Bossons, Ethel

Ethel Bossons was the first pioneer lecturer and demonstrator of the modern revolutionary method of teaching Methodist Sunday School teachers how to let young children learn by being allowed to be children Ethel Bossons was born 25 February 1902 at Talke o’ th’ Hill, near Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire. Her parents were Edward (1878-1939) a coal mine hewer, and Miriam nee Barker (1878 - c. 1955). Ethel was the eldest of seven children who with their parents and paternal grandparents attended Thomas Street, United Methodist Free Church, and Sunday School, Talke. When Ethel was 13 the family moved to Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent where they joined Jubilee Primitive Methodist Chapel and Sunday School, which was the place where the first Primitive Methodist Sunday school was founded in 1811 by Clowes, William. Ethel’s move to the Primitive Methodists prompted her grandfather Edwin Barker (1857- c.1920) to write to her telling her about her great grandmother Miriam Barker (1819-1875) who was a lifelong Primitive Methodist. In the letter, which is on ‘My Primitive Methodist Ancestor’ site, Edwin tells Ethel how when he was a boy he moved from the Primitive Methodist chapel to the Free Methodists. Edwin ends the letter ‘So I think you are quite alright with the primitives.’ Ethel became a teacher in the Tunstall Jubilee Primitive Methodist primary and junior departments and later leader of the primary Sunday School. In 1918 Ethel became a chapel member and chorister at the Tunstall Jubilee Primitive Methodist Chapel. It was a pivotal moment for Ethel Bossons when Archibald, George Hamilton, the celebrated international pioneer, lecturer, and author of authoritative books on graded Sunday school teaching methods, gave a lecture in Tunstall. Following Archibald’s lecture where he convincingly explained his method of teaching Sunday School teachers how to use the psychological based method of teaching. Archibald’s approach to teaching Sunday School children are, in his own words printed in Carey Bonner’s Child Songs ‘We must help children be children, not adults. The selection of words as well as music from the child’s point of view is an application of a fundamental Kindergarten principle…and if the same principle be carried into all branched of our Sunday and other schools it will free the children from the trammels of adultism which have bound, and are still binding, them fast. This book is an application of that principle.’ The officials of Jubilee Primitive Methodist Church and Sunday School were so impressed with the Sunday School methods that Archibald advocated they met and agreed, with the generous financial support of the Primitive Methodist Connexional, General Sunday School Committee, to send Ethel to Westhill College, Selly Oak, Birmingham to be trained in the Archibald philosophy and method. George Hamilton Archibald was the Principal of Westhill College which specialised in training Sunday School teachers in modern Sunday School methods based on Archibald’s pioneering educational theories based on psychological principles. Ethel Bossons was awarded the Westhill Certificate in December 1923 with the endorsement ‘Specialisation in Beginners, Primary and Junior Departmental leadership’. Ethel returned to Tunstall Jubilee and became the leader of the Upper Junior Department. Soon she was appointed the first Primitive Methodist Connexional Sunday School lecturer and demonstrator. At a meeting of the Connexional Sunday School Council meeting at Crewe on 8 April 1925 Ethel Bossons was ordained to the lay ministry. The ordination charge was given to her by Rev George Bennett (1855-1931) the former Primitive Methodist Conference President and Connexional Sunday School Secretary. The charge to the Church was given by Rev Samuel Palmer (1872-1952) the Connexional Sunday School Secretary. Miss Bossons became a regular lecturer and demonstrator of the new methods of teaching Sunday School children throughout the Connexion. In the 'Weekly Journal of the Primitive Methodist Church' in the ''Primitive Methodist Leader'' of 3 June 1926 Ethel Bossons is listed along with Professor Atkinson Lee, M.A., Rev. Charles. P. Groves, B.A., B.D., Rev Samuel Palmer, Rev. Thomas R. Auty, B.D., The Connexional Sunday Schools Secretary, Mr. and Mrs. W. V. Chivers, and Mrs. Lee, B.A., as being a lecturer at the Summer School for Sunday School Workers held at the Orphanage, Alresford, near Winchester, from 31 July to 14 August 1926. Ethel Bossons was a regular lecture at Easter and Summer residential Sunday School teachers’ conferences throughout her long devoted service in Methodism. At Methodist Union she became a staff member of the Connexional Sunday School Department and in 1943 when the Sunday School Department and the Wesley Guild were brought together to form the Methodist Youth Department Ethel became a member of the field staff until her retirement in the 1960s. After her thirty-seven years of continuous service she retired to Craig y Don, Llandudno where her wealth of experience was shared with the Sunday School staff at St David’s Methodist Church, Llandudno and other places in North Wales. In 1991 Ethel Bossons returned to her native Tunstall, Staffordshire, where she died on 26 May 1992.

  • Methodist Leader 3 June 1926, page 1
  • My Primitive Methodists website Miriam Barker (1819-1875); letter from her son to his granddaughter, Ethel Bossons
  • Ethel A. Johnstone, George Hamilton Archibald: Crusader for Youth, Wallington, R.E. Press, 1945

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Person
Comment on this entry