Perhaps one of the most curious articles in the Primitive Methodist Magazine I have come across was in the 1854 volume entitled: Damp Beds
The author, Charles Parker, one of the travelling preachers, was used to deprivations of various sorts, preaching in the open air to unruly crowds, enduring the jeers of the wicked and the sneers of the infidel. But worst of all was to be received by supposed friends offering hospitality and then at the end of the day “to be consigned to a damp bed”!
This had been the death of some of his colleagues, bringing to a premature death “a useful labourer in God`s vineyard”. He continued: “our work is arduous, and in most circuits a great portion of our time is spent away from home. We do not look for luxuries but we do entreat that our constitutions may not be ruined through the inattention of our friends.” He cited a surgeon who knew many preachers to call them a race with ill health. So with this in mind, he had written to the Connexional Editor to ask him to include a paper written by John Lazenby, a local preacher, highlighting the bad practices he knew of. Some had complained of being put in beds far from the fire which had not been slept in for 6 or 8 weeks. He himself had covered for a preacher at a weeknight service and found the following conditions:
“I was told my bed was in the parlour, which I found to be damp and unhealthy. No sooner had I closed the door than I felt some difficulty in breathing., and such was the stench of the place, that I wished myself away, and would have rather walked home , a distance of eight miles, than remain there for the night.”
But as it was late, he stayed and regretted it!
“I had not been in bed ten minutes before a clammy sweat came over me and I was convinced that to remain there till morning would jeopardise my life”.
So he got up and dressed himself and crept out of the house at 4am!!
The moral of the story is that if the Connexion was to retain good and zealous ministers, such inhumane practices should cease. Otherwise ministerial ill health and sometimes early deaths would stifle their efforts with no hope for some of fulfilling the arduous duties of travelling preachers.