St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

The Pipe Organ

(An Explanation of the Symbols of St Finbar’s Church Glenbrook)

Symbols of St Finbar's - Pipe Organ
Photo: Peter McMahon

This pipe organ was made in 1881 to the order of St Peter's Anglican Parish, East Sydney. It was installed in St Peter's Church in February, 1882. It was bought by this parish on 8 February, 1993, when St Peter's Parish was amalgamated with the parish of Darlinghurst and St Peter's church was declared redundant.

The organ was installed in this new church during July, August and September, 1995 by Pitchford & Garside Pty. Ltd. On 15 October 1995, it was inaugurated by Mr Norman Johnston who had been the last organist in St Peter's church and who had used it as a teaching instrument for many years.

The instrument is fully mechanical in its action. It was completely restored in all its parts prior to installation and a new electrically-power blower was installed under it. The organ is now in its original condition. It was classified by the national Trust of Australia on 29 May 1996.

Please remember with gratitude the original donors of St Peter's church and the more recent benefactors principally the late Noel Gibson and the late Fr Patrick Frost whose munificent bequests made the transfer and restoration possible. Also, the Heritage Council of NSW which made grants for the preservation of the instrument while it was in both St Peter's and St Finbar's.

Dual symbolic meaning

Symbols of St Finbar's - Pipe Organ
Photo: Peter McMahon

The designs on the front pipes represents the floral national emblems of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales namely the rose, shamrock, thistle and look. Wales is represented also by the Prince of Wales' feathers.

The pipes also carry crowns which feature the fleur-de-lis, "flower of the lily". In Christian art the lily is a symbol of chastity and purity attributed to the Virgin Mary. The Angel Gabriel is often represented holding a lily I his hands at the Annunciation. The lily is evocative of the words of Jesus: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these". Matt. 6:28,29. The lily is sometimes in Christian art identified with the iris which in Greek means "rainbow" and recalls the rainbow given buy God as a sign of reconciliation between God and Man in the story of the flood.

In Christian art the rose has symbolic meanings. The rose depicted on the organ has five petals which represent the five senses;' taste, sight, hearing, smell, and touch through which the spirit of the human being makes contact with the material world. The rose is sometimes qualified as the "rosa mystica" and the "rosa mundi". The former refers to Christ who by sacrifice attains new life in God. The thorns of the rose and the crown of thorns of the Passion Narrative have a connecting double symbolic meaning. The "rosa mundi", i.e., the rose of the world, refers symbolically to the developing world and the cycle of birth and death that it shows. There is a connection here with the rose window of the cathedrals which were often divided into twelve segments and take for form of a wheel signifying the "wheel of being" and has links with the astrological types. It is in this way that the "rosa mundi" came to be connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the sea is the womb of all life on earth, so is the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary the origin of the life of Jesus Christ, who in turn by his sacrificial death paradoxically brought the New Life of God to the world. These ancient symbols are still used by contemporary artist such as Arthur Boyd whose painting "Crucifixion and Rose" links together all the points mentioned above.

Donations were given to the appeal for the restoration of the Hele pip organ and its installation in the new St Finbar's church. The fifty front pipes have been restored to their original colours and patterns with which they were decorated when they left the factory in Plymouth, England. They were subsequently painted over in gold paint when fashions changed. The restorer, Peter Clarke, of Merrylands, had to sand back by hand the successive coats of gold paint in order to get to the original patterns. He then began to repaint the designs in their original colours. The average cost was $200 each and parishioners were invited to sponsor a pipe. 1150 pipes in all have been tuned.

Sunday 15 October was fixed for the official inauguration. Mr Norman Johnston, the University of Sydney organist was invited to give a recital on that day. Norman Johnston was the organist at St Peter's Anglican church Woolloomooloo and used the organ as his teaching instrument for many years. It is due to his influence that the organ was kept in good working order.