Hoole, George (1826-1908)

Christian Messenger 1906
Christian Messenger 1906

Transcription of ‘Sketch’ in the Christian Messenger in the series ‘Veterans of our Local Ministry’

Few men could be found who show less desire for publicity for its own sake than the subject of this sketch, but we have met none who are more ready to speak of the glory of God concerning the dealings of providence throughout a most interesting career, and personal knowledge of the man makes it a pleasure either to write or talk about him. He is one of the men of distinguished above his fellows for his perfectly transparent piety, whole-hearted devotion, and life-controlling faith. One cannot hold conversation with him for five minutes without discovering the truth of this statement, and such conversation is almost sure to provide an unmistakeable lesson on faith. He is universally esteemed when known, and even those whose manner of life is far removed from Christian standards confess the singular consistency and Christian beauty of his.

He was born at Pollington, in Yorkshire, in the year 1826, of parents who farmed a few acres of land. The care of the children early fell to the lot of the mother, the father passing away when George was only ten weeks old. The first twelve years of his life were spent at Pollington and then his fancy for a sea-going career was tested by actual experiences of wind and wave.

The young apprentice-hand must have been unusually attentive to his duties, as well as diligent in seeking to equip himself for holding responsible positions, for by the time he was twenty years of age he was in command of the sloop “Sarah of Wisbech,” a post he held until the year 1856. She was a small vessel coasting around the British Isles.

In 1856 he was given command of the two-masted schooner “Zuma,” and spent about twenty-three years visiting the ports in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic, and the African Coast. About firty-seven years in all were given to a sea-going life.

At the age of twenty-five he made choice of a wife and settled as Sutton Bridge, and from that time to this they have occupied a small cottage, No. 7, Lime Street; and as an incident pointing to the general character of the man, we may tell how, when people used to remark it was strange he should be content to remain in so small a cottage, his reply has often been: “God lives at No. 7, and where God lives is good enough for George Hoole.”

We should here more particularly like to reveal the man and something of his religious experiences and work as affording matters of more general interest.

A serious accident led to his conversion. The sloop “Sarah” was moved next to a lighter at Stanley Ferry, in Yorkshire, the lighter having to be crossed in order to land. As Captain Hoole was stepping briskly across for the purpose of landing, not noticing the hold was uncovered, he stepped into it and fell to the bottom of the vessel. He received serious injuries, and lay unconscious for twelve hours. When he regained consciousness he found himself in his own cabin, and says: “If I had died I should have gone to hell.”

This was the preliminary to a considerable period of intense conviction of sin, the burden being so great he was obliged to pray in almost every hole or corner where opportunity presented itself.

Coming to Newcastle, he found Mr. Harrison, “the sailors’ missionary,” holding services on a vessel, the “Humility of Wisbech,” and gladly availed himself of the opportunity to hear the Word. This only served to deepen his sense of sin and need of a Saviour, and the darkness of his condition became more dense.

Leaving Newcastle, they passed along the river to Mushroom Bottle House, and when night came the struggle for light and peace was renewed.

As though it were but yesterday, the captain tells the story with a minuteness of detail and intensity of interest which are evidence of the weight of the burden and the following joy of freedom.

He speaks of retiring to bed, but no sleep or rest came to him, and he rose to pray. Back to his hammock without assurance, and still the mental and spiritual conflict goes on, until a second time he rises to seek refuge in prayer.

A third time he tries to sleep, but there was no possibility of it until his soul found rest, and and a third time he rises to seek forgiveness and peace, without which he felt he could not and dare not live. This time, with new Testament in hand, he pleaded with God: “Lay something in my way. If there is anything in this Book that will help me, show it to me, Lord.” The Book was opened, the thumb of the left hand was resting on Rom. X. 9: “If thou wilt confess with thy mouth, and believe in thine heart.” Heaven was in that message. He believed, and, as with Bunyan standing before the Cross, his burden fell away, and that moment commenced an experience of singular and beautiful assurance which has lasted to this day. There was little disposition to hide his light under a bushel. At every port of call service was held on the captain’s vessel or some other, and a general invitation was given to the sailors to attend. Red-hot meetings were the order of the day, and converts not a few. Meetings were arranged and conducted on shore wherever possible.

His home-coming to Sutton Bridge was always looked forward to as a prayer, testimony, and revival festival; the chapel would be packed, and expectation ran high.

In the year 1879 Captain Hoole abandoned the sea-going life with the intention of opening a ship chandler’s stores at Sutton Bridge, and also acting as a ship broker. This scheme, however, fell through, and he took up the post of harbour master, an appointment he held for about twenty years.

For the last twenty-seven years he has been one of the most familiar figures in Sutton Bridge, and one of the most highly-esteemed laymen on the Wisbech Circuit, and for many years has been a trustee of our chapel here, also society steward, class leader, and local preacher, and never had a society a more faithful friend or a more earnest worker. His real and supreme distinction is that of character.

His aims have been exclusively religious. We have never known a brother who more literally put the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” first.

His history has embraced many exceptionally striking experiences in relation to prayer, and his conscientiousness has displayed itself in more than one act of definite sacrifice.

Our friend is a strict Sabbatarian, and was such when the claims of his position well tested the thoroughness of his principles. When in command of his sailing-ship, no matter how favourable the wind, he refused to leave port on the Lord’s Day.

This placed him sometimes in a tight place, but the record of his steadfastness is truly refreshing.

On one occasion his vessel and others were lying in Copenhagen Roads. All was ready for leaving on the Sunday morning, and the wind was favourable. The other vessels started out, but Captain Hoole must honour the “Lord’s day.” Monday came, but the sails flapped idly as the hours passed by. Tuesday came, and they were still becalmed, and Captain Hoole’s mind was assailed with hosts of torturing thoughts, but the real question was, “Have I done the Lord’s will in refusing to sail on Sunday?”

The anxiety grew intense, and in what seems to have been an act of sheer desperation, he proposed a test to the Lord, and declared if at a certain hour that night they had passed a well-known point, he would accept it as a sign he had pleased the Lord; if not, then it would be a sign of condemnation.

To his great relief, the test worked out all right; they had just passed the spot at the hour stated.

But the sequel is interesting. On arriving in Danzig, the vessels which had sailed before him to the same port had loaded their cargoes of corn at 3s. per quarter freight rate; but in the meantime, war was declared between France and Germany, and freights ran up to 8s. per quarter at a bound, at which figure the captain shipped his cargo. The delay thus proved profitable, and in this instance adherence to principle did not entail financial loss.

Another incident shows different results. While captain of the “Zuma,” he was offered the command of a steamship, the salary being £16 per month in advance of that of the sailing vessel; but it meant that those scruples concerning the Lord’s Day must stand aside, and he declined the offer for that reason alone.

The play of the man’s faith in connection with a remarkable deliverance is worth recording. On one occasion he was sailing down the East Sea before a strong easterly gale, when a heavy fog came on. They were running a dangerously narrow passage, with rocks on either side and small islands here and there almost intercepting their course, the position being critical enough on a clear day in a storm, a veritable death-trap in a fog. The strain of the situation was enormous, but he dared not leave the deck to find refuge at his place of prayer. These words, however, came forcibly to his mind: “Call on the Lord, He has promised to be near in the day of trouble,” and he commenced to pace the deck, requesting God to lift the mist. But faith was sluggish. Yet another message seemed flashed into his mind: “Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them,” and with this word came the assurance that God had heard his prayer.

He went straight to the man at the wheel and asked him if he thought it would be clear shortly, and the reply was, “It may when the moon rises,” but it was then just approaching mid-day. The captain then replied to the wheelman, “I believe with all my heart God will clear it, and I shall see my way,” and the response was, “Praise the Lord!”

Just then eight bells struck, and the watch was changed, but before the man who was relieved at the wheel had time to fill and light his pipe, the fog lifted while the captain was pacing the deck saying, “Lord, I believe, I cannot disbelieve Thy Word: Lord I believe.”

It was a narrow escape, for right in the vessel’s course, not a quarter of a mile away, lay an island; but the ship’s course being altered a point of two she cleared the same, to the immediate relief of all aboard.

It would be difficult to persuade the captain that was not an answer to prayer.

Throughout his long life Captain Hoole has been a most generous friend to the needy. The widow, the fatherless, the unfortunate, have all shared in his bounty, and in this matter, as in many others, he has “sown bountifully.”

His benefactions have been so many, that in these declining days he has none too much to satisfy his meagre wants; but his faith does not fail, and with every confidence in God he triumphantly declares, “I shall have enough to last me through, nothing over, but enough.”

To-day paralysis is upon him, and it is difficult for him to speak, but the writer’s last conversation with him was most refreshing. He has turned his eightieth year, and his desire to serve God is strong as ever, and when talking of it he wept to think there was so much he wished to do but was helpless. And the broad face flushed, and the eyes filled with tears, and the voice tembled.

We assured him the Lord knew his day of strength was gone, and no longer expected the old activity, and for him there was no such thing as “separation.”

His old vigour of assertion came back at once, and he replied, “No! no! no!!!” with increasing emphasis, “there is NO separation,” and it was grand to see the old saint pull himself up, and almost with his usual clearness of speech declare, “I have nothing on my conscience; I fear no condemnation, for I have followed the things of ‘the Spirit,’”

This man can lay no claim to the possession of this world’s riches, nor to any exceptional endowment of mind, but in the Kingdom of God, where faith, humility, righteousness, devotion, and liberality are the qualities which give distinction, this servant of God ranks high, and many of us envy his place in the world to come.

He has lived long and he has lived well, and now he says he has received his orders, the Master saying to him, “You can do nothing, you can say nothing: wait.”

And he is waiting – waiting for the summons which will usher him into the presence of his Lord, and the service of heaven will fittingly follow the unstinted service of earth.

H. HIDE.

Family and other information

George was baptised on 30 June 1826 at Snaith, Yorkshire. His parents were Edward and Susanna.

George married Susannah Webster (abt 1828-1912) in early 1851 in the Holbeach Registration District, Lincolnshire, which contains Sutton Bridge. Census returns identify three children.

  • Mary Ann (b abt1856)
  • Susannah (abt1858-1921) – married George Henry Johnson, and agricultural labourer, in 1881
  • Francis Henry (1861-1900) – a master mariner; died at sea

George died in the spring of 1908 at Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire.

References

Christian Messenger 1906/358

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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