STORY, GEORGE PHILLISKIRK, educator, Methodist clergyman, author, and editor; b. 26 June 1853 in Filey, England, son of William Story and Elizabeth Jenkinson; m. 7 July 1880 Elizabeth Steer in St John’s, and they had three daughters, one of whom died in infancy, and four sons; d. 7 July 1894 in St John’s.
George Philliskirk Story was the eldest of William Story’s four children and the only one of a short-lived family to survive his father. William, a native of Hull in Yorkshire, opened his own drapery establishment at Filey in 1827 and served as the town’s postmaster for 40 years. A leading lay Methodist and a man of volatile and irrepressible high spirits, he earned the sobriquet of Ram’s Horn for a sermon on the fall of the city of Jericho. He named his eldest son after George Story of Harthill, a kinsman who had been an early and influential follower of John and Charles Wesley, and Harrison Philliskirk, a fellow Wesleyan in Filey.
A career as teacher was marked out for George Philliskirk Story. He studied at Westminster Training College in London, graduating with a first class diploma. After some years teaching in Methodist schools in Yorkshire, in the mid 1870s he was appointed headmaster of the grammar school run by the church in Carbonear, Nfld, but within a year he abandoned this position for the ministry.
Following three probationary years as an assistant in the two St John’s circuits, Story was ordained in 1880. That summer he married the daughter of John Steer, a leading merchant in the city. The next eight years were spent in hard and onerous labour as a circuit preacher around the island: at Channel (Channel-Port aux Basques), Hant’s Harbour and Catalina on Trinity Bay, and Freshwater on Conception Bay. Then in 1888 Story was recalled to St John’s as guardian and chaplain of the new Methodist College home, a residence for outport students attending the college. The years in St John’s were marked by the outbreak of a serious epidemic of diphtheria in 1889, the burning of the old college and residence in the great fire of 1892, and the Newfoundland financial crisis of 1894. During 1892 Story travelled widely through central and eastern Canada to raise money for the rebuilding of the college ($8,000 was collected).
By the time the new quarters were opened in November 1893, Story had been chosen as president of the Newfoundland Conference of the Methodist Church. During his tenure he again travelled extensively, to New England, Ontario, and the Maritime Provinces, as well as within Newfoundland, but this activity ended in a serious physical collapse, the result of a heart condition aggravated by overwork. A move to the new inland circuit at Whitbourne effected only temporary recovery. Story suffered a relapse while visiting St John’s in May 1894 followed by pneumonia, and he died there in July at the age of 41.
The image of George Philliskirk Story that remains is of a short life of unremitting and intense labour as a circuit preacher. His work in linking the Methodist community in Newfoundland with its Canadian counterparts was significant. In 1891, as secretary of the Newfoundland conference, he visited Mount Allison College in Sackville, N.B., and Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., to establish more formal relations with these institutions and facilitate the entry of graduates from the college in St John’s into their programs. A writer for the Methodist periodical press and editor of the St John’s Methodist Monthly Greeting in 1890–91, he was also the author of some 108 sermons that have survived in manuscript. Mostly the product of his last years in the ministry, they display an uncommonly disciplined form, clarity, and reserve.
Filey, Eng., Methodist Church, Reg. of baptisms, 1853. PRO, HO 107/1214, 107/1260; RG 10/4814. Christmas Rev. (St John’s), 1892. Methodist Monthly Greeting (St John’s), July 1894. Methodist Recorder (London), 16 Aug. 1894. Filey Post and Weekly List of Visitors, 6–13 Feb. 1886. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, 13 July, 30 Nov. 1880; 23 Feb. 1886. Weekly News (St John’s), 12 July 1894. Charles Lench, The story of Methodism in Bonavista, and of the settlements visited by the early preachers . . . (n.p., 1919), 153. D. G. Pitt, Windows of agates; a short history of the founding and early years of Gower Street Methodist (now United) Church in St. John’s, Newfoundland (St John’s, 1966). G. M. Story, George Street Church, 1873–1973 (St John’s, 1973), 45. Collegian ([St John’s]), 1960: 78, 189. Daily News (St John’s), 4 Sept. 1964: 23.