Sneak peek: A most surprising man – The life of Victor Marra Newland

Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek into A most surprising man – The life of Victor Marra Newland, written by Mary Anne Fitzgerald.

Victor Marra Newland never met his grandfather. The reverend Ridgway William Newland was born in 1790 and brought up in Farnham, Surrey, as were five generations of Newlands before him dating back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. From these settled roots came three generations of pioneers blazing their way through rugged and inhospitable country on far continents.

Ridgeway established a foothold in South Australia. His son Simpson embraced the continent’s interior and made its development his life’s mission. By the time Ridgway’s grandson Victor Marra Newland was born in 1876, Australia’s unknown frontiers had been claimed and sparsely settled. Like his grandfather, Marra left the comfort of the family home to seek opportunity elsewhere. He chose Africa, a wild and exciting continent where men with grit and determination had a fighting chance to make good.

Ridgway’s ancestors were of Puritan stock and had suffered under the repressive measure instituted by the English parliament following the Restoration in 1660. Ridgway was apprenticed to his father, a watchmaker, but found no satisfaction in it. It irked him that members of the Church of England enjoyed power, privilege and the benefit of public funds while oppressive legislation had made the Nonconformist, or Dissenters as they were known, virtual second-class citizens. When he was 23, he left home for London to be trained as a Congregational minister at Old College in Hoxton. He was ordained in 1817. That same year he married Jan Benning and became the pastor of a church in Hanley in Staffordshire. 

Ridgway was a man of strong beliefs and moral stature. His sermons made it clear he championed religious freedom and social justice. After nearly 22 years of ‘preaching righteousness’, he was selected by the Colonial Missionary Society to establish a settlement in South Australia, a brand new colony founded only three years earlier. He didn’t hesitate in accepting the offer. The fact that little was known about South Australia and very few from England had gone before him was wonderfully appealing.

To continue reading, head into your local bookstore of visit Wakefield Press to secure your own copy!

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