Watkin, James
1805-1886; e.m. 1830

Click to enlarge

WM missionary, born in Manchester on 29 September 1805. Appointed to Tonga in 1831, he is remembered as the author of the famous 'Pity Poor Fiji' appeal, sent in 1838 on behalf of his colleagues, inspired by the recent revival in Tonga and finding in Britain a resurgence of missionary enthusiasm. Charged with a misdemeanour and confessing to it, he left, but after an interval in Australia, in 1840 he began an effective ministry as the first missionary of any denomination resident in South Island, New Zealand. Settling inAustralia, he became President of the Conference in 1862 and undertook a deputation to Tonga in 1869. he died at Ashfield, NSW, on 14 May 1886.

Three sons became WM ministers: (1) William James Watkin (1833-1909; e.m. 1857), who served in New Zealand and being bilingual helped to reconcile Maori and settlers. He was President of the New Zealand Conference in 1889. (2) Jabez Bunting Watkin (1837-1925; e.m. 1866), who served in Tonga, befriending and supporting the troublesome Shirley W. Baker. Losing confidence in him, he applied to transfer to Australia in 1878. However, after resuming his involvement in Baker's activities and being Chairman of the Tonga District for one year (1880), he resigned to lead the breakaway Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga as its President from 1885 to 1924. He declined at the last moment to join the 1924 union with the WM remnant negotiated by Queen Salote. (3) Edwin Iredale Watkin (1839-1916; e.m. 1859) was awarded a DD by Victoria University and was President of the Victoria and Tasmania Conference in 1883.

  • G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1921-1924), vol. 3 passim
  • G.I. Laurenson, Te Hahi Weteriana: three half centuries of the Methodist Maori Misions 1822-1972 (Auckland, 1972)
  • A.H. Wood, Overseas Missions of the Australian Methodist Church, vol. 1 (Melbourne, 1975)
  • Encyclopedia of World Methodism (Nashville, 1974)