Palmer, James (1877-1967)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

JAMES PALMER: born at Sherburn Hill, Co. Durham, in 1877. His family later moved to Stanley, Co. Durham, where he started work in the coal mine at the age of twelve. Converted at a service in the little wayside chapel at Oxhill, he educated himself to reach the standard required to offer for the ministry. He was trained at Hartley College and travelled in Normanton, Shipley, Burnopfield, Jarrow, Allendale, Newcastle III, Durham and Spennymoor circuits, retiring in 1943. 

The greater part of his ministry was spent in the North East where he was greatly loved and accepted by shipyard worker, farmer and miner alike because of his deep human understanding. His preaching revealed the depth of a well-stored mind for he read widely and kept himself fully informed. When preaching he never used notes and he had the facility for expounding deep spiritual truth in simple terms with a wealth of vivid illustration. He had a great sense of humour that enlivened every conversation and his powerful voice and rich laughter were a delight to hear.

A beloved pastor, he was always a welcome visitor and his warm sympathy and gift for friendship endeared him to all those among whom he worked. During times of industrial depression, he was unsparing in his efforts to help those in need and is still remembered for his practical sympathy. He was a conscientious administrator and his wisdom laid the foundations for many a sound enterprise. 

Retiring in Durham, he was in great demand as a preacher in the county, until he was suddenly stricken with near blindness while conducting a service. He continued, reciting the lessons from memory and preaching the sermon, and it was not until the end of the service that the congregation was aware of what had happened. His disability did not daunt him and he kept his mind alert through the radio and with a ‘talking book’. His insights into many modern problems astounded many of his younger colleagues. He continued to visit at the local hospital, always travelling alone, and he spent many hours with other retired men, delighting them with tales drawn from along experience and an alert memory. 

Cared for by his two daughters, he remained active until a few days before his death on 23 May 1967, in the ninetieth year of his age and the sixty-third of his ministry.


James was born on 19 November 1877 at Sherburn Hill, Co. Durham, to parents William, a coal miner, and Ellen.

Before entering the ministry James worked as a coal miner (1901).

He married Minnie Jopling (1882-1953) in the summer of 1908 in the  Wakefield Registration District, Yorkshire. Census returns and birth records identify two children.

  • Muriel (1909-1997) – married Norman C Flower, a secondary schoolmaster (1939), in 1937
  • Mildred (b1917)

James died on 23 May 1967 at Durham, Co. Durham.


  • Hartley
  • 1904 Normanton
  • 1908 Shipley
  • 1911 Burnopfield
  • 1915 Jarrow
  • 1921 Allendale
  • 1930 Newcastle III
  • 1934 Durham
  • 1938 Spennymoor &c
  • 1943 Durham (Sup)


Methodist Minutes 1967/203

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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