Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

Introduction Index of Chapters
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Bio Truth?

Chapter 23
Revised March 28, 2018

1906 - 1913

1906 - Mr. W. D. Wilson Accuses Workers of White Slave Trafficking
1907 - Enniskillen Town Hall Meeting 
1910- West Brothers and Others take Mr. Wilson to Court
1913 - Ed Cooney goes to Court

AWARENESS OF WHITE SLAVE TRAFFICKING: In the early 20th century, there was an increased awareness in the world of the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings. A "white slavery" hysteria developed. Journalists fueled the craze with sensational stories of innocent girls kidnapped off the streets, smuggled out of the country and forced to work in brothels. White slave trafficking found its way into novels and films. In 1911, the movie "A Victim of the Mormons" premiered in Copenhagen, and soon after was released in London and the U.S. The commercial success of this film inspired a wave of anti-Mormon films demonizing the Mormon church.

The white slave trafficking situation became a public concern and drew intense interest and high emotions. This led to the International Agreement for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic being adopted in May 1904, by 13 Western European States. In 1910, the U.S. adopted the White Slave Traffic Agreement, better known as the Mann Act.

As background, Suffolk is a county situated in the east of England in an area called East Anglia. It is bordered by Norfolk County on the north, Cambridgeshire Co. on the west and Essex Co. on the south and the North Sea on the east.  There are several towns in this county, with Ipswich being the largest, as well as being the County Town (aka the administrative center, county seat or courthouse). Agriculture has been a major economic activity in Suffolk since the 18th century. The East Anglian Daily Times newspaper is based in Ipswich.

The Workers first came to Suffolk County in 1903 or 1904, and in March 1904, Sister Worker Alice Pipe wrote Mr. Wm. Dennis Wilson, Chairman of the School Board, for permission to use the Cretingham school room for a Mission.  Wilson allowed it—and later bitterly regretted doing so. The Mission was apparently successful and since only Brother Workers performed baptisms, Wm. Irvine came and baptized the new converts.

Mr. Wilson was the owner of the Rookery Farm in Cretingham, Framlingham, East Suffolk, England. He was a prosperous farmer in good standing in the community. “He is the largest farmer in the whole of Suffolk, and farms some thousands of acres...he is known as a great dealer in pigs, always having near 2,000 fattening for market…and as touching any matter agricultural Mr. Wilson is certainly the great authority in the countryside” (Ideas, July 13, 1917).  The newspapers stated that "Mr. Wilson's wife is alive, as are his seven children: Edward Freeman 27; Emily 26; William Frederick 25; Ellie, Elizabeth 24; Edith 23; John 22; Minnie 14" (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).

Wm. D. Wilson attended Alice Pipe's first meeting and wrote that he "found things queer." The second meeting he pronounced "diabolical." He claimed he heard at the third meeting "recruiting for Chinese White Slave Traffic."  He immediately requested the secretary of the East Suffolk Co. Council Schools at Ipswich to issue warnings to all the school managers in his jurisdiction not to let any evangelists use the school rooms without satisfactory references. 

1906:  W. D. WILSON ACCUSED WORKERS OF WHITE SLAVE TRAFFICKING:  Wilson began harassing the Workers in 1906 and he continued to do so through 1913. According to Wilson, the Workers:

"...began their mysterious work in Cretingham about three years ago. First of all came a pretty girl—Alice Pipe by name. She visited many houses in the district, and telling how she came as the forerunner of a marvelous Mission, made eyes at the young men, and said sweet things to the young women with encouraging results. A hard-faced Scotsman followed in about nine months. He was William Irwin, [Irvine] the founder of the Tramps, and Chief Baptiser. Alice, with her sweet voice and wily ways did the converting, and William lured the victims to the nearest brook or horse pond and completed the business” (Morning Leader, June 9, 1906 ).

According to Alice Pipe's statement at Ipswich: “I knew the Wilsons whilst I was with Juby. On my return from one of the Conventions I brought back May Carroll. We two started work at Monk Soham—not far from Cretingham. A short time afterwards Miss Carroll left and a girl named Annie Smith took her place. She, too, departed and I was joined by Lizzie Sergent [Sargent]. Afterwards the work in Cretingham was taken up by Annie Smith” (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).

Alice Pipe later wrote: "...he [Wilson] came along to a village in which we were preaching and after using very bad language he took a stone and broke our windows. We had to pay £6 to get them repaired. He broke Sam Cole's windows and damaged the wooden hall belonging to W. McClung, but both was taken before the Magistrates and he had to make right" (letter to My dear Brother, Oct. 19, 1913).

Three of Mr. Wilson's seven children entered the Work and those still living at home were "in full sympathy with the Go Preachers." The Wilson children had all inherited a sum of money from their grandfather. "Under the will of their grandfather, who died about 14 years ago, each of Mr. Wilson’s children became entitled to a sum of £500, on coming of age...and they will benefit further on the deaths of their grandmother and mother" (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).  It is reasonable to assume that Mr. Wilson was afraid his children were being conned out of their inheritance. Prior to this time, Mr. Wilson had printed some warning tracts against Mormonism. 

"In County Suffolk, there is a village called Brundish. The school teacher there, Edith (Edie) Easy, was converted by the Workers and entered the Work in 1905. After attending the 1905 Belfast Convention, she announced to her parents that she was going to America to preach. However this didn't happen because her father contacted Ed Cooney and forbid him to send his daughter, a minor, out of the U. K.  So Edith preached in the U. K. until 1906 when she turned 21 years old, at which time she bid her parents farewell and sailed to South Africa" (Lloyd's Weekly, Jan. 27, 1907).

Subsequently, a London newspaper article claimed “that some 36 persons, mostly girls, have been sent away by these people, ostensibly for missionary purposes to foreign countries, and that requests for information as to their whereabouts, and the conditions under which they are living have been refused.” The readers were warned of the danger of some becoming victims of circumstances and were advised not to encourage nor assist the “No Sect Missionaries.” In the Suffolk area, 21 ministers signed an Appeal that was published (Morning Leader, London, June 12, 1906).

The following is from an article titled “Missing Converts” in the publication Ideas:

“They began preaching in the villages and very soon their enthusiasm and the novelty of their Mission began to gather in converts. A large farmer’s two daughters, and one of his sons were converted by the Cooneyites and gave up their homes to join the sect. They simply disappeared, and the Cooneyite evangelists refused to give any information as to their whereabouts. At the same time other young people began to disappear from Suffolk homes, and their parents were frantic with grief.

“The missing farmer...wild with grief and anger…commenced a bitter campaign against the Cooneyites...He covered the dead walls round Debenham, a small town, which became their stronghold, with posters setting forth his view of their conduct and morals. He followed them across the county to Sudbury in West Suffolk and roused a crowd of 3,000 people, who drove the Go Preachers out of the town. He gradually extended his campaign to other parts of England...He wrote letters to newspapers and printed handbills and posters which he exhibited wherever he could find a sympathiser (Ideas, July 13, 1917). Copies of Wilson's propaganda may be viewed in the TTT Photo Gallery.

In response to the negative press, the father of sister Worker Lizzie Coles gave an interview in 1906, in which he was indignant at Wilson’s allegations. “Three years ago…Mr. Irwin [Irvine], Mr. Cooney and five others held meetings at my mission hall under the auspices of the London City Mission.” This Mission was held in 1898, and his daughter Lizzie went in the Work in 1903. Mr. Coles provided evidence that his daughter was alive and well in America, and vouched for the integrity of Ed Cooney and Wm. Irvine (Morning Leader, June 15, 1906).

In 1906, Wilson McClung was driven from Stowmarket, Co. Suffolk, where according to Mr. Wilson, he had "bamboozled" several people. In May or June 1906, Wilson McClung and his wife, a married pair of Workers arrived in the Ipswich area and began holding Missions in a movable wooden hall, located about 20 miles from Mr. Wilson's home.

"Chapels and schoolrooms having been denied them, they appealed to headquarters in Belfast, with the result that Belfast sent them a collapsible, portable chapel big enough to hold 60 souls. That chapel now stands on a waste corner of ground near the Derby Rd. station. It is a black shed, with a tin roof, and its doors are ornamented with big posters announcing that JESUS will be preached in THIS HALL NIGHTLY. COME, HEAR, AND THINK! The chief missioner is a bearded Irishman named McClung, who is assisted by his wife and one or two newly-made Tramps" (Morning Leader, London, June 11, 1906).

The McClungs discontinued their Mission to attend the Belfast Convention held in July 1906. Wm. Irvine told a reporter that  "At the Convention held annually in Belfast, brothers and sisters volunteer for the Work in the Colonies, which is very much the same as the Work here" (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).

Mr. Wilson's children Willie, John and Ellie all attended the 1906 Belfast Convention, and Willie and Ellie entered the Work there. After the Convention, Ellie (aged 24 or 25) notified her parents: "Am not coming home. You know my intentions for being here and I must seek to go on and be about my Heavenly Father’s business." When Willie and Ellie went in the Work, they both loaned their £500 share of their inheritance to their brother, John, to purchase a farm. 

Mr. Wilson may have feared his eldest daughter Ellie would follow others who had gone abroad to America, Australia, Africa, New Zealand and Canada, and he was determined to find her and prevent this from happening. She was finally located at the home of Robert McClung in Belfast. Twice, Mr. Wilson went to there, intending to take Ellie home with him. While there, he used "some very abusive language," and the police were called to remove him from the premises. 

Wilson hired a detective who had no success in getting Ellie to return home. Then two women, one working for a newspaper, arrived to visit with Ellie to investigate the claim by her father that his underage daughter had been stolen from his home and was being used as a servant. Subsequently, several newspapers carried a sensationalized, exaggerated report of these events containing some false information. The solicitor for Robert McClung contacted the newspaper and they published a full apology and admitted that the report was groundless (Lloyd's Weekly, Dec. 9, 1906).

On November 20, 1906, Mr. Wilson signed a document on behalf of many aggrieved parents headed "New Emigration Scheme," as Chairman of a Parish Meeting at Cretingham, Framlingham, Suffolk and Chairman of the School Board. It was distributed to 73 bishops of the Church of England, including the Primate, and to all the Church of Ireland clergymen in Belfast. It was also published in the Dec. 6, 1906, Stowmarket News and the June 22, 1907, Free Press of Dublin, Wexford and Waterford.

Then on December 3, 1906, Ellie's father took matters into his own hands and maliciously destroyed Wilson McClung's Mission hall, organ and contents located near the Suffolk village of Ipswich.

"Before a crowded court at Ipswich on Thursday, William Dennis Wilson...was charged with willfully damaging the Mission hall...The evidence showed that about three weeks ago he obtained two crowbars from a blacksmith, saying he wanted to smash the Mission hall in question, and that he wanted the work of destruction to be effectively done. Doors were wrenched off, all the windows broken, and the organ knocked to pieces. A policeman describing the appearance of the Mission hall said the place was wrecked and in great disorder. Another witness with whom the head of the Mission lodged with, said defendant called at the blacksmith's and asked for 'a crowbar to smash up a Mission hall'...The Bench fined Wilson £1 with £4 19s 6d damage and £2 3s costs, in all or one month's imprisonment" (Lloyd's Weekly, Dec. 23, 1906).

On December 7, 1906, Ellie Wilson wrote her parents: "I expect to be soon leaving here to start a Mission with another Worker. Will let you know my address so you needn’t trouble yourself about me. When I see an opportunity I hope to come home for a few days to see you all, although it will not be at Christmas."

By this time, it was reported about the Go Preachers that "they have spread to nearly every shire [county] in England, to Scotland, Australia, Canada and most of the English Colonies, whilst there are not less than 120 of the Go Preachers at Work in the United States" (Irish Weekly Independent, Aug. 24, 1907).

1907, SEPTEMBER 23 - ENNISKILLEN TOWN HALL MEETING:  The largest Two by Two Sect Convention was held each year in July in Ballinamallard, a small village near Enniskillen, Ireland at a place called Crocknacrieve, owned by John and Sara West.  Enniskillen was also the home town of Edward Cooney.

Wilson took his grievances and accusations across the sea to Enniskillen, Ireland, where he, a total stranger to the community, held a lively meeting in their Town Hall. Seated in the front row were a number of Friends and Workers, including: John West, Wm. West, Wm. Carroll, Tom Betty, Ed Cooney, Bobby Graham, J. Jeffers, R. J. Lendrum, J. Humphreys and Miss Forde.  Wilson had no supporters on the platform. At the meeting, Wilson read extracts from his pamphlet titled, "Danger Signal."

"The doctrines preached by these Missioners were circulated to and in fact did induce certain young girls to leave their parents homes and associate with these Missioners. After a short period spent in what was given out to be a preparation at a training home for future Mission Work, these girls have been shipped to China, South Africa, and other foreign lands, and their parents had in some cases lost all means of communication with their children.

"It is gravely feared that these Missioners are employing their so-called Mission as a cloak for recruiting the ranks of the ‘white slave’ traffic in foreign parts because the children whose absence has resulted from the preaching of these Missioners are many of them illiterate and totally unfitted for the Mission Work alleged by these Missioners to be their object and because these Missioners have chiefly required young females for their purpose, the few males who have also followed these Missioners were employed, it is believed, as a cloak to cover the underlying motive of the Mission”
(IR, Oct. 3, 1907). 

Wm. West rose and said that no person should take Mr. Wilson's comments seriously; that he had been going about making foul and filthy charges of women stealing against a body of respectable people because his two daughters and son happened to be preaching the Gospel in this country (Ireland). Wm. West asked Mr. Wilson to provide the name of a single person he could prove was guilty of the charges Wilson had made. 

John West rose and made the same request and said he thought it only fair when a man comes all the way from Suffolk, England and mounts a platform and addresses an audience, that he should come with facts and not with insinuations.  He said that it is only fair and just to give the names of those Wilson claims are lost in a harem in China.   

Mr. Wilson was unable or unwilling to provide the name or address of a single person. Instead he asked where various girls were and Mr. West or Mr. Carroll replied with their location:  "In Philadelphia; in New Zealand; in Australia; in South Africa," etc.  The West brothers continued to ask Wilson for the name of the person/s who had stolen girls, but Wilson did not provide any.

Eventually, Wm. West said they could not stay any longer. Wilson urged them not to be in a hurry–to stay and thresh out this matter, as he came 200 or 300 miles to do so.  Mr. West said Wilson made charges which he utterly failed to prove so they were leaving. Mr. Wilson then said loudly: "Keep the door blocked–don't let them out. Lock the doors" They left anyway. 

Mr. Wilson closed the meeting by proposing a petition (which received only one vote) to request their Lord Primate "to set a Sunday apart to set up these men as a gazing stock to warn the public to refrain from those men and to cease helping those men who are vagrant, seductive, Go Preachers of No-Sect Sect, and worse and worse, Anti-Religionist, bar Jesus and Anti-Christs."

Wilson's pamphlets were made available for a penny each.

1908: At the 1908 Crocknacrieve Convention, Wm. Irvine mentioned that every member of Mr. Wilson's family were saved, except for two, and called on Mr. Wilson's son and three of his daughters to speak.

“Another daughter of Mr. Wilson then testified, and then her brother followed who said that he was glad that he had opposed his father, and that he meant to go on and follow God. He had seen his father write those reports which were published and there was no foundation of truth in them. He had forgiven his father for all he had said, and he hoped that he would call on the Lord and get forgiveness from Him also” (IR, July 30, 1908 p. 8).

1910, July: Wilson began sending abusive telegrams to Cooney and the West brothers. He continued to publish placards, pamphlets and tracts and to harass members of the Go Preacher Sect. 

1910: MR. WILSON TAKEN TO COURT eight times in England and Ireland for distributing libelous propaganda by several Two by Twos. They were John and Wm. West of Ireland, an English merchant, two English Convention ground owners and Ed Cooney. No suits were filed by William Irvine. The outcome of all of these cases is provided in Appendix L.

1912:  Edward Cooney took annual trips to America for three consecutive years, beginning August 1909, and returning in May 1912. Wm. Irvine was away on his annual trip around the world, so neither men were in the U. K. when the West brothers' suits were ongoing. 

Both Cooney and Irvine made legal written statements. Irvine's Statement was for Burfitt's case which was heard in June 1913, and Cooney's Statement is dated July 1, 1913. The last two libel suits generated from Wilson's propaganda were filed by Cooney in 1913.  Cooney generated volumes of documents for his case, the originals of which the author personally handled. There was a worldwide list of Worker Locations after 1912-13 Conventions. There were also lists of sister Workers' locations, lists of Workers sent abroad, numerous testimonial letters from U.K. Sister Workers laboring abroad, Convention expenditure lists and copies of checks signed by Bill Carroll and W. Hughes.

: The weekly newspaper, The People of London, which had a very large circulation in the U. K., printed an article on July 14, 1912 which became the basis for a libel suit brought against them by Edward Cooney and Ernest Walter List, who sought damages for their injured reputation and a restraining injunction from further publishing (People of London, July 14, 1912).

Sister Workers all over the world who were from the U. K. were asked to write testimonial letters. Certified copies of these letters and court documents were obtained from the Public Records of Northern Ireland (PRONI). These handwritten documents are Primary Evidence.  Click Here to read some of these letters.  Cooney made this statement: "I am in possession of scores of letters from sisters who have gone abroad giving their home address to which they write regularly, the central address that will find them in the country in which they preach, the addresses of a few of the homes at which they are always made welcome, in the state or district in which they preach—and a sketch of their lives since going to preach"  (Cooney's Statement, Oct. 14, 1913).

1912, CANADA:  Mr. Wilson’s influence didn't stop with the United Kingdom–it extended across the ocean to Newfoundland and New Brunswick, Canada.  In Napan, NB: "Rev. George Wood charged them with belonging to a sect or circle or conspiracy of rascals in England who had been found guilty of taking girls away from their parents for improper purposes, and his authority...a leaflet received from England, giving the deposition of one, William Dennis Wilson of Ispwich, Suffolk. Mr. Wood had this circulated throughout the community...had appeared in two or three newspapers, and he did so without having...ascertain[ed] whether it was trustworthy..." (Chatham Newspaper, Mar. 21, 1912).

While Workers were holding a Mission in West Point, Newfoundland, in 1915, a newspaper made the rounds “which told about the Workers belonging to what they called the White Slave Traffic...taking away young girls.” This account nearly prevented some from being baptized. (See Account: Gospel Coming To West Point, Newfoundland in 1915).  Read difficulties encountered by sister Worker Kate Adamson, due to Wilson's propaganda while preaching in Nova Scotia.

In 1912, Mr. W. D. Wilson’s son, W. F. Wilson, provided this information about his sisters: "At present, they are all (four) living in this village [Cretingham, Suffolk, England]. One was out preaching in the same scriptural way as the two who are in your village, but returned to try to stop her father from spreading such evil reports. Another was away for health reasons. Those two are now living with my brother, as does another who has not been away. The other is also at home (Napan, NB newspaper, Mar. 5, 1912). NOTE: Some of Wilson's children did not continue in the Work.

1913 DEBUT OF HYMNS OLD AND NEW: Meanwhile, Cooney and Bill Carroll had been working on a replacement to the Go-Preacher's Hymnbook. The new Hymns Old & New made its debut at the 1913 Conventions and a pristine copy was included with the court documents the author personally reviewed in April 2014, at PRONI in Belfast.

1914:  World War I began. Wilson fell on hard times and did not pay the settlements in a timely manner. Cooney filed a Judgment in the case, which Wilson also failed to pay. In March 1915, a Summons under Courts Emergency Powers Act was filed against Mr. Wilson for non-payment of Judgment for £191:1:9. Available documents show all but £ 6:15:5 was paid by April 19, 1915, though it is possible that the balance was paid later.

NOTE: There are two newspaper summaries of the Wilson affairs: The People, July 14, 1912, was the cause of Cooney and List's lawsuit and gives a general summary of the situation that led up to the suit. Also Ideas, July 13, 1917, summarizes the previous years. These are reprinted on Website:

List of Court Cases filed against W. D. Wilson.
View Wilson's libelous propaganda
Read Edward Cooney's Two Statements for Court
Read Wm. Irvine's Statement for Court
Lists of Worker Locations after 1912-13 Conventions

Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).

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