Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”
WHAT time the Derbyshire villages and uplands were reviving under the genial influence of spring, the societies located amongst them were being quickened and moved to activity as though they too felt spring in their blood. The signs of this quickening were many. Hugh Bourne was much in these parts at the time—the busiest among the busy —preaching, visiting, watching the shoots and buds of promise in the new converts, overseeing the societies, and writing out in his clear hand the class-papers which served the purpose of the class-books of a later time. One distinctive outcome of these new stirrings of life was the beginning of the Hulland Tract Mission in the month of May. Readers of Clowes’ Journal may remember that, while he was still a Methodist, a Tract and Bible Mission had been started at Burslem, of which Clowes and James Nixon were active members. Five pages of the Journal are devoted to the singular experiences they met with in working their country district. It is not unlikely that Burslem gave the suggestion that materialised at Hulland; for the two missions proceeded on almost identical lines.
“Thursday, April 22nd,” writes Hugh Bourne, “we talked about a Tract Society, and I explained it at large. O Lord, bless and prosper every endeavour.” Next day he went to Ashbourne, and ordered religious tracts of nine different sorts, twenty-five of each. They were to be ready by the third of May. Members of the band went apostolic fashion, two and two, to the surrounding villages, generally on Sunday. They not only left a tract, but were ever ready to drop a word of exhortation and to engage in prayer with the family wherever there was an opening. They were strictly forbidden to eat or drink with the households they visited, in order “to cut off all occasion of offence.” The same rigorous rule had obtained in the case of the Burslem Tract and Bible Mission. Lastly, we may notice that “the single individual” who bore the cost of the tracts was, as usual, Hugh Bourne himself,
In watering others the missionaries themselves. were watered. Praying companies grew out of the two-and-two mission. Hugh Bourne notes with satisfaction that five of the members began to preach and soon their names stood on the plan. What was more, two of the five became the first “women preachers who laboured regularly in the Connexion.”
Of Sarah Kirkland we have already written; of Mary Hawksley it is due that something here should be said. Her husband was now in Spain with the British army. She had fallen upon trying days. Because she had joined the “Primitives” the relatives with whom she had found a home refused to shelter her any longer. Now, Hugh Bourne was aware of the straits to which Mary was reduced. He was aware, too, of the possibilities of wider usefulness that lay before this middle-aged woman, for he had seen in the Tract Mission that she was faithful in the “few things.” Once more beneficence and zeal for the cause combined to induce Hugh Bourne to employ Mary Hawksley as an evangelist whose charges he himself would meet. She began her labours in this same month of May. The facts as narrated start an interesting question. If Sarah Kirkland did not become a travelling preacher till February, 1816, why is she called the first female travelling preacher, especially as she also was at the beginning of her itineracy subsidised by Hugh Bourne? There is an answer such as it is, but it must he deferred to a future time.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/340