Thornley, John Herbert (1878-1926)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by F.S.B.

A true son of a most worthy sire was John H. Thornley. For the long period of fifty-eight years his father, the late Rev. William Thornley, was a faithful and successful minister of our Church.

Born at Bacup, on February 13th, 1878, he was led chiefly through the example and influence of godly parents to dedicate his life to the Church. He entered college in 1901, and in 1903 began his ministry at Cowes, where he met the lady who later became his wife. After twelve months in the Island, health reasons made a a move to Sturminster Newton necessary. The last year of probation and the first four on the approved list were spent at Belvedere. 

Another five years’ term was passed on the Talke Circuit, then shorter periods at Alfreton and Hounslow. In 1921 he moved to St. Helens, where his father had once travelled; and was nearing the completion of a very successful five years’ sojourn and eagerly anticipating further service at Otley, when he was suddenly called to the perfect unending service of heaven on March 31st, 1926.

For nearly the whole of his ministerial career he was seriously handicapped by physical weakness and illness. His trials, however, were not allowed to embitter his soul or diminish his faith and ardour. With Stevensonian courage and buoyancy and zest he faced life, and diligently sought to meet the heavy demands which large circuits made upon him. Often when he was preaching or ministering to the sick and sorrowful he was over-taxing his physical resources. Ten days before his decease, though far from well, he conducted worship and preached twice, and took part in a junior missionary meeting.

As a man and a preacher he was of a quiet, unobtrusive order; self-assertiveness and demonstrativeness were entirely alien to him, but he was rich in intellectual and spiritual gifts, and ever ready to spend and be spent for the sake of others. Thoughtful hearers received valuable instruction and stimulus from him. For two years he was the mayor’s chaplain at St. Helens. The sermons he preached when the mayor paid his official visits to our church made a deep impression upon the large congregations that assembled.

A large and representative company, including the Mayor and Mayoress and many clergy and ministers of other churches, gathered for the funeral service, which was conducted by the Rev. J. Keith Elliott (General Committee representative) on April 3rd, in Westfield Street Church, St. Helens. Appreciative tributes were paid to his character and work, and sympathy expressed for the sorrowing relatives, especially the widow and son, by the Circuit Steward, the Secretary of the Free Church Minister’s Fraternal, and a former colleague. His body was laid to rest near his parents at Sanghall (Saughall) Cemetery, Chester. The Rev. W. Dawson (an old college friend and the Liverpool District representative) officiated at the interment, assisted by the other ministers of the Chester Circuits.


John was born on 13 February 1878 at Bacup, Lancashire, to parents William Thornley, a PM minister, and Margaret Moore.

Before entering the ministry John worked as a commercial traveller (1901).

He married Mabel Rose Ford (1879-1960) in early 1908 on the Isle of Wight. Birth records identify one child.

  • Willian Guy Ford (1914-1975)

John died on 31 March 1926 at St Helens, Lancashire.


  • Hartley
  • 1903 Newport, IoW
  • 1904 Sturminster
  • 1906 Belvedere
  • 1911 Talke
  • 1916 Alfreton
  • 1918 Hounslow
  • 1921 St Helens


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1926/883

PM Minutes 1926/288

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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