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Eric Walter Were

Photo courtesy of Lester Devine.

Were, Eric Walter (1914–1997)

By Lester Devine

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Originally trained as a secondary history teacher, a career long Adventist educator, Lester Devine, Ed.D., has taught at elementary, secondary and higher education levels and spent more than three decades in elected educational leadership positions in two divisions of the world Church, NAD (1969-1982) and SPD (1982-2005). He completed his forty years of denominational service with a term as director of the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale University College in Australia where his life-long hobby of learning and presenting on Adventist heritage issues became his vocation. 

Erick Walter Were, an Adventist photographer, film producer, and writer, was born on June 21, 1914, in Adelaide, South Australia. A third generation Seventh-day Adventist, his grandfather joined the Church around 1894.1 After two years of post-secondary technical education Were qualified to work as a carpenter, and then spent 25 years as a sign-writer and commercial artist, including work in photography. Five of those years were spent working in film production in Canada.2 On April 21, 1940, he married Elizabeth (Bessie) Fisher in the Avondale Church, Cooranbong, New South Wales.3 Before her marriage, Bessie Fisher had served for a number of years as office worker and accountant for the Sanitarium Health Food Company at Wahroonga, Adelaide, and Sydney.4 After her death in 1960,5 Were married Ailsa Betty Fletcher (Harding) at the Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist church on October 9, 1961,6 and thereby gained a step-daughter, Bronwyn, born on November 18, 1950.7 Betty Harding was been born on February 7, 1922, in Sydney, New South Wales,8 and had previously been married to John K. L. (Ted) Fletcher.9 With her first husband, she served in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Fiji before his untimely death on July 28, 1957.10

Eric Were was the photographer at the Adventist Media Centre in Wahroonga when it was first established in Sydney, Australia, beginning work there in 1959, initially in a freelance capacity, before becoming a formal member of the team as a photographer and artist in late 1963.11 Were’s outstanding ability soon had him on a “roving commission” to produce films for many of the divisions of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church. For example, Were spent four and a half months in the Southern Asia Division of the world Church during 1968. He spent five months during 1970 in a similar capacity in the South American Division.12 Were’s original 1950 vintage Paillard-Bolex HK-16 movie camera, over a thirty-year period, did filming for the Church in over 70 countries according to its second owner, Maxwell Townend, who used it in the South Asia Division and the Far Eastern Division of the Church during his time as a missionary in those regions.13

Particularly well known and notable among his movie productions were his films Cry of New Guinea and How Great Thou Art.14 His movie documentaries were effective promotions of the mission of the Church and enabled the Adventist Media Centre of the Australasian Division with headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales, to establish a reputation for quality creative work.15 A complete set of his film prints has been preserved in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education and they are progressively being digitized.16

In addition to his photography, Eric Were was a gifted artist and writer. He retired from service to the church in 1976,17 but in his retirement years he engaged in meticulous research of his family history, pioneer Seventh-day Adventists in South Australia. He published his findings as The House That Were Built: A History of the Were Family from the Conquest to the Colonies.18 Two of his best-known other books were Perilous Paradise19 and No Devil Strings.20

Survived by his second wife and step-daughter, Eric Were died in South Australia on January 3, 1997.21

Sources

Barnard L. H. and F. Webb. “Eric Walter Were obituary.” Australasian Record, March 15, 1997.

Eric Walter Were Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives.

Eric Walter Were Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives.

Hollingsworth, H. W. “Were-Fisher Marriage.” Australasian Record, May 27, 1940.

Knight, A. W. “Fletcher-Harding Marriage. Australasian Record, July 5, 1943.

Nolan, H. W. “Were-Fletcher Marriage.” Australasian Record, November 27, 1961.

Stewart, A. G. “John Kevin Lewes Fletcher obituary.” Australasian Record, August 19, 1957.

Were, Eric W. No Devil Strings: The Story of Kata Ragoso. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1970.

Were, Eric W. Perilous Paradise: Photo Story of New Guinea and Its Emerging People. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1968.

Were, Eric W. The House That Were Built: A History of the Were Family from the Conquest to the Colonies 1880-1980: With a Study of Origins in England and 'Cousins' Abroad. Adelaide, South Australia: Eric W. Were, 1980.

Notes

  1. Eric Walter Were Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Worker’s Biographical Record.”

  2. Ibid.

  3. H. W. Hollingsworth, “Were-Fisher Marriage,” Australasian Record, May 27, 1940, 7.

  4. Ibid.

  5. L. H. Barnard and F. Webb, “Eric Walter Were obituary,” Australasian Record, March 15, 1997, 14.

  6. H. W. Nolan, “Were-Fletcher Marriage,” Australasian Record, November 27, 1961, 6.

  7. Eric Walter Were Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Worker’s Biographical Record.”

  8. Ibid.

  9. A. W. Knight, “Fletcher-Harding Marriage,” Australasian Record, July 5, 1943, 7.

  10. A. G. Stewart, “John Kevin Lewes Fletcher obituary,” Australasian Record, August 19, 1957, 15.

  11. Eric Walter Were Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Eric Walter Were Service Record.” Another service record gives the starting date of denominational service as April 1, 1967, see Eric Walter Were Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Personal Service Record.”

  12. Eric Walter Were Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Worker’s Biographical Record.”

  13. Maxwell Townend, interview with the author, Sydney Australia, c.1994. The author holds in his collection of cameras Were’s original Paillard-Bolex H16 movie camera, purchased from Pastor Max Townend because of its historical significance.

  14. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

  15. L. H. Barnard and F. Webb, “Eric Walter Were Obituary,” Australasian Record, March 15, 1997, 14.

  16. Personal knowledge of author from interaction with the staff at the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

  17. Eric Walter Were Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Were, Eric Walter,” document: “Personal Service Record.”

  18. Eric W, Were, The House That Were Built: A History of the Were Family from the Conquest to the Colonies 1880-1980: With a Study of Origins in England and 'Cousins' Abroad (Adelaide, South Australia: Eric W. Were, 1980).

  19. Eric W. Were, Perilous Paradise: Photo Story of New Guinea and Its Emerging People (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1968).

  20. Eric W. Were, No Devil Strings: The Story of Kata Ragoso (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1970).

  21. L. H. Barnard and F. Webb, “Eric Walter Were obituary,” Australasian Record, March 15, 1997, 14.

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Devine, Lester. "Were, Eric Walter (1914–1997)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed May 14, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=687I.

Devine, Lester. "Were, Eric Walter (1914–1997)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access May 14, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=687I.

Devine, Lester (2021, January 09). Were, Eric Walter (1914–1997). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 14, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=687I.