People’s Priest: The story of a QT boy made good
HE WAS a charismatic story teller, a people's priest, and a proud husband and father whose life was taken too soon.
Although he died at a relatively young age of 50, former Queensland Times cadet journalist and Anglican priest Vernon Cornish had a profound effect on author Christine Ledger, who has devoted a book to his life.
Mrs Ledger crossed paths with Cornish while he was serving as the rector at St Luke's in Toowoomba.
"He and his wife Dell made an impression on me," Mrs Ledger said.
Cornish rose to the position of assistant bishop in Perth and then took up the posting of Bishop in Tasmania, but died shortly after arriving in the Apple Isle in early 1982.
Despite his career taking him across Australia, Cornish's early life in Ipswich was instrumental.
"He was the eldest of three boys and it was quite a remarkable family in that both his parents were talented musicians and theatre performers," Mrs Ledger said.
"They were members of the Ipswich Little Theatre and his mother taught speech, drama and music.
"Before arriving in Australia from England, his father worked in silent movies."
In fact, the performing arts were Cornish's original passions - before newspapers and the church.
He won a scholarship to the School of Dramatic Art in London, but was unable to take advantage of it because of his family's finances and the fact that England was still considered too dangerous post World War II.
That left him to take up a cadetship at the Queensland Times in 1949, where he wrote an arts column titled "Backstage" while also reporting on a variety of general news topics.
"He was a natural storyteller who loved people and he really enjoyed his time at the QT."
It was while attending religious summer school that Cornish realised he wanted to be an Anglican priest.
He studied at St Francis Theological College in Milton.
Rather than being a step in a completely different direction from his earlier interests, it turned out Cornish's outgoing nature served him well in his new career path.
He was known as a talented speaker and even had a religious program on television in the early days of TV in Queensland.
"All of his skills came together," Mrs Ledger said.
"He was quite a public figure when he was serving in Perth. The journalists were always chasing him for his comments on things."
A natural comedian and storyteller, Vernon would fill his sermons with engaging anecdotes and illustrations including those from his time as a journalist.
Ms Ledger's biography is titled, Who Is This Vernon Cornish?, after a question posed by acclaimed British actor Derek Nimmo in 1976.
Ms Ledger said she was determined Vernon's voice was not lost.
"It is both a challenge and a privilege to write about a solidly good person, a faithful and reliable spiritual companion to many," Ms Ledger said.
She said she believed the book would resonate with Ipswich residents due to its on focus one of the city's prominent families.
Vernon's father was the rector at St Paul's Church for more than 20 years.
Vernon's brother Hugh was the first man to appear on television in Queensland in 1959 and later became manager of QTQ9.
The book can be purchased online and at a planned book launch in Toowoomba later this year.
Click here for the paperback version.