Smailes, George Wells

PM minister, Orangeman and politician, of whom there are some contradictory facts. He was born on 1 January/1862 (or possibly 1864) at Harefield, near Tanfield, the son of a coalminer, and also went down the pit. In 1883 he sailed to Australia on the Sorata, arriving on 4 November. A Christian Socialist who entered the PM ministry, much of his ministry was in the coalmining district around Newcastle and in other circuits where there was poverty, including Sydney. He could regularly be found at miners' demonstrations and functions promoting unionism, the Eight Hour Day, and peaceful political action, as well as women's suffrage. In this one of his colleagues was another PM local preacher, Joseph Cook(e). From 1894 to 1898 Smailes was the Labour member for Granville, in the New South Wales Parliament.

In 1903 he entered the New Zealand PM ministry but ceased to itinerate in 1907. Received initially as an Anglican deacon, in November 1908 he was ordained priest. When the First World War broke out, Smailes seems to have volunteered as a chaplain with New Zealand Samoan Relief Forces sent in March 1915 to occupy German Samoa. His advocacy of soldiers' rights does not seem to have gone down with the establishment. A confidential report by the Anglican Bishop of Auckland to the Minister of Defence stated that he was 'an adventurer and cad'. By 1923 he was not being employed as a priest, possibly never having been ordained. He then seems to have worked as an insurance agent and real estate broker. He died in Auckland on 9 January 1934, and was buried at the Soldiers Cemetery, Waikumete.

  • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography


Entry written by: DCD
Category: Person
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