How this minister beat the odds

The Rising Sun badge that was unearthed after 75 years

One million-to-one odds couldn’t stop this church minister maintaining his place in history in this metal detecting detective story that I told on West Bremer Radio this weekend.

Some time ago I was invited to metal detect around an old Methodist church in East Brisbane where I found a Rising Sun collar badge made from sterling silver.

It was from the Australian army, and being sterling silver meant it belonged to a nurse. It could have been a First or Second World War nurse, but datable items that I found with it including old coins, meant that the badge was a World War Two artefact.

History then refused to be denied as it beat the odds to bring a nineteenth story alive.

There were almost one million Australians who served in World War Two.

Five hundred and seventy-seven of them had a connection to the part of East Brisbane where the church was.

Just three of them were nurses, and only one was a Methodist.

Her name was Marjory McDonagh, she lived right around the corner, and her grandfather had actually been a minister at that church.

Nurse Marjory McDonagh disembarks on a New Guinea island during WW2

I’ve written about Marjory before, but now I investigated yet another connection to the Queensland city of Ipswich, which a century and half a go rivalled Brisbane to be the state capital.

The minister and Mary’s grandfather was The Reverend Thomas Thatcher who was just the second Methodist minister in Ipswich when he arrived there one hundred and forty-nine years ago in 1871.

The Reverend Thomas Thatcher

He was the minister in charge of the circuit, which meant he preached all over the district, including at Ipswich, Bundamba, Redbank Plains, Basin Pocket, Ipswich Reserve and Rosewood. He was an Ipswich minister through and through.

Rev. Thatcher was also a minster at nearby Laidley where he was elected to the very first Laidley Council in 1888. That made him the first ever minister of religion to be elected to public office in Queensland.

His son was Thomas Thatcher Junior who was at one time the private secretary to the Governor of Queensland, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams.

Thomas Thatcher Junior

The Thatcher Memorial Library at the University of Queensland is named after him. It’s most likely that Ipswich people who go to the university and use the library don’t know the connection to the very early history of their hometown.

There’s amazing history out there everywhere you go, you just have to look and pray that you can beat the odds.


Photo credits:
Marjory McDonaghs WW2 collar badge – my own
Majory Alice McDonagh on a trip to Koil Island 1945 – Australian War Memorial F07381
Rev Thomas Thatcher 1844-1913 – Thatcher Descendants in Australia, Isabelle Thatcher, page 30
Thomas Thatcher Jnr 1886-1948 – Thatcher Descendants in Australia, Isabelle Thatcher, page 46


  1. Some things are meant to be. My wife and I were driving in Toowoomba and saw an Antique shop that we had visited previously. On entering we found a unique photo of a Soldier on the Wall. I immediately recognised it as my uncle, an 11th Lighthorsman from WW1, I have the original photo. This was in an ornate oak frame with a 50mm recessed mount with a bush scene on it. The photo had been put onto cardboard and carefully cut out. It had then been mounted at the front near the glass to give a 2D effect. It had our family name on it, and the framer in Brisbane. After a couple of hours, I purchased the picture and it hangs proudly in our office. I have researched his war record through Gallipoli, one of the last on the last night to come off the Peninsular. He was then sent to the Middle East with the Light Horse, then seconded to the Number 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corp. He met his death in a flying accident when he an his pilot were testing a plane. It cut out and when the pilot turned back, it stalled and crashed into a moving locomotive. The pilot was killed instantly, the observer was burnt to death. This was 19th August 1918. He had enlisted straight after Christmas 1914.
    PS, I couldn’t find how to post a photo with this. Cheers.


    • Great story, although I must say that it wouldn’t have taken me a couple of hours to buy the frame and picture… just micro seconds and it would have been mine! 🙂 Did you discover who originally owned the picture and frame and how it came to be in the shop?


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