Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church
                                                                     Cnr. Johnston & Collins Streets, Annandale

Drawing by Andrew Foy

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The Organ  — Hill & Son 1890 (Job # 2078)

What you are hearing is A Christmas Prelude by Frederick Septimus Kelly (1881-1916) performed by Ralph Lane OAM. (duration 2'40")

Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church, William Hill Organ Image courtesy Ralph LaneThe visually striking and majestic sounding instrument in the Hunter Baillie Church is by the English organ builder William Hill & Son, and was installed in the church in 1892.  It is certainly conjectural, but highly probable that the choice of this builder, apart from his fame in England and elsewhere, rests in his being the successful tenderer for the construction of his magnum opus, the Grand Organ in Sydney Town Hall.   

The tall, neo-Gothic casework, in the same style as Arthur G. Hill's 1888 case in Chichester Cathedral, is of exceptional beauty and is unique among Hill's many organs in Australia. Decorative tracery fills the spaces between the tops of the display pipes and cornice mouldings, the display pipes being of burnished tin as well as (unusually) of wood. The cornice mouldings are decorated with gilded paterŠ and those of the pipe towers and flats are topped with traceried parapets.

The tonal concept of the organ comprises twenty-four stops distributed over three manuals and pedals with a complete diapason chorus being available on the Great manual and with the Swell and Choir divisions composed of flutes, strings and reeds.  Throughout its one hundred and fourteen year history the organ has remained substantially unaltered (although fashion, and the tastes and fancies of interested parties did effect various changes to the instrument until the 1980s).

Thanks to the generosity of the many musicians who donated their services in the cause of an Organ Restoration Appeal, and the patronage of a loyal and enthusiastic audience, funds were raised from annual ‘Spring Festival of Music’ concerts begun in 1994.  That sum, plus grants totalling $50,000 from the NSW Heritage Office, as well as sustained generous donations from two private benefactors and a National Trust sponsored appeal financed complete restoration of the instrument over a twenty-year period beginning in 1997.  Only the Swell division chest remains un-restored owing to its position within the organ.  

The organ restoration was undertaken owing to the initiative, dedicated leadership and overall supervision of Ralph W. Lane OAM who was the organist of Hunter Baillie church from 13.11.1981 to 30.6.2018.

Stage I provided a new silent blower, the complete refurbishment of the Choir organ and the restoration of the Swell Cornopean which, in February 1997, was again playable at its original place in the organ and heard for the first time in more than a century!  Stage II (2001/2002) saw the restoration of the Great organ, an exercise that entailed shipping the Trumpet rank to the UK for attention by a specialist in Victorian-era reed stops.  Stage III (2003) focused on restoration of the chests, pipes and complex mechanical actions of the Pedal division.  Stages IV (renovation of the Pedal action) and V (re-facing of the manuals and pedal board) were completed in 2004.  Cleaning of the Choir pipe work was again undertaken in 2012.  Stage VI of the restoration project in 2013 saw refurbishment of the Swell organ. 

Final restoration work from September 2016 to August 2017 included the manual coupling frame, stop actions, draw stops and jambs, removing varnish from the case, console repairs, re-leathering of the feeder and double-rise bellows and re-polishing the fašade pipes. 

Grateful thanks is due to all who contributed either financially or in kind to assist in an immense task.  Together, they have ensured that this noble and exceptional example of Australia’s organ heritage was brought back to a sonority and a playing condition justly its due.  Reborn, the instrument lives on to delight and impress future generations.

For full organ specification see OHTA website. 

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