RILEY, Charles Owen Leaver (1854-1929)

RILEY, Charles Owen Leaver (1854-1929)
first anglican archbishop of Perth
the son of Rev. Lawrence William Riley, vicar of St Cross, Knutsford, England, was born at Birmingham on 26 May 1854. Educated at Owen's College, Manchester, and Caius College, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. in 1878, M.A. in 1881, and was given the honorary degree of D.D. in 1894. He was ordained deacon in 1878 and priest in 1879, and was curate at Brierly, Yorkshire, 1878-80, Bradford, 1880-2, and Lancaster, 1882-5. He became vicar of St Paul's, Preston, in 1885, and during the following nine years his sympathy and benevolence made him beloved by all classes, and not least by the mill hands and other factory workers. In 1894 he was appointed bishop of Perth, then the largest Anglican diocese in the world, with an area of 1,000,000 square miles and a scattered population of about 100,000. He was consecrated by the archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey on 18 October 1894.
When Riley arrived in Australia he found that the diocese had few clergy, little money, and poor means for organizing religious services for the now rapidly increasing population. He was young and vigorous and quickly made himself acquainted with large areas of his diocese. It was realized that the diocese must be subdivided, but it was not until 1904 that it was found possible to establish the diocese of Bunbury. Other dioceses were subsequently founded in the north-west and the eastern goldfields, and Riley became archbishop of Perth in 1914. With many difficulties a grammar school at Guildford was taken over by the Church and firmly established, and Riley also worked hard for the establishment of the university. He was senior chaplain of the Commonwealth military forces in Western Australia in 1913; he became chaplain-general in the same year and was at the front from July 1916 to February 1917. He was chancellor of the university from 1916 to 1922 and was also president of the trustees of the public library, museum and art gallery at Perth. In 1927 he suffered a great grief when his son, Frank Basil Riley, a young man of great promise, mysteriously disappeared while acting as special correspondent to The Times in China. Riley's usually robust health began to fail, and his impending retirement was announced shortly before his death on 23 June 1929. He married in 1886 Elizabeth Merriman, who survived him with two sons and three daughters. One of the sons, Charles Lawrence Riley, born in 1888, subsequently became bishop of Bendigo, Victoria.
Riley had a stalwart, dignified and charming personality. He was fortunate in having a keen sense of humour, he would tell with joy how on his first visit to a southern port the officiating clergyman took as his text, "And when they saw his face they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts." He was charitable in thought and deed, though his methods of distributing money would not always have gained the approval of charity organization societies. He was neither a great preacher nor a great scholar, but his common sense, balanced judgment and overflowing humanity more than made up for that. When he died a thousand returned soldiers marched in his funeral, and there was a general feeling that the greatest personality in the west since Forrest had departed. His place in the religious and social life of the community could scarcely be filled, and no man of his time in the west had more influence for good.
The Westralian, 24 and 25 June 1929; J. S. Battye, The Cyclopedia of Western Australia; J. G. Wilson, Western Australia's Centenary; Crockford, 1929.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Charles Owen Leaver Riley — Infobox Person name =Charles Owen Leaver Riley image size =180px caption =Charles O L RileyChaplain General of the Australian Military Forces 1914 1918 birth date =26 May 1854 birth place =Birmingham death date =23 June 1929 death place =Perth,… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Riley — Charles Owen Leaver Riley Charles O L Riley Chaplain General of the Australian Military Forces 1914–1918 Born 26 May 1854 Birmingham Died 23 June …   Wikipedia

  • Riley — /ˈraɪli/ (say ruylee) noun 1. Alexander, c. 1778–1833, Australian merchant and pastoralist, born in London; pioneer sheep breeder. 2. Charles Owen Leaver, 1854–1929, Australian prelate, born in England; first Anglican archbishop of Perth. –phrase …  

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