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Pilot, Boggo (1921–1981)

by Anna Shnukal

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Boggo Pilot (1921-1981), Anglican clergyman, was born on 30 January 1921 at Erub (Darnley Island), Torres Strait, eighth of ten children of Epei Bailate Asai Pilot and his second wife Emma, née Sagiba, both from chiefly families. Members of the family had been Christians since 1871 when evangelists from the London Missionary Society came to Erub. Boggo was baptised on 20 February 1921 and confirmed on 26 May 1933 at All Saints’ Church of England, Erub. Educated at the local primary school, in 1936 he attended the Queensland government’s training college for native teachers on Mabuiag Island, and worked as a monitor-teacher on Erub for three years. Late in 1939 he entered St Paul’s Theological College, Moa Island. Due to World War II the college closed early in 1942 and on 6 June Pilot enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces. Assigned to the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion, Thursday Island, he was promoted to lance corporal on 4 December and to corporal on 4 November 1944. He married Louisa Nazareth (Babai) Mye, an assistant schoolteacher, on 27 July 1945 at All Saints’ Church, Erub.

Discharged from the CMF on 20 June 1946, Pilot resumed his theological studies. He was awarded a Th.A. from the Australian College of Theology and was made deacon on 13 March 1949. Appointed Carpentaria curate of All Souls’ Quetta Memorial Cathedral, Thursday Island, he was ordained on 14 January 1951. He joined the staff of St Paul’s Mission and worked as an itinerant missionary priest until 1953, travelling throughout Torres Strait and Cape York Peninsula. Described by Bishop John Hudson of Carpentaria as ‘the most outstanding of our Torres Strait younger priests, with considerable gifts of leadership’, he was sent to St Francis’ Theological College, Brisbane, for a further year of study. He was also associate-curate at St Alban’s Church, Auchenflower. In Brisbane he was known as an excellent hockey player.

From 1954 to 1962 Fr Pilot served on several Torres Strait islands. Fluent in English and three Torres Strait languages, he was appointed assistant priest-director of the Torres Strait Mission in 1962 and priest-director the following year. Moving back to Brisbane in 1966, Pilot was associate-curate at St Paul’s, Cleveland, until 1969 and at the Church of the Annunciation, Camp Hill, in 1969-73. On 1 March 1973 he became founding priest-in-charge of the Torres Strait Island Ministry at Townsville, where over six thousand Islanders had settled. He brought to his ministry an intimate knowledge of his people and their cultural heritage and aspirations, personal qualities of leadership, initiative and tact, and experience of the wider Queensland Anglican community. As well as visiting local schools and railway camps, gaol inmates and hospital patients, he assisted priests in other parishes in the region. He promoted cultural activities such as the annual ‘Coming of the Light’ celebration, which marked the arrival of Christianity in Torres Strait. In 1974 the Eastern and Western Hymn Book and Liturgy, containing some five hundred eastern and western Torres Strait language hymns, collected and arranged by Pilot, was issued. That year he was appointed honorary canon at St James’ Cathedral, Townsville.

Widely admired for his support of multiculturalism and anti-discrimination, in March 1976 Pilot represented Torres Strait Islanders at a conference on community relations in Brisbane. He was a delegate to the World Council of Churches consultation on the churches’ response to racism, held in the Netherlands in 1980. Survived by his wife and their four daughters and two sons, he died of cancer on 28 February 1981 at Townsville and was buried in Belgian Gardens cemetery. He was praised for ‘the new dimension he brought to church life’. The Canon Boggo Pilot Hostel, Thursday Island, opened in 2000 and honours his conviction that ‘in our struggle against racism and other forms of discrimination and injustice, education is the key’. Ray Crooke’s portrait of Pilot, ‘Island Priest’ (1958), is held by the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • A.B.M. Review, 1 July 1953, p 106
  • Year Book of the Diocese of North Queensland, 1981
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 Mar 1981, p 4, 9 Mar 1981, p 10
  • B884, item Q85206 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Anglican Diocese of North Queensland archives, Townsville
  • Anglican Diocese of Carpentaria archives, Brisbane
  • B884, item Q85206 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Anna Shnukal, 'Pilot, Boggo (1921–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/pilot-boggo-15464/text26680, accessed 18 November 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012