facebook   twitter   mail  

The Nelson Photo News



Tom Perry's Travelling Ministry

A churchman with a difference hiked through Nelson recently. Tom Perry is truly one of those elderly gentlemen described as "70 years young."

This remarkable retired Anglican rector is a confirmed hitchhiker. Not by any means could he be regarded as a parasite of the travelling motorist, or a beggar relying on the charity of the man behind the wheel. To Mr Perry hitching provides him with a travelling ministry and numerous people who have come into contact with that ministry have benefited spiritually and emotionally.

And Mr Perry has an explanation to those who wonder at receiving comfort from a stranger that they have given a lift to: "My boss sent me to you." Tom Perry is 70. He retired as rector at Stoke-in-Teignhead, Devon, in May last year and he and his wife and their 25-year-old daughter are now living in Paignton, Torbay. And what is a retired churchman doing hitchhiking around New Zealand (in winter) when he should be at home enjoying the eventide of his life?

Well, it's like this: Mr Perry was appointed by the Australian Govermnent to travel to Sydney with English immigrants on the "Ellinis". That might sound a good lurk but having to tend for the spiritual, and numerous other needs of 430 families is no holiday. In the words of representatives of other denominations who had similar tasks on the ship, it could be a "fair cow." After safely delivering his charges to Sydney, Mr Perry came to New Zealand. He spent a short time in Auckland and then started hitchhiking south. En route to Wellington he took in the sights of Waitomo, Rotorua and Taupo. Y.H.A.

Not for him the luxury of hotels. As a member of the Youth Hostel Association, Tom Perry considered he was entitled to the amenities provided by that organisation. So it came as a surprise to many young travellers to find a retired minister clad in jeans ("I bought them to be less conspicous") standing at the next stove frying his eggs and bacon. These chance meetings led to discussions ranging from the best method to cook rice to the permissive society and its hang-ups.

If Mr Perry's fellow-travellers were amazed at his presence he was no less amazed by the profound statements that came from unlikely-looking sources. "It's surprising you know. Some of those chaps were extremely well-read and were deep thinkers. Their thoughts just need directing.

Of the Y.H.A. he has unstinted praise: "I would recommend them to any parent. You hear some people express concern about mixed company sharing the hostels and fear of fornication. If young people are going to fornicate they've got the whole world to do it in."

Mr Perry is frank and perhaps his approach to meeting people is rather unorthodox by traditional standards. In fact his "travelling on the thumb" has been frowned on by fellow clerics.

A typical conversation between Mr Perry and associates could go something like this:

"And how did you travel, Mr Perry?" "By truck." "Ohdear. You mean your car broke down?" "No. I just thumbed a ride and a truck picked me up." "You mean you hitchiked to this conference, Mr Perry?" "Yes. That's right." "Oh dear. Really, Mr Perry!"

Perhaps Mr Perry's method is unorthodox but it has proved effective both in reaching destinations and assisting others. "People are more inclined to speak to a stranger than they are to those they know well and it's surprising the number of people who have poured out their problems soon after picking me up," said Mr Perry. India

Mr Perry was ordained in 1930 and in 1932 was sent to India to open a school at Gaddalur, in Madras province. No ordinary school, this. It was to train Indians to improve village life rather than use education as an avenue to office jobs. Improved gardening, weaving, carpentry and other practical crafts to be used in the village were taught.

In India Mr Perry met his wife, who was a teacher there. They returned to England in 1938, intending to return to India, but war broke out and Mr Perry joined the R.A.F. as a chaplain, and it was during his stint with the Air Force that he was introduced to hitchhiking. "It was," he explained, "an easy method of getting around." He had a special reason for coming to Nelson, "In 1933 a Kathleen Jutson came to New Zealand with the Church Army. She married a farmer here and I wanted to contact the family if I could," he said. In Nelson he found that lady's daughter. She is now Mrs Seddon Marshall, wife of one of the city councillors. He also wanted to visit Mr and Mrs Ken Johnson, who are now living in the Wairoa Gorge, near Brightwater.

During his travels of the South Island, which took him down the West Coast and to Bluff, Tom Perry must have brought out the best in each Kiwi he met. "Everywhere I went I was treated with courtesy and kindness I have never struck previously." Indicative of his good company is the fact that he travelled more than 1400 miles with one couple, Mr and Mrs Toby Leadbetter of Christchurch, and was with them for a fortnight.

New Zealand made an extremely favourable impression on the "hitchhiking rector." And there can be little doubt that he made a lasting impression on all who met him. After a short stay in Nelson he joined a boat in Wellington and headed home.


Tom Perry's . . . Travelling Ministry


Mr Perry had many interesting tales to tell his hostess, Mrs Ken Johnson, on his brief return to Nelson.



We live in a world of power: The Stoke sub-station.