Page 1: Biography
Garland, Thomas Threader
Businessman, broadcaster, Methodist lay preacher, choirmaster
This biography, written by Patrick Day, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.
Thomas Threader Garland was born at Mile End, London, on 7 February 1877, the son of Thomas Henry Garland, a grocer, and his wife, Harriet Threader; four of his uncles were said to have been Methodist ministers. Thomas arrived in New Zealand with his family about 1884. By the early 1900s he was in charge of Sunday school music at the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church in Auckland where an uncle was minister. Thomas was also conductor of the glee club of the Wesley Young Men's Institute. He played cornet in a brass band and oboe in an orchestra. On 6 January 1909 he married Ella May Harvey at Auckland. He had by then taken over his father's business as a baking powder manufacturer, running the firm until 1929. He may also have been a Methodist local preacher.
Thomas Garland made his broadcasting debut in 1923 on 1YA in Auckland. He ran a weekly children's session under the name 'Uncle Tom' and organised many of the station's religious broadcasts. He invited the Methodist city missioner, Colin Scrimgeour, to broadcast a talk about his experience of flying through a rainbow; this led to a lasting association on radio between the two. In 1930 Garland was invited by the proprietors of Lewis Eady Limited, owners of 1ZR, to run their religious programming. He took a non-denominational approach, reflected in his motto, 'You go to your church. I'll go to mine, but let us walk together.'
From the start of 1933 Garland and Scrimgeour worked full time with 1ZR and began the Fellowship of the 'Friendly Road', a non-denominational radio church – the first of its kind. When 1ZR was acquired and closed by the New Zealand Broadcasting Board later that year, Garland and Scrimgeour purchased another station, 1ZB, and conducted a successful campaign of public demonstrations to persuade the government to transfer the 1ZB licence to the 'Friendly Road'. Garland was licensed as a minister in 1934 and was to christen some 9,000 babies and perform some 4,000 marriages.
In his programmes Garland did not proselytise and intended his work to give his listeners 'a bit of a smile'. However, Scrimgeour's increasingly political broadcasts much irked the authorities in the years before the 1935 election. At a time when controversial current affairs and news broadcasting was prohibited, it was the broadcasting of the 'Friendly Road' that was the most prominent public voice in support of a depression-hit population. This aspect of the 'Friendly Road' was largely directed by Scrimgeour, with Garland in control of the day-to-day running of the station. Garland supported Scrimgeour's broadcasts and took a prominent role in the Friendly Road's attempts to change the nature of New Zealand's political and broadcasting life.
Garland was an innovative broadcaster in many areas but his special interest and talent was in training and broadcasting choirs, particularly children's choirs. For 35 years he trained up to four choirs with a combined regular membership of around 300. There were weekly broadcasts and also concerts at the Auckland Town Hall. Garland conducted 300 such concerts, invariably to capacity houses. He also wrote several children's books, full of sentimental homilies.
In 1937 1ZB became the inaugural station in the National Commercial Broadcasting Service. Garland resigned from full-time employment with the station but continued with the 'Friendly Road' and his choir work. He was appointed an MBE in 1951. He continued regular broadcasts from 1ZB until 1963, when failing health caused him to retire, at which time the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation took the opportunity to discontinue the 'Friendly Road' broadcasts. Garland died in Auckland on 7 July 1964, survived by his wife, four daughters and a son.