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David Down in his fifties.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Ward.

Down, David Kyrle (1918–2018)

By Michelle Down

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Michelle Down, M.A. (CSU, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia) retired in 2018 as director of Library Services at Avondale College of Higher Education. She spent the first 18 years of her life in India before returning to her homeland, Australia. Michelle writes regularly for Guide magazine and in retirement is involved with several volunteer projects, including coordinating an eBook publishing course for seniors.

First Published: January 29, 2020

David Kyrle Down was a missionary, evangelist, pastor, and author from Australia. Down was well known in the secular world, as well as in Adventist circles, for his knowledge of biblical archaeology. Down authored a correspondence Bible course based on archaeology. He and a crew from the Adventist Media Centre traveled to the Middle East and filmed an evangelistic series on location that they called Digging Up the Past.

Early Life

David Kyrle Down was born in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, on April 9, 1918, the son of Lesley Kyrle Down (1890–1934) and Mabel Taylor Kerr (1891–1973). His grandfather, Percy Kyrle Down (1865–1954), was married to Eva (1867–1942), who became a Seventh-day Adventist at the age of 57. Percy had no time for religion, but was a good man who never drank or smoked. He eventually became a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) when he was 89 years old.1 A street in the suburb of Preston, Down Street, is named after him.2

Les Down died of pneumonia when David was only 16 years old. Les had been a successful business man, but was not so successful at the races, or at curbing his drinking habit.3 As creditors took everything they possessed after the death of his father,4 David had to leave school to help support his mother and younger sister, Peg (1927–2011) (who married Fred Nash [1920–1990]; she and Fred were missionary teachers in India).5 When World War II loomed, David left work to join the army, becoming a lieutenant.6

However, David’s life direction changed when he became a Seventh-day Adventist after attending an evangelistic series run by J. B. Conley in 1940.7 As a result, David’s mother disowned him, and his wealthy uncle cut him out of his will,8 but David stayed firm and enrolled at Avondale College to do the theology course, finishing in 1944.9

Early Ministry (1945–1952)

David’s first appointment was to Lismore in 1945,10 where he again met Goldie Scarr, whom he had known at Avondale. They were married in Lismore by Harold J. Myers on September 8, 1946.11 David was passionate about winning souls and saw his calling as an evangelist. Records indicate that his first series was held in Ballina, where he opened with the title “Is World Peace Imminent?”12

In 1948 David was sent to New Zealand, where he held an evangelistic series in Auckland with upward of 25 people baptized.13 A feature of the meetings was the children’s choir, conducted by 12-year-old John Chermside.14

Further series were held in Feilding, in the Tivoli Theatre (1950),15 and in the Regent Theatre in Palmerston North (1951).16 David was ordained in Auckland in 1951.17 After four years in New Zealand the family returned to Australia and were stationed in Gympie in 1952 and then Bundaberg in 1953.18

Missionary Service (1953–1973)

They were in Bundaberg for only a couple of months before they were called to Calcutta, India,19 leaving March 31 on the Stratheden and arriving in Bombay on April 16, 1953.20

David started work right away with his first evangelistic series held in the Menoka Cinema,21 which thousands attended.22 A baptism was held in 1954 in which 82 people were baptized,23 four of them Hindu.24 Another series was held in 1955 in the compound of the English church in 36 Park Street, Calcutta, assisted by Lyn Burns.25

David held meetings in Shillong, Assam, in 1955 and 1956,26 and Patna in 1957.27 By now the Downs were due a furlough, and David decided to take the family from India to England by Jeep and homemade caravan,28 visiting the lands of the Bible en route. It was a hazardous trip, as tourists were rare in that era, but Goldie wrote a book about their adventures,29 and the experience whetted David’s appetite for archaeology. He wrote a series of articles for the Southern Asia Tidings about their trip.30

The family now settled in Ranchi (1959–1960) and David obtained a metal “tabernacle” in which to hold his meetings.31 The next move was back to Calcutta for three years32 before taking another furlough in Australia in 1964. David lectured in the Theology Department at Avondale College during this time.33

The family settled in Saharanpur on their return to India34 for two years, 1965–1966. In 1967 they were stationed in Roorkee,35 and David led a group of Indian ministers on a one-month tour of the Bible lands, which was cut short because of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War.36

Dehra Dun was the next appointment in 1968–1969 and it was here that David ran a training school for seven young workers along with his evangelistic series.37

In March 1969 David and the family drove by car and caravan again38 to England and then flew to America, where David completed a semester of archaeological studies at Andrews University under Siegfried Horn.39 From 1970 to 1972 the family were in Hubli, and then Bangalore.40

Australian Ministry (1973–1982)

David returned to Australia on permanent return in February 1973, where he was appointed the pastor of Woollhara church, Sydney.41 He held meetings in Petersham, Paddington, Bondi, and Woollahra42 before running a series in the Sydney Opera House in 1976.43 Tickets had to be purchased to attend the opera house meetings, which enabled them to be self-supporting, and David ran programs each July in the opera house for the next 21 years.44 David also pastored Stanmore church and ended his working life as pastor of the Richmond and Windsor churches, 1980–1982.45

Retirement (1983–2018)

David retired in 198346 and became busier than ever, leading yearly tours to the Bible lands, preaching on Sabbaths, running programs in the opera house, and running a number of series of meetings, by invitation, in New Zealand, Russia, Canada, and all over Australia.47 He lectured at the Hornsby TAFE adult education classes for a few years, founded an archaeological club with chapters all over Australia, and in 1984 began a small black-and-white magazine entitled Diggings.48 Ten years later he launched a glossy color magazine, Archaeological Diggings,49 which remained in publication for 22 years.50

In 1985 David authored a correspondence Bible course based on archaeology called Digging Up the Past, produced by the Adventist Media Centre. Six thousand were printed in January and by November they were into their second print run.51 It was their most popular course for many years.52 The course was advertised in Reader’s Digest in 1986, and more than 2,400 people requested the series, with 45 percent continuing with other courses offered by the Adventist Media Centre.53

David’s knowledge and enthusiasm for archaeology grew, and in 1987 he and a crew from the Adventist Media Centre traveled to the Middle East and filmed an evangelistic series on location that they called Digging Up the Past.54 There were 27 episodes, and they proved to be popular with audiences both in Australia and overseas, and were often aired on Hope Channel and 3ABN, as well as Adventist World Radio.55 David, at his request, received no remuneration for any of these programs, and any money earned from his tours was likewise put into outreach work.56

David was aware that accepted Egyptian chronology did not support the biblical account, and supported the chronology proposed by Loma Linda University scholar Donovan Courville.57 In 2006 he collaborated with John Ashton in writing a book titled Unwrapping the Pharaohs,58 which went into a second print. This was followed by The Archaeology Book in 201059 and Unveiling the Kings of Israel in 2011.60

Goldie Down died in 2003,61 and David married his former sweetheart, Lorna Harrison (Stevens).62 David was still active into his early 90s, but failing eyesight eventually prevented him from continuing his ministry. He died in Alton Lodge on March 16, 2018, just three weeks short of his 100th birthday.63

Legacy

Sometimes referred to as “Mr. Archaeology,” David became well known in the secular world, as well as in Adventist circles, for his knowledge of biblical archaeology. Local newspapers reported on his activities, and he was a popular presenter at events such as Creation science conferences and Rotary clubs and was once interviewed on the Ray Martin Midday Show. He was regularly interviewed on radio by Gordon Moyes from the Wesley Mission and wrote often for Creation magazine. He conducted "digs” after each tour and became well known and respected by Israeli archaeologists.64

David never missed an opportunity to witness, and he regarded the tours, videos, interviews, magazines, articles, and books as his way of promoting the Bible and its teachings. Many can trace their interest in the SDA Church to the videos they watched or the articles they read about archaeology.65

Sources

Anderson, T. A. "Percy Kyrle Down obituary." Australasian Record, August 9, 1954.

Ashton, John and David Down. Unwrapping the Pharaohs: How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006.

Bridcutt, Tracey. "Final Edition of Diggings Magazine." Adventist Record, May 21, 2016.

Campbell, James M. "Seven Complete One-Year Training." Southern Asia Tidings, May 1969.

Charles, Vijayan, Lal Singh, Goldie Down, A. T. Thomas, and D. P. David. "Bible Lands Tour Ends Abruptly: Group Retun Home Safely." Southern Asia Tidings, July 1967.

"Corresponding." Record, December 7, 1991.

Courville, Donovan A. The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications: A Critical Examination of the Chronological Relationships between Israel and the Contemporary Peoples of Antiquity. 2 vols. Loma Linda, CA: Challenge Books, 1971.

David Kyrle Down Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: "Down, David Kyrle." Document: "Biographical Information Blank, March 19, 1950.”

David Kyrle Down Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: "Down, David Kyrle." Document: "Biographical Information Blank, March 18, 1975."

Devenish, Nat. "Reaching Millions in 1992." Record, April 11, 1992.

Devenish, Nat E. "Personally Yours." Media Centre News. January 1985.

"Diggings Is Now 10 Years Old." Record, June 11, 1994.

Down, D. K. "DKD Sydney 1973-1978." Unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2138.

———. "Evangelism in Calcutta," Eastern Tidings December 15, 1953.

———. "God Gives Increase in Calcutta." Australasian Record, October 25, 1954.

———. "Is World Peace Imminent?" Auckland–Feilding Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Return to Calcutta." Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 21, 1962.

———. "Screen Pictures of Amazing Discoveries in Bible Lands." Auckland–Feilding Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ." Auckland–Feilding Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ." Calcutta (Manoharpukur) Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ." Shillong–Khasii Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Screen Pictures of the Stars." Shillong Scrapbook. Held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

Down, David. The Archaeology Book. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2010.

———. Unveiling the Kings of Israel: Revealing the Bible's Archaeological History. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011.

Down, David K. “My Life Story.” Unpublished memoirs, 2011, held in the personal collection of the author.

Down, Goldie M. "Adventists in the Opera House." Australasian Record, August 2, 1976.

———. "Auckland Mission." Australasian Record, December 5, 1949.

———. "Backyard Evangelism." Australasian Record, February 14, 1955.

———. Cup of Fortune: A Story of Six Generations. Self-published, n.d.

———. "Diary, 1969." Unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2137.

———. "Journey into Afghanistan." Australasian Record, June 23, 1958.

———. Missionary to Calcutta: City of Contrasts. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1959.

———. "Travel Diary 1973." Unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Box 2257.

———. Twenty-one Thousand Miles of Adventure. Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1964.

"Down's Magazine." Record, August 20, 1994.

Dunstan, Lee. "Adventist Archaeology Icon Dies." Adventist Record, April 7, 2018.

"Fifteen have been baptised . . ." Southern Asia Tidings, September 1967.

Lall, B. Mohan. "Our Effort in Calcutta." Southern Asia Tidings, September 1, 1954.

Lange, O. W. "Cities of Northwest under Intense Evangelistic Programmes." Southern Asia Tidings, June 1966.

Laredo, Larry. "Media Centre Films Video Series in Ancient Bible Lands." Record, October 3, 1987.

Meyers, H. J. “Down–Scarr marriage.” Australasian Record, October 7, 1946.

“Miscellany.” Southern Asia Tidings, May 15, 1953.

"More than 2400 people . . ." South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, March 22, 1986.

Samson, Mysore. "Down Team Holds City Audience." Southern Asia Tidings, January 1972.

Storz, W. F. "Ranchi Tabernacle." Southern Asia Tidings, August 15, 1960.

Notes

  1. T. A. Anderson, "Percy Kyrle Down obituary," Australasian Record, August 9, 1954, 15.

  2. Katie Junior, Darebin Libraries, email message to author, December 11, 2018.

  3. Goldie M. Down, Cup of Fortune: A Story of Six Generations (self-published, n.d.), 36.

  4. Ibid.

  5. “Miscellany,” Southern Asia Tidings, May 1, 1958, 8.

  6. Captain, 4FD. Regt., to Lieutenant D. K. Down, April 26, 1941, private letter, held in the personal collection of the author.

  7. David Kyrle Down Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives (Folder: "Down, David Kyrle"; Document: "Biographical Information Blank, March 19, 1950").

  8. Personal knowledge of the author as the daughter of David Down.

  9. D. K. Down, “Biographical Information Blank, March 19, 1950.”

  10. Ibid.

  11. H. J. Meyers, “Down–Scarr marriage,” Australasian Record, October 7, 1946, 7.

  12. D. K. Down, "Is World Peace Imminent?" Auckland–Feidling Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  13. Goldie M. Down, "Auckland Mission," Australasian Record, December 5, 1949, 8.

  14. D. K. Down, "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ," Auckland–Feilding Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  15. Ibid.

  16. D. K. Down, "Screen Pictures of Amazing Discoveries in Bible Lands" Auckland–Feilding Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  17. David Kyrle Down Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives (Folder: "Down, David Kyrle"; Document: "Biographical Information Blank, March 18, 1975").

  18. David K. Down, “My Life Story,” unpublished memoirs, 2011, held in the personal collection of the author, 12.

  19. Goldie M. Down, Missionary to Calcutta: City of Contrasts (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1959), 42.

  20. “Miscellany,” Southern Asia Tidings, May 15, 1953, 8.

  21. D. K. Down, "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ," Calcutta (Manoharpukur) Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  22. D. K. Down, "Evangelism in Calcutta," Eastern Tidings, December 15, 1953, 3.

  23. B. Mohan Lall, "Our Effort in Calcutta," Southern Asia Tidings, September 1, 1954, 6, 7.

  24. D. K. Down, "God Gives Increase in Calcutta," Australasian Record, October 25, 1954, 7, 8.

  25. Goldie M. Down, "Backyard Evangelism," Australasian Record, February 14, 1955, 4.

  26. D. K. Down, "Screen Pictures of the Stars," Shillong Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  27. D. K. Down, "Screen Pictures of the Life of Christ," Shillong–Khasi Scrapbook, held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  28. Goldie M. Down, "Journey into Afghanistan," Australasian Record, June 23, 1958, 6.

  29. Goldie M. Down, Twenty-one Thousand Miles of Adventure (Nashville,: Southern Publishing Association, 1964).

  30. Pastor and Mrs. D. K. Down, “Journeys in Afghanistan,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1, 1958, 8, 10; D. K. Down, “Through Persia,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 15, 1958, 6, 7; D. K. Down, “Sabbath in Shushan,” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1, 1958, 10, 11, 9; D. K. Down, “Ur to Babylon,” Southern Asia Tidings, September 15, 1958, 8, 9; D. K. Down, “Babylon,” Southern Asia Tidings, October 1, 1958, 5, 6, 8; D. K. Down, “Baghdad to Iran,” Southern Asia Tidings, October 15, 1958, 12; D. K. Down, “Petra,” Southern Asia Tidings, November 1, 1958, 6, 7; D. K. Down, “Other Side of Jordan,” Southern Asia Tidings, November 15, 1958, 5, 6; D. K Down, “Jericho,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1, 1958, 9, 10; D. K. Down, “Going up to Jerusalem,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 15, 1958, 6, 7; D. K. Down, “Calvary,” Southern Asia Tidings, January 1, 1959, 6, 7; D. K. Down, “Calvary,” Southern Asia Tidings, January 15, 1959, 7, 5; D. K. Down, “The Land of Kings and Patriarchs,” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1, 1959, 6, 7; D. K. Down, “Samaria,” Southern Asia Tidings, February 15, 1959, 10, 11; D. K. Down, “The New Jerusalem,” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1, 1959, 10, 11; D. K. Down, “Jerusalem to Joppa,” Southern Asia Tidings, April 1, 1959, 10, 11; D. K. Down, “Philistine Memories,” Southern Asia Tidings, April 15, 1959, 10, 11; D. K. Down, “Nazareth,” Southern Asia Tidings, May 1, 1959, 8, 9, 11; D. K. Down, “Miracle Villages,” Southern Asia Tidings, May 15, 1959, 2, 3, 7; D. K. Down, “Galilee,” Southern Asia Tidings, June 1, 1959, 5–7; D. K. Down, “From Dan to Beersheba,” Southern Asia Tidings, June 15, 1959, 8–10; D. K. Down, “Macedonia,” Southern Asia Tidings, July 15, 1959, 9, 10.

  31. W. F. Storz, "Ranchi Tabernacle," Southern Asia Tidings, August 15, 1960, 9.

  32. D. K. Down, "Return to Calcutta," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 21, 1962, 1.

  33. David K. Down, “My Life Story,” 22.

  34. O. W. Lange, "Cities of Northwest under Intense Evangelistic Programmes," Southern Asia Tidings, June 1966, 4.

  35. "Fifteen have been baptised . . . ," Southern Asia Tidings, September 1967, 13.

  36. Vijayan Charles et al., "Bible Lands Tour Ends Abruptly: Group Retun Home Safely," Southern Asia Tidings, July, 1967: 1, 3, 6, 7.

  37. James M. Campbell, "Seven Complete One-Year Training," Southern Asia Tidings, May 1969, 17.

  38. Goldie M. Down, "Diary, 1969," unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2137.

  39. David K. Down, “My Life Story,” 2.

  40. Mysore Samson, "Down Team Holds City Audience," Southern Asia Tidings, January 1972, 12, 13.

  41. Goldie M. Down, "Travel Diary 1973," unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2257.

  42. D. K. Down, "Dkd Sydney, 1973-1978," unpublished document held in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Box 2138.

  43. Goldie M. Down, "Adventists in the Opera House," Australasian Record, August 2, 1976, 10.

  44. David K. Down, “My Life Story,” 2.

  45. Ibid.

  46. D. K. Down, "Biographical Information Blank, March 19, 1950."

  47. Personal knowledge of the author as the daughter of David Down.

  48. D. K. Down, “My Life Story,” 2.

  49. "Down's Magazine," Record, August 20, 1994, 4.

  50. Tracey Bridcutt, "Final Edition of Diggings Magazine," Adventist Record, May 21, 2016, 3.

  51. Nat E. Devenish, "Personally Yours," Media Centre News, January 1985.

  52. "Corresponding," Record, December 7, 1991, 8.

  53. "More than 2400 people . . . , " South Pacific Record and Adventist World Survey, March 22, 1986, 16.

  54. Larry Laredo, "Media Centre Films Video Series in Ancient Bible Lands," Record, October 3, 1987, 11.

  55. Nat E. Devenish, "Reaching Millions in 1992," Record, April 11, 1992, 6, 7.

  56. Personal knowledge of the author as the daughter of David Down.

  57. Donovan A. Courville, The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications: A Critical Examination of the Chronological Relationships between Israel and the Contemporary Peoples of Antiquity, 2 vols. (Loma Linda, CA: Challenge Books, 1971).

  58. John Ashton and David Down, Unwrapping the Pharaohs: How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006).

  59. David Down, The Archaeology Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2010).

  60. David Down, Unveiling the Kings of Israel: Revealing the Bible's Archaeological History (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011).

  61. Bruce Manners, “Goldie Down: Her Last Story,” Record, February 7, 2004, 7.

  62. D. K. Down, “My Life Story,” 4.

  63. Lee Dunstan, "Adventist Archaeology Icon Dies," Adventist Record, April 7, 2018, 4.

  64. D. K. Down, “My Life Story,” 4.

  65. "Diggings Is Now 10 Years Old," Record, June 11, 1994, 12.

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Down, Michelle. "Down, David Kyrle (1918–2018)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed February 09, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG5I.

Down, Michelle. "Down, David Kyrle (1918–2018)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access February 09, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG5I.

Down, Michelle (2020, January 29). Down, David Kyrle (1918–2018). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 09, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BG5I.