10. A September Quarterly Meeting in October! Why?

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”

IT is puzzling at first to find that the September Quarterly Meeting (so-called) of 1813 was really held on October 4th. Now that a hundred years have passed it might hardly seem worth while to explain how this came about. But the minute investigator of a period has learned by experience that it is always better to loosen knots as you go on; for a knot is generally one of a series, so that if you loosen the first the rest may almost disentangle themselves. You never can tell what a slight investigation may lead to. Of course, it may only end in a squirrel-track; but then, again, it may bring you to treasure-trove. So we will not let the fact stated in our first sentence pass unquestioned, or take the view that it was a mere accident and just happened so. “Happened’ is a word dearly loved of the slovenly and slothful mind. We may be quite sure there was a reason for the anomaly, and we should like to know what it is.

The first Primitives did not reckon their quarter-days so strictly by the months as we have come to do. They were country-dwellers, and in the country old customs and old habits of thought die hard. It is so now; it was much more the case a hundred years ago. So, in fixing their quarterly meetings, they timed them even more by the old quarter-days of the year than by the months. The Spring quarter began on March 25th, called the “Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin,” or, more familiarly, Lady Day, because of the angel’s announcement to Mary that she should have a son—the Holy Child Jesus. Until 1751 the year began on March 25th, but in that year Parliament did a bold thing: it ordered that henceforth it should begin in January, and 1751 was shortened by nearly three of its months in order that the “New Style” might be introduced! The next quarter-day began with Midsummer Day on June 24th. The third on September 29th, the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel; hence our word Michaelmas. The last quarter of the year began with Christmas Day of which we need say nothing.

Now there is, at least to us, a pleasant, old-fashioned country flavour about the fact that the “Old Style” calendar, with its recurring quarter-day festivals, influenced the timing of our fathers’ quarterly meetings for business. And here is the evidence for the fact:—Hugh Bourne says: “At the meeting of February 3rd, 1812, arrangements were made to hold regular quarter-day meetings for managing the affairs of the Connexion, and these were appointed to be held in March, June, September and December, and as near as might be to Lady Day, Midsummer Day, Michaelmas Day and Christmas Day.’’

Nothing could be clearer or more decisive than this. Further, the usage was to hold the quarterly meeting on Monday. Accordingly, as nothing stood in the way, the first quarterly meeting of 1813 was held on Monday, March 22nd. The second, we believe, would be held on June 28th. But, for the third, Michaelmas Day in 1813 fell on a Wednesday, so, rather than hold it before Michaelmas Day, they put it forward to Monday, October 4th, though that gave them a fourteen weeks’ quarter.

This Michaelmas quarter-day was, historically, of considerable importance, if for no other reason than the fact about it which Hugh Bourne has chronicled in his own laconic style:— “Monday, October 4th, we had Quarter Day. John Benton joined us. This I think is of the Lord.”


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/760

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