PM World 31 Jan 1907 pp73/4
The year 1843 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Primitive Methodism on the mainland. It began the period of consolidation, when Circuits ceased to look so much beyond their own borders, but restricted their energies to the cultivation of the area within. The reader will remember that two notable events transpired - the Book Room was removed to London and the General Missionary Committee was formed. And when we come to look back et the history of our Church on the Island, we notice that at the seine time there appeared the same tendency to consolidation, in a proportionate degree. The revival throughout the whole Island, to which we have referred, made this necessary; besides, most of the villages, but not quite all, had been missioned. The Island Circuit, however, was influenced to some extent by the general trend of the whole Connexion. At least one event which we have to record points in that direction. That was the taking over of the Irish Missions by the General Missionary Committee. Ireland had been missioned by Preston Brook Circuit, but owing, it may be supposed, to the Island being near, these missions were placed under the control of the Manx Circuit authorities. In 1844. the General Missionary Committee took charge of the Irish Missions, and the Island Circuit were free to devote their whole attention to their own field.
The division of the Island into Circuits was a very gradual process. It was half a century before the process was completed and the various Circuits formed as we find them today. The way was unconsciously, but carefully, prepared. From the first the Island Circuit, as we have seen, was divided into sections, each section having as its head one of the towns which afterwards became the head of a Circuit. While the Island still remained one Circuit, another division took place, which resulted in more efficient working. Following the natural division of the Island, which is cut in two by a range of mountains, the Circuit was formed into the North and South Branch in 1838. The North Branch included Ramsey and Peel, and the South, Douglas and Castletown. Four years afterwards Ramsey became a branch, with its own Quarterly Meeting, and Peel a mission. In 1844 Ramsey Branch and Peel Branch were made into a Circuit, with 725 members, leaving Douglas, which included Castletown with nearly 1,000 members. These two Circuits continued until 1868, when Peel and Castletown, which for some time had been branches of Ramsey and Douglas respectively, were made into independent Circuits. In 1874 another important division was made of the Douglas Circuit into Douglas First and Douglas Second. This arrangement was, however, only temporary, as they were re-united in 1889. In 1893 Laxey was made the head of a Circuit. This completed the process of segregation, and gave what is the present arrangement of five Circuits, namely, Douglas, Ramsey, Castletown, Peel, and Laxey.
After this general review the most convenient form that our story can take will be to follow the fortunes of the various Circuits. In this way we shall rapidly cover the period from 1843 to the present time, and gather up from the whole field what will be of interest to our readers
The-town of Douglas soon became the chief centre of our Church on the Island. This was a natural consequence on the growth of the town, both in size and importance. In 1821, when the first official returns were published, Douglas had a population of 6,054. For the next ten years the increase was only 700, but from 1831 there was an increase of 2,000 for each ten years, until today Douglas has a population of over 20,000, nearly half of the whole Island. Douglas also became the residence-of the Governor and the headquarters of the Government. The Island, too, was becoming a noted pleasure resort. As early as 1820 visitors began to come, but not until 1850 did they reach large numbers. Douglas, the chief landing place, is the favourite town for a holiday; in summer the population will be quite doubled.
Superintendent of Douglas Circuit
There was no Douglas Circuit until 1844. From 1823 to that time it was the Isle of Man Circuits and Castletown stood first on the list of places. When Ramsey, with Peel, was made into a Circuit, Douglas was left with Castletown, with about 1,000 members. In 1851 Castletown was made into a branch, and in 1893 Laxey Circuit was formed, and Douglas left with Wellington Street, Loch Parade, East Foxdale, Newtown, Strang, Quins Hill, Braaid, and Onchan. Since then the Marathon Road Mission in the north of Douglas has been opened.
The mother church at Wellington Street has had a remarkable history, and in its heyday was one of the finest churches in Primitive Methodism :For numbers, evangelical fervour, and general intelligence, this Society was excelled by few, Some of the most saintly men and women in Methodism were its members: Mr. J. Goldsmith, a true father in Israel, who was superintendent of the Sunday school up to his death; Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, called for distinction in this land of Kellys, "the bandbox," because they manufactured cardboard boxes; Mr. Corkill, - the choirmaster; Kitty Kaighan, Ann Craine, Thomas Creer, Evan Shimmin, James Quiggin, and others, some to be mentioned later.
The Church became the centre of great religious add social activity and influence which reached beyond her borders, end: touched the general life of the town; foremost in temperance work when total abstinence was not so respectable as it is today; and before there was any poor law the Church organised a Benevolent Society. The town was divided into five Districts, and visitors appointed to each, who sought out the poor and sick and attended to their needs, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
Of course, the chief emphasis was laid on the evangelistic side of the work,: and old Wellington Street was the scene of many wonderful displays of Divine power. The first chapel was built in 1823, and, to meet the needs of the growing Church, was enlarged in 1842. That was the beginning of our present period, from which time the work of saving men went forward with little break. Thomas Jobling records that in 1843, throughout the Circuit, and indeed the whole Island, there were extraordinary manifestations of Divine power, and many hundreds here converted.
In the winter of 1854-5 a remarkable revival took place. It began without the employment of any special means, and was first manifest in the Sunday night service, while Joseph Sutcliffe, the second minister was preaching, when a most wonderful influence rested upon the people. The revival continued for eighteen months, day by day, and at every service, weeknight as well as Sunday, the chapel was filled. Many were converted and joined the Church. William Sansbury was one of this number, who became a local preacher and a most energetic worker. The beneficial effects of this revival continued for many years. In 1858, three years after, the attendance at. the ordinary week night service was 150, and on Sunday night there, was regularly gathered into Wellington Street a congregation of nearly eight hundred.
Another revival, known as the Henderson and Geddes revival, which took place in 1867-8, deserves a place in our annals. It is characterised as the greatest revival in the Island during the last half century. Henderson and Geddes, the former from Spurgeon's College, and who is now a Baptist minister, were conducting services throughout the Island, principally in our chapels. Coming to Wellington Street, they began among the young people, holding early evening services, which were largely attended by the scholars. The news of the " little ones " giving themselves to the Christ. created interest in the adults, so that a later service was held for them, who thronged God's house to hear the word of life, and many were converted. There was in existence a vigorous Young Men's Improvement Class, under the leadership of Mr. Thomas Keig, attended by many young men, some belonging to no particular Church. The reviver swept the whole of those into the Church. The missioners remained for five or six weeks but the revival went on for months. Not only was the Church stirred, but the whole town was moved, and all the Churches benefited. Here is the testimony of an eye witness, and one of the converts, the Rev. F. N. Shimmin:- " The revival was a miracle of God's saving power. It began, as I remember, among the scholars, and spread right through the church and outside, until hundreds were brought to Christ. It was like the Welsh revival - a work of the Holy Spirit. The ordinary machinery of the Church was not needed; it was a real Pentecost. Many of the scenes defy description. The most impressive was the lovefeast packed with people, mostly converts. We just got up, one after another, uttered a sentence, and sat down. Then a rousing hymn. The wonderful influence which pervaded the meeting was like electric power."
[unlabelled picture - probably architect's impression of Buck's Road - actual church differed in tower and doors]
The gracious results of that revival are living today. The revival not only gave us a large number of the rank and file, many of whom still toil in the vineyard, it also gave us one of the most capable and successful ministers in the Rev. F. N. Shimmin, of whom more presently. Another convert was Mr. Fred Clucas, Editor of " Mona's Herald," who is a man of very considerable ability. His uprightness of character, his foresight and dogged persistence have won general admiration. And in his paper he has always sought the good of human boldly for the rights of Nonconformity.
Mr. Joseph Shimmin, another of those who joined our Church through this revival, is a man of few words and unassuming manners, but a most reliable and loyal member of our Church. There were many others, but space is limited, and we can only mention Mr. Corkill, who is now a Methodist minister in America, and Mr. John Blair, who is a member of the Wesleyan Church in Douglas. After the revival there was a class of nearly fifty young men. Sunday was a full, busy day; from 7 to 8 a.m. a prayer meeting, from 8 to 9 class meeting, then home for breakfast and back for school at. 10 and service at 11. School again in the afternoon, missions in the open air, followed by the evening service and prayer meeting. The young men were fortunate in having good leaders, men who were much beloved by them, Messrs. T. Keig, Willie Quine, John Goldsmith, and W. Proctor.
So greatly did the Society at Wellington Street prosper that the chapel became too small, and many, especially among the younger men, began to talk about a larger place. This led to the building of Loch Parade, the story of which we will reserve until later, and finish our account of Wellington Street. What did immediately result was the building of a school in Drumgold Street, adjoining the chapel. There had been a separate building, up to this time, for Sunday school works This school was enlarged when the Rev W. Welford was in the Circuit, and: opened under the name of Bourne Hall As in most towns, so in Douglas; there were street improvements, increase of business buildings, and the removal of people from the centre, so Wellington Street was thrown into the background. While many clung to the old place, the scene of so many marvellous triumphs-the strong, progressive young men considered it unwise to spend one thousand pounds in improvements, and advised the securing of a more suitable site. Nothing was done hurriedly. Everything was carefully thought out; and at length the bold venture was made, and Murton [sic Merton] Bank, in Buck's Road, was secured, and a splendid chapel built in 1900. The ground and building cost well nigh £7,500, but so great have been the energy and liberality that the debt remaining is only £2,500. The ministers who had to do with the building were the Revs. J. Sadler and T. Whitehead (2). The new church is in a prosperous condition, with a Sunday night congregation of about 500. Land has been secured for new school premises, and before long the Trustees are determined to commence the work of building.
(To be continued.)