Devlin, William (1798-1834)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by  Mary Devlin and  J Parrott


P.M. Travelling Preacher.

W. Devlin was born in Ireland, in the year 1798. But leaving the land of his nativity, he came to England in the year 1832, and settled at Brampton, in Cumberland; where our brother and sister Maughan interested themselves both in his temporal and spiritual welfare. And at his desire they took him to a lovefeast, where he found the Lord, and publicly declared the glorious change the Lord had then and there wrought in his heart. His so doing made a move in the meeting, which was followed by a still greater move in the society; and he joined, and graced his profession by a holy walk. And at the December quarter-day, 1823, he was received on the preachers’ plan, and entered on his new work with fear and trembling; but he obtained assistance from the Lord’s hand, and grew in favour with both God and man.

At the June quarter-day, 1824, he was taken out to travel by the Carlisle circuit; where he travelled the first twelve months, and where his labours were much owned of the Lord; and there are now different members in the circuit who are the fruits of his labours.

As a preacher, Brother Devlin was acceptable, His talents were not beyond mediocrity; but his word was accompanied by a Divine Unction to the souls of his hearers. In the discharge of his ministerial duties, he was prompt and zealous. He sought not after indulgence and a cringing from labour, but was earnest to promote the interests of his Divine Master. One thing particularly opened his way, and that was his ministerial family visiting. In this duty he was very diligent; and the manner in which he performed it, gained him general esteem in the different circuits in which he laboured.

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne circuit he stood high in the affections of the people. At Berwick-upon-Tweed he lived in the affections of the church. In June, 1834, I assisted them at a missionary meeting; and being informed of his departure, they purposed to have a funeral sermon preached in Berwick chapel; and I transmitted them from Carlisle some particulars of his latter end and death.

The following was given to me by his widow: she says, “As a HUSBAND, he was loving. He did not make the greatest public show, but considered my temporal and spiritual welfare, and studiously avoided every thing that would do me harm either in body or soul. Yet he would be honoured; always bearing in mind, that if a man rules not his own house, he is not fit to rule the church of God. In my affliction he was both my physician and nurse; and I never cared who I wanted, so I had him with me. He deeply sympathised with me in all my trials. I believe nothing gave him greater pain than to see me cast down.”

During the six years of his married life he had three sons, none of whom survived him.

As a Christian, humility was the prominent trait in his character, and holiness to the Lord appears to have been his pole star. The language of his journal frequently says, “My soul is truly humbled before the Lord. O my God, lay souls near my heart, and help me to live to some purpose. O my God, keep me humble. O may the zeal of thy house eat me up. I see more than ever my nothingness before the Lord.” He makes frequent record of sinners who obtained pardon, and believers who obtained purity of heart under his ministry; and then exclaims, “To thee, (O Lord), be all the glory. O how sweet to my soul to be in the valley of humility. Lord, lay me low, and keep me there.”

At my: first going out to travel, I laboured sixteen weeks with him in North Shields circuit; and I have followed him in several circuits; in all of which I have heard his piety spoken highly of. And it is evident from his journals that he cultivated a close union with the Trinity in unity. In North Shields circuit, we (the travelling preachers), met in select band every Saturday evening. And for some time Brother Devlin expressed his desire for the possession of a clean heart. And I well remember, on one occasion, on his return from what we called the long round, he stood up, and stated in the clearest manner, the place where, the time when, and the manner how God granted him his desire in (fully) sanctifying his soul. And I have not found reason to suppose that he ever lost the invaluable treasure.

I wish here to be allowed to remark, that at my entrance on the itinerant ministry, I derived so much benefit from the select band, that I formed an attachment to the system, which to the present day has not abated.

In return to Brother Devlin, I may remark, that for twenty-five weeks previous to his departure, he was unable to take his appointments. I transcribe what follows from sister Devlin’s hand-writing, with which she has furnished me:— 

“My dear partner had an impression at the beginning of his confinement that his work on earth was done; but was perfectly resigned to the Divine will, often saying, “Thy will be done.” His sufferings at the beginning were great in the extreme; but I never heard him murmur. And he declared to me that he never felt a murmuring thought arise. Often, after a severe fit of suffering, he would say, “Thank thee, Jesus, that’s another hard lift towards the end of life.” I never heard any one speak of death with so much composure as he. Often he exclaimed,

“With him I on Zion shall stand,
For Jesus hath spoken the word.”

“At times he was particularly happy. One evening, on my going into the room, he said “Now, love, are you come to help me to praise the Lord?” I said, “Are you happy?” He answered, “Yes; I’ve just had a glimpse of the promis’d land.” It seemed almost more than he could bear; and being filled with raptures, he praised the Lord aloud. Another evening; sister Hudale paid him a visit, and in their conversation told him he would obtain a martyr’s crown. To this he replied, “I believe I shall receive what will satisfy me.” He earnestly exhorted me to cleave to the Lord by a constant walk of holiness, frequently expressing his confidence that I should never want; adding, “You have infinite goodness on your side.”

“Towards the close of life he was not so triumphant, which caused him sometimes to lament. But he invariably said he had a solid peace. To brother Gregson he one day observed, “For some days I’ve been like Paul’s sailors, without sun or stars, but that is over.” This obscurity seems to have arisen from a three-fold cause, viz., the intensity of his pain, the quantity of opium administered to him, and the last heavy attack which the prince of  darkness made upon him at the time of nature’s greatest extremity. A few days prior to his death he was quite delirious, yet when asked any thing concerning his soul, he could always give a sensible answer.

“On the 12th of June, between eleven and twelve o’clock, A.M., I thought him dying, and immediately asked, “Are you very happy?” With a smile he answered “Yes, I feel a solid happiness, and an unshaken confidence in God. But I shall come about after a bit.” He did so; and in a short time called me to his bedside, and said, “Now, can you give me up?” I answered, “I shall be forced to do it.” “But there is a difference between being willing and forced,” he rejoined. I then answered in the affirmative, at which he greatly rejoiced, exclaiming, “Glory, glory, glory!” He then spoke to the friends present of my resignation, and begged of them now to pray the Lord to grant him a speedy release, his all on earth being made complete. Brother Ramsay, (travelling preacher), and Brother Morton (leader), prayed, and it was a solemn time. Shortly after he called out again, “Pray, pray, pray the Lord to release me hence.” His wish was complied with, and a divine influence and glory rested upon us, which raised me above the pain of parting, feeling fully assured that he was landing in glory, and that we should soon meet above, to part no more for ever. Quickly after, his happy spirit took its flight in profound tranquillity from its perfectly worn-out tenement of clay, to its ‘‘house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, “ June 12th, 1834, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, and exactly six years to the day on which we were so happily united in matrimony.  “MARY DEVLIN.”


The great esteem in which he was held in this circuit is evident from the numbers that attended his remains to the grave. It is reported to have been the largest funeral ever seen in the city of Carlisle. According to the calculation of several very intelligent men, no less than TWO THOUSAND persons followed to the church yard, many of whom came from the country. The friends sung before the corpse to the church, and the whole was attended with the most impressive solemnity.

At the request of the Quarter-day, I preached his funeral sermon at the three principal places in the circuit, viz., Carlisle, Brampton, and Bothel. The attendance at each place was immensely large. Many tears were shed, and I hope lasting good done. May my last end be virtuous as his. Amen. J. Parrott.

(Written at the request of, and approved by, the Circuit Committee. )


An Extract from the Circuit Report.

The Circuit Report for the year 1834, says:— William Devlin will have travelled ten years at midsummer. Was taken out by Carlisle circuit. Has travelled in Ripon, Brompton, Sunderland, North Shields, Newcastle, and now Carlisle. Is attentive to discipline, a general family visitor. His preaching is generally acceptable. Is not addicted to long preaching. Preaches a full, free, and present salvation. Has been successful in the conversion of sinners to God. His general conduct with us has been good.


William was born in 1798 in Ireland.

He married Mary Tanfield (1801-1891) on 12 June 1828 at Brompton by Northallerton, Yorkshire.

William died on 12 June 1834.

After William’s death, Mary returned to Northallerton where she was a schoolteacher.


  • 1824 Carlisle
  • 1825 Ripon
  • 1827 Brompton
  • 1828 Sunderland
  • 1829 N Shields
  • 1831 Newcastle
  • 1833 Carlisle


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1835/175

PM Minutes 1835/2

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *