Norman L. Beurle

The Rev. Norman L. Beurle

Norman Louis Beurle was a Baptist Church minister and poet. His poems, often with a religious tint, were published in various Australian newspapers, including The Australasian, The Herald, and The Weekly Times.

Norman L. Beurle was born in South Yarra (Melbourne, Victoria) in 1876. His parents were Charles Beurle (who was the foreman at the South Yarra Fire Station) and Annie (nee Izett); he was one of seven children. He trained as a teacher, and spent thirteen years working for the Education Department of Victoria. His teaching positions included the Punt Road State School in South Yarra, the State School in Kenmare, and the State School in Clydebank, Sale. He alluded to his teaching days in his poem “The Children”.

With a penchant for writing, he turned his hand to literature, and entered several literary competitions. In a competition held in South Melbourne, in July 1900, he won first place for his essay “The despatch of the colonial contingents, and their influence upon our future national life” (the not-yet-famous Mary Grant Bruce won second place), and he won second place for his poem “Australian Pioneers” (Mary Grant Bruce came first).

In a Ballarat literary competition, in October 1900, he achieved first place for his essay “The Empire’s call to arms”, and gained first place for his essay “The effect of religion on the formation of character”. He also won third place for his poem “To the Unknown” (coincidentally, Mary Grant Bruce was also an entrant, and won second place). The following year he again came first in the poetry section of the Ballarat competition, and gained first place for his story “The Atonement of Schamyl”, as well as receiving an honorable mention for his essay “Matthew Arnold as poet and critic”. In 1902, in a Geelong literary competition, he came first in the scripture essay section for his essay “Daniel as a Statesman”, and made third place in the original poetry section.

Norman was a very religious person, which can be seen in some of his poetry. He contributed poems to newspapers whilst living in Pyalong (Vic.), Kenmare (Vic.), and Clydebank, Sale (Vic.), where he preached in the local Baptist Church in 1902. He resigned from his teaching position in Clydebank and moved to Perth (Western Australia) in 1903, so that he could study for a position in the Baptist Church.

Subsequently, Beurle started preaching at the South Perth Baptist Church in 1903, where he served as a student pastor under the tutelage of the Rev. Silas Mead. He also travelled to other congregations in Western Australia to deliver sermons, and was described as “a rising and deservedly popular preacher”. He was ordained as a Minister in Baptist Union of W.A., becoming the Reverend Beurle; the Government Gazette of Western Australia reporting that, on the 9th of June 1903, he had been registered as a Minister authorised for the celebration of marriage (although the gazette spelt his name incorrectly as “Buele”, which was then corrected in the subsequent issue).[1]

Norman and Jean at their wedding, 1909

During his time in Perth he met Jeannie May Ackland (known as Jean), the daughter of Mr. J. B. Ackland (who was one of Beurle’s colleagues in the Western Australian Baptist Union). He married Jean on the 2nd of September 1909, at her parent’s home in Northam (WA). Their marriage was to produce three children: John (born 1911), Edith (1916), and Cecil (1919).

Two days after their marriage, the newly-wed couple left for Victoria, where Norman took up the ministership of the Baptist Church in Camberwell (Vic.), where he was to stay for twelve years, rising to become President of the Victorian Baptist Union. They named their home in Camberwell “Medindie” (which was the name of the home of Jean’s parents in Northam).

Beurle was an active temperance campaigner, and played a significant role in the temperance movement in Victoria. He was active with the Strength-of-Empire Movement, which promoted “temperance and social purity”. Beurle’s public support for the temperance cause was part of the reason that, on the 21st of October 1920, residents in Camberwell (part of the Boroondara licensing district) and Nunawading voted for their areas to be made “dry”, under the “local option” law (which enabled residents to vote in a local referendum to decide whether alcoholic beverages should be allowed to be sold in their locality), being the only two districts in Victoria to do so (ironically, the suburb of Camberwell was named after a pub, the Camberwell Inn, which was one of the first significant buildings in the area).

Norman Beurle had a special interest in church music, and was a pioneer in introducing the practice of community singing into Baptist churches in Victoria. He was also a good singer (he came second in the baritone solo section of a competition in Sale in October 1901), as well as being able to play the piano. As a related side note, it was reported that Beurle was a “descendant on his mother’s side of the famous composer, Donizetti” (Gaetano Donizetti, 1797-1848, of Italy).[2]

In 1921 he moved to South Australia to serve as minister at the prestigious North Adelaide Baptist Church. He later become President of the South Australian Baptist Union; he also taught as a lecturer at Parkin College (a religious college, founded by William Parkin). Beurle was considered to have a talent for entertaining recitations, and was an impressive public speaker; he was variously described as a “powerful preacher and diligent pastor, “a hard-working, energetic, and successful minister, bright, inspiring, and optimistic” and a “fluent speaker and a powerful preacher”.[3]

In 1930 he was awarded the Bundey Prize for English verse, by Adelaide University.

The Rev. Norman L. Beurle

Norman L. Beurle died on Sunday the 14th of June 1931, in Adelaide, from a heart attack, as he was on his way to give the evening service at Semaphore (SA), at the age of 55. He was buried in Mitcham Cemetery (SA).

Just two years after Norman’s demise, his son John (a school teacher, aged 22) drowned whilst attempting to rescue Kenneth Williams, one of his students (aged 16), in the Onkaparinga River (Clarendon, SA) on the 23rd of December 1933; unfortunately, both teacher and teenager perished. John Beurle had been following in his father’s footsteps, with an intention to become a man of the cloth; he had been acting as a special minister at St. John’s Anglican Church in Halifax Street, Adelaide.

Whilst Norman L. Beurle’s works of literature never gained widespread fame, they demonstrated a decent level of literary ability, perhaps one which is typical of the many unsung Australian poets and authors. Whilst Beurle’s main claim to fame lies in the realms of religion, his literary output is worthwhile resurrecting for future generations to enjoy.

Selected poetry by Norman L. Beurle:
The Dew [24 August 1895]
The Love of Christ [5 October 1895]
To The Motherland [13 October 1899]
An Australian Greeting [26 October 1899]
Absence [17 February 1900]
The Children [12 May 1900]
Prayer to the West [11 August 1900]
Love the Dreamer [29 September 1900]
A Twilight Song [9 March 1901]

Selected writings by Norman L. Beurle:
Not disheartened [letter, 23 October 1920]
Letter to the editor, re. the “Local option” vote and the temperance campaign.
The effect of religion on the formation of character [21 March 1901]
The winning entry in the essay section of the Ballarat literary competition in October 1900.

[1] Government Gazette of Western Australia (Perth, WA), 12 June 1903, p. 1550 [surname incorrectly spelt as “Buerle”]
Government Gazette of Western Australia (Perth, WA), 19 June 1903, p. 1627 [surname corrected to “Beurle”]
See also: Government Gazette of Western Australia (Perth, WA), 22 January 1904, p. 225 [state list of Minsters]
Note: The Western Australia government gazettes are available on the State Law Publisher (WA) website.

[2] “Sale Mechanics’ Institute: Musical and literary competitions”, The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 7 October 1901, p. 3
Pen portraits of people”, The News (Adelaide, SA), 20 September 1924, p. 6
Gossip”, Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW), 13 August 1927, p. 13
Dyneley Hussey, “Gaetano Donizetti: Italian opera composer”, Encyclopædia Britannica (accessed 9 May 2019)

[3] “Personal”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 20 September 1923, p. 9
Rev. C. H. Nield, “Baptist leaders: Preachers, editors, organisers: Useful work done”, The News (Adelaide, SA), 26 September 1927, p. 8
Rev. N. L. Beurle dies suddenly: Collapses in train”, The Advertiser and Register (Adelaide, SA), 15 June 1931, p. 6

Other references:
Charles Beurle, “A correction” (letter), The Telegraph and St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian (Vic.), 27 April 1878, p. 5
South Melbourne musical and elocutionary competitions”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 July 1900, p. 3 (incorrectly refers to him as “Norman C. Beurle” re. the essay prize, although correctly refers to him as “Norman L. Beurle” re. the poetry prize)
Warracknabeal”, The Horsham Times (Horsham, Vic.), 6 July 1900, p. 3 (essay prize)
South Melbourne literary and musical competitions”, The Record (South Melbourne, Vic.), 7 July 1900, p. 3
Country news: Ballarat: South-street competitions”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 17 October 1900, p. 6
Literary work”, The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 20 October 1900, p. 6
Original poem”, The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 17 October 1901, p. 6
The Ballarat competitions”, The Bendigo Advertiser (Bendigo, Vic.), 18 October 1901, p. 3
Additional literary awards”, The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 22 October 1901, p. 6
Geelong”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 14 May 1902, p. 6
Town talk”, The Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic.), 31 May 1902, p. 2
Church notices”, The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 30 January 1902, p. 2 (preaching in the Baptist Church, Sale)
Church notices” (advertisement), The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 17 July 1902, p. 2 (preaching in the Baptist Church, Sale)
The Gippsland Times” (various news items), The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 30 March 1903, p. 3 (Clydebank State School; move to WA)
Church notices” (advertisement), The West Australian (Perth, WA), 24 January 1903, p. 3 (preaching in South Perth)
Church notices” (advertisement), The West Australian (Perth, WA), 31 January 1903, p. 1 (preaching in South Perth)
Personal”, The West Australian (Perth, WA), 23 February 1903, p. 5 (re. South Perth Baptist Church)
W.A. Baptist Union”, The West Australian (Perth, WA), 13 November 1906, p. 3 (Beurle and J. B. Ackland)
Lecture and recital on Kipling”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 27 April 1907, p. 2
Baptist Church”, The Pingelly Leader and Cuballing Standard (Pingelly, WA), 3 May 1907, p. 3 (impressive recitations)
The Standard” (general news items), Malvern Standard (Prahran, Vic.), 29 June 1907, p. 2 (teacher at the Punt road State school, South Yarra)
Local and general news”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 15 January 1908, p. 2 (well known as an elocutionist)
Selected readings from famous authors”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 18 January 1908, p. 3 (readings; piano player)
Baptist Church”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 6 February 1909, p. 3 (Beurle and J. B. Ackland)
Personal”, The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 10 June 1909, p. 3 (teacher at Heart State School; Camberwell church)
News and notes”, The West Australian (Perth, WA), 4 September 1909, p. 11
Family Notices”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 8 September 1909, p. 2 (marriage)
Wedding bells: Beurle — Ackland”, The Northam Advertiser (Northam, WA), 8 September 1909, p. 3 (marriage; Camberwell apointment)
Family Notices”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 25 February 1911, p. 11 (birth of son, John Charles Louis, on 12 February 1911, at “Medindie”, Camberwell)
Marriages”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 12 December 1913, p. 1 (50th anniversary of parents’ marriage; Annie Izett)
Drink problem discussed”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 August 1914, p. 3
Hotel closing hours”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 28 June 1916, p. 8
Births”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 28 October 1916, p. 11 (birth of daughter, Edith Marion, on the 18 October, at “Edlington”, Auburn)
Strength-of-Empire Movement”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 July 1918, p. 8
NotesAndLinks”, The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 18 January 1919, p. 5 (birth of son, Cecil Norman Izett, on 5 January 1919, at “Alderley”, Riversdale Road, Upper Hawthorn)
Local Option Poll: Voting System Explained: Three issues stated”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 28 September 1920, p. 3
Liquor Referendum: Discussion by Baptists”, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 27 October 1920, p. 9
Liquor referendum: Official result declared”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 13 November 1920, p. 20
Religious notes”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 15 October 1921, p. 5 (biographic details)
W.C.T.U.”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 7 June 1922, p. 4 (Beurle gave speech “Prohibition, and how best to attain it”)
Railway refreshment rooms: United protest against liquor drinking privileges”, The Register (Adelaide, SA), 9 December 1924, p. 9
From teacher to clergyman”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 13 August 1925, p. 13 (biographic details)
Rev. N. L. Beurle”, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.), 13 September 1927, p. 14 (biographic details)
Rev. C. H. Nield, “Baptist leaders: Preachers, editors, organisers: Useful work done”, The News (Adelaide, SA), 26 September 1927, p. 8
About people”, The Observer (Adelaide, SA), 8 May 1930, p. 30
Rev. N. L. Beurle dies suddenly: Collapses in train”, The Advertiser and Register (Adelaide, SA), 15 June 1931, p. 6 (says 54 years old; however, death notices give his age as 55)
Made life richer for many”, The News (Adelaide, SA), 15 June 1931, p. 6 (obituary; lecturer at Parkin College)
Deaths”, The Advertiser and Register (Adelaide, SA), 16 June 1931, p. 6 (aged 55 years)
Deaths”, The West Australian (Perth, WA), 16 June 1931, p. 1
Deaths”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 20 June 1931, p. 11 (Semaphore; aged 55 years)
Two tragic deaths in family”, The Mail (Adelaide, SA), 23 December 1933, p. 2 (John Beurle re. Halifax Street Church)
Two drowned”, The Recorder (Port Pirie, SA), 23 December 1933, p. 1 (drowning of John Beurle)
Double drowning”, The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld.), 26 December 1933, p. 2 (drowning of John Beurle)
Deaths”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 25 October 1935, p. 1 (death of Norman Beurle’s mother; list of siblings)
Obituary”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 26 October 1935, p. 26 (obituary of Norman Beurle’s mother)
F. J. Wilkin, “Baptists in Victoria: Our First Century, 1838-1938, East Melbourne: The Baptist Union of Victoria, 1939, pp. 97, 128a, 133 (State School in Kenmare)
In memoriam”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 14 June 1951, p. 18 (Rev. Norman Louie Beurle)
Raine Biancalt, “Camberwell – named after a Pub”, Burwood Bulletin, 21 December 2016 (accessed 9 May 2019)
Debra Reeves, “Liquor, temperance and legislation: The origins of six o’clock closing in Victoria during WWI” Parliamentary Library & Information Service, Parliament of Victoria, 2016 (accessed 9 May 2019)
Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages [birth details: BEURLE, Norman Louis; mother: Ann; father: Charles; place of birth: Melbourne; registration number: 19342 / 1876]

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