My father was the Rev. William Daniel Oakes. I last saw him when I was 7 years old in July, 1941, when my mother, younger brother and I were evacuated from New Ireland to Sydney on the Macdhui. I cannot remember too much of our life in New Ireland, however, we do have some papers and photos from this time. Also, a friend of Dan's from school days, Frank Mason, in the 1960s, wrote a short biography of Dan. I am using these documents to help me prepare this memoir.
Dan was born in Garston, Liverpool, England on 24th August 1905. His father was a Marine Engineer and therefore away a lot. He had a younger sister and brother. (During the Second World War his brother, a bomber pilot, was shot down over Holland and when his sister heard of his death she took a stroke and died. Dan's parents, therefore in a short period of time in the War lost their 3 children.)
When Dan was a student at the Banks Road Council School, he did not distinguish himself as very clever but he certainly was a persistent lad with a definite will of his own. Dan joined the Boy Scouts at the Banks Road Methodist Church and in no time became a patrol leader, later, troop leader and in a few years, Scoutmaster. Frank Mason says that Dan was an impetuous
young man; not in a woolly or careless way but, with the clarity of youth, he saw things as either black or white, no greys; as Yes! or No!, no Maybes? If the answer was 'yes', he did it; if 'no', wild horses would not bend him. Dan also took up Local Preaching and for this he studied diligently and began to acquire a library of his own, chiefly of second-hand books. He loved singing hymns and revelled in a rousing tune, especially if there were tit-bits for his tenor voice. He early heard the call to Overseas Mission work, and to prepare himself for the practical side of the work, resigned his position in an office and went into an engineering shop and qualified as a blacksmith.
In 1927, the Rev. D.C. Hughes visited England hoping to find young men who would be interested in becoming ministers in the NSW Methodist Church. Dan joined 11 other young men on the Hudson Bay, and sailed to Australia in 1928. This group was referred to as 'The Twelve Apostles'. Dan wrote to his mother every day on his journey out. Frank Mason read these letters and said that Dan had a very tidy mind and he set down every detail that was of interest - the mileage steamed each day, the weather, activities and the travel scene.
On arrival at Melbourne, Dan was sent as a Home Missionary to the small town of Braidwood near Canberra. On his arrival at Braidwood, his predecessor introduced him to a new, for Dan, form of transport - the pony and trap. Dan was to be his own driver and his parishioners would depend for his visits largely on the whim of the pony and the skill of Dan. While at Braidwood, Dan established a new Scout Troop, 1st Braidwood Troop. Whilst at Braidwood, Dan was accepted as a candidate for the ministry by the Methodist Conference. In his meticulous way Dan records the travelling and work of his first nine months at Braidwood. Frank Mason quotes: 'Travelled 1270 miles by pony; 1420 by car; held 89 services; paid 472 visits and baptized six children.'
In 1929, Dan became a student at Leigh College, the NSW Methodist Training Centre for Ministers. At the completion of his training after three years, he gained the essay prizes for Homiletics (the art of preaching), Peace and Missionary.
In 1932, he was appointed to the Milton Circuit on the south coast of NSW as a probation minister. This was a large country circuit with 9 Methodist Churches. Here he preached 50 services quarterly, including twice on week nights 'when the moon was full'. At the Methodist Synod in 1932, he offered for overseas mission work and was appointed to the Ulu Circuit in New Britain. Normally, ministers had to do three years as a probationer before they could be ordained and have the opportunity to marry. As in so many other situations Dan 'took time by the forelock' and became ordained on the 3rd March, 1933, after only one year; this because he had volunteered to become a missionary in New Guinea. There was a reason for this - on 19th April, 1933, he married Marion Lilian Johnson, the daughter of Rev. George E. Johnson who was at the time the Methodist minister at Burwood, Sydney - which is not far from Leigh College!
© George Daniel Oakes, 2003