Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by M.B. (Mary Bibby)
WHO has not heard of Southport?
Stately and fair!”
The town in which people come to live or die. Sometimes, indeed, they are a long time in reaching the dark portals of the King of Terrors. One of our ex-Mayors, laughingly (and no doubt, thankfully), tells of a day when he came to Southport, sick unto death as he thought, and took a business, hoping he might be spared long enough to see it fairly well established so that his family would have a living after he was gone. That was thirty years ago. To-day he is alive – very much so. His business has increased by leaps and bounds, his family grown up, and he is one of our most respected public men. Nearly all invalids suffering from chest complaints benefit by a sojourn in sunny Southport, so pure and health-giving is the ozone-laden air. Then the town itself is very beautiful. I cannot do better than quote from a recent issue of a popular paper. It is Mr. Marshall Hall, K.C., and our Parliamentary representative, who writes. He says:—
“Southport may be fairly described as one of the most delightful health resorts in the United Kingdom. A little more than a hundred years ago there were nothing but sand dunes on this part of the Lancashire coast. To-day Southport and Birkdale have a population of over 65,000, and they are still growing rapidly. The borough has been laid out on quite modern lines. It possesses a number of parks and recreation grounds, of which Hesketh Park is the finest; an extensive marine lake on the front, on which boating and sailing may be enjoyed at any time, and without any serious risks of unpleasant consequences. There is an exceptionally long pier, with a fine new pavilion, and the promenade is one of the best in the kingdom. Among the popular resorts in the town may be mentioned the Winter Gardens, Kew Gardens, and the Botanic Gardens.
In speaking of Southport as a health resort, it is only right to add that it is one of the cleanest towns in the country. The boulevards stretch (for much as I dislike using a foreign word, there is no word in the English language which describes the Southport streets so accurately) the whole length of Lord Street – a thoroughfare which is often described as the finest street in the country, which certainly compares well with Princes Street, Edinburgh and are very attractive both to the visitors and the residents, especially during the summer months, when the trees are in full foliage, and the Corporation Military Band plays excellent music in the Municipal Gardens. One unique feature which, it is said, has aroused the envy of many less fortunate watering-places is the system of illuminating the boulevard in Lord Street by means of electric fairy lamps. Thousands of these coloured lamps are suspended from the trees, and make the gardens after dusk on summer evenings very picturesque indeed. The health statistics of the borough, which have just been issued by the medical officer, Dr. Weaver, show that the gross death-rate during 1903 was only 14.45 per thousand, while the local death-rate, excluding visitors resident less than 12 months, was only 12.74.”
This description is not too brightly drawn, the latter part especially being good. The innumerable, tiny, coloured and white electric lights gleaming among the trees are suggestive of fairyland. Old and young, visitor and resident are alike enchanted. Electricity reigns supreme. It lights our streets, shops, houses, places of worship, runs our trains, and our trams. About a year ago we had a “battle royal” respecting the latter mode of conveyance. A class of people – those, of course, having the weal of Southport at heart – and not from any selfish motive, declared that Sunday trams were needed. How solicitous they were for the comfort of church and Chapel-goers.
Another class said, emphatically, “No.” Strange to relate, these were the very ones whom the others were so anxious to benefit. But then, some people will stand in their own light. Public feeling ran high, and it was decided to take a vote of the ratepayers. Dear me, what a mustering of forces there was to be sure! Church clergymen and Methodist ministers, Baptist pastors and Salvationists stood shoulder to shoulder, and unitedly prayed and fought tor the continued peace of Gods day. I don’t think the other side prayed much, but they talked and advanced excellent reasons for the running of the desired trams. Cabmen would then be able to attend church or chapel, said these thoughtful ones. But when the result was declared, many a “Thank God” went up, for by a majority of 1,796 Sunday trams were negatived.
I still have the little card upon which the numbers in each ward were hastily dotted down as they were declared from the Town Hall steps. To me it represents a great moral victory. It may be that some who read these lines will exclaim:
“Why, I was at Southport a little while ago, and the trams were running in Lord Street on Sunday.”
Exactly, my friends, and most annoying they are, especially in the evening to those who pass along this fine thoroughfare after service, for from eight o’clock to nine thirty this is a favourite resort. But these trams do not belong to the Southport Corporation. Through some flaw or oversight in the agreement, no mention was made of Sunday traffic, no prohibition stipulated, and thus these “green cars” run from Birkdale to Churchtown en route Lord Street, seven days in the week.
Nor is Southport a whit behind other watering towns religiously. Churches and chapels are to be found in every part of the borough. Every shade of religious feeling is represented. Methodism is very strong. Our own beloved Connexion is well to the front. In the Town Council it has its adherents. Councillors Ingham and Baker are both local preachers, and so long has our respected Circuit Steward been a “public man,” first as Councillor and afterwards as Alderman (the latter for many years), that it would be hard to say whether he is best known as a pillar of strength in municipal matters, or as a leading light in local Primitive Methodism. I believe he would prefer the latter distinction, for Alderman Vaughan is devoted to the Church of his choice. His brother, Rev. Thos. Vaughan, and son, Rev. W. Vaughan are both in our ministry.
Primitive Methodism in Southport is of sturdy growth. It was not planted yesterday. In 1829 G. Tindall preached at Banks and Churchtown, two adjoining villages, but I think it was the late W. Kellett who really introduced Primitive Methodism into Southport. In the year 1831, James Austin Bastow came. I suppose he often trudged past the church of St. Cuthbert, Churchtown. Little did he think that he was within a few feet of his final resting place. Yet such was the case. Just through the gates is a tombstone bearing the inscription:-
“Sacred to the Memory of
James Austin Bastow,
for 60 years a Primitive Methodist minister.
Died April 9th, 1894.
Aged 84 years.”
Here also rests all that is mortal of the Rev. Thomas Doody. Thus the ashes of these two faithful men lie together. What could be more fitting?
The first Sunday School was opened in 1831. Until the year 1854 our people preached in cottages, but a little later a small chapel was built and afterwards enlarged. In 1861 another chapel was built in London Street, and some years later this too was enlarged. A few of our older readers may remember this building, for we worshipped there many years. Probably we should have remained some time longer but we were peremptorily dismissed by fire! This happened on June 9th, 1890. After worshipping in the Temperance Institute for a few Sundays we went to the Cambridge Hall. Here we had services for fifty-two Sundays. Our present chapel in Derby Road was opened on September 1st, 1891, and cost £5,400. In 1897 an additional building was erected for tea meetings, week evening services, etc., which cost £900. We have also a pretty chapel and school in Cemetery Road, erected at a cost of £2,767.
There are now three Southport Circuits, healthy and prosperous. The chapel at Banks, a village in the third Circuit, has lately been enlarged. This is one of the largest Primitive Methodist village causes in England, and connected therewith is an excellent day school (under Government inspection). All our societies recognise the fact that the Sunday School and Christian Endeavour Movement are powerful helps to the young life of our church, and as such are well supported.
This sketch would be singularly incomplete if no mention were made of those who have “ministered in holy things,” The names of Revs. T. Doody, W. Kitson, T. Bennett, F. Smith, G. Mitchell, G. Jenkinson and F. Shimmin are associated with Primitive Methodism in somewhat earlier days. The late Rev. T. Guttery followed Mr. Shimmin. Very regretfully we said farewell to him and to his lovely wife – for Mrs. Guttery was lovely, if elderly – declaring in our short-sightedness that there would never be another Mr. Guttery. Truly, but when the Rev. H.J. Taylor came we realised that we had a God-sent man. During the seven years of his ministry he was ready for every good work. While never neglecting the slightest detail in connection with his own church, he was ever to the front in matters concerning the religious life of the town. A fearless, eloquent Speaker, a strong personality, combined to make him one of Southport’s most popular ministers. When he left us the cry went up again – “We shall never find another Mr. Taylor.” No, but we found, or rather, God sent the Rev. W. R. Bird, a minister whose name is as ointment poured forth, not only in Southport, but in all the Connexion. How greatly he is beloved words fail to tell, chiefly on account of his Christliness. What a tribute to Christianity. Very reluctantly we parted from him so that the whole Connexion might share his services. His family remain here – his daughter and the writer‘s daughter, with Mrs. Williamson, having charge of the junior Christian Endeavour.
Our present minister is the Rev. J. Reavley, a man of refinement and ability, well read and an able debater; always swayed by the Spirit of the Master, and striving ever to turn the eyes of his people Heavenward. All his attainments are devoted to his lifework. He is a determined antagonist of the present educational laws – a passive resister who has suffered the spoiling of his goods. So that all along the line Southport Primitive Methodists have had cause to be thankful for her ministers. The other Circuits have been equally fortunate and blessed.
At one time Southport was a favourite abode of superannuated ministers. The Rev. Miles Dickinson, Rev. J. and Mrs. Calvert, Rev. T. and Mrs. Bennett, all dwelt here, and were members of the same society class. But death has called away three of the number. Mr. Calvert has gone to reside elsewhere, and only Mr. Bennett remains, the dearly loved father of the writer. His eighty-one years do not sit too heavily upon him. He waits in calm content for the home-call, which we trust may not be yet.
Before closing we should like to add a cutting from the Daily News, June 25th, 1904, “The Corporation of Southport have granted the use of the bandstand in Corporation Gardens for the summer season for the purpose of holding united Evangelistic services on Sunday evenings. According to an arranged plan an Anglican clergyman will preside, and a Free Church minister will give the address one evening, the next evening the order will be reversed. An efficient united choir organised by the Christian Endeavour Union will lead the singing.” The spiritual needs of those who throng the boulevards on Sunday evening are not unheeded. They have the Word of God preached to them, thus fulfilling our Lord’s command “Go ye out into the highways—.” The faithful addresses of God’s servants are listened to by a well-dressed audience – chiefly, I think, members and seat-holders of the various churches. But do their words reach the giddy multitude who pass to and fro? Let us hope that some of the good seed will take root and hear fruit.
“In that great eternal day.
When God the nations shall survey,
May it before the world appear
That some were born for glory here.”
Or shall we not revert to the original wording of the hymn and say “crowds,” for it is a grand opportunity to reach numbers who never enter Gods house.
Christian Messenger 1904/273