Parnaby, Walter Norman (1886-1973)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

WALTER NORMAN PARNABY: born in Castlefield in 1886. His conversion owed much to the influence of a godly home, and his call to preach came as he accompanied his father, a local preacher, to his appointments. After working for a time as a furniture salesman he was accepted for the Primitive Methodist ministry and trained at Hartley College. After a year in the Colchester circuit he entered Livingstone College in 1914 to train for service overseas, but he felt the challenge to join his contemporaries in the army and volunteered as a stretcher-bearer in the East Anglian Field Ambulance Regiment, later becoming a chaplain. He saw service in France, Egypt and Salonica, and when the war was over continued his chaplaincy service in the Aldershot circuit.

Later he travelled in the Weston-super-Mare, Salisbury (Dews Road), Oakengates, Aylesbury, High Wycombe, and Swindon (Regent Street) circuits. 

His wartime experience in the ranks and as a chaplain helped him to get on terms with all kinds of people: in his early ministry he was in great demand as a speaker to children and young people. He was greatly beloved as a pastor, remaining five years in his circuits when such a stay was by no means common: his longest stay was in Aylesbury where he saw the union of the Primitive and Wesleyan circuits achieved. On his retirement he served for two years as an active supernumerary in Blackburn, and after living in Bedford for a while entered the Methodist Homes for the Aged at Hitchin where he continued to be a pastor and friend to his fellow-residents. 

He was cheerful and full of courage to the end, showing a faith that continued his witness to his Lord when his preaching days were over. He died on 12th January, 1973, in the eighty-seventy year of his age and the sixtieth of his ministry.


Walter was born on 1 September 1886 at Castleford, Yorkshire, to parents John William Parnaby, a grocer’s assistant (1901) and Frances. He was baptised on 5 November 1886 at Castleford.

The 1901 census return records Walter as an errand boy.

He married Maud Eliza Milburn (1883-1979) in late 1917 in the Pontefract Registration District, Yorkshire. Census returns identify two children.

  • Joan Milburn (1920-2015) – a Post Office clerk, telegraphist and sorter (1939); married Wilfred F Hurst in 1947
  • John Derek (1923-1991)

Walter died on 12 January 1973 in the Chesterfield Registration District, Derbyshire.


  • Hartley
  • 1913 Colchester
  • 1914 Livingsone Coll
  • 1915 H.M. Forces
  • 1919 H.M. Forces Chaplain, Aldershot
  • 1924 Weston Super Mare
  • 1929 Salisbury
  • 1934 Oakengates
  • 1936 Aylesbury
  • 1944 High Wycombe
  • 1949 Swindon Reg St
  • 1953 Blackburn (S)


Methodist Minutes 1973/151

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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