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Augustine Congregational Church, Bunbury

Name of institution Augustine Congregational Church
Type of institution Church
Street Address
City Bunbury
State WA
Name of building Congregational Church
Name of room Sanctuary
Dates of the building Demolished 1970
Architect’s and builder’s names
Special architectural features
Special fittings
Other location information
Name of contact
Mailing Address
Other contact information
Previous organ(s)
Date of previous organ None
Detail of previous organ
Dates when key work has been undertaken
Dates of any moves that have taken place
Variations from original design of organ
Information on previous organ
Information about comparable instruments to previous organ
Present organ
Detail of previous organs
Dates when key work has been undertaken
Dates of any moves that have taken place
Variations from original design of organ
Information on previous organs
Information about comparable instruments to previous organs

Present organ
Type of installation
Case description
Placement in room
Builder's name Robert Cecil Clifton
Opus number 2
Date of completion/installation 1880
Construction materials
Number of manuals Two (2)
Key compasses
Number of keys
Key material
Pedal compass
Number of pedals
Pedalboard type
Pedalboard material
Type of chests
Type of key action Mechanical
Type of stop action Mechanical
Couplers Three (3)
Console type
Stop label material
General design
Playing aids
Divisions Great, Swell, Pedal
Wind pressures
Stop list



Total number of stops 13
Total number of ranks 12
Total number of pipes
Dates when key work has been undertaken on current organ Rebuilt c1963 by A. Miles as a 2 manual, 7 rank extension organ with electro-magnetic action.
Dates of any moves that have taken place to current organ Built in 1880 for Johnston Memorial Church, Fremantle.
Relocated to Bunbury in 1929 by Russell Fowler.
Removed c1970 and broken up.
Some parts used at St. Augustine's Uniting Church, Bunbury.
Information on current organ
Comparable instruments to current organ
Current status
Assessment of organ
Other organs by this builder
Technical documents
General documents

Dear Sir

A friend in WA has alerted me to the fact that you might be interested in the rebuilding of the Clifton organ from the Johnstone Memorial Church in Fremantle, to the Congregational Church in Bunbury. That is a story from my family.

In the early 20s, my father, Russell Fowler, arrived in Bunbury as the science teacher at the newly built Bunbury High School.

He joined the Congregational Church there and found there was a young woman (BHS student then piano teacher) who was a talented musician and was playing an old harmonium at the church. Dad loved music, although he had never had any lessons, nor could he read music, but with the help of this young woman, together they set up an orchestra at BHS and a choir at the church. Dad conducted these.

However, he decided the organist needed a better instrument, and when he discovered that the church in Fremantle was about to chuck out their Clifton organ, he decided to buy it. Then he bought a very large book on organ building (which became a doorstop in my memory) and preceded to transport the organ bit by bit, pipe by pipe, weekend by weekend, in his 1920s Oldsmobile (cloth roof, runner boards etc.). How he got the larger pipes from Fremantle to Bunbury I don't know but there are stories of breakdowns, precarious tying's on to roof, near accidents etc.

You may take it that he was a person with enthusiasm and undaunted by difficulties. He also had an incentive. All this was, no doubt, a strategy to woo the young woman concerned. It worked! They were married and had three daughters, me being the youngest.

I didn't encounter the organ until I was nine, since we left Bunbury shortly after I was born. We arrived back there in 1949 when Dad was appointed the headmaster of BHS. The organ was in a terrible state, not having had any care in our absence. I remember Dad shaking his head sadly over the state of the bellows. It needed to be repaired with kid skin - hard to obtain from overseas at a time the world was recovering from WW2. Still, he put it back in order and my sister and I undertook the tuning of the organ from then on.

She was the one who crawled up among the pipes and got covered in dust and cobwebs, while I sat at the keyboard and shouted "up a bit" or "down a bit". Fortunately I had perfect pitch and had always taken an interest in the sounds the piano tuner made at our house. I remembered the sound of the not-quite-perfect-fifths and so on. My sister was more interested than I was and taught herself to play. I liked experimenting, but was careful to stay out of it enough to be able to semi-truthfully claim that "I can't play the organ".

In a small country town anyone who could play an instrument was often in demand. There was no way I wanted to be asked to accompany the various church choirs in Bunbury. Most of them were terrible, and I wasn't fond of the repertoire either: dreary Victorian anthems and my particular hate - Stainer's Crucifixion. I was indulged in this by my sympathetic mother. When she grew up in Bunbury, her mother had stipulated that if she had piano lessons she must always "give back" by cheerfully playing the piano whenever requested. (Being able to sight-read difficult accompaniments and even transpose them was not something her parents knew was unusual in a seven-year-old).

So that is the story of how the Clifton organ arrived in Bunbury.

I last visited Bunbury in about 1990 and found the Congregational Church (or at least the building) didn't exist any more. What did still exist, to my astonishment, was the old wooden gym at the High School.

For a couple of years I taught music there in the early 60s and kept trying to alert people to its unsound structure. I sprained my ankle when my foot went through the floor one day and the walls would "give" gently when I leaned on them. And the caretaker doused everything in kerosene when I complained about the plague of fleas.... That's all another story.

Jennifer Paterson (Fowler)

Supporting information
Document control Original entries J R Elms, OAM, Gazetteer of Western Australian Pipe Organs, 1971, 1999,2003 and 2004.
This entry D B Duncan 03 January 2009.

Historical detail provided by Jennifer Fowler 23 June 2017.