Wanless, John Blacklock (1881-1957)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

JOHN BLACLOCK WANLESS: born 1881. He entered the Primitive Methodist Ministry from Sunderland. There are still surviving those who remember him in the early years when he sought equipment for his life’s task. His promising qualities were quickly realized. His eager mind, alert and greatly gifted, his passion for study, his wide range of reading in theology, philosophy, and general literature, his growing understanding of the value of historical criticism in the interpretation of the Bible—all these were dedicated to his great purpose of presenting the Gospel message. This he was able to do with a literary beauty and historical imagination which made the Bible live again for his hearers. 

His early habits of ordered study and spiritual devotion remained with him through all the years of his ministry. The people to whom he ministered were greatly blessed by the free and full disposal of the resources of his mind and heart, enriched as they were by the grace of God. In a sense he was not what is described as a popular preacher. He never treated lightly his pulpit responsibilities. He knew that the crowning glory of the Ministry was to speak from a sense of the Divine Presence and by the authority of God’s grace to needy souls. Many, indeed, found God and came to a clearer understanding of spiritual truth through his ministry. He knew also the immense value of the Methodist Hymn Book as an instrument of worship, and wisely exploited its resources in the service of the Gospel. 

He began as a Probationer in Plumstead, but all the remainder of his ministry, with the exception of a brief term at Upwell and Manea, was spent in the North, at Burnopfield, Consett, Seaton Delaval, Hexham, Coxhoe, Chester-le-Street, Willington, Seaham, and finally Haltwhistle. He had great administrative capacity. Before Union he was secretary for what in Primitive Methodism was called the District Building Committee. When Union came he was appointed District Chapel Secretary, in which office he served so efficiently that after two years he was appointed Synod Secretary. This position he held with great ability and acceptance for six years. His knowledge of constitutional practice was thorough, and his guidance was always listened to with great respect. For a number of years he was a member of the General Chapel Committee. 

His hobby as a craftsman in wood gave him great pleasure. He had ten years of retirement, at first in Glasgow and then in Sunderland. He faced physical handicap with cheerful courage and patience, but died suddenly on 31st August 1957 in the fifty-second year of his ministry and the seventy-seventh of his age.


John was born on 19 March 1881 at Sunderland, Co. Durham, to parents Ralph Wanless, a drilling & boring machinist (1881), and Mary Jane Blacklock.

Before entering the ministry John was apprentices to a lead glazier (1901)

He married Ethel Mary Stelling (1887-1958) in the spring of 1915 in the Lanchester Registration District, Co. Durham.

John died on 31 August 1957 at Sunderland, Co. Durham.


  • 1906 Plumstead &c
  • 1911 Shotley Bridge
  • 1915 Burnopfield
  • 1918 Hexham
  • 1922 Seaton Delaval
  • 1928 Coxhoe
  • 1931 Chester le Street
  • 1934 Willington
  • 1938 Upwell &c
  • 1941 Seaham
  • 1944 Haltwhistle
  • 1947 Glasgow (Sup)


Methodist Minutes 1958/172

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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