Tharme, William (1841-1899)

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by F. Jeffs

Primitive Methodism has lost, and the ranks of evangelistic and temperance workers heavily, by the removal of Mr. William Tharme, of Liverpool, who passed to his eternal rest on Thursday, Nov. 9, 1899. He was in many respects it most remarkable man, and can only be very imperfectly portrayed in this short sketch. The whole of his life was spent in Liverpool, and he was undoubtedly one of the best known and most widely respected of Liverpool citizens. Physically, he was tall, well-proportioned, of rather dark complexion, had full, brilliant, brown eyes, and in his earlier years had received a considerable amount of athletic training; altogether he was a man with a fine presence, a powerful constitution, and till the last two or three years, possessed an extraordinary amount of energy. Mentally he had keen perceptive power, a good memory, large ideality, and an  aptitude both for mechanics and for art. He had conspicuous ability as an engineer, and probably was one of the best amateur art critics in the city. As a speaker he was distinguished by ready adjustment to changes of situation, dramatic power, a fine gift for anecdote, strong practical sense and immense inspirational force. Socially he was a man of deep and wide sympathies, had an easy way of making himself at home with everybody, was most genial and popular in company, and generous even to recklessness. So that in him a notable trophy was secured by means of Primitive Methodist evangelism between thirty and forty years ago, when our people were better known by a less respectable name than now, but had nevertheless been able to make themselves mightily felt, both loved and feared, in parts of Liverpool at that time almost entirely destitute of the knowledge of the Gospel. He belonged to a family of engineers, capable and reliable workmen, hard-headed, strong-willed, temperate and moral, but as to the Bible and Christianity, stubbornly sceptical. But the conversion and happy deathbed testimony of a beloved consumptive sister, aroused the interest of the family and softened their anti-religious prejudice. This good work was accomplished by the visiting of two members of the Primitive Methodist Society in the neighbourhood. And the first success was soon followed by a second, in the conversion of him whose loss we now mourn. In him was gained a champion. He proved an enthusiast for mission work. Gifted with ready utterance, a fairly good singer, amazingly active, perfectly fearless, he soon took the place of a leader, feared and respected by those of the baser sort, loved by those who spiritually benefited by this remarkable zeal and self-consecration. He could adapt himself to all classes, and felt himself a debtor to all. The lower kind of public-houses, and the most wretched and dangerous of the slums, he would enter as readily as the houses of the gentry, and with splendid tact disarm opposition. His home was equally the refuge of the miserable and destitute and the rest of the Christian worker. Not infrequently the whole of his wages was sacrificed to keep the church funds solvent, or for the relief of the unfortunate. Persons associated with him in those earlier years of his manhood recall the events of the period with the same elation as that shown by old soldiers when rehearsing the story of their most dangerous and most heroic military adventures. To them the Church life of the present day, both as to its fellowship and as to its self-denying service, is tame in comparison with that of the days alluded to.

Mr. Tharme’s services began to be in large demand, and soon to his local duties as class-leader, local preacher, and temperance advocate, were added abundant labours spread over an increasing area in and around Liverpool. He rejoiced to be in contact with all progressive religious and philanthropic movements. The circuit of his abnormal activities extended until his name came to be in several counties one of the most familiar and the most honoured in the religious world. For missions, temperance meetings, and anniversary services, he continued to be in great request all through his life, and till his strength failed him he seldom spent a Sunday at home with his family. It was well for his family under these circumstances that they were in the care of a mother who may be fitly described as one of nature’s paragons, a woman of excellent judgement and fine Christian character. The number won to temperance and for Christ through the agency of Mr. Tharme’s phenomenal industry cannot be tabulated, but it is certainly large. If he could only have been released from the claims of business he would have taken a position in the very front rank of modern evangelists.

In later years his travelling was restricted, and his direct usefulness to Primitive Methodism somewhat limited, owing to a special work he undertook on behalf of railway men, in whom he always felt a peculiar interest. He organised, and for some years superintended a number of missions amongst them at convenient centres in and about Liverpool and Birkenhead. His toil was quite herculean in connection with these missions, and strength and money were devoted without even, perhaps, it may be said, needful prudence, until the strain forced him to retire. The missions were afterwards mostly absorbed into the organisation of the Railway Mission, having its headquarters in London. Like most men of his abounding and impulsive good-nature, he suffered through want of caution and discrimination. He made some unfortunate business ventures. He was actually wasteful in charity. He literally parted with his second coat, and the remaining coat was often not secure. As he helped many victims of unavoidable misfortune, so many of the idle and hypocritical helped themselves of him. By his generosity he attracted no inconsiderable number of those who, when they could profit no longer, disappeared and knew him no more. On account of this, and the insufficient attention to business, owing to so large a part of his time devoted to his loved religious and social work, he did not escape adversity himself. The last few years of his life were years of vicissitude and care, and undoubtedly told seriously upon his health. Several attacks of influenza and an increasingly frequent bronchial trouble, made havoc of his robust constitution. Spells of sickness and expectoration of blood, along with great pain, were ultimately explained by the development of a disease which as soon as discovered was pronounced fatal.

Spiritually, however, he was a grand example of buoyancy. Under all the strain and disappointment he experienced, he never seemed to lose his hold on God, or fail in Christian enthusiasm. His discourses and prayers were marked by a beautiful humility, an overflowing tenderness and sympathy, and a delightful tolerance and hopefulness. He had little taste for controversy, political or religious, but kept the emphasis on spiritual good, and lived in an atmosphere of love. The denominational grew less (though Primitve Methodism continued most dear to him), and the Christian more. Hence Churchmen, Nonconformists, even Unitarians, even Jews, found pleasure in his fellowship. He kept his faith and his joy undisturbed through months of severest suffering, and as long as he had power of utterance, persevered with his witness for Christ, in conversation or prayer or song. So that his sick-chamber was felt by his family and visiting friends to be a real sanctuary of God. It was given to him to triumph to the last. The close of his life was like a calm and glorious sunset. Physical agony subsided as the end drew near. In full assurance of hope, and in perfect peace, he, in the early morning, fell asleep in Jesus. He had reached his fifty-ninth year. A multitude of friends appear grief-stricken at his decease.

The interment took place on the Saturday following death, at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. The coffin was heavily loaded with lovely wreaths. Deep sorrow was shown by many followers of the remains to their last  resting-place. The funeral service was presided over by   Rev. James Travis, who paid an eloquent tribute to the worth of the deceased. With him were Revs. J.P. Langham, J. Watkin, S. Johnson, J. Phillipson, W. Moore, and W. Wilkinson. A number of prominent laymen of the Liverpool Circuits were present, including J. Caton, D. Kinnish,, R. Kinnish, J.  Hindley, M Jones, A. Malcolm, W. Hetherington, E. Davies, R.F. Whiteside, and J. Tunley. His widow and family find their sorrow much relieved by the remembrance of the great grace which was upon him during his life, the good he was enabled to accomplish, and the widespread, loving interest displayed when his illness became known. Mr. Tharme fought a noble fight, and kept the faith, not intellectually only, but practically. All acquainted with the facts of his life feel assured that he has been called to receive the crown of righteousness, and if every soul gained for Christ adds a star to the heavenly crown, his crown must be a brilliant one indeed.


William was born abt1841 at Liverpool, Lancashire. His father, William, was a whitesmith.

Census returns identify the following occupations for William.

  • 1881 fine arts dealer
  • 1891 missionary

He married Miriam Ann Peterson (1839-1921) on 27 December 1863 at St Anne’s, Liverpool, Lancashire. Census returns identify three children.

  • Elizabeth (b1866)
  • Edith (b1872) – married James Alexander Miller Campbell, a mechanical engineer, in 1895
  • James (1875-1943) – a dairyman (1911)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/618

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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