ACT News


All Saints keeping up appearances

Of course Our Redeemer is always there in spirit at All Saints Anglican Church in Ainslie, but for a few months the original image of him in the big and action-packed stained glass window behind the altar is away, in Queensland. Two-thirds of the 1917 window (saved from a church in Sheffield that Hitler had otherwise bombed to smithereens) is being variously repaired, restored and spruced up by a Queensland company.

But wait! While in the olden days an absent window would have meant an unsightly, boarded-up space, today there is a clever new technique that allows a replica of the absent window to take its place. This is a godsend, the church's Father Michael Faragher explained to Gang-Gang on Monday.

''One of the problems of being without the window for so long is that it can make it awkward for people who are getting married here and for high festivals like Easter. So we came up with this scheme. It's been trialled a bit in Europe, and it's been done at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Brisbane. Essentially, you take life-sized colour photographs of the window and print them on to polycarbonate sheeting. So we thought that for the time that the window was unavailable [it may be as long as six months while it is being given $85,000 of reverent treatment] we thought that a nice facsimile would be good.''

Faragher took us on a guided tour (his voice echoing a little in the empty church) of some of the figures on the window, there being no need, of course, to explain the flaxen-haired, flaxen-bearded figure nailed to the cross.

One of those absent in Queensland but present in the facsimile is Saint Clement. He is posed, because he is the patron saint of seafarers, with an ornate anchor. And, of course, he gets a good guernsey in the window because it was once a window in a church dedicated to him. Another window figure away in Queensland, but miraculously still there in Ainslie, is the prophet Isaiah with his books. Then there's dashing Saint George, wearing a gorgeous suit of golden and silver armour obviously designed by the armour Armani of his day. He is driving a silvery spear through the throat of the dragon.

Lovely as the absent (but present in facsimile) figures are, their previously-cleaned true glass neighbours in the window were sparklingly, glowingly, luminously lovely on Monday. The morning sun was illuminating them, reminding us of what a spectacle their absent neighbours will make once spruced up.


This columnist went ''Gosh!'' at the golden-bearded and golden-crowned King David, playing a fabulous harp. Red and glowing oak leaves surrounded his head and there were dazzling heliotrope highlights in his cloak. Gang-Gang went ''Gosh!'' at the sun-irradiated Saint Peter with his background of electric-blue oak leaves, his golden beard and two enormous golden keys he's carrying the size of lacrosse racquets (for, of course, he is Heaven's gatekeeper).

The story behind the window is really rather exciting. It was an adornment of the church of Saint Clement's in Sheffield until Hitler bombed the church. The window survived, and, of course, its survival was known to Lady De L'Isle, wife of our governor-general from 1961 to 1965 Viscount De L'Isle, because, Faragher says, Saint Clement's in Sheffield had been her local church. While her husband was serving in Australia, Lady De L'Isle was a parishioner at All Saints. And so her vice-regal mind went to work.

After negotiations (which involved Sir John Betjeman, the popular, teddy-bearish poet and ultra-authority on churches, their architecture and their contents) the miraculously-surviving window was brought to Australia (Faragher says that P&O brought it out free of charge, in a big wooden crate) and it was added to All Saints in 1963.

Faragher reports that the ACT government has given $10,000 towards the cost of the window's restoration and that with all sorts of fund-raising activities (and with all donations to the window appeal being tax-deductible), he's sure the $85,000 will be harvested in the fullness of time. ''We'll just keep going until we get it paid for.''

And he won't be giving in to a temptation he's heard that was given in to elsewhere.

''I heard a story, apocryphally, about a mediaeval church in Paris that sent out all of its various glass to be cleaned and they put in just the sorts of facsimile panels we've put in. And then the church authorities in their wisdom decided to sell all the real glass to collectors and leave the panels in place!''

The last of the original bus stops?

Newcastle-based but always Canberra-haunting artist Trevor Dickinson (for his fossickings and hauntings here he uses an old-fashioned bicycle and new-fangled Google Maps) is a great favourite of this column. It's because of the way he notices flair and character and quaintness in everyday Canberra things we might otherwise take for granted.

''This drawing might be of interest to you,'' he writes.

''I think it could be the last [of this model] of bus shelters in Canberra to still have its see-through plastic windows in it. The shelter is in Miller Street, O'Connor and a local told me that it has the plastic windows that have been there since the '70s. I'd love to find out if there are any more in Canberra. If not I think this bus shelter is rather special!''

Readers, do you know of any others?

Contact the artist (en route to enjoying a gallery of his quirky works) at