A minister who 'disappeared'
Rev. William Eckersall ministered in England and Scotland between 1832 and 1848 then he ‘disappeared’ (Leary, W., Ministers and Circuits in the Primitive Methodist Church, a Directory, 1990).
A pioneer in the goldfields
Mr. Eckersall migrated to Melbourne, Australia, in 1852 where he gained public prominence as a pioneer in the LaTrobe Street, Melbourne, Lygon Street, Carlton, and Union Street, Brunswick, Primitive Methodist Churches and on the goldfields at Amherst near Castlemaine, Victoria; also as ‘father’ of the inner-city municipality of Collingwood and a Brunswick Borough Councillor, 1864-1866; and as an activist in philanthropy, politics and education.
Virtues carried to excess
Altogether a ‘Micawberish’ character, his virtues carried to full excess, he was twice declared insolvent. Related Melbourne Argus entries, 1853-1889, number more than 100. Fowles, E.W.H., Melbourne Fourth: A History and a Remembrance of Primitive Methodism, 1851-1901 (1902) memorialised Mr. Eckersall: ‘he laboured…actively to set firm the cause of Primitive Methodism…In character, strong and consistent, in love to his church, loyal and practical, in labours abundant, careful, and successful, he leaves behind many to bless his work’; also Brunswick Jubilee History (1907): ‘[He] was a speaker of more than ordinary ability, [who] had taken part in most of the public, and especially the political events, of the time’.
Still green in his memory
My work in progress, Mr. Eckersall, quotes the hand-written memoir of his twilight years (lightly edited) which recalled the ‘privilege’ he had had ‘of assisting in this [revival] movement when he was young’; the ‘grand scenes of that mighty visitation…still green in his memory’ (born in 1812 in Prestwich, Manchester, he ‘fell on sleep’ in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia, in 1890):
‘A Methodist Church of about six souls exists in Kilsyth – occasionally a minister visits there from Glasgow . They regularly met in a small room for prayer and exhortation. They became deeply impressed for the spiritual welfare of their neighbours. They organised and carried out a series of cottage prayer meetings.
For upwards of 12 months they sustained these praying services. Every part of the town was visited by this praying band. The conversion of sinners was their one object. In the midst of many disappointments they continued intent in prayer. Their faith rose and they became confident of success. How or where God would meet them they knew not, but they believed that God’s time to visit them was come.
The time arrived for the administration of the sacrament in the parish Church , special services were held on these occasions extending over several days. Though not members of this Church they made special prayers for a blessing to rest on this sacramental ordinance. The series of services were accompanied with a gracious spiritual power. A young minister named Wm. Binns, eminent for piety or simple sincere correctness in the pulpit, was appointed to preach on the Sabbath, Ezekiel: Chapter 9. His powerful address was sent home to many hearts that night. An overwhelming spiritual influence swept through the vast assembly. A young man, the school master, occupying a front seat was borne down to the floor under that converting, saving power – what shall I do to be saved was a cry which went up from many souls. The sermon was closed. The vestry was thrown open for prayer. That small praying band was quite ready for the occasion. The Spirit of the Lord was with them.
This converting work furthered in power and spread right and left. The Mills suspended their work – public houses were closed and the entire population appeared to be visited from on high. A court of ministers investigated this great work and counted up its results and their estimate was that 15,000 souls had been spiritually benefited by this converting movement. The writer of this note had the privilege of assisting in this movement when he was young but now he is old but the grand scenes of that mighty visitation are still green in his memory.’
I am Mr. Eckersall’s great grandson.
Dr. Ken Eckersall, Eltham , Victoria , Australia