Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”
WHEN John Benton rejoined the Primitives he brought his Staffordshire circuit with him. That circuit included Alstonefield, Warslow, Onecote, Cow Head, Fleet Green, Holme End, Milldale, Biggen and some other places. All the places mentioned are to be found on the plan of the Ramsor Branch of Tunstall Circuit for 1821-2. What was to become of the converts Benton and Eleazar Hathorn had won in these parts? If the precious grain was not to be wasted, the binder must follow in the track of the reaper and no time be lost in bringing the harvest home. The reapers had now passed over into Derbyshire, and were doing there the work they were best fitted for. Organisation was certainly not Benton’s strong point; and he knew it. He also knew that if the fruits of their labour were to be conserved some one with the requisite gifts must take up and carry forward the work he and his colleague had begun. All this explains a further entry in Hugh Bourne’s Journal:— “Oct. 13th: Came to Boylestone, and saw John Benton…. He gave me directions for going into his circuit, and spoke of the state of the people.”
Thus for the next three months Hugh Bourne had his work cut out for him by the October Quarterly Meeting. To begin with, there was the draft of the first Primitive Methodist Rules to prepare. On this head the orders of the highest court were peremptory. The committee of which Hugh Bourne was the chief member had been sent back to its duty under the lash, as it were. The business could no longer be shirked; nor was the business a light one. It meant much more than an hour or two by a comfortable fire, the table drawn up, and on it a couple of candles, the snuffer-tray and quills and ink and paper. The draft had to be brought before every Society, and discussed clause by clause, and every amendment that really did amend incorporated in the final draft. It meant, in many cases, trudging through the mud of these short days and the darkness of these long nights to the houses of the brethren who could not be present at the official meetings—more discussion, more prayer. Surely never before were rules prepared in such a fashion!
And now, as though all this were not enough, there were Benton’s societies to be taken over and put in going order, and that without any loss of time. Classes had to be formed, leaders appointed and suitable arrangements made for the regular supply of preachers. Anticipatively we have caught one glimpse of Hugh Bourne at work in this new territory; we have seen him talking with Ann Millward of Alstonefield and appointing her leader of Warslow class (“On John Benton’s Track”). As yet, we must remember, there were no ready-made class-books. It was Bourne’s practice to prepare each quarter written class-papers and, in renewing tickets, he did not content himself by giving them to such as met him for that purpose, but he took them to the absent members. What that meant may be gathered from such entries in his Journal as this: “I have now seen every member in this class except S.A., who was from home. I was ready to faint with fatique.”
How much our Church owes to Hugh Bourne’s minute attention to the interests of the Societies in this time of their comparative feebleness and instability! As we watch him going to and fro we think of the weaver at his loom whose flying shuttle knits the separate threads into one tissue. “He was,” indeed, as he said of Sarah Kirkland, “managing and useful.”
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/844