A History of Queensland FOV

Rev. Brian LeeBy Rev. Brian Lee

Rev Bertram Wyllie, Master of Wesley College, Sydney, and Dr Reg Walker, both founder members of Friends of Vellore in Sydney in 1943, came to Brisbane in 1958 and, along with Rev Norman Cocks, met with Dr Felix Arden and the Revs Tom Rees-Thomas, Bernard Langford and James Sweet in Brisbane?s Canberra Hotel, urging them to do something in Queensland to support the work of CMC Vellore. At a meeting of 36 people in Brisbane on 21 August 1958, Rev Norman Cocks, representing the Australian Vellore Board, was the speaker and an interim committee was appointed with a view to establishing a Qld Friends of Vellore. The interim committee included Rev Tom Rees-Thomas (d. Sept 1993), Dr Felix Arden (d. May 2002) and Rev James R Sweet (d. Aug 2007) who, over the years, all served terms as Chairmen and all remained Committee members until their deaths. Rev Bertram Wyllie returned to Brisbane for a further meeting of the Queensland group on 26 November 1958 at which a committee was elected.

When the Australian Vellore Board annual meeting in 1960 agreed to the appointment of Queenslanders Drs Frank and Val Garlick to Vellore it opened a new dimension of interest and a new fund-raising challenge for Qld Friends. After a dedication service in Brisbane the Garlicks left for India on 19 May, 1962 with their 5 month old twins and worked at CMC Vellore until 1970. Their newsletters and furlough visit encouraged increased membership of Qld Friends, generous giving and enthusiastic fund-raising. Queenslanders at CMC in the 1960s were Helen North (Physiotherapist), Ann Donchak (Nurse), Claire Heaton (later Lee) (Physiotherapist) and Beryl Hoyling (Bacteriologist).

Other Queenslanders who have worked at Vellore in later years are Cathy Hill (later Chandani) (Occupational Therapist); Volunteers ? Dr David Bennett (Plastic Surgeon), Dr John Vance (Child Health at RUHSA), Rev Jan Park (Chaplaincy), David Drinkall (Chaplaincy), Ian Lynch (Radiographer) and Monica Lynch (Person-to-Person program), Fiona Hogg (Research at RUHSA), Peter Lee (Administration) and Jan Lee (Teacher). Some Queensland medical students also have been at CMC Vellore for their elective term.

Some time before 1964 Rev Bernard Langford, a member of the original committee, was elected Treasurer, a position he held until his death in July, 1985. His careful attention to the list of donors in those early years of Qld Friends of Vellore ensured a steady flow of personal gifts, helping Qld Friends meet the annual expectations of the Australian Vellore Board. In 1965 the Qld quota was £400: by 1985 it was $20,000.

Early in the life of Qld Friends Dr Felix Arden used regular newsletters to pass on news from Vellore and to give notice of meetings. If there were letters before 1964 they were not kept. By 1969 the letters became ?a periodical? registered for bulk postage. By 1972 there were 287 names on the mailing list which over the years has grown to about 400 in 2007. Dr Arden continued to produce these letters until 1998 when Claire Lee became editor. After her death in 2003, Brian Lee took up this task.

During the 1960s groups were formed in Toowoomba and Mackay and Dr Arden?s hope was that there would be other groups all to be coordinated by the Brisbane Committee. This did not work out, however, and those two groups eventually closed.

The name of Mrs Hope Rickwood first appears in the June 1968 newsletter which mentions ?considerable sums? ($572) ?from street stalls and other functions organised by Mrs Hope Rickwood?. She became a tireless worker, encouraging many others in raising funds especially to support the Garlicks. A stall had been organised by Mrs Kathleen Garlick in the grounds of the Garlick home in Jethro Street, Aspley, and she called on her friend, Mrs Hope Rickwood, and others to help her. Shortly after that the ?Street Stall era? began. The April 1969 Newsletter has an historic notice: ?On Thursday, May 22nd from 8.30am Mrs Hope Rickwood and her team will be conducting a stall in Tank Street (near McDonnell and East?s). Entire proceeds for Vellore. Please help if you can.? Over the years Vellore stalls have been held regularly in various places in Brisbane. In 2007 there is a monthly Vellore Stall in Tank Street, Brisbane CBD and a similar monthly stall in the suburban shopping centre of Toowong ? thanks to Hope Rickwood?s initiative in 1969 and the many helpers in the years since. Mrs Nancy Stirling helped with sorting goods for sale and making sweets from the beginning of the stalls. After Hope Rickwood?s death in July 1988 she undertook to store goods in a specially fitted shed at her home, then sort and prepare what was needed for each stall, as well as continuing to cook sweets. This she did until her health began to fail in 1995. She died in September 2004, a Vellore supporter to the end.

Early in the 1970s, a newspaper article praising the work of Mrs Rickwood and her helpers drew the attention of the Queensland Justice Department who asked the Biblical question, ?By what authority do you do these things?? This led to the preparation of a new Constitution for Qld Friends in a form acceptable to the Justice Department. Four objects of this Constitution were: the promotion of knowledge and interest in the work of Vellore, enrolling Friends, cooperating with the Australian Vellore Board, and raising funds. By 1976 the Australian Vellore Board annual meeting was told that Queensland?s contribution greatly exceeded that of any other Australian Group.

The Qld Friends? annual meeting included a dinner from 1970 until the 1999 meeting. The admission charge was set just to cover the cost. For 20 of those years quality catering at a minimum cost was done by the Ladies? Guild of the Graceville Uniting Church.

When people came on 24 September, 1983 to the Wesley Hall, Ann Street, Brisbane to the first Indian Dinner organised by Qld Friends, it opened a new opportunity for raising money and for increasing the number of Queenslanders who learned something about CMC Vellore. Since 1985 these Indian Dinners, by 2007 usually on the last Saturday in May, have been held each year. Mrs Jean Sheehan, in charge of the catering for the first Indian Dinner, and one of her assistants in 1983, Dr Bella George, are still among its key organisers.

Inspired by news of an activity of the S A Group, in 1987/88 Dr Felix Arden sent out an appeal for donations and membership of the Qld Friends to all the doctors registered in Queensland. His wide experience as a specialist paediatrician and former Superintendent of the Children?s Hospital enabled him to add a personal note to many of the appeal letters. A further appeal, this time with the help of Dr Frank Garlick, was made in 1993. These appeals not only brought in extra funds for Vellore but also increased the number of doctors agreeing to be listed as Friends.

Early visitors to Queensland from Vellore included Dr John Webb, Dr Koshy, (both Directors), Dr A S Fenn (Professor of Surgery), Dr P Zachariah (Associate Director) and his wife Anna, Rev Fr Oommen (Senior Chaplain), Dr Jacob Kuruvilla (Surgeon) and nurses Marlienne Thomson from South Australia, Ann Bothamley from U K and Val Rudeforth (now Nelson) from Western Australia. In recent years the Directors, Drs L B M Joseph, Benji Pulimood, V I Mathen, Joyce Ponnaiah and George Chandy, have visited Queensland at least once, also Dr M C Mathew (Deputy Director) and Dr Samuel Chittaranjan (Associate Director).

In 1978, the Qld Friends reported to the Australian Vellore Board annual meeting: ?We still look a little anxiously at the increasing age of many of our Friends and the losses that the next decade must bring, at the difficulties attached to enrolling new members and at a Vellore that is gradually becoming independent of Australian members of its staff.? Thirty years on, the Qld Committee ? old and young ? look forward to ever new ways of linking the people of Queensland to the great work of CMC Vellore.

Past Office Bearers


Dr Felix Arden 1958-1972;
Rev J Brian Lee 1972-1976;
Rev Tom Rees-Thomas 1976-1979
Mr Stephen Chase 1980-1982;
Rev James R Sweet 1982-1985
Dr Keith Graham 1985-1987;
Dr John Vance 1987-1998;
Rev John C Hooper 1998-2003;
Dr Bella George 2003 -2010;                                                                                                                                   Mrs. Cathy Chandani 2010 –

Hon Secretaries:

Grace May-Wilkie (before 1969),
Hope Rickwood 1969-1971;
Ann Digby (later Crisp) 1971-1973;
Helen Menzies 1973-1975 then 1982-1988;
Dr Felix Arden 1975-1982;
Joan Merritt 1988-1991;
Lyn Bavister 1991-1997;
Jan Costin 1997-2000;
Gwenda Spencer 2000 –

Hon Treasurers:

Rev Bernard Langford from before 1964 to 1985;
Paul Donchak 1985-1994;
Richard Caitens 1994 –

Stall Coordinators:

Hope Rickwood 1971-1988;
Barbara Graham 1988-1993;
Dawn Vance 1993-1996;
Helen Menzies 1996-2002;
Claire Mainstone 2004 –

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