Known as ‘the Apostle of the Isle of Man’, he was a Lancastrian whose father lost his estate though debt and went to sea. Though apprenticed to a trade, he enlisted as a soldier, serving mainly in Ireland. At 24 he married in Cork. Converted in Limerick at 28, he joined the Methodists. His uncle helped him buy his discharge and he became a local preacher in Liverpool. By 1st March 1775 he had gone to the Isle of Man as a missionary. When he preached to a congregation of 400 as they left church in Peel, many were converted. After six months there, he concentrated his attention on Castletown, but also formed classes in Peel and Douglas.
The 1774 Conference sent him back as an itinerant and again the following year, despite being still only a probationer in the Whitehaven circuit, he spent most of his time on Man. He met with strong opposition and had his meetings broken up, with the bishop of Sodor and Man warning his clergy against ‘unqualified and unordained persons who presume to preach and set up conventicles’. Despite Wesley’s disapproval, he set up what became known as 'the Manx Confeence' attended by the vernacular-speaking local preachers. During his further years on the island (from 1778 to 1781 and again from 1786 to 1788) Methodist membership grew to around 1 in 15 of the adult population. He also spent some years before and after Wesley’s death in Ireland, presiding over the Irish Conference in 1793 in the absence of Alexander Mather and holding the British and Irish preachers together at a time of potential division.
Following his wife’s death in 1797, he returned to England as Superintendent of the Whitehaven Circuit and Chairman of the Whitehaven District, which included the Isle of Man. Suffering from a scorbutic complaint, he had to retire in 1799, but returned to the active work in 1800, continuing in it until his death at Scarborough on 27 December 1805.