General Booth at New Mills
The Salvation Army held a strong contingent in New Mills, which worked tirelessly to promote the evil of alcohol amongst the often rowdy, largely poorly educated, population. The large number of Public Houses in the town is witness enough to the excesses of drink, borne out by numerous reports in newspapers of arrests and appearances before the Bench on charges of drunkenness. The Army’s members carried out many other charitable works in New Mills, feeding and clothing the needy and bring the Generals message of Salvation to all who needed it. The movement was much respected in the town, and no doubt here, as in other places its most fervent members were the converted.The local Salvation Army Band was popular and greatly admired.
For such a great and respected man as William Booth to visit New Mills was a momentous occasion.
‘General Booth, the veteran chief of the Salvation Army, met with a great reception on visiting New Mills, during his sixth motor campaign. The founder of the great movement, which is doing such splendid work all the world over, is about half way through his present tour, which covers a distance of 1,400 miles, and during which he is announced to deliver eighty two lectures and addresses, to speak at seventeen mass meetings in the open air, to be given forty-three civic receptions, and to speak to the prisoners in Lincoln, Armley, Derby, and Horfield gaols. Great interest in the work of the work of the illustrious Salvationist is taken by the people of New Mills, where he has a band of earnest followers, who since it was known that the town was to be favoured with a visit by their chief have laboured lovingly to give him a reception worthy of the occasion. In this they have been nobly seconded by all sections of the community, and nothing could have exceeded the warmth of the demonstration.
The district was all agog with pleasurable excitement, and several houses from Strines to New Mills flags and other bunting was displayed in honour of the event, whilst the Town Hall flag floated gaily in the breeze, and over the principal entrance of the building was hung a large portrait of the Army’s leader, bordered with red, white and blue colours, with the words worked in at the sides ‘Welcome to our General.’
The band of the local corps, conducted by Mr W. Shirt, was in attendance, playing inspiring music, and not withstanding the fact that the visit took place at an hour when the great majority of the towns people were at their daily toil, and on the day of the tradesman’s half holiday the principal streets were lined with spectators, and a large concourse of people were assembled in the vicinity of the Public Hall.
A great cheer rent the air when the fleet of three large motor-cars came into sight and the enthusiasm found vent in a tumultuous clapping of hands, waving of hats and handkerchiefs and lusty shouts, when the sprightly ‘Grand old man of the Army’ was observed standing upright in his famous white car, bowing and waving his hands in acknowledgement. The sun shone gloriously upon the little procession, upon the flowing white locks of the old General and upon his earnest and expressive face, and many a silent prayer was breathed that he might long be spared to continue his good work. Despite the fact that he has recently attained his eightieth birthday, and that he is midway through a laborious campaign, General Booth looked in the best of health and spirits, and his many admirers were greatly gratified at his bright and cheerful appearance, which proves that he is bearing the strain very well indeed. Round after round of cheering followed the party as the cars proceeded to the Town Hall, where there were wild scenes of enthusiasm. There was a contingent of uniformed officers as well as many of the rank and file, the Salvation Army lassies busying themselves in every direction. The band struck up a rousing ‘Welcome’ hymn as the General mounted the slope to the Hall, where he was welcomed on the steps by members of the Urban Council and prominent townspeople.
As the General with his escort entered the principal assembly room he was warmly greeted, the large number of people in the hall rising to their feet and cheering again and again. Amongst those on the platform were Rev. W. H. Coradine, Rev. W. D. Edmondson, Messrs. H. H Bullough, Levi J. Hall. J.P., C.C., T Livesley, J Armstrong, I Hill, H Crossley, S Evans, J Pollitt, clerk, A. W. Lowe, A Bates, R Oldham, J. T. Moseley, H Barber, J.P., J. G. Downes, F Dawson, J. E. Street, W. Briggs.
The proceedings commenced with the singing of the hymn ‘ When I survey the wondrous Cross,’ followed by prayer offered by Colonel Whatmore, whose words, and especially those ‘We pray that the General may be blessed,’ were received with a fervent chorus of ‘Amen.’
Mr Pollitt (clerk to the council) then read the following address, which was illuminated scroll on vellum, mounted on silk, with fringe and tassels and boxwood rollers, and enclosed in a casket: -
To General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.
We, the chairman and members of the Urban District Council of New Mills, Derbyshire, cordially welcome you on your first visit to New Mills. We wish to convey to you our appreciation of the great services you have rendered to this country and to the world at large. In your endeavours to raise fallen humanity and place it in a higher plane of life you have shown courage and devotion worthy of the great cause you have had in hand. We feel grateful that under a wise providence your life has been spared to push forward the problems your army has attempted to solve, and which have been to a large extent brought to a successful issue. Those works will forever be a great memorial to the zeal and energy with which you have prosecuted the work of the Master. Will you kindly accept this expression of our good wishes to you personally, and also the great Army you so ably represent and control. We pray that you will long be spared to continue your good work towards the uplifting of the mass of mankind in this and all other countries of the world. Given under our common seal the eleventh day of August, 1909.
The Chairman having handed the address to General Booth, amidst great applause, delivered a brief address saying he was glad to have the opportunity to pay tribute to the zeal and energy which General Booth had put forth in the solving of the social problems which the Salvation Army, under his direction had so ably tackled. He considered he was one of the most illustrious citizens of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What the history of this country would have been without the work of the Salvation Army during the years which had elapsed since that great movement commenced it would be difficult to say, but there could be no doubt that it would have been written in darker and blacker characters. He was sure that they were all grateful to the wise Providence that had granted his life so long a period to push forward the great problems the Army had tackled, and they sincerely hoped his life would be long spared to continue this excellent and good work. The General had endeavoured as they all ought to do, to leave the world better than he found it, and he had been fortunate to live to such a great length of life as to be enabled to see for himself the fruits of some of his schemes which he proposed. That was not left for every reformer to see. Some of the schemes, for the solution of problems, which almost seem to defy solution, had not only been taken in hand by the Salvation Army, but brought to a successful issue. They were very pleased to have the General and the founder of that Army amongst them, and would be very pleased to hear what he had to say of the past, present and future of the Army.
The General, who spoke with little apparent effort spoke for three quarters of an hour on ‘The Salvation Army; past, present, and future.’ he first expressed his thanks for the address which had been presented to him, and the enthusiasm of the reception which had been accorded to him, both by the large audience before him and the crowds of people in the streets of the town through which he had passed, although it was rather an awkward time of day at which to hold a public meeting, it showed that there was already existent in this town and neighbourhood some considerable interest in the Salvation Army movement and some confidence in it, and he trusted that what he should say to them that afternoon about the work, condensed as it must be, would intensify that sympathy and strengthen that confidence. The General proceed, at once to plunge into his subject, showing by his remarks from the outset how sincere is his desire for the salvation of men, and to preach to them the everlasting gospel of Christ. In the course of a length and eloquent address, the General dealt with various phases of the Army’s work, and greatly interested the large audience.
Votes of thanks to the General and the Chairman, followed by the singing of the Doxology, brought a memorable meeting to a close. Subsequently General Booth was entertained at the home of Mr Henry Barber, J.P. On leaving the town, that evening for Stockport the veteran Chief of the Army received a hearty send off from the many thousands congregated in Market Street, Union road, Newtown and right away into Disley.’
The Advertiser August 13th 1909
The General’s sixth motor tour of Britain was cut short when he lost the sight of his right eye. Dimly able to write his own name through the cataract in his left eye, he toured Europe in the following spring. In the May 1910 he filled London's Albert Hall and made perhaps his greatest speech: 'While women weep as they do now, I'll fight; while little children go hungry as they do now, I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, I'll fight; while there yet remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight - I'll fight to the very end.'
'William Booth started out from Nottingham largely self-educated, penniless, and practically friendless. He had one fixed idea. The whole of his effort and talent would be directed to the one purpose - saving the world. Like his predecessor Wesley, he took the whole world as his parish. So well did he succeed that before he died, his name was known in practically every country of that parish, and his followers numbered in millions. He began with nothing, had no money, no powerful friends, only his golden voice, his passion, and this vision of man reconciled to God.'
William Booth (The General)
The greatest preacher since Wesley, Booth was a little flamboyant, a little melodramatic, but he roused thousands to repentance and hope. 'Religion,' he said, 'means loving God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself.'
Within ten years of his first sermon at Mile End, William Booth had established 26 flourishing stations and his followers had spread the word throughout the country. Known at first as the Volunteer Army, Booth changed it to the Salvation Army in 1878, when his most valued aide, George Railton, objected to being called a volunteer. 'I'm a regular or nothing,'' he argued.
Military terms came to be used. The Salvation Army fired a 'volley' and 'manned forts and citadels'. There were 'siege operations' against the Devil, converts 'taken prisoner', and they did not pray but did 'knee drill'. It was his fervent followers who thought up the smart uniforms, the tambourines, and even William's title - the General.
In the quiet cathedral city of Salisbury, Charles Fry offered the services of himself and his three sons to accompany the singing of songs in the market place. They all played brass instruments and unwittingly was born the first Salvation Army Band.
Not at all sure about the rowdy songs that the first Salvationists began to sing, William finally approved, saying: 'Why should the devil have all the best tunes?'
Gradually the bands, the tambourines, the singing, the fervour, the uniforms - all began to bring colour and warmth into the hearts of people whose lives had been utterly drab and purposeless, who had come to feel that the churches were only interested in the well-to-do.
The Salvationists did fine work in the slums bringing soup and salvation, converting and rehabilitating many beggars, criminals and vicious folk, and gradually won the goodwill and practical support of people in high places including Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales.
Depressed trade during the late eighteen eighties brought strikes, unemployment and bloody police clashes. In the five-week dock strike of 1889, the Army supplied 195,000 cut-price meals. Booth forestalled the Government by twenty years when he opened a labour exchange in Upper Thames Street.
The Army provided rescue homes and Prison Gate Brigades to help ex-prisoners. The lasses of the Cellar, Gutter and Garret Brigade lived in Whitechapel's filthy tenements caring for old folks and tiny children.
General Booth was never much concerned with the rich; they had their cardinals, bishops and curates. What interested him was the lost and despairing horror of the poor. After many spirited battles for freedom of worship by the Army, other countries were now prepared to give Booth's ideas a sporting chance. Shelters were opened in Brussels and Copenhagen. The Governments of France, Holland, Germany and Australia saw what could be done and financially assisted the Army.
Tirelessly driving himself supervising his global corps, Booth became a much-respected international figure. He opened the US Senate in 1898 with a prayer and King Edward VII shook him by the hand at Buckingham Palace in 1904. Travelling widely, he found no country too remote, no people too barbarous, following the paths his soldiers had opened up. On a visit to Palestine, he kneeled outside the Garden of Gethsemane to kiss a leper's hand.
On Sunday 18 August 1912 now blind and frail William Booth lost consciousness and grew steadily weaker. He died three days later.
'The General Has Laid Down His Sword,' was the simple message displayed in the window of International Headquarters. He was 83 years old. At the three-day lying in state, 150,000 people filed past the old warrior's casket. 40,000 flocked to his funeral at Olympia Exhibition Hall where Salvation Army Officers knelt by the casket, along with thieves, tramps, harlots, the lost, and the outcast.
Royalty too. Queen Mary came along with her Lord Chamberlain, Lord Shaftesbury, and because Her Majesty had arrived unannounced without warning, she had to sit at the rear of the hall next to a prostitute. She heard the prostitute say: 'He cared for the likes of us.'
The casket was borne to Abney Park Cemetery through silent masses lining the streets, followed by 10,000 uniformed Salvationists and forty Army bands. Around his grave were lain wreaths from the King and Queen, Queen Alexandra, Kaiser Wilhelm, and the American Ambassador Whitelaw Reid.
The New York Times claimed: 'No man of his time did more for the benefit of his people.'
Born April 10, 1829 at Sneinton, Nottingham
Died August 20, 1912, aged 83 at Hadley Wood, London. Buried at Stoke Newington, London