James Player, “The Teetotal Postman.”
Died January 19th, 1897.
Reprinted by permission from The Temperance Worker for March, 1897.
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world:- ‘This was a man.’”
To no particular class belongs the honour of usefulness, and from the humble life the most efficient workers have frequently been raised.
James Player was born at Malmesbury, on the 25th of August, 1815. He learned the trade of a shoemaker, and in addition to following that craft, for forty-three years was employed as a rural messenger, carrying the mails daily between Malmesbury and Sherston, a distance of six miles. On the 4th of January, 1842, he signed a pledge of Total Abstinence, and gave himself to the work according to the requirements of that time: undaunted courage, strong will, great determination, combined with wit, clear voice, good command of language, and argumentative powers not often excelled. He soon became exceedingly popular, and as “The Teetotal Postman” invariably attracted a large audience. The people had confidence in him, although many were opposed to his principles. They believed him to be sincere, and often when other speakers failed to obtain a hearing, rough men shouted: “We’ll hear Player.” Many miles he has trudged after his day’s work, in order to address Temperance meetings; and it is doubtful whether in extent or result of work many honorary advocates have exceeded him. To his honour be it said, he suffered considerable pecuniary loss, because he would not compromise his Temperance principles. He was a truly remarkable man, a careful student of history, and thoroughly acquainted with Shakespeare, from whose writings he often quoted in the most felicitous manner. He had yearning pity for the victims of strong drink, and regarded the licensed liquor traffic as a cruel injustice. Not long before his death, being asked if he was happy, he replied: “How can I be happy while I see so much suffering?” For some time his friends felt that he was fast ripening for another world. In the last week of 1896, he was taken with hemorrhage of the lungs; he suffered much, but with exemplary patience, cheered by the thought of having done something in order to make the world better, and full of hope for the cause to which his life had been given. Trusting in the Saviour, and with a prayer upon his lips, he passed away on the morning of January the 19th. Honours that some have received fell not to the lot of James Player, but he was rich in the esteem of good men, and those who new him best loved him most. He lives in their affections –
”To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”