Richard and Doreen Syme, October 1964.

From Australasian Record, June 14, 1965.

Syme, Richard Creswick (1910–1965)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 17, 2022

Richard Creswick Syme served as an administrator in several Adventist schools, including principal at New Zealand Missionary College (now Longburn Adventist College).

Early Life

Richard Creswick Syme was born in London in 1910 to David James Andrew Syme and his wife, Margaret Annie (Whebell). His father was a window-cleaner. Richard had three siblings: Margaret Joan (b.1905), Mary Elizabeth (b.1907), and Eric Douglas (b.1912).1 He was confirmed in the Anglican Church and received his basic education in government institutions, finishing in 1927 at Owen’s School, a sixteenth-century grammar school. He then worked in the insurance business for three years. He accepted the Seventh-day Adventist faith in 1931 after attending a crusade by Elder Roy Allan Anderson. His employer would not accommodate Sabbath privileges; so, Richard had to find casual work during the difficult Depression years. Under these adverse circumstances he worked his way through Newbold College, graduating from the ministerial course in 1938. In 1939 he married Doreen Lavinia Ilott, a welfare worker and volunteer aid nurse.2

During the Second World War Richard served in the armed forces in Algeria and Tunisia as a Lance Sergeant with the Royal Corps of Signals. He was awarded a British Empire Medal.3 Following his war service, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree and accepted the government offer of a special teacher-training course and then taught in public schools.4

Leadership in Church Education

In 1954 Richard accepted the role as principal of Stanborough Elementary and Secondary School, the headquarters educational institution of the British Union Mission in Watford, Hertsfordshire. At the time the enrollment was approximately three hundred students.5 He established a new science laboratory and a woodwork instruction shop.6 As the school grew, he organized and provided boarding accommodation on campus, beginning in 1958.7 He served as principal until 1961, during which time he was ordained to the gospel ministry.8

After seven years as principal at Stanborough, Richard accepted the invitation to transfer to the secondary school at Strathfield, suburban Sydney, Australia. He taught English, Modern History, Ancient History, Bible, French, and Social Studies. He then transferred to the role of principal at New Zealand Missionary College (now Longburn Adventist College), arriving in January 1965 to begin the school year.9

During the first school break, Richard met with a horrific accident. He and Doreen and teenage son, Jeremy, were visiting the Rotorua thermal area, a popular tourist venue, when their dog fell into a hot pool. Richard knelt to pull their pet to safety but the edge broke under his weight and he was thrown into the scaulding water. Doreen and Jeremy managed to drag him out without further calamity, and he was rushed by ambulance to the local hospital. The severity and extent of his burns proved to be overwhelming, and he passed away four days later on May 18, 1965. His older son, David, flew in from Australia, and a committal service was held at the Palmeston North Crematorium near the college campus.10 His ashes remain at the nearby Kelvin Grove Cemetery.11 The tragedy brought a melancholy cloud over the communities where he had worked in Britain and Australasia, for he was a sterling character and dearly loved teacher and pastor cut off in his prime.

Sources

“After a period of serious consideration…” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 20, 1964.

Griffith, Brenda. “Speech Night at Stanborough School.” British Advent Messenger, January 10, 1958.

McMillan, J[ohn] A. “Institutional Expansion.” British Advent Messenger, April 17, 1959.

“Richard Creswick Syme.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Accessed December 27, 2020. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRV5-DF4.

“Richard Creswick Syme.” Palmeston North City Council Cemetery. Accessed December 27, 2020. https://www.pncc.govt.nz/services/cemetery-and-cremation-search/?LastName=syme&FirstName=richard&Year=1965&Cemetery=.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1955-1965.

Stokes, F[rank] L. “Life Sketch of Pastor R.C. Syme.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1965.

Stokes, F[rank] L. “Richard Creswick Syme.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1965.

Syme, R[ichard]. “Our Educational Work.” British Advent Messenger, September 6, 1957.

Notes

  1. “Richard Creswick Syme,” FamilySearch. Intellectual Reserve, 2021, accessed December 27, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRV5-DF4.

  2. F[rank] L. Stokes, “Life Sketch of Pastor R.C. Syme,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1965, 6.

  3. “Richard Creswick Syme,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed December 27, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LRV5-DF4.

  4. F[rank] L. Stokes, “Life Sketch of Pastor R.C. Syme,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1965, 6.

  5. R[ichard] Syme, “Our Educational Work,” British Advent Messenger, September 6, 1957, 6-7.

  6. Brenda Griffith, “Speech Night at Stanborough School,” British Advent Messenger, January 10, 1958, 8-10.

  7. J[ohn] A. McMillan, “Institutional Expansion,” British Advent Messenger, April 17, 1959, 1-2.

  8. “British Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1959), 136-137.

  9. “After a period of serious consideration…” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 20, 1964, 16.

  10. F[rank] L. Stokes, “Richard Creswick Syme,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1965, 7.

  11. “Richard Creswick Syme,” Palmeston North City Council Cemetery, accessed December 27, 2020, https://www.pncc.govt.nz/services/cemetery-and-cremation-search/?LastName=syme&FirstName=richard&Year=1965&Cemetery=.

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Hook, Milton. "Syme, Richard Creswick (1910–1965)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 17, 2022. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJA0.

Hook, Milton. "Syme, Richard Creswick (1910–1965)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 17, 2022. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJA0.

Hook, Milton (2022, January 17). Syme, Richard Creswick (1910–1965). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BJA0.