Gwillim, Mary (nee Jones, nee Sankey) (1813-1893)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J Dann

By the death of Mary Gwillim, (widow of the late Rev. W. Gwillim), the Connexion has lost a true mother in Israel, and one of its most loyal and useful members. She was born at Partridge, Linley, Salop, in 1813. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Sankey, were members of the Established Church, and of good moral character. Mary was the eldest of a large family, and had a strictly moral training, but knew nothing of conversion, until the year 1839, when a Mr. W. Tomlins, who had been converted through the agency of our early preachers, became very solicitous for the salvation of his friends, and wrote to her respecting her soul’s welfare. This letter, the first direct appeal made to her on this important subject, resulted in her conversion, which was complete and thorough.

She then felt it to be her duty to identify herself with Christ’s visible church. Living at that time with an uncle, at whose house a Baptist minister frequently visited, she was very strongly pressed to join the Baptists. As their Church was near, she decided to unite with them; but soon found that to qualify herself for this she must submit to immersion. To this she objected, but in order to determine her duty, she carefully and prayerfully read her New Testament through to ascertain its teaching on Baptism. The minister pressed the matter, and argued the question with her; but she concluded that the Methodist practice was the Scriptural one, and after counting the cost, (no trifle in those times) she became a Primitive Methodist, and began a course of honourable membership and faithful service, which closed over fifty years afterwards by her call to the higher sphere.

In 1840 she was married to Mr. John Jones, a young farmer, who was converted about the same time as herself, and partly through the same instrumentality. They settled on a farm at Betchcott, made a home for the ministers, also opened their house for services; and there amongst others the venerable Hugh Bourne ministered, and was ministered unto, But the calm, strong, faithful and chaste spirit of our sister was not the product of perfectly smooth sailing and unclouded skies. The trial and discipline which were to produce the great usefulness and beauty of this spirit began early in her religious career. Within a year of her marriage, her husband was called to his reward, and six months after his death was born a son, who now mourns the loss of the best of mothers, and who is steward of the Weobley Station. But she bravely bore her trial; and for nine years managed her farm, trained her boy, and ruled her household in the fear of God. She conducted family worship regularly, at which she insisted on the presence of both her men and maid-servants; kept a home for the preachers and had public services in her house. Thus with strong faith and heroic courage, she held on her way, learning that patience, fortitude, and trust in God, which have ever since so strongly marked her character.

In 1850 she married Rev. William Gwillim, then in the Ramsor Circuit, where she entered a new sphere of usefulness, and with her husband, afterwards laboured in Oswestry, Leominster, Dudley, Cwm, Kidderminster, Presteign and Bishop’s Castle circuits. She was a helpmeet indeed, and largely contributed to her husband’s success, labouring in word and doctrine, in pulpit and on platform, Her fine experience, good sound sense, superior mental powers, fund of information, and ready utterance, well fitted her for public work, and account for the fact that her pulpit services were in constant demand. Her style was logical and argumentative, but full of apposite illustrations; it appealed to the judgment and conscience, rather than to the emotions, though the latter were often moved. She was well read in Methodist polity and theology, a lover of her Bible, and ever ready to give a reason of the hope within her. 

She entered heartily into the many important chapel enterprises her husband carried out; and for seventeen years lived and laboured with him, a wife and companion indeed. During those years she lost her only two children of her second marriage, and in 1867, the sudden death of her husband cut short her connection with the itinerancy. His death was a heavy blow; but the truth she had preached to others sustained her; God’s grace was sufficient; she nobly bore her trial, and with a sublime trustfulness entered upon her second widowhood. She then settled at Weobley, where her son was in business, and where the last twenty-five years of her life were spent in peace and tranquillity, but great and incessant usefulness. She was remarkable for her love of all the services of the sanctuary. Nothing short of absolute necessity ever prevented her attendance; no engagements were made that would necessitate her absence, and though of late years her advanced age, throat affliction, and cold winter nights might have reasonably excused her absence, she would not permit them to do so. She devoted a fixed and liberal portion of her limited income to God, and most cheerfully and systematically supported our various church organisations.

Strong was her love of God’s Word; she read it regularly and systematically, both in private and at family devotions. Its promises were bright and real, and its truths the bread of life. Here was the source of her robust spiritual life, and the secret of the spiritual depth and richness of her discourses and conversation. Her ear was perfectly closed to slander. She had almost to perfection that charity which “thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things.”

A throat affection, induced mainly by her public speaking, had somewhat interfered of late years with her public ministry, and tended to shorten her life, though she did good work both as a preacher and class-leader right up to the last, and was in fact planned to preach in Weobley Chapel the evening of the Sunday on which she died. Her friends had observed that the last few months brought increased feebleness, but no pain or positive disease, and she continued to get about as usual, until Friday, March 24th, when her strength failed, and on Sunday morning, March 26th, the Master called, and she passed from us to the higher service of heaven,

On March 3oth, a beautifully calm, bright day, in compliance with her oft-expressed wish, her body was laid to rest with the dust of “her fathers,” husbands and friends, in the quiet little churchyard of More, there, with theirs, to await the “redemption of the body.”

May her mantle fall on those she has left behind; and may she live in their memories as a constant inspiration to like goodness and faithful Christian service, until they too shall enter the higher service, and rejoin her in the Master’s presence.

Family

Mary was born in 1813 at Partridge, Linley, Shropshire, to parents John and Ann. She was baptised on 8 November 1813 at More, Shropshire.

She married John Jones on 9 June 1940 at More, Shropshire. They had one child.

  • John (abt1842-1926) – a grocer and ironmonger

She married William Gwillim on 3 July 1850 in the Atcham Registration District, Shropshire. They had two children who died in infancy.

Mary died on 26 March 1893 at Weobly, Herefordshire.

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1894/868

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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