The Rev Cecil Alexander Tobin, 1856 – 1938

The Rev Cecil Tobin was the long serving vicar of Burwood All Saints Anglican Church.

Arrival in New Zealand

Cecil was the youngest son of G.W. Tobin, Captain of Second Queen’s Royal Regiment, and was born in Exmouth, England in 1856. He grew up in Devon and was educated at King Alfred’s School, and Oxford University. He came to New Zealand on board the S.S. Norfolk in 1878 and began teaching the Māori in the Kaipara district. He became fluent in Māori during his six years there.

Priesthood and moving to Canterbury

He then moved on to Auckland to attend St John’s Theological College (1883 - 1886) and Auckland University (1884 - 1885). During this time he also taught as first assistant master at Parnell’s Church Grammar School (1884 - 1886).

Ordained deacon and priest in 1889 Rev Tobin served as vicar of Paparoa (1886 - 1892), vicar of Amberley and Waikari (1892 - 1910), and finally vicar of Burwood (1910 - 1937). He was also chaplin at Bottle Lake Hospital (Burwood Hospital) and Te Oranga reformatory (Kingslea).

Rev Tobin was a skilled linguist, a gifted musician with an excellent baritone voice, and of a strong minded upright character. In 1890 he married Sarah Elizabeth Browne in Auckland.

Burwood All Saints

During Rev Tobin’s time at Burwood All Saints, the 1918 Influenza Epidemic struck the country and the residents of Burwood were not spared. Attempts to protect them were made by spraying them with a zinc sulphate mixture as they were herded through a tramcar trailer but these actions proved to be useless. Rev Tobin took an active role in the care of his parishioners and he cycled round checking on them. If anyone was found sick or in need he would send his wife or daughters to help where they could.

After Mrs Tobin died in 1930, his widowed daughter Norah came to live with him at the vicarage. She suggested that he get a dog. At first he was unenthusiastic but soon changed his mind when Terry arrived. The dog followed Rev Tobin as he cycled round to visit his parishioners, and in church he could be found under the back pew during services.

Rev Tobin’s ministry at Burwood All Saints lasted 27 years. He was the oldest Christchurch Anglican priest still in charge of a parish when he went into retirement.

In 1938 Rev Tobin died and was buried in the churchyard of his church. His wife and some of his family are buried with or near him.

A small subdivision off Bassett Street now has its right of way named after Rev Cecil Alexander Tobin. Tobin’s Lane is a fitting acknowledgment for a well-known identity who played a significant role in the early history of Burwood.


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