MEMORY LANE: From the mines to a mission

MAN ON A MISSION: The Reverend James Parkinson pictured in 1958
MAN ON A MISSION: The Reverend James Parkinson pictured in 1958

JAMES Parkinson was literally a man on a mission.

He had swapped life as a putter in the collieries of East Durham for the call of the Methodist church. He became Reverend James Parkinson, and devoted himself to the people of West Bengal.

He returned to his home village of Blackhall in 1958, where his mum Elizabeth was still a resident of Tweddle Crescent, in Blackhall Rocks.

James left school at 14 to work at Blackhall Colliery.

Four years later, he first felt the urge to join a ministry.

Our report of 1958 said: “This meant long hours of self-education at the colliery but he passed his local preachers’ examinations and went on the Horden circuit.”

He moved to Yorkshire and to a mining community in Sheffield where he was minister of a church on a new housing estate.

It was during a stay at Rotherham that he became increasingly interested in missionary work. To prepare, he studied Eastern religions at St Andrew’s College, in Birmingham, and then moved to India with his wife in 1954.

He was posted to the industrial township of Barrackpore which was a few miles from Calcutta.

Later he became the superintendent of the Mills Area Mission Circuit, and had under his charge, five churches over a 20-mile area. He had 150 Christians in his care and felt that, among his most important work, was to educate the children. Thousands of them never attended school at the time and most could not read or write.

And his big aim was to set up an outdoor clinic in a country where leprosy was a huge problem at the time.

Can anyone help us with more details about James. Contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email