His varied ministry

 

The Birkenhead Workhouse and Hospital

This is one of the places that Mr Thompson frequently visited and his words of comfort and spiritual counsel were always accompanied by some little personal gift. He often received letters of grateful thanks from them. The following letter was one such letter sent from twenty of the inmates on Christmas Eve 1900:

Dear Sir: We are not rich in this world's goods - and we are afraid that most of us have only a vague idea of the goods pertaining to any other world - but with all our failings we are at least capable of the sentiments of gratitude. This is all we can offer you, together with our sincere thanks for your many kindnesses to us during the past year, and we can assure you that although we are poor we have feelings like other people, and we are egotistical enough to think that you would be pleased to know how much your cheery visits to us are valued, and we take this opportunity of the season of goodwill to all to give expression to the hope that you and all belonging to you will have a joyful Christmas, and we trust the material as well as the spiritual help will be forthcoming to assist you in your many good works, which may you long be spared to perform."

On the occasion of the annual treat to the inmates of the Tranmere Union in August 1902, one of them gifted in poetry, commemorated the event by writing a very touching poem for him under the heading "Honour to whom honour is due" and was dedicated to "General Thompson."

In the poem he referred to "the Good Samaritan, who does for all the best he can, without distinction, class or creed, and proves a friend in need and deed." He concluded the poem with the words "may General Thompson live for years, to dry many a poor sorrower's tears; when he and his with life are done, lay down the cross for the crown they've won."

Whenever Mr Thompson was visiting the hospital the news soon spread from ward to ward and from bed to bed, and requests and appeals were made by patients that he would come and speak a cheery word to them. He had always the same bright smile for all, and if he found a sick person low or melancholy, his presence and encouraging and consoling words would cause the sufferer to take a less desponding view of life.

Shortly after he died a letter was sent to the family from the hospital stating that "no words can express how greatly he will be missed by the patients of the Union Hospital, who whom he was always so kind and sympathetic, and the blank to them is irreparable."

Helping the sick and needy

The strong personality of Charles Thompson was greatly felt when visiting the sick in hospital or elsewhere. No matter how tired and weary he was himself he never permitted a trace of it to be seen in a sick room, but wherever he went his bright, cheery presence left sunshine behind him and a repetition of the visit was eagerly looked forward to.

For years he visited the sick, soothing their last moments and so friendless were some of those who passed away, that frequently he was the only mourner present at the funeral, and in all sorts of weather, even though far from well himself at times, he would be found at the cemetery, seeing the last of some poor, friendless stranger, whose death, as deeply affected Charles Thompson as if it had been that of a lifelong friend. In cases of recovery, when illness had lost the sick their employment, he was generally successful in securing fresh work for those who had been thus stranded.

In rain, sleet, or snow he tramped to the hospital, the workhouse, police courts, and into hovels located in the most unsavoury part of the town, always bent on some charitable errand.

Days out and annual holidays

                     Widows summer outing

The aged, blind, infirm, and afflicted of both sexes at the Workhouse, and also the poor widows and children of Birkenhead, were regularly considered, and every effort was made by Charles Thompson and his willing helpers to provide them with at least one holiday each year. On these occasions the "General" as he was often styled by some, was always at his best, and his organising and catering abilities, though often taxed to the utmost, were never found wanting.

One poor little crippled boy was carried to the Mission night after night almost to the last. His one desire was to be able to attend Mrs Ismay's treat on August Bank Holiday, but just before the day arrived he sadly died.

                      Annual River Trip

The Annual River Trip, which began in 1882, was something that was talked about and looked forward to with the greatest pleasure all year round, this being provided by the Ferries Committee.

The following are examples of other special treats that were provided:

                      Day out at New Brighton

His visit to the Navvies

On a number of occasions he visited the large number of navvies who were engaged on the Mersey Railway working alongside their missionary a Mr Parry. On one occasion he assisted both Mr Parry and another gentleman from Oxford by the name of Newcombe in a midnight meeting which was held from shaft to shaft. While the men were having their midnight meal the three men took it in turn to sing and speak. After they had finished eating the men joined in with them in singing, with Mr Newcombe playing the violin, and they clearly enjoyed their ministry to them, thanking them for their visit and asking them to come again.

His music ministry

Charles Thompson was gifted with a wonderfully strong powerful voice. He always led the singing and could be heard in large gatherings, above either organ or piano. He had such a quick ear for music that in his earlier years, walking from Birkenhead to a Men's Bible Class at Neston on Sunday Mornings as he often did, he would remember new tunes which he had heard the previous Sunday, and would sing them aloud as he crossed the fields, so as not to forget them. By this means, since musical instruments were not so plentiful in those days, he conducted the singing very effectively at the Neston Mission Hall. Also in his earlier days he would often take part in local charity concerts, which he sadly stopped doing when his son Charles died, as this had been a great blow to him. He wrote many little hymns, poems and other compositions in his quiet hours. A Service of Song entitled "New Year's Eve" was most beautiful and touching for which he had a specially trained choir for rendering the musical portions whilst he told the story.

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