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William and Irralee Petrie, June 1969.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Petrie.

Petrie, William Woodfield (1900–1991) and Irralee Blanche (Ball) (1908–1994)

By Ross Goldstone

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Ross Goldstone, M.A. (Avondale College, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia) retired in 1998 as Senior Pastor, Avondale Memorial Church, Cooranbong, NSW, Australia. New Zealand born, Goldstone has served the Church as a pastor, Conference Youth Director, teacher, and Sessional Lecturer at Avondale College. He has authored nine books relating to Adventist history, including The Angel Said Australia. He is also co-author of four other books on Adventist history in Australasia. In retirement Ross Goldstone continues to research and write Adventist Church history.

 

Trained teachers, William and Irralee Petrie served at Matupi, near Rabaul on the island of New Britain, and at Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, then transferred to Samoa before returning to clerical, secretarial, and presidential responsibilities in Australia and New Zealand.

Early Life

William Woodfield Petrie was born on November 5, 1900, at Wright’s Bush, near Invercargill, New Zealand, the 8th of 10 children born to John and Mary Petrie. They were employed in the drapery industry at the time.1 Irralee Blanche Ball was also born on November 5, but eight years afterward, in 1908.2 She was the 8th child of Arthur and Mavis Ball of Northam, Western Australia.3

While working as a drapery salesman, William Petrie was contacted by a literature evangelist. He committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church on June 3, 1923, as a result of studies with Louis Were and was baptized by Pastor Robert Hare on December 8, 1923.4 Petrie studied at the New Zealand Missionary School from 1924 until his graduation in 1926.5 With intent to enter the teaching profession, he then attended the Australasian Missionary College and graduated in November 1930. Irralee Ball, his future wife, also graduated that year as a teacher.6 They both spent 1931 as colporteurs in the South New South Wales Conference.7 Both were appointed as teachers in 1932: William to North Sydney in New South Wales and Irralee to Bendigo in Victoria.8 Pastor E. E. Roenfelt officiated at William and Irralee’s marriage in the Ball family home at Northam on January 9, 1933.9

Mission Service

In 1930, a new mission station had recently been established at Matupi near Rabaul on the island of New Britain, New Guinea. William Petrie was appointed to commence a school there in 1933.10 After their wedding, the newlyweds left Sydney on board the Montoro on February 22, 1933.11 Awaiting their arrival were Dr. McLaren and 60 students.12 While Matupi was a magnificent setting for a mission station, the Petries found the constant humidity to be enervating, particularly William, who was used to the colder climate in the deep south of New Zealand. A new home was built, which the Petries moved into by September 1933, and Irralee was able to enjoy the latter months of her pregnancy in comparative comfort before the birth of Arthur John Petrie.13

One of the features of Petrie’s curriculum was daily physical education. He drilled the students in marching and calisthenics. A. G. Stewart described a demonstration by the school students when he visited Matupi on March 26, 1933.14 Extra responsibilities were added to Petrie at the Annual Council of the Australasian Division in August/September 1933. At that session, he was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Territory of New Guinea Mission.15 In July 1934, Dr. McLaren, together with 10 New Guinea workers, flew into the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea and marked out a new mission station site. Accommodation was constructed, and McLaren assigned Petrie to “hold the fort” in Kainantu.16 Irralee and little Arthur remained in Matupi while William spent three months establishing the new mission station.17 The family moved to Kainantu in 1935 and found the cooler climate invigorating and beneficial to their health.18

At the 1935 Annual Council, the Petries were appointed to Western Samoa to take charge of the Vailoa Training School.19 Following furlough, they sailed to Samoa to take up their new responsibilities.20 Petrie arrived in Apia on April 9, 1936, followed by his wife and son on May 11.21 The training school, which was for male students only, was located on a hillside overlooking the sea and a beautiful harbor. A visitor described it as “one of the finest training centres in all the island field,” and it was instrumental in training Samoan youth for service within the denomination.22 Associated for the next six years with William Petrie were a number of Pacific Island teachers. Visitors to the school noted the cleanliness and orderly conduct of the students and their teachers.23 Good discipline was manifested in precision marching, something loved by Samoan youth.24 A feature of the training at Vailoa was a brass band using donated instruments.25

At the Australasian Union Conference committee in September 1938, Petrie was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Samoan Mission.26 This responsibility was in addition to his teaching responsibilities. On December 19, 1939, three young men became the first graduates from Vailoa College. The graduation exercises were conducted in the presence of a large gathering, including Mr. Turnbull, the administrator of Samoa.27

Two children were born into the Petrie family during their years of service at Vailoa: Ivor William Petrie28 and Lorna June Petrie.29 While busy with her young family, Irralee fostered Junior Missionary Volunteer (J.M.V.) progressive classwork for the boys and girls. The first investiture of 32 J.M.V. Friends in Samoa took place at the general meeting (fono) in July 1939.30

The constant high degree of humidity eventually caused health issues for the children, necessitating in August 1941 the return of Irralee and the children to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, where it was hoped “the salubrious climate” would be “beneficial to their health.”31 William remained at Vailoa until the end of the school year and, on his return, joined the Australasian Union Conference Treasury Department at Wahroonga.32

Years in Finance and Administration

At the 1942 Australasian Union Conference annual meeting, William Petrie was appointed to the position of Australasian Union Conference secretary.33 His change from a career in teaching to one in finance and administration was complete. He was ordained to the gospel ministry on December 18, 1942.34 Eight years as secretary-treasurer of the Queensland Conference (1944–1952) were followed by a welcome return to Petrie’s home conference, South New Zealand, for the following eight years as secretary-treasurer (1952–1954) and president (1955–1960). William Petrie’s final appointment prior to retirement was to North New Zealand as secretary-treasurer (1961–March 1967).35 Throughout these years in administration, he demonstrated a penchant for the visitation of isolated members and the country churches.36

Irralee gave faithful support to her husband, occasionally visiting around the churches as home duties permitted. Her hobby was the creation of baby clothes, the sale of which financed her children through college. William was a keen gardener and an expert at knitting.37

Retirement Years

In July 1967, Pastor and Mrs. Petrie moved into the Retirement Village at Cooranbong and took pleasure in hearing of the work of their children as they served the denomination both in mission service and in Australasia. It gave the parents joy and a degree of pride that their offspring followed in their faith and work responsibilities. Lorna remembers her father as a great reciter of poetry.38 Arthur recalled that while in Samoa, the family became fluent in the Samoan language and often took pleasure in discussing fa’a-Samoa around the family table.39

William Woodfield Petrie’s death came unexpectedly on September 28, 1991.40 Irralee died on October 31, 1994.41 They are buried in the Avondale Adventist Cemetery.

Sources

“Australasian Union Conference Annual Meeting.” Australasian Record, October 5, 1942.

“Brother W. W. Petrie, accompanied. . . .” Australasian Record, October 28, 1935.

“Brother W. W. Petrie, lately. . . .” Australasian Record, January 12, 1942.

“Closing Exercises at the New Zealand Missionary School.” Australasian Record, January 31, 1927.

“Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, September 12, 1932.

“Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, September 18, 1933.

Goldstone, S. Ross. “William Woodfield Petrie obituary.” Record, December 14, 1991.

“Graduates: 1930 Australasian Missionary College.” 59th Annual Announcements, 1930. South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale University College, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.

Hay, David E. Samoa: 100+ Years. Tighes Hill, N.S.W.: WHO Presentation Services, 2005.

“Investiture Service, Samoa.” Australasian Record, October 7, 1940.

Lindsay, Allan, and John Howse. “Irralee Blanche Petrie obituary.” Record, January 14, 1995.

McLaren, G. “A Wonderful Venture in New Guinea.” Australasian Record, August 13, 1934.

“Petrie-Ball marriage.” Australasian Record, February 6, 1933.

Petrie, Irralee. “An Investiture in Samoa.” Australasian Record, October 23, 1939.

Petrie, W. W. “Experiences in New Guinea.” Australasian Record, December 3, 1934.

———. “First Impressions of Mission Life.” Australasian Record, April 17, 1933.

———. “New House on Matupi, New Guinea.” Australasian Record, December 4, 1933.

———. “Vailoa Band, Samoa.” Australasian Record, January 17, 1938.

“Recommendations from the Annual Meeting.” Australasian Record, December 13, 1943.

“Reinforcements to the Island Mission Field.” Australasian Record, September 16, 1935.

“Sister W. W. Petrie and two. . . .” Australasian Record, October 27, 1941.

“South New South Wales.” Australasian Record, April 18, 1931.

“South New Zealand.” Australasian Record, February 11, 1924.

Stewart, A. G. “Arrival in the Territory of New Guinea.” Australasian Record, April 29, 1935.

———. “En Route to New Guinea.” Australasian Record, April 17, 1933.

———. “General Meeting in Samoa.” Australasian Record, August 24, 1936.

Stockton, H. “New Helpers for New Guinea.” Australasian Record, March 6, 1933.

Stratford, S. V. “En Route to Society Islands.” Australasian Record, January 23, 1939.

“Vailoa College, Samoa.” Australasian Record, February 19, 1940.

Were, L. F. “Invercargill.” Australasian Record, January 14, 1924.

William Woodfield Petrie Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield.” Document: “Biographical Information Blank.”

William Woodfield Petrie Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield.” Document: “Petrie, William Woodfield.”

William Woodfield Petrie Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield.” Document: “Personal Service Record.”

William Woodfield Petrie birth certificate N. 246535. Personal collection of Arthur J. Petrie.

Notes

  1. William Woodfield Petrie birth certificate N. 246535, personal collection of Arthur J. Petrie.

  2. William Woodfield Petrie Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield,” Document: “Biographical Information Blank.”

  3. Arthur John Petrie, interview by the author, October 4, 2019, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.

  4. “South New Zealand,” Australasian Record, February 11, 1924, 3; L. F. Were, “Invercargill,” Australasian Record, January 14, 1924, 7.

  5. “Closing Exercises at the New Zealand Missionary School,” Australasian Record, January 31, 1927, 6.

  6. “Graduates: 1930 Australasian Missionary College,” 59th Annual Announcements, 1930, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale University College, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.

  7. For example, see “South New South Wales,” Australasian Record, April 18, 1931, 4.

  8. Ibid.; “Petri-Ball marriage,” Australasian Record, February 6, 1933, 7.

  9. “Petrie-Ball marriage,” 7.

  10. “Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, September 12, 1932, 5.

  11. H. Stockton, “New Helpers for New Guinea,” Australasian Record, March 6, 1933, 8.

  12. Wm. W. Petrie, “First Impressions of Mission Life,” Australasian Record, April 17, 1933, 2–3.

  13. Wm. W Petrie, “New House on Matupi, New Guinea,” Australasian Record, December 4, 1933, 3; William Woodfield Petrie Biographical Records, “Biographical Information Blank.”

  14. A. G. Stewart, “En Route to New Guinea,” Australasian Record, April 17, 1933, 8.

  15. “Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, September 18, 1933, 5.

  16. G. McLaren, “A Wonderful Venture in New Guinea,” Australasian Record, August 13, 1934, 8.

  17. W. W. Petrie, “Experiences in New Guinea,” Australasian Record, December 3, 1934, 8.

  18. A. G. Stewart, “Arrival in the Territory of New Guinea,” Australasian Record, April 29, 1935, 2.

  19. “Reinforcements to the Island Mission Field,” Australasian Record, September 16, 1935, 8.

  20. “Brother W. W. Petrie, accompanied . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 28, 1935, 8.

  21. David E. Hay, Samoa: 100+ Years (Tighes Hill, N.S.W.: WHO Presentation Services, 2005), 180–181.

  22. S. V. Stratford, “En Route to Society Islands, Samoa,” Australasian Record, January 23, 1939, 3.

  23. A. G. Stewart, “General Meeting in Samoa,” Australasian Record, August 24, 1936, 2–3.

  24. Stratford, “En Route to Society Islands,” 2–3.

  25. W. W. Petrie, “Vailoa Band, Samoa,” Australasian Record, January 17, 1938, 6; “Vailoa College, Samoa,” Australasian Record, February 19, 1940, 6–7.

  26. Hay, Samoa: 100+ Years, 191.

  27. “Vailoa College, Samoa,” 6–7.

  28. William Woodfield Petrie Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield,” Document: “Petrie, William Woodfield.”

  29. Ibid.

  30. Irralee Petrie, “An Investiture in Samoa,” Australasian Record, October 23, 1939, 5; “Investiture Service, Samoa,” Australasian Record, October 7, 1940, 4.

  31. “Sister W. W. Petrie and two . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 27, 1941, 8.

  32. “Brother W. W. Petrie, lately . . . ,” Australasian Record, January 12, 1942, 8.

  33. “Australasian Union Conference Annual Meeting,” Australasian Record, October 5, 1942, 4.

  34. “Recommendations from the Annual Meeting,” Australasian Record, December 13, 1943, 8; William Woodfield Petrie Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Petrie, William Woodfield,” Document: “Personal Service Record.”

  35. Ibid.

  36. Arthur John Petrie, interview.

  37. Ibid.

  38. Lorna (Petrie) Akroyd, interview by the author, October 4, 2019, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.

  39. Arthur John Petrie, interview.

  40. S. Ross Goldstone, “William Woodfield Petrie obituary,” Record, December 14, 1991, 14.

  41. Allan Lindsay and John Howse, “Irralee Blanche Petrie obituary,” Record, January 14, 1995, 14.

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Goldstone, Ross. "Petrie, William Woodfield (1900–1991) and Irralee Blanche (Ball) (1908–1994)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed September 21, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B82M.

Goldstone, Ross. "Petrie, William Woodfield (1900–1991) and Irralee Blanche (Ball) (1908–1994)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access September 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B82M.

Goldstone, Ross (2021, January 09). Petrie, William Woodfield (1900–1991) and Irralee Blanche (Ball) (1908–1994). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B82M.