George Bell Oates
Transcription of Obituary In the Christian Messenger
GEORGE BELL OATES, son of Anthony and Ann Oates, was born at Clough Dene, near Hobson, on May 3rd, 1851. As soon as he was able to travel he commenced his Sabbath school career at Tantobie. At this early period of his life his mother died, leaving him one of the youngest of a large family to struggle as best he could. Removing to Hobson when about eight years old, he became a scholar in the Primitive Methodist Sunday school, and was constant and diligent in his attendance. From his earliest years he had good inclinations, studiously avoiding bad company, lying, and swearing, and was never seen in questionable places of amusement.
Arrived at the age of seventeen years, the great event of his life occurred; he was savingly converted to God in the Marley Hill P.M. Chapel, under the preaching of the late Mr. R. Wheatley, of Choppington, who at that time and place was conducting revival services. It was a glorious time, and the memory of it lived with him to the end. He could never be a silent Christian. Silence to him in the matter of religious experience was simply an impossibility. A remark he often made concerning this matter was that he was born in a fire and could not live among smoke.
About this time a small society was formed and preaching services held in the house of Bro. John Dorritt, and, lacking a singing leader, our brother undertook the raising of the tunes, and succeeded beyond expectation. It ought to be mentioned here that Bros. Dorritt and William Brabban did much to stimulate and foster the good endeavours of the young element in this little church. About this time another cloud overshadowered our brother’s young life by the death of his father, which was a means of the family home being broken up; but George Oates was no fair-weather Christian. In cloud as in sunshine he held on to his integrity.
Arriving at manhood, he became united in marriage with her who now survives to mourn his loss. Practically settled again in life, he engaged even more actively than before in Christian work. Into his Sunday school he threw the whole weight of his influence, putting much spiritual fervour into his teaching, and was highly appreciated by his scholars.
Removing to White-le-Head some time afterwards he soon got into full harness, becoming a Sunday school teacher, acting occasionally as school superintendent, and for long a Sunday School visitor, and also choirmaster, a position upon which he looked back with grateful memories.
Returning again to Causey Row, some 20 years ago, he continued his active labours, filling most of the offices of this church and school with credit to himself and blessing to the place. He has been teacher, superintendent frequently, class leader, and society steward, into all which offices he brought a fine conscientiousness and persistence which gained for him the admiration of all. We must not omit to mention that in the year 1886, the late Rev. John Gill persuaded him to allow his name to appear on the Circuit Plan as a preacher, in which capacity he was highly successful.
Not endowed with intellectual greatness, he yet secured the earnest attention of scores whom mere cold, soulless intellectuality would never touch. He had a warm soul that could kindle warmth in others, and made them feel the spiritual magnetism of Christian goodness. But however acceptable he might be as a preacher, he never evinced any hankering desire for the position. Naturally, he shrank from it, as he thought he lacked the necessary equipment for such work.
In answer to his request the Quarterly Meeting reluctantly decided to remove his name from the Plan, after some six years of useful public work. Our brother, however, still continued to hold aloft the banner of the cross, engaging in everything of a beneficial character and bringing sinners to the Lamb of God. The Church, however, did not monopolize the whole of his energies.
In the social world, too, he found plenty of room for labour. Nothing could give him more happiness than in honestly endeavouring to ameliorate the lot of his follow-workers. He was no demagogue, no mere agitator. His attitude was that of a brother of men trying in his humble way to better the condition of the toiler and to sweeten his daily life. But, after all, to him the greatest good that could ever come to a man was the salvation of his soul. Other things might be important, but this was all-important. And down to the end of his life the grandest word in the English language was salvation. Our brother was in his real element in our late revival services — praying, exhorting, singing the songs of Zion until his very soul seemed on fire. There are scenes that will live for ever in the memory of those of us who laboured with him. Sister Keilor once remarked to the writer, “ Oh, l do like George to be here; and to see his happy, smiling face always does one good.”
His death took place suddenly but tranquilly on the 31st January, 1902. We look not down into the grave, but up to heaven, and hope to meet around the throne of God.
He will be missed; such men always are; but even in his absence the world will be richer for his having lived in it. He “rests from his labour, and his works follow with him.”
Family and other information
George worked as a coal miner. He was married to Ann (abt1850-1903). Census returns identify three children.
- Anthony (1875-1944) – a coal miner
- Mary Ann (abt1878-1882)
- Elizabeth Ann (b abt1887)
Christian Messenger 1903/191
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers