Unlike many of his Adventist clerical colleagues, Algenon (Algie) Gallagher spent a full 40 years in mission and pastoral ministry.
Beginning with mission service in Papua New Guinea in 1938, he then served in Solomon Islands from 1939—1941, but because of the Japanese invasion of the Western Pacific during World War II, he transferred to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1941, remaining there until 1953, a total of 16 years of mission service.
The rest of his career, until his retirement in 1975, was spent in evangelistic and pastoral ministry in four different conferences in eastern Australia.
Born in the city of Hobart, Tasmania, on June 7, 1915, Algie became an Adventist due to the “personal labours of Pastor WD Smith” and was baptised in 1932. After spending some time in colporteur evangelism in 1933, Algie attended Avondale College from 1935–1937 though he did not graduate.
Called into ministry, he married Edna Roberts in February 1938 and with his new bride began his denominational career as a missionary to Papua New Guinea in 1938, serving initially at Kambubu on the island of New Britain. Their first child, Harold Bruce, was born in Rabaul.
The family’s transfer to New Hebrides in October 1941 had its challenges. Due to concerns that Japanese invading forces might expand eastwards and invade the New Hebrides, the Adventist missionaries were withdrawn back to Australia in March 1942. But by December of that year Algie was back in New Hebrides along with his colleague, Pastor JB Keith.
They had left their families back in Australia, where six missionary wives, including Edna Gallagher, and their children, were all living together in one old crowded house across the street from the Australasian Union Conference office in Sydney.
Wartime conditions were difficult. The whole time the two men were in New Hebrides that year they had no communication with their families back in Australia.
Typical of the many challenges of the time, travel due to the wartime conditions was difficult. The mission had a boat with no engine, and so JB and Algie attempted to sail the 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the island of Ambrim, but spent much of their time on that trip rowing instead of sailing.
After the war ended, the Gallagher family continued their service in New Hebrides until 1953 and their two younger children, Alvine Joy and Lyn Arthur, were born there during those years. [pullquote]
Beginning in 1947, Algie made the first of six visits to the island of Pentecost. He also worked with a break-away group from another denomination and 20 of the members in that group became Adventists. Just before returning to Australia permanently, and while serving as acting president, he pulled down the old church at the Aore boarding school and in just 20 days and nights erected a new one.
Back in Australia by 1953, Algie pastored in Queensland until the end of 1960 when the family transferred to the Greater Sydney Conference where Algie was a pastor-evangelist in several districts until the end of 1967. On leaving, his president Claude Judd wrote that “Pastor A Gallagher was a dedicated, loyal and fruitful worker in the Greater Sydney Conference. He was an excellent church pastor and a good counsellor. We regret losing him. . . .”
Pastor Gallagher was called to the Tasmanian Conference, serving in ministry for the next five years. While in Launceston he bought some land and donated most of it to allow an Adventist retirement village to be built on that site, some 20 units in all.
Algie’s Tasmanian ministry was appreciated, with his president noting in 1967, “(He) has made a very worthwhile contribution to the work in the conference. His work has been appreciated also by the members in the churches where he has worked . . .”
Algie Gallagher’s final ministerial posting prior to his retirement in 1975 was to the North New South Wales Conference where he pastored in Murwillumbah and also Gosford.
In retirement, the Gallaghers returned to Vanuatu for the 70th anniversary of Adventism celebrations. In early 1988, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and just a few months later, on August 9, Algie went to his rest at the age of 73. Edna lived on until March 26, 1999. As BC Grosser put it: “To all who knew him, Algie was a sincere friend, a loving husband and father, and a true Christian gentleman.”
Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.