Donald Beaton was born on the 3 July 1906 at Ohura, about 300 kilometres south of Auckland. His parents, Mr and Mrs Donald Beaton had emigrated from Scotland at the end of the nineteenth century. Mr Beaton senior was a strong Christian and a loyal Free Presbyterian. He refused to identify himself with the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, which had adopted a Declaratory Act in line with the Free Church of Scotland. He therefore regularly kept services in his house, reading sermons by godly ministers. He did all he could to bring up his children in the truth, and his strong influence for good was evident in the fact that most of his children made a public profession on the side of the truth, although that did not occur during his lifetime. The promise holds good: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6).The Rev J P MacQueen baptized his children, and some of his grandchildren, when he visited these parts in 1935. Young Donald did not initially manifest any concern for his soul. Being of a strong physique he took up sheep farming like his father, a work in which he excelled. In his late twenties he moved to the South Island for a time, and for a period he engaged in gold prospecting. In this he met with a measure of success.
However, in God’s kindness to his soul, he found much better gold than he could ever hope to find in the earth. After he was by the grace of God enlightened about his need of Christ, he found the gold tried in the fire. This occurred after passing through fire and water when his five-year-old child drowned in a creek. This affliction, however, was skilfully guided by His heavenly Father’s hand to bring eternal good out of seeming evil. More than once Donald was heard in later years referring to Hebrews 12 in speaking to the question in the fellowship meeting. The portion that was particularly precious to him was verses 6-8: “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” That is what he found in his experience.
A second bereavement, through cancer, of a young child, also aged nearly six, further tested Donald’s faith. By then he had returned to the North Island a much chastened but much wiser man. His farming activities now centred on the area of his birth near Matiere. On Sabbaths he and his family would join other family members for worship in his father’s home. Following the death of Mr Beaton senior in 1946, the services were carried on by Donald and his brother Ian. That was their promise to their aged parent, and they kept it as long as possible.
Donald started coming to the communion seasons in Gisborne during the late Rev William MacLean’s ministry. He was received into full communion in Auckland on 5 June 1965. At the first election of office bearers in Auckland he was elected to the eldership and ordained to that office on 19 March 1966. He won the respect of the congregation during the nearly 35 years of service on the Auckland Kirk Session. During that time he often conducted the services of the congregation, particularly after the pulpit became vacant with the lamented death in 1978 of the Rev D M MacLeod, the first minister of that congregation.
In 1995, due to advancing age, it became necessary for Mr and Mrs Beaton to move to Hamilton to be closer to their family. For the last year or two, Donald had to be cared for in a nursing home, where he finished his earthly course on Saturday, 17 March 2001, aged 95. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” His remains were laid to rest at the cemetery of Matiere, King Country. He and his wife Edna have been greatly missed from the congregation in Auckland ever since they moved to Hamilton. To his widow and family we extend our sincere sympathy. May Donald Beaton’s God prove at last to be also the God of his wife and children. “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation” (Ps 68:5).