Bray, William John (1855-1897)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference by J. Rogers

WILLIAM JOHN BRAY was born in Norfolk, England, on October the 9th, 1855. His parents were members of our Church, and were thoroughly pious. Their practical Christianity told upon William John, and at the age of 16 years he decided for Christ. He at once entered upon Christian work, and disclosed the possession of talents of a high order. In due time he was placed upon the Local Preachers’ plan, when the late Dr. Antliff urged him to study for the ministry. The Spirit moved, and the Church called, and he entered upon the work in Parkgate Circuit, then two years at Spalding, and a year at Conningsby, when he was asked to go to Australia. This was a great cross to him, but he took it up, and on April 17th, 1878, he left England for Queensland, the Rev. W. Smith accompanying. 

Mr. Bray was then a fine-looking man, ruggedly built and full of great capabilities. His first station was Brisbane; here he contracted his breaking-down illness. He had got wet, and though he had had a long journey, yet he did not stop even for tea, but went to an open-air service on a Sabbath evening, just as he was – wet, tired, hungry – then to a crowded church. With much difficulty he got through the service. Fever and ague followed, and he suffered much and long, being reduced almost to a skeleton. He remained there two years, and before he left was joined in matrimony to one whom he has left with three children. His next station was Bundaberg. In this district he had great success, many being led to Christ. The Presbyterians of the district were about to open a church, and expressed a desire for Mr. Bray to join them, but he was made of different stuff than some we have had in the ministry, for though the offer carried a salary of £350 a year he declined. 

It was thought by some that a change to Tasmania would be beneficial, for he was still far from his original health and condition. This was arranged, and he was stationed at Hobart, and his efforts were abundantly blest, many deciding for the Master’s service. At this station he became permanently afflicted with chronic rheumatism in his limbs, but he still persevered with the work. From there he went to Eaglehawk (Victoria), and not a few thank God for his mission there. His next circuit was Melbourne Fourth, where not only were many sinners saved, but he erected two churches, one at Coburg, and East Brunswick. He was now so weakened that a year’s rest was given him. Not much improvement took place, and so, very reluctantly, he applied for superannuation. 

For a time (assisted by his noble wife) he tried a shop, and then Life Assurance advocacy. In the latter he was very successful, and his success led the Company to offer him a promotion in Tasmania, whither he removed in February last, and took up his residence at Penguin, where in a short time he made many friends. His love for the Master’s work was as great as ever. Of a truth, ‘He did what he could.’ After a trip to Hobart it was soon noticed that a change was rapidly coming over him, and on the 11th of May his soul was released from its earthly house. What a change after 15 years of suffering; now no weakness, no pain, no weariness. His character may be well summed up in the following words, ‘Mentally, well-gifted and well-furnished;’ spiritually, humble, devoted, patient, truthful resigned. A man of energy, full of fertile thought, quick to plan, and brimful of hope; ever ready to attempt and expect much in God’s cause, and many at last will be his ‘Crown of rejoicing.’ On May 13th his remains were interred in the Penguin Cemetery, the Revs. Currie, Jackson, Walton, Brown and Rogers taking part.


William was born on 9 October 1855 at Ditchingham, Norfolk, to parents Edward, a gas maker, and Emma.

William died on 11 May 1897 in Australia.


  • 1875 Spalding
  • 1876 Coningsby
  • 1877 Belper
  • 1878 Brisbane, Australia
  • 1880 Bundaberg
  • 1882 Hobart
  • 1884 Eaglehawk
  • 1887 Melbourne IV
  • 1890 Melbourne V (S)
  • 1895 Bendigo


PM Minutes 1898/7

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p438

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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