devoted ministry, characterised throughout by faith, steadfastness and commitment.



Rev. Wm Higlett as President of the Baptist Union of Qld, 1885



Dr Ifor Thomas, President of the Baptist Union of Queensland,

launching the Higlett book at the Queensland Baptist Assembly

17 Oct 2002



A Brief Family Tree

(last updated 13/12/08)
(see below for a short life story)

William Higlett, born 16 Aug 1857 at Fulham, Kensington; died 9 June 1944 Sydney;
son of William Higlett (ca 1823-1882) and Eliza Strange (ca 1821-1904)
Brothers: Henry (1855-1940) and George Allen (1860-1940)

(1) Alice Emptage 18 Apr 1883 (b. 30 Oct 1856; d. 9 May 1908)
(2) Lily Caroline Low 18 Oct 1909 (b. 7 Mar 1880; d. 7 June 1943)

Sons of Alice:
1) Ernest b. 6 Feb 1884 d. 15 Feb 1958 School teacher/Headmaster
m. Clara Mabel Thompson 30 Dec 1908 (d. 1 Aug 1971)
1. Alan b. 18 Jan 1910 d. 27 Sept 1988;
m. Annie Maggie Elizabeth Stevenson 20 Nov 1937
3 children (Russell, Glenys, Valerie)
2. Joyce b. 15 May 1913 d. 1990
3. Colin St George b. 23 Apr 1915 d. 16 Feb 1986
3 children (Elaine, Graham, Malcolm)
4. Wilma d. 5 Apr 1928 at 18 months

2) Frank b. 13 Oct 1886 d. 11 Apr 1914 Bank officer
m. Matilda Nowell 1 Jan 1914
[she married Ernest Edgar Whittaker 3 July 1915]

3) Arthur Sinclair b. 13 Feb 1890 d. 4 Jan 1985 Bank officer
m. Grace Isobel Henderson 19 Oct 1915
1. Ian Thomas b. 29 Aug 1916
m.(1) Joan Lansdale; 2 children (Clive, Peter)
m.(2) Pearl Robinson d. 3 Jan 1993
2. Dougal Francis b. 24 Jan 1918
m.(1) Dorothy Stewart 1943
5 children (Roger, Donald, Brett, Margaret, Jeanette)
m.(2) Nancy Kook 1980 (family changed surname to Stewart)
3. Keith Mortimer b. 28 Nov 1921
m. Florence Alma Meng 27 Sept 1947
4 children (Lesley, Rick, Michel, Robert)

Daughter of Lily
1) Isabel
b. 28 Mar 1911 d. 8 May 1954
m. Frederick J. Church 4 Nov 1939 b. 14 Apr 1912 d. 20 Sept 1995
[he married Frances May Patten; Margaret Ann Roper]
1. John Frederick b. 3 June 1943
m. Lynne Margaret Sprott 30 Dec 1967
3 children (David, Jennifer, Stephen)

The author with Valerie (Higlett), John Church, Leanne (Higlett) Carl , with daughter
at the launch of the Higlett book, Toowoomba 19 Oct 2002

Emily (nee Emptage) sister of Alice, William Higlett's first wife also came to Australia (date unknown but presumably after April 1883 and before her marriage). She married Charles Figgis on 1 Oct 1887 and they lived in Brisbane, their children being:

Nellie b. 21/6/1889 d. 30/4/1895
William Alfred b. 17/8/1891 d. 30/11/1891
John Russell b. 26/9/1892 d. 20/8/1939
Edward Charles b. 16/5/1895

Charles died 12/1/1913 in Brisbane.
Emily died 9/2/1924 in Brisbane.

The Higlett family had close connections with the Figgis' both in Brisbane and later as some of the family moved to Sydney.

Helen (nee Figgis) and Keven Figgis (and spouses) with Graham Higlett and author
at launch of the Higlett book, Brisbane 17 Oct 2002

Other Higlett families in Australia: (not connected directly with Rev Wm Higlett)

1. L/Corp. William Miller Higlett 3rd batt. Aust. Infantry, died France 21/9/1918 married Annie Elizabeth Gay in 1909 - children Dorothy b. 1909, Wm John b 1910, Henry Miller b 1913, Joyce b. 1918
In a diary of his visit to UK in 1902, William Higlett referred to Lizzie Higlett (married name = Mrs Curtin Haryatt), sister to "the Sydney" Higlett - possibly a Higlett relation living in Sydney NSW who may be identified with this W. M. Higlett family.

2. Jos Higlett labourer - mechanic- arrived in Victoria, Australia on Medora in 1853 at age 16 from New York

3. George Higlett m. 1856 Brigette Mary Green and again in 1863 m. Mary Stevenson ??

4. Geoffrey William Higlett who migrated to Australia in 1966 and is now resident in Tasmania. His father was Ronald Ernest Higlett b. Farnham UK 1/10/1911, who married Edith Rosena Reglar. Geoffrey's sister is Margaret Hoskins and his brother is Eric ? His great grandfather was William Higlett who married Rose Hobbs.
His sons are:
· Richard Geoffrey Higlett m. Tracey Marriner (children: Courtney Emily Marriner, Kate Margaret Marriner, Elizabeth Rose Marriner.
· Leslie William Higlett m Marilyn Hind (children: Jeremy William, Mitchell Leslie, Emily Margaret, Haydyn Geoffrey.
· Rodney Ronald Higlett (Not married) (children: Leah Monica - children: Lachlan Alexander, Sebastian Lucas)

A Brief Cameo of William Higlett

Article reproduced in Qld Baptist Forum No 34 July 1996 reproduced (with additional notes by the author) from The Queensland Baptist Sept 1898

Rev WlLLlAM HlGLETT was born in London in1857, but his parents removing shortly after to the country, he was educated in the National School Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells. At the age of thirteen he left school and entered commercial life as office boy in London. Here he continued his education by attending various evening classes, and during nine years of business life rose to a position of trust. All his early connections were with the Church of England.

In 1875 he was converted, mainly through impressions at the London Mission of Moody and Sankey. The following year he was led to enquire concerning baptism, and ultimately was immersed and received into fellowship of the Baptist Church, John Street, Edgeware Road. After about four years of active work in connection with the Y.M.C.A. Mission Hall services, etc., he left business and entered Spurgeon's College in 1879. During half of his three years course he acted as student-pastor of the church at Cheam, Surrey. In June, 1882, he started for Queensland in response to an application sent by the church at Toowoomba to Mr. Spurgeon.

Arriving in Queensland at the end of July, 1882, he was inducted to the pastorate of the Baptist Church at Toowoomba. At that time the Baptists there were divided, and the membership of the Herries Street Church was but thirty-seven. After eight years of successful work he resigned the pastorate, having accepted an invitation from Jireh Church, Brisbane. The church on his departure had a membership of eighty-four. He was exceedingly active in temperance work, and the various societies in Toowoomba gave him a public send-off in the School of Arts, when testimonials and purses were presented from the temperance bodies, and a purse of sovereigns from the townspeople also, in appreciation of his character and work.

The invitation from Jireh church was to co-operate with Pastor Kingsford, with a view to making the Albion branch a distinct and self-supporting church. This was accomplished by his unceasing labours, and on 9th November, 1892, Pastor Kingsford formed the Albion friends into a church with a membership of thirty. This has steadily progressed to the present day, the last member numbering seventy-nine on the roll.

On the day of the formation of the church a new schoolroom was opened for the infant class, a step necessitated by the large increase of Sunday scholars. Vestries have since been added, and the platform altered to give increased accommodation in the main building. Mr. Higlett is much loved by his people, and highly esteemed in the neighbourhood.

Outside his own church he has rendered much service to the denomination. While at Toowoomba he was elected president of the Baptist Association for the year 1885-6. His early clerical training and a good knowledge of shorthand specially qualify him for secretarial duties, and shortly after his arrival in Brisbane, in 1890, he was appointed secretary to the Association, a position which he has occupied ever since with credit to himself and with advantage to the denomination. Since 1892, he has also been assistant editor of the Queensland Baptist, and among his brethren he is "esteemed very highly in love for his work's sake." The Christian Endeavour movement finds in him an earnest supporter, and for this year he is President of the Fortitude Valley and District C.E. Union.

Extra Note

Mr Higlett remained at the Albion Church for 19 years, concluding his pastorate there in 1910. During his time in Queensland he rendered sterling service to the denomination for 11 years as Association (Union) Secretary, four years as Home Mission Secretary and two years as Foreign Mission Secretary. He was assistant editor of the Queensland Baptist 1895-1900 and he edited the first major history of the denomination in 1905, The Queensland Baptist Jubilee Volume using material prepared by Mr E. Gregory. He was also active in the work of the Queensland Baptist College and the Ministers' Fraternal. Mr Higlett lost his first wife, Alice, in 1908 after a long illness, but later married again - this time to Lily Caroline Low of Albion. A daughter, Isabel, was born 28 March 1911.

After this lengthy and valuable ministry in Queensland, Mr Higlett removed to Grafton, New South Wales. He became pastor of the Haberfield Church from 1915 and again took up denominational service. He was Secretary of the Union for 21 years from 1916 and when he retired from the pastorate, he continued to serve in this post on a part time remuneration, finally retiring in 1937. He died in 1944. Mr Higlett was well known for his meticulous and sensitive work as secretary. He gathered a great deal of historical material about the NSW churches, which he edited and filed at the Theological College library; this material proved to be an invaluable resource for later historical work. In 1926 he edited the history of Australian Baptists which was published in association with the formation of the Baptist Union of Australia.

Lily Higlett had a wide and influential ministry in her own right as a leader of Baptist women and NSW and especially in her role with the Senior Girls Missionary Union, a support group for the work of the Australian Baptist Missionary Society. Lily also served on the board of the ABMS. She predeceased her husband by one year.

Mr Higlett was also a keen and accomplished photographer, part of his work is in the Oxley library (along with diaries and cuttings) and other material is in NSW.

William's second son, Frank, died suddenly in 1914 not long after his marriage. Ernest served as a school teacher through his life, ending with a 20 year principalship at Harlaxton, Toowoomba and retiring to Brisbane. Arthur was a bank officer and has a street named after him in Redcliffe in honor of his work as manager of the Queensland National Bank. Families of Ernest and Arthur now live in Toowoomba, Brisbane and the Gold Goast and elsewhere. Isabel, daugher of Lily, lived in Sydney and married Frederick J. Church. They had one son, John, who lives in Sydney.

More information about this family welcomed. Contact David Parker

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