William Morgan

A founding member of the ‘Holy Club’, William had a deep concern for the plight of those in need. It was natural for him to encourage his student friends to join him in visiting prisoners and helping the poor in Oxford.

William Morgan was the son of an Irish gentleman. He was a Commoner of Christ Church at the same time as Charles Wesley. From his childhood he was known to be warm-hearted and charitably minded.

In later years, John Wesley recalled that he and his brother Charles first went with Morgan to visit prisoners in the Castle in the August of 1730. Most of those in prison had fallen into debt. Morgan had been doing what he could to help them get financial assistance. He helped others in need too and paid for needy children to go to school.

Impressed by Morgan’s work, John Wesley began to consult on a plan for the group to begin a more systematic programme of social assistance. Samuel Wesley approved. The wider Wesley family developed both a fondness and respect for Morgan, who became part of their close circle of friends.

Morgan’s mental and physical health was a cause for concern, By the summer of 1731 he was forced to retire to Holt. Concern began to spread in Oxford that the pious routines of the ‘Holy Club’ were responsible. The wider Wesley family offered support and advice. However, after a lingering illness, with some time spent in Oxford and then in Ireland, Morgan died at home in Dublin on 26 August 1732.

Morgan’s death ignited smouldering criticism and within two months John Wesley wrote to Morgan’s father to defend himself from being held responsible for William’s death. Richard Morgan, William’s father, exonerated Wesley of all such charges and, indeed, was prepared to send his only other son to Oxford, to be tutored by Wesley the following year.

Morgan was the first Methodist to engage in social action – an element that soon became, and remains, an intrinsic part of the Methodist way of life.

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