Revised January 24, 2018
1899The Early Workers
What did the New Converts do?
The List of First Workers, July, 1905
1899: FIRST Four Full-Time Workers
The Way They Were in the Beginning
The "Great Experiment "
THE EARLY WORKERS: William Irvine, Eddie Cooney, Willie Gill and Andrew Robb were some of the oldest workers in the Early Days. Irvine, Gill and Robb were all born in 1863, making them about 34 at the time the movement was started; Cooney was about 30. Most Workers were quite young, around 21 years. In 1880, about the time the young workers were born, the Education Act made it compulsory for children between the ages of five and ten years to attend school, so most attended school until they were ten years old, with few having
higher education. Like Faith Mission, Irvine also permitted women to be Workers in his movement, and in 1900, three women entered the work, Emma and Jennie Gill (sisters) and Sara Rogers.
Willie Clelland wrote: "When the work first started, we were a band of young men and women, as we were nearly all of that age. I was all of 21. Irvine was around 35. Being young, we were easily influenced by the older members of the band, such as Cooney and Irvine, and of course, got to thinking as they did and that without much scriptural backing" (Secret Sect, by Parker, p. 10, Fn 20). Two of Willie's brothers, Peter and David Cleland, married two of Wm Irvine's sisters. Their mother and two Cleland siblings and John Hardie professed in a mission held by two Faith Mission sister workers (Spiritual Fraud Exposed by Doug Parker).
The group expanded very rapidly in its early years, mainly in small country towns. Irvine rapidly acquired a sizable following, especially among young people. This may have been because the young were more likely to be unencumbered and could leave everything behind more easily, not having yet taken on the responsibilities of wives, family, care for parents, etc. However, some converts were unable or unwilling to leave their duties.
Up until that time, opportunities in life were very limited. The 1880 Education Act made attendance at school compulsory for children between five and ten in the United Kingdom. It wasn't until 1899 the age was extended to 12. That meant that most of the Workers joining Wm. Irvine's band of Workers in the early days would not have been educated beyond the 5th grade, and would have left school when they were 10 years old. Fannie Carroll said her brother went to work for her father at age 14. Irvine stopped attending school in 1871 when he was eight years old and started his first job. He resumed his education at night school when he was 20 to 30 years old.
By 1900, the small towns and villages were full of frustrated young men looking for something more out of life than becoming a farm laborer, miner or a clerk behind a counter. The "Go Preachers" flourished under these conditions, and Irvine's fortunate timing and place may have played a large part in his initial success.
"One purpose of the convention was to educate the 'young workers,' many of whom may be diamonds, but they are diamonds in the rough state. They are full of zeal, they lead good lives, they exhort others to be reconciled to God...They have many good points, but for all that they are rough diamonds, and for the most part, uneducated, and of the servant or small farmer or artisan class, who have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. Therefore, daily toil is more in their line than education" (IR, Oct., 13, 1904).
WHAT DID IRVINE’S NEW CONVERTS DO? Wm. Irvine had more converts volunteering to go preach on Faith Lines than he could handle. The churches in the home had not yet been established, so the converts continued to meet in the denomination of their choice. No cohesive, organized group of workers had come together at this time. As John Long described the labors of the Workers:
"In mid-1898, the work was quite scattered. More Faith Mission Prayer Union meetings were established and some young converts began to hold missions. Some joined the Faith Mission, others joined Todd’s Mission in the Southeast of Ireland, and others went out preaching unconnected with any mission; The Faith Mission did not accept all who applied to them. At this time, they [The Go-Preachers] were not sectarian or exclusive" (Journal, June 1898). Fortunately for Irvine:"Just at that time a Mr. and Mrs. Todd, who had been Faith Mission pilgrims, had started a similar line of things to Mr. Govan's with their headquarters in Enniscorthy, having (I presume) Ireland before them as their first and chiefest field of activity...to start off with, they did not seem to have any of their own converts to go forth as workers, and so getting in touch with Mr. Irvine, who was having quite a number willing and anxious to go, they took on the direction and oversight of such, and in a short time had a pretty nice number in the field, including Tom Turner, John Hardie , Emma Gill, Annie Holland and Sarah Sullivan, and I dare say several others, probably Alex Givan, etc...” (G. P., Account of Early Days). [Editor’s Note: The 1905 Workers List shows four of the six named above later joined Irvine's movement: Gill, Turner, Hardie, Givan.]
LIST OF FIRST WORKERS, JULY, 1905 contains 201 Workers' names. View Original 1905 Workers List. It is the EARLIEST WORKERS LIST found to date. Many copies exist in different formats, some with other titles, including: Names of Workers at July 1905, Names of Workers at July 1905, Names of English and Irish Workers up to 1905, British Isles Workers List, July 1905, New Workers by Year, and Old Workers +Year They Went into the Work.
This List does not show those who started and dropped out before July 1905. For instance, Willie Gill 's first companion was John Winter, also from Rathmolyon, but Winter's name does not appear on the 1905 Workers List. Those who entered the work sometime AFTER July, 1905, are not shown. For example, M/Mrs. Nat Dickson and M/Mrs. Frank Downie. There may be other minor errors in the various versions of the list.
The format of this list differs from current Workers Lists, in that it does not list the Workers’ fields and addresses, but instead gives the year the Worker started in the work. This list is divided into two sections: “Brothers” and “Sisters,” and provides the Worker’s name, and the year they started in the Work. The order is by seniority or year started. The first two names on the list are Wm. Irvine and John Kelly, and curiously, there is no date beside their names. as of July, 1905. This list contains 201* Workers total: 76 Sisters and 125 Brothers; 62% Brothers and 38% Sisters. Workers who entered the work in the later part of 1905, or AFTER JULY, 1905, are not included on the list, such as Elisabeth Jamieson. Appendix "A" provides additional personal details for the Workers on this list.
In 1905, the Faith Mission used precisely the same format for their annual workers list which bore the title, “Staff of Workers,” and was published in their monthly magazine, Bright Words. Mr. J. G. Govan, the founder of the Faith Mission, was the first person listed on this list. The names of the Faith Mission workers were printed in order by the year they entered the service of the Faith Mission. In other words, the founder was listed first (Mr. J. G. Govan - 1886), and under his name, the workers were listed in order, by seniority. There were sister workers on the Faith Mission Workers’ List and the FM superintendents were allowed to marry. The sister workers' names are italicized. View Faith Mission Staff of Workers Lists: For November, 1895 - For November, 1898 - For November, 1899 - For November, 1900 - View PHOTO
JOHN KELLY, "18__": The first two names shown on the List of First Workers, July, 1905 are William Irvine and John Kelly, with the ambiguous date "18__" for their year started. The list shows the exact year all the other Workers entered the work, beginning with four men who started in 1899. NOTE: John Kelly's name should show 1901 or 1902 for the date he entered the work. John Kelly's name is shown at the top under William Irvine's name before all the other Workers.
John Kelly began to work as a Faith Mission Pilgrim Worker on May 27, 1896, when he was about 24, and when he was about 29, he left FM shortly before September, 1901, to "become a Cooneyite." Between the years from 1896-1901, at no time do the FM records show that Kelly was ever a companion to Wm Irvine. Sometime between Sept. 1896 and Nov. 1897, Kelly began to preach in Scotland.
Over 25 years later, in 1928, John Kelly and John Burns, who had also been workers with the Faith Mission, left the work, the same year Edward Cooney was put out of the work. John Kelly would have been 56 years old at that time.
John Kelly was born April 6, 1872, in Connor, Co. Antrim, Ireland to James and Matilda (Dinsmore) Kelly. He had at least 4 siblings. Three of his cousins entered the work. On the April 2, 1911, Irish Census, John Kelly, age 39, occupation "evangelized" (evangelist?) is shown as a visitor of Esther Ekin, widow, born 1838, age 73, in Desertmartin, Londonderry, Ireland. Very little is known about John Kelly. According to his daughter, he married and may have passed away sometime in the 1960s: "We received a letter from John Kelly's daughter saying that her father was very ill. She told us he was nearly 90" (Selected Letters of Fred Wood by Patricia Roberts, Dec. 20, 1960, letter to Lena Roberts by Fred Wood, p. 12). He would have been about 88 in 1960.
1899: THE FIRST FOUR FULL-TIME WORKER RECRUITS shown on the List of First Workers at July, 1905 under the names of Wm. Irvine and John Kelly (with no dates), are four brother workers who entered the work in the year 1899. They were: John Long, George Walker, Thomas M. Turner and Alex Givan. Below is a brief introduction to each of these men.
John Long was the first to begin preaching independently on Faith Lines. He was NOT preaching under Wm. Irvine, Faith Mission or any other authority. George Walker also preached independently. Tom Turner and Alex Givan were preaching in Todd's mission until it disbanded in 1901, which overlaps 1899, the year they are shown as entering the work on the 1905 Workers List. It would appear that the time these four men spent preaching independently was credited to them when Irvine later organized his movement. In other words, they came under the "grandfather clause."
RE: JOHN LONG: John Long resigned from his position as a colporteur with the Methodist church in Nov. 1898. At Irvine's encouragement, John applied to become a Faith Mission pilgrim and was accepted. He declined, preferring to work independently without being under any man's authority. He began preaching independently on Faith Lines on January 1, 1899. He does not state in his Journal when he relinquished his independent status and submitted to Irvine's authority. John Long was born at Burntwood, Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland on September 15, 1872 to Gilbert and Ann (Turner) Long. He died July 4, 1962, aged 90. Additional information about John Long in Chapter 6.
RE: THOMAS M. TURNER (TOM) - At the Templederry Mission, Thomas M. Turner (Tom) and his sister were converted. [Tom] "very soon after that gave up his situation, and became for a time my [John Long's] companion in travels." G. Pattison wrote:
On April 8, 1908, Tom, along with Sam Jones, Syd Maynard, and Bob Bashford sailed for Western Australia and pioneered the work there. He was Overseer of Western Australia from 1906-1924; and Overseer of Queensland from 1924 -1959. Besides Ireland and Australia, Tom also preached in Poland and Latvia. He wrote Hymns No. 306, 165 and 369 in Hymns Old & New (1987 Ed.).
"Even in that little Templederry Mission...there was one who took his stand, who through thick and thin has kept faithful, and...surely the winning of a soul like Tom M. Turner was no mean trophy, and well repaid whatever effort was put into it...One of the landmarks already referred to was the day he [Tom Turner] and John Long came to our house [home of Goodhand Pattison]...
"Tom had only been a very short time saved when he decided to give up teaching...and travelling thus with a book-bag, in company with, or apprentice to John Long, was among his first attempts at service in the harvest field...Already, however, Tom had begun to see that this was not the best or most profitable (fruitful) way of spending his time in the service of God, and was then apparently seeking a 'way out,' more in accordance with the mind of God, or teaching of the Scriptures."
"I may also say, before passing from the part which Tom Turner played in the movement in the early days, that around those parts in various centers, meetings were quite frequently held, with a good deal of newly-found life and freshness and liberty on the part of the speakers, and acceptance on the part of the hearers" (G. P., Account of the Early Days).
Thomas McCausland "Tom" Turner was born September 1, 1877, in Swatragh, Maghera, Londonderry, Northern Ireland and died on April 19, 1959, in Brisbane, Queensland Australia, aged 82. He is buried in Mt, Gravatt Cemetery (MON4e, isle 6, plot 508).
RE: ALEX GIVAN (sometimes misspelled GIVEN or GIVERN): Pattison wrote: "It was one night fairly early in this mission that Alex Givan came along from Roscrea with Robert Acres and others. He had been employed at Fawcetts, and probably would have taken some minor part in Kyle Mission; but now about to devote his life to the work, did not return to Roscrea, but remained in our house with Tom [Turner] and Dick [Norman]" (G. P., Account of the Early Days). Tom Turner and Alex Givan pioneered the west part of Co. Cork, Ireland:
"...Tom [Turner] and Alex [Givan] went to my old home at Inchimadreen, Dunmanway, [Co. Cork] very soon after, where in a sense they may be called the pioneer apostles to West Cork, opening up and having meetings all around Dunmanway, Lisbealid, Drinagh, Kilmeen, etc., and doing a work there, the results of which are so well known I need scarcely more than refer to it" (G. P., Account of the Early Days).
Alex was born in Slane, Co. Meath, Ireland on March 12, 1874, preached mostly in the USA and died in Glasgow, Scotland on May 28, 1948, aged 74. He labored in Ireland and in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, Ohio and West Virginia, USA. He applied for US citizenship in 1919.
RE: GEORGE WALKER: George Walker was 21 years old in March 1898, when he first heard Wm. Irvine preach. He was a Methodist and was thinking of becoming a Methodist preacher. According to the Methodist founder, the definition of a Methodist "is one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible" (Complete English Dictionary, by Rev. John Wesley, 1753).
A Dublin landmark marks the site where George Walker came to his momentous decision which changed the course of his life. Reportedly, Walker was at the Broadstone Railway Train Station when he surrendered his life and said to God, "If this is what it takes, I'm willing for it." He often told this story...while he "was walking across the platform...said in his heart, "O God, I am willing." There came an assurance of the approval of God right then and there. That was April 11, 1898" (Account of George Walker's Early Days-1988). Another account is that George Walker "...would not admit to professing through anyone, but remarked privately to another worker that he found salvation through a revelation experienced with a ‘farmer in a field.' "
Concerning Charlie Hughes, Walker said: "65 years ago we met in Toronto, Canada. During those years we have been closely associated. 74 years ago last March,  I went down near Charlie’s home, and going to that place changed my whole course of life, and it is the cause of me being here today. Charlie was only 14 then; I was 21." (G. Walker at Charlie Hughes Funeral, Aug. 19, 1972).
George's first companion was Matthew Wilson, who was about 22-23 years old and who was "preaching the gospel before he ever met any of the Faith Mission. Then he met William Ervine [Irvine] and joined hands with him, and George Walker and Matt preached together the first mission George ever preached" (Ralph Derkland, Washington, USA, circa Oct., 1955).
George Walker was born February 12, 1877, in Co. Fermanagh, N. Ire. to John and Jane Walker, the ninth of eleven children. His mother died when he was 11 years old. He became a draper's apprentice and was employed by Ed Cooney's father, Wm. Rutherford Cooney, a successful merchant with a drapery shop located at No. 4 High Street, Enniskillen (IR, July 28, 1910). It is possible that Ed Cooney was instrumental in connecting George with Irvine. Perhaps Mr. Cooney also owned a store in Dublin. Reportedly, Geo. Walker worked at a store in Dublin called McBirneys, which closed many years ago; the building now contains the Virgin Megastore. However, the inscription "McBirneys" is engraved in concrete on the building [Photo of McBirneys]. When George was 21 years old, he resigned, and entered the work in 1899 (month unknown). "I spent the teen years of my life working in a store. The man I worked for was very religious, but his whole idea of a successful life was making money" (Hector, MN Convention, Oct. 1970*).
Details of his ministry in the British Isles between 1899 and 1903 are scarce. We know he preached in Ireland, England, and Scotland. He was one of the young men who went on the bicycle mission trip to Scotland in Oct. 1899. Reportedly, he was one of several Workers who first preached the mission in London when Lizzie/Lily Coles professed. He was one of the first three workers to come to America in 1903, along with Wm. Irvine and Irvine Weir, and was preaching in Philadelphia very soon after his arrival. Mrs. Abernethy (Andrew's mother) was among his first converts there. He was the Overseer of Eastern U.S. until his death in 1981. He died Nov. 6, 1981, aged 104, and is buried in North Wales Cemetery, Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania, U.S. Click Here to read further details about George Walker.
"There were no regulations and no asserting of authority. The Lord had mercifully set us free in spirit to worship and serve him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a good conscience; and there was neither machinery nor any of those things that religious people think necessary and which are necessary in sects under human control. There was nothing in the vision we had of 'the way in Jesus' that would have led us towards another kind of sectarianism, nor did we ever anticipate a time when we would become a strong people in an evil world. We had only one commission and that was to make disciples as we had been made; and we had only one authority, viz., if the Lord was with us, we would so live and speak that He would use us in getting people saved. And as they listened to us they would recognize the voice of Him because of the anointing. That was the simple outline in the days of our beginning" (Magowan letter to McClung, Jan. 21, 1931).
In 1898, the Go-Preachers were "unsectarian" Evangelists, according to John Long. That is, they were not a sect or church, and they were not associated as preachers or evangelists with any particular religion or denomination. He wrote: “As long as the work kept from exclusiveness and remained unsectarian in manifestation, it was wonderfully used of God in the salvation of sinners and the making of disciples…the workers occasionally went to the various churches and at times preached in them, whenever the way opened up" (Journal, June 1898).
IMPORTANT!! Those who were converted in the early Days were NOT sent to a particular church. They were left “...to the option of their own will as to where they worship and get the most spiritual food.” In other words, they attended the church of their choice. At this time, Irvine was associated with the Faith Mission, and this was their policy. “Wherever the Faith Mission has a successful mission, they endeavor to form a prayer union; and according to their rules, it is NOT a new sect; neither is intended to be...” (Journal, June 1898).
The early Workers used many methods to reach out to others. They gave out tracts, books and Bibles. John Long wrote: "At that time I made much use of pure gospel literature, such as giving Bibles and Testaments to young converts." Most towns had recognized speaking places, where people came and made speeches of all types, and where listeners congregated. The Workers did a lot of street preaching in the towns and cities in the open air, on the diamond or square; made house to house visitations, went on Matthew Ten tours, went on open air marches through the streets singing hymns; preached in churches to their congregations when invited; held magic lantern meetings, etc. John Long wrote:
"Besides our nightly meetings that constituted a mission, I occasionally took mothers’ meetings, Bible classes, children’s meetings; also did a measure of street preaching, house to house visitation, personal dealing and tract distribution. In the churches of all protestant denominations, in Mission halls, tents, barns, cottages, School Rooms, public halls, Etc....regarding the extraordinary sessions of house to house visitation and personal conversations, Paul taught the people 'publickly and from house to house,' Acts 20:20. House to house visitation consisted of two sorts. First, direct visits to homes accessible where they receive inside so as to read the Scriptures and pray with the inmates. Second, calling at the doors and speaking to persons about their souls salvation also giving them pure gospel tracts, periodicals and pamphlets and inviting them to come to meetings" (Journal, Jan. 1907).
They also built moveable wooden halls/tents/baches used for meetings and living quarters. Some workers practiced healing, laying on of hands and dedicated babies. Workers were not forbidden to marry. Workers met with other Christian groups on Sunday and took communion with them. It really irked John Long whenever a church, such as the Open Brethren, refused to allow him to break bread with them. He disapproved of their exclusivity and wrote about it.
The workers worked odd jobs when they needed money. They accepted financial help, no matter the source offering it, regardless of their religious background. In his Journal, John Long took great care to give credit to those who assisted him financially. At times, Workers placed a bag or box to receive donations in the facility where they were preaching. The Workers experienced many difficulties. Grit, grace, gumption and go were all needed. One homeless worker experiencing hardship finding lodging remarked to Alfred Magowan that it would have been nice if God had made Workers so that their homes were on their backs like turtles.
They invited denominational and independent preachers to speak at their Special Meetings and Conventions. G. Pattison wrote about a Special Meeting held on Dec. 26 (probably 1899):
"I remember very distinctly seeing and hearing Tom [Turner] at an all-day meeting in Nenagh Methodist Chapel on a St. Stephen's Day, when we had in our gathering no less a personage than the great Rev. George Grubb, who treated us to a very beautiful address on 'An Open Heaven' bearing in mind Stephen's words, I suppose. We had also amongst us that day two or three other clergymen including (Rev.) Crookshank, Roscrea Methodist minister, and I dare say Mr. Nesbitt and probably one or two others, Mr. Douglas, for instance; Mr. and Mrs. Bailey (Tom Turner's host and hostess) were also there that day and a whole crowd from Cloughjordan, Borrisokane and Finnoe, etc., as well as those belonging to Nenagh; and I believe the two Faith Mission workers were also present and spoke, viz. Miss Pendreigh...and a Miss McLean...of course, John Long was present and also our evangelist Mr. Gilbert, so you see the preaching side of things was well represented, although we did not call it by the high sounding name 'Convention' " (G. P., Account of the Early Days).
The Workers were called "Tramp Preachers" for good reason. They wore unusual clothing for preachers, and many only had one set of clothing. Their women's dress was plain to the point of severe. The women mostly wore black skirts, cotton blouses and sailor hats. Most of the men did not shave or wear collars, ties or cuffs. Some wore brown shirts and rubber collars (IR, July 18, 1907, p. 8). On the other hand, the Faith Mission workers wore uniforms. The sisters wore navy blue bonnets and dresses; the men wore navy blazers with the FM insignia on their lapel. Mrs. J. G. Govan was married in her "true Pilgrim" attire. These are pictured in the book Spirit of Revival, p. 111 by I. R. Govan, the FM founder's daughter.
"Returning again to THE GREAT EXPERIMENT, which gave many hundreds of us opportunity to have a great and abundant experience of life, this was how it was. An experiment in faith, that in forsaking the world and everything that was in it, and launching out on an unknown sea, we would neither founder by storms nor by losing our bearings to run on uncharted rocks.
"An experiment in following Jesus, free from all encumbrances whatsoever. Having nothing, that we might learn how to possess all things. Turning away from all forms of religious and ecclesiastical climbing; scared into it perhaps by the dreadful things Jesus said in the 23rd of Matthew. So, come what might, we would never be guilty of taking any kind of title or honour--considering that the world was not changed from what it was when He said it hated Him and dishonored Him. We were determined to stand FOR all He had stood for, and AGAINST all that He was against.
"An experiment in Brotherhood where all would be on one level: having regard to what Jesus said against hierarchy or one above another: 'All ye are brethren' being our headline. And Pentecost being our example: 'And all that believed were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had need.' Deliverance from the greatest and most respectable lust in the world: that for money and possessions!" (Testimony of a Witness for the Defence by Alfred Magowan, January 13, 1956).
* * * * * * *
"An experiment in brotherhood, where all were on one level; where possessions had no power over the hearts of men; where there was no desire for honours or titles or distinctions; where men could walk together, and call each other by their first names; where there was faith enough to believe preachers would not starve if they went out into the world without visible means of support. An experiment in passing through this world without conforming to it; and where spiritually-minded men could maintain their pilgrimage, when Establishment was calling to them, and pulling at them from every side. An experiment in serving, without expectation of reward in this life; where something of the sufferings of Christ was to be expected; and where the soul could be disciplined by all that it would be required to pass through--unto the final purifying of the heart. A very great experiment indeed, and in which thousands of young men and women took part--to be made in an image and likeness not to be attained in any other way, or by any ordinary means" (Cross-Examination of a Witness and Address to the Jury by Alfred Magowan).
Some who observed the Tramp Preachers held a totally different viewpoint, as reported:
"...`giving up all' to 'win souls for Christ', as they put it...They say the Lord calls them, when they yield to their own wishes. They say they 'forsake all' and go out for Him, after the manner of Peter, when they have little to forsake...Some young man has been selling tea or hardware, or setting potatoes, and some young lady who has been selling yards of ribbon, think it would be well to go out to 'work for the Lord,' and in a spirit of self-sacrifice 'go out for Him.' And because they like the idea, they imagine the Lord has called them to His work....Then they imagine the Lord Himself inspires them to speak, tells them to speak, tells them what to say, etc., when whatever we know of inspiration tells the direct contrary" (IR, Jan. 29, 1903).
W. M. Rule wrote: "The condition of church life in the south of Ireland at that time was such that there were young Christians who were languishing for lack of spiritual good and were grieving over the want of ardor in the gospel among them. Such were attracted to these preachings, and mistook the vigorous denunciations and excitable preaching of the missioner for spiritual power and holy zeal. Ultimately, many of them were induced to unite with him" (Heresies Exposed by W. M. Rule, Chapter: "The Cooneyites" or Go-Preachers and Their Doctrines.).
Years later, Wm. Irvine made this shocking comment to Alfred Magowan: "IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIMENT" to which Alfred replied, "IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE" (From Testimony of a Witness for the Defence by Alfred Magowan, Jan. 13, 1956, p. 5).
Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted.
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