Fawell, George Kirtley (1882-1985)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

GEORGE KIRTLEY FAWELL: born at Seaton, Seaham, Country Durham on 11th September, 1882 where his father was overman at the local colliery. He became a schoolteacher but on hearing the call to preach entered the Primitive Methodist Ministry and was trained in Hartley College, Manchester where his tutors included Professor A. S. Peake, Professor A. L. Humphries and D. Neilson. He was ordained in 1903 and in the following year was stationed in Hull as an assistant to the President of the Primitive Methodist Conference, the Rev. Robert Harrison. Unfortunately his health broke down and he was told that he would never preach again. Through the kindness of a local Methodist, Mr. Ferens, two sea voyages to Egypt and Russia so improved his health that he was able to return to a full and active ministry which lasted for fifty years. 

Kirtley served in the following circuits, Chester (George Street), Hull Third (East), Swindon, Bury (Edenfield), Westgate (Stanhope), Eston, Stokesley, Jarrow (Hebburn), Willington, Wingate (later Thornley), Seaham and Durham. It was whilst serving in Bury that he met and married his wife Alison. They had four sons, and Alison shared fully in the work of the churches until her death in 1964, eleven years after Kirtley’s retirement. 

His ministry was mainly among his own people, the farmers and miners of the North East. To them, he was preacher, pastor and administrator and all his work was supported by wide reading. He brought to his ministry a forcefulness and directness of approach which gained him wide respect outside of Methodism and love and admiration from his own people. At District level he served as Chapel Secretary for the Sunderland and Durham District, and it was because of his experience in this office that he was called back, after his retirement in 1953 to supervise the building of the new Methodist Church in the New Town of Peterlee. Here, he gave himself energetically to the raising of money and to negotiations for a suitable site. Sometimes he was in conflict with local and Diocesan authorities but the church was built and opened in 1958, due largely to his efforts and initiative. During this period he was presented to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. 

Kirtley died peacefully in St. Margaret’s Hospital, Durham on 14th March 1985 in the one hundred and third year of his life and the eighty third year of his ministry.


Kirtley was born on 11 September 1882 at Seaton, Co. Durham, to parents William, a coal miner, and Harriet.

He married Alison Smith (1883-1964) in the summer of 1915 in the Bury Registration District, Lancashire. Birth records identify four children.

  • John Kirtley (1916-2009) – a colliery electrician (1939)
  • William (b1918) – articled clerk to chartered accountant (1939)
  • Gordon (1922-2018)
  • Donald Thomas (1925-2012)

Kirtley died on 14 March 1985 at Durham, Co. Durham.


  • Hartley
  • 1903 Chester I
  • 1904 Hull II
  • 1905 Swindon
  • 1908 Bury
  • 1913 Westgate
  • 1919 Eston
  • 1923 Stokesley
  • 1926 Jarrow
  • 1928 Willington
  • 1934 Wingate
  • 1944 Seaham
  • 1948 Durham
  • 1953 Seaham (Sup)


Methodist Minutes 1985/69

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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