Tennant, William James (1851-1899)

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Geo. Annakin

BROTHER WILLIAM JAMES TENNANT, of whose life and work we have undertaken to write a brief Sketch, was the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth Tennant, and was born at Middleham, in the county of York, August 10, 1851, and died at the same place March 12, 1899, in the forty-eighth year of his age.

From a child in his home life he would come closely into contact with Christian teaching and example, as his parents were both consistent and useful members of our Church at Middleham for many years, and wisely and earnestly sought to train up their children, to love and serve God also. When quite young, we have been told, he was quiet, thoughtful, and steady, and from a moral standpoint very exemplary in his conduct. When between fourteen and fifteen years of age, however, he felt his need of Divine forgiveness and a change of heart, which he earnestly sought, and after a somewhat severe struggle obtained, one Sunday night in our Middleham Chapel, under the ministry of the Rev. H. Hatherly. He at once united with our Church in his native town, and maintained an honoured and unbroken connection with it for better than thirty-four years, when he was called to leave it to join the Church of the first-born above.

For a while after his conversion he was the subject of strong temptations from the enemy, which caused him some little mental trouble. He, however, continued to attend the public means of grace; looked to God for guidance and help, and ultimately obtained the victory over his powerful opponent, and soon became well established in grace. He was not long before he began to make himself useful by trying to win others from the service of sin and bring them into saving fellowship with Christ and His people. About two years after his union with the Church he began to exercise his speaking gifts in public, with a view to his becoming a local preacher. This he felt to be a great and responsible undertaking, and while engaged in it he often trembled under a sense of his own weakness and insufficiency. He, however, steadfastly persevered in the name and strength of the Lord, and at length became a very acceptable preacher of the glorious Gospel of Christ, in which capacity he rendered much useful service to the Church and his fellow creatures for more than thirty-two years.

When his father died he was made leader of the Sunday afternoon class, the important duties of which he discharged with much fidelity, cheerfulness, and success to the end of his life. He ever tried to fit himself for his work, both in the pulpit and the class, by diligently reading and studying the Word of God and other good books, holding communion with God in private, and regularly attending public worship in the sanctuary, both on Sundays and week-days when circumstances would permit. He was an attentive listener to the Word of Life, whether read or spoken, and he always gave the preacher the impression that he believed God had still much more light to break upon his mind from the sacred Book which he was intensely anxious to receive. He was strongly and tenderly attached to the Church of his choice, gave generously, according to his means, to the support of its funds, toiled hard to promote its prosperity, grieved deeply over its failures and misfortunes, rejoicing greatly in its success. He was also a kind and faithful husband, and a good, judicious, and affectionate father, ruling well his own house, and having his children in subjection. He was strongly concerned for the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of his sons and daughters, and had the great pleasure of seeing them all connected in membership with the Church of his choice. Ministers, local preachers, with other Christian friends, were ever welcome to his hospitable and cheerful home, where they often found all-needful rest, refreshment, and comfort. He likewise took an intelligent and deep interest in temperance and evangelistic work, and was never happier than when he was leading the singing of some lively Gospel hymn in the open air, or taking an active part in a Band of Hope meeting, or some evangelistic service where penitent souls were weeping their way to Christ for salvation. Better than twenty years ago he was made superintendent of our Middleham Sunday School, in, which capacity he rendered the most valuable service of all. Into this highly important and responsible sphere of sacred toil he threw himself with much affectionate, patient, wise and tireless zeal, and greatly was his work in this respect appreciated, by the children under his charge and their parents, who not only followed his mortal remains to their last resting-place with tearful eyes and bowed heads, but also placed a beautiful wreath upon his grave as a token of their grateful and sympathetic love.

Our brother as a rule enjoyed a fair share of good health, and was generally very cheerful and bright. He had, however, at times to encounter his trials and conflicts, some of which were keenly severe. These he met in a spirit of Christian resignation and fortitude, fully believing, that God would make them work out for his good. His last illness was somewhat painful and trying, still he manifested much commendable patience and cheerfulness under the pressure of the same. A short time before Christmas he had to give up his regular employment, and a good deal of his work in the church and school, which was a great grief to him; still, he continued to do what he could about his home, attend the services in the sanctuary whenever he could, and look after the interests of his family, class and school as long as he was able. The last time he was present at the house of God was a fortnight before his death, when he called at his brothers house on his way home, where he drank a cup of milk and told his sister-in-law he was willing to leave himself in the hands of God to do with him according to His own gracious will. On the Thursday night before his end came, the writer spent an hour with him, and prayed before taking his leave, to which he responded in his usual earnest manner. He said then he was very ill, and would have to see the doctor again on the following day about something which was troubling him in his throat. He got relief from this affection, however, sometime during the night, and when the writer saw him on the following Saturday he said he felt easier; still he looked more pale and thin than before, and talked and breathed with greater difficulty. No one, however, thought he was so soon to close his earthly career. Such, alas, proved to be the case. At nine o’clock that night he retired to rest, slept fairly well, awoke at half-past five in the morning, had a fit of coughing, told his wife his lungs were bleeding, and in a quarter of an hour afterwards he was not, for God had taken him On the following Wednesday all that was mortal of him was committed to the grave in Middleham Churchyard, in the presence of a very large concourse of weeping relatives and friends; the writer and; the rector both taking part in the burial service. May God graciously guide and sustain his deeply bereaved widow, children, and relatives, and help them all so to live that they shall meet their loved one again at the right hand of God, where death cannot enter, and separations never take place.


William’s parents were Thomas, a stone mason, and Elizabeth.

William worked as a stone mason.

He married Annie Slinger (abt1849-1931) on 15 December 1874 at Middleham, Yorkshire. Annie worked as a grocer throughout their marriage and after William’s death. Census returns identify six children.

  • Edmund Slinger (1875-1954) – a grocer (1911)
  • Mary Annie (abt1877-1947) – a milliner (1901); married George Mansfield Ward, a police constable, in 1906
  • Thomas (1877-1969) – a draper (1911)
  • Jane E (1879-1932) – married John George Towler, a butcher (1911), in 1908
  • William (abt1884-1964) – a grocer’s assistant (1911)
  • Margaret Slinger (1887-1943) – assisting in grocer’s shop (1911)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/470

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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