Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Margate, England, on January 3, 1884, Charles studied medicine as a young man, working at the renowned Guy’s Hospital in London as part of his study program.
Eventually Charles abandoned his medical studies for a career in show business. He joined the J C Williamson Company and later took a contract to tour Australia with an opera company. However, while still on the ship travelling to Australia he became disillusioned with the shallowness of theatrical life and once his ship reached Melbourne he resigned from his position.
Finding work in Queensland, Charles learned dairy farming and one of his duties was to travel to Boat Mountain, near Murgon, and there purchase supplies from a young Adventist widow, Minnie Lamplough, who as a single parent, was running a small shop to support herself and her five children. She always added tracts or copies of Signs of the Times when boxing up the groceries Charles had bought and after a time asked him if he was reading any of them. On being told he did not understand what he was reading Minnie arranged for a layman, Brother Dingle, to travel to Charles’ home and give him Bible studies. As a consequence Charles gave his heart to the Lord and was baptised, something his family back in Britain fiercely opposed. They soon disinherited him, even holding a Jewish funeral; such was their rejection of him. But on the bright side, Charles married Minnie Lamplough, the shopkeeper who had introduced him to the Adventist message, and for the next 46 years they worked together promoting the Advent message. To this union a son, Charles Henry, was born at Murgon in 1915.
In 1925 Charles entered denominational employment when he was called to the Australasian Union Conference (now the South Pacific Division) where he became the manager of the purchasing department, known back then as the “Buying Agency” in Sydney. Though untrained he was called into ministry in Victoria in 1935 and quickly proved himself a very effective soul winner. While in the Victorian Conference, Charles started the first Adventist radio program in Australia and his voice soon became well-known throughout the region with his regular broadcasts from Mildura. This innovative new ministry must have impressed Church leaders, for in 1938 regular denominational use of the airwaves began with Pastor Laurie Naden, the speaker on seven stations in five states. The accompanying Bible correspondence courses were effective and the resulting home visitations by pastors led to significant numbers of people joining the Church.
Ordained in 1943, Charles was called to pastoral work on Norfolk Island in 1945, serving there until 1950. On his return to the mainland he received medical advice that he should retire, but he felt he still had something to offer and so, as energy permitted, he worked in health clinics operated in those days by local churches around Sydney, giving physiotherapy-type treatments and massages. Later he did visitation in the Newcastle area before moving to the Kressville retirement village near Avondale College.
Minnie had died in 1958, and in 1960 Charles married Wanda Niebuhr, well known in the educational ministry of the Church. Together they promoted the cause of Christ to all they met until Charles died on April 24, 1974, at the age of 90 after a fall and subsequent stroke. As one writer commented at the time, “The greatest tribute that can be paid to such a life is for us to live as faithfully and consistently as he did.”
Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research centre.