Stretton, John
fl. 1770-1790

Irish merchant, based in Waterford, with trading links with Newfoundland. His father had provided hospitality for John Wesley in Limerick. Stretton's business led him to settle in Newfoundland from 1770. The island's economy was largely dependent on cod fisheries, in which seasonal fishermen from England and Ireland played an important part from spring to autumn each year. Those from Ireland were mainly Roman Catholics. Stretton associated himself with Laurence Coughlan's work and became a local preacher. Arthur Thomey, an Irish Roman Catholic whom Stretton led to Christ, also became involved. After Coughlan had returned to England in 1773, Stretton and Thomey met classes, visited the sick, held prayer meetings and conducted services (much to the annoyance of Coughlan's Anglican successor) until the arrival of John McGeary, the first preacher appointed by the British Conference, over ten years later.

In 1788 Stretton financed the building of a church at Harbour Grace, partly to counter Roman Catholic influence, writing: 'This is the only thing at present that keeps up the Protestant name in the place ... few go to church; while popery, like a deluge, sweeps away all the rest.' Relations between the Methodist preachers and lay workers were strained at times, with John Wesley having to intervene. His letters in 1788 and 1789 to Stretton and to William Black, who supervised the work, included pleas for harmony.

  • W. Crook, Ireland and the Centenary of American Methodism (1866)
  • William Wilson, Newfoundland and its Missionaries (1866)
  • Norman W. Taggart, The Irish in World Methodism 1760-1900 (1986)
  • J.W. Grant, 'Methodist Origins in Atlantic Canada' in C.H.H. Scobie and J.W. Grant (eds.), The Contribution of Methodism to Atlantic Canada (1992)