Surtees, Alexander (1877-1979)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

ALEXANDER SURTEES: born in Spennymoor, County Durham on 24th December 1877. Beginning his working life in a coal mine and later starting a small private business, he entered the Primitive Methodist ministry in 1903 and was sent immediately on to the stations serving in the Kennington, Tranent Mission, Aberavon, Pateley Bridge, Hinckley, Sutton and Kirkby Stockton-on-Tees, Gainsborough, Sheffield (Bethel), Keighley (Alice Street) and Selby (Gowthorpe) Circuits. 

Although he outlived many of his contemporaries, there are still those who remember his well-prepared and informed preaching, his diligence and compassion as a pastor and his care for detail in administration. He read widely and retained this interest, despite failing eyesight, to the end of his life. He preached his last sermon at the age of 87, but his interest in preaching never waned and he was an interested listener, many preachers benefitting from his thoughtful comments. 

Retiring to Scarborough in 1944 because of the ill health of his wife, who died in 1952, he found that a minister had been taken from the Jubilee Circuit because of war-time chaplaincy needs and for two years he took charge of the Gladstone Road Church.

He became a familiar figure in the town, riding a bicycle until he was 83 and, almost to the time of his death, walking with a quick stride and running down the steps to his basement flat. He attended the South Cliff Church every Sunday morning and the weekly communion service. He retained all his faculties, playing a formidable game of chess and, taking up bowls at the age of 75, held almost every office in a local Bowls Club, being made a life member and playing in the club team until the season before his hundredth birthday. The oldest British Methodist minister, he attended the Ministerial Synod and the District Ministers’ Retreat until his hundredth year. He is remembered with affection and gratitude by all who knew him, not least for a streak of obstinacy that made him difficult to live with at times, and sometimes discomforted his colleagues, but revealed a strong character and a determination to achieve all that he attempted. 

He had scarcely a day’s illness and no mental disability and although he was impatient with any weakness in himself, he had a deep concern for others and, despite his great age, any indisposition among his friends prompted a visit on foot that brought encouragement and inspiration. He is survived by an only daughter, Stella, who cared for both her parents with rare patience and devotion. He died on 19th January 1979 in the one hundred and second year of his age and the seventy-sixth year of his ministry.


Alexander was born on 24 December 1877 at Spennymoor, Co. Durham, to parents Joseph Cook Surtees, a coal miner (1881), and Mary Elizabeth Raine.

Before entering the ministry Alexander worked as a yeast merchant (1901).

He married Mary Stephenson (1875-1952) in the summer of 1907 in the Durham Registration District, Co. Durham. Census returns identify one child.

  • Elizabeth Stella (1908-1985)

Alexander died on 19 January 1979 at Scarborough, Yorkshire.


  • 1903 Kennington
  • 1905 Tranent
  • 1907 Aberavon
  • 1909 Pateley Bridge
  • 1913 Hinckley
  • 1918 Sutton & Kirkby
  • 1923 Stockton
  • 1926 Gainsborough
  • 1931 Sheffield I
  • 1934 Keighley
  • 1940 Selby Now
  • 1944 Scarborough (Sup)


Methodist Minutes 1979/90

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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