Buckle, Elizabeth (nee Gay) 1825-1896

Transcription of ‘Sketch’ In the Christian Messenger in the series “Of Godly Women Not a Few” by W.A. Hammond about his mother-in-law

Primitive Methodism has never been greatly stirred by the question that seems to agitate the minds of many just now as to whether women should preach or not. It has never spent much time in discussing whether they should be allowed to occupy the pulpit or speak from the lectern, whether their gifts should be employed in mission-hall or consecrated building. It has gladly accepted the proffered gift, and readily found opportunity for them to employ their talents in “telling their sisters of the Saviour’s love” in church or cottage, in open-air or consecrated building. Nor has it limited their labour to “sisters” only. It has thrown the door wide open and encouraged them to make their appeal as widely as possible. Nor have they made their appeal in vain.

“I never profess to preach,” said one of the most talented women preachers in East Anglia as she entered the pulpit one Sabbath morning. Some cynical critic had put a note into her hand as she reached the pulpit-steps calling her attention to St. Paul’s words to Timothy, “I suffer not a woman to teach,” and as she read it she calmly rose in the pulpit and said: “I never profess to preach, but I know the love of God in my own heart, and I want to tell that love to others.” But what a sermon she preached that Sabbath morning-chaste, refined, eloquent, persuasive! It was a great treat to listen to her.

Nowhere more than in East Anglia has the ministry of saintly women been used and valued. The great question for many of the circuits has been how to maintain an efficient preaching staff, and when the “holy women” of our churches have possessed the gift of tongues, and have been able to speak in the name of their Lord and Master, they have been gladly welcomed and heartily received, whilst vast numbers have been won to Christ by their earnest appeals. Most stations have had their “female preachers” on the circuit plan, and have gladly recognised their worth – some of them refined and cultured like Miss Wales, of Wangford, others sturdy and strong like Mrs. Winkfield or Miss Bultitude, but all of them respected and beloved for their work’s sake.

Preaching families have not been unknown in the wide stations of East Anglia. The gift has somehow run in the blood. Frequently father and son, or sons, have taken up the holy toil, but seldom has the gift included wife and daughters. But Mrs. Buckle’s whole family were of the preaching order – husband, wife, daughters. Stowmarket was a wide, straggling station of village churches, with the little Suffolk town as centre or head. Robert Key had missioned the town and neighbourhood in his early days of evangelistic ardour. A plain, bare chapel of the barnic order had been built in the town, and a good work had been done in the town and district. But the village churches stretched away – eight, ten, twelve, fifteen, nineteen miles, with no train accommodation and no horse-hire fund. Walking was the only means of reaching those distant places; but reached they were, and regularly supplied. They were the heroic days of Primitive Methodism – stern, sturdy, but joyous times. Preachers were an absolute necessity. The services could not be maintained without preachers. It was the great call to the earnest disciples of the Christ.

George Buckle had been won to Christ by the earnest preachers of those days, and soon was called to preach himself. He was a good man, a devoted servant of Jesus Christ, a loyal Primitive Methodist, the minister’s right-hand man, ever ready and ever willing. But his wife was the “abler man.” She was cast in a larger mould, and had had finer opportunities in her youthful days. She was “head of the household” – “ queen of the home.” Tall, well-built, a fine presence, a strong will, a powerful, persuasive voice, she was indeed “ head ” of the home. But when more preachers were needed, she readily took up the work, and quickly developed a talent for public speaking. She soon found a place on the preachers’ plan not far below her husband’s number. And then, in the course of time, the three daughters followed in the wake and formed a complete preaching family – father, mother, daughters all on the plan, and all acceptable preachers of the good tidings of the grace of God. What days they were? Morning service was the order of the day in all Suffolk villages. It meant early rising and early breakfast, and then tramp, tramp, tramp from one village to another, the family group growing less as one member after another fell out at the appointed post of duty, only to unite again on their homeward way, recounting, as they walked, the experiences of the day, and filled with the joy of holy service. But the Camp Meetings were the great days – one family, a host in itself, to sing or preach or pray.

Mrs. Buckle was undoubtedly the outstanding preacher. “George,” as the father was familiarly called by all who knew him, invariably led the service, but Mrs. Buckle (no one ever dreamed of using her Christian name) was the chief speaker. Calm and stately, she would announce her text, for Suffolk is the home of regular preaching. No tit-bits of addresses, ten minutes long if you please, but regular three-decker sermons, with the decks carefully shown, the divisions clearly stated. In slow, quiet, impressive style she told the love of God to men. She pleaded, with all the passion of a woman’s nature, for immediate decision for Christ. She knew the reality of fellowship with Christ herself, and pressed that great experience upon others until strong men bowed before the Christ and tender-hearted women wept their way to the Cross. Hers was the “wooing note,” the pleading message, the persuasive tone. Men and women were away from God, away in the far-off land, and she wanted them home. It was her business to persuade them to return. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me,” was not only a favourite text, but fitly expressed her method of appeal. Problems of religion never disquieted her mind, doubt never chilled her soul. She knew whom she believed, and unhesitatingly declared that personal Saviour to others. Perhaps her favourite text – or, rather, subject – was Christ’s journey to Emmaus – the friendship of Christ. How readily He joined His disciples as they walked along life’s journey, and what joy His companionship gave! How He helped in times of difficulty and comforted in times of trouble! How lonely life was without Him, and how rich life was, even in the cottage, if He were present! How graciously He comforted when pain and suffering came, and when the end of the journey was reached His presence made all the difference! It was a woman’s talk to homely working-people. She knew their troubles, their homes, their sorrows, and they gladly listened to her message, and were mightily helped by her talk. It was no careless talk. All her messages were carefully prepared. “George” would carefully borrow where he could, and, having a good memory, could easily reproduce what he had read or committed. His congregations would listen gladly, and then some boon companion would laughingly say, “Why, George, that was a good sermon: where did you get that from? ” But no borrowed sermons for Mrs. B.; they were carefully thought out-thought out of her own experience and steeped in prayerful meditation during the lonely hours of the week.

Like most of the women preachers of her day, she was mightier in prayer than speech. She knew what it was to wrestle “till the break of day.” All night long she prayed for the “conversion” of her two daughters. One had already yielded herself to Christ as a child of ten years of age, but two remained without any definite pronouncement of decision, and she could not rest. “Protracted meetings” were being held by the circuit minister, and all night long she sat up and prayed for the “conversion” of these two girls. Like Jacob, she prayed and prevailed, for the next night, in their own home, with father and mother bent at the family altar, they yielded themselves to Christ, and remain His to-day. Her mission for others began at home, and so for forty years she “laboured for souls.” “Tired in the work,” she would often say, in the Monday night class-meeting in the minister’s house, which was part of the chapel, and which is now the minister‘s vestry – tired in the work, but not of it. No wonder she was tired in it! A journey of seven or eight miles out on the Sunday, and two, or possibly three services, with all the domestic duties of home depending upon her, she might well be tired; but she helped to carry on the work of God for many years, and had the joy of leading many into the kingdom.

That cottage was the preacher’s home. George was the trusty helper in all good work. The girls knew how to sing and speak for their Lord and Master. But the outstanding personality was Mrs. Buckle, the stately preacheress, who did not mind a lengthy walk and homely fare if by any means she could tell the story of redeeming, love to men. It is well for us to remember, not only the men, but the women, who devoted their lives to the evangelisation of East Anglia, and left us the” splendid heritage of many a fine village church in rural England.

Family and other information

Elizabeth was born abt 1825 near Kings Lynn, Norfolk, to parents James and Sarah. James worked the land. She was baptised on 12 June 1825.

Elizabeth married George Buckle (1824-1887) on 1 August 1847 at Wigginhall-St-Mary-the Virgin, Norfolk. George was a shoemaker (1861) and later a leather strap maker. Census returns identify three children.

  • Amelia (1848-1915) – a washer woman (1901)
  • Elizabeth (1849-1940) – married Joseph Eley, a Prudential Insurance Superintendent, in 1873
  • Clara (abt1851-1925) – married William Arthur Hammond, a PM Minister, in 1876

Elizabeth died in late 1896 at Stowmarket, Suffolk.

References

Christian Messenger 1916/299

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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