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Rodney 'Gypsy' Smith (1860-1947)

Rodney 'Gypsy' Smith was born in a gypsy encampment in Epping Forest not far from London, the son of Cornelius and Polly Smith. His mother died early and his father became an evangelist. Rodney was converted in a Primitive Methodist chapel in 1876 and the following year commenced his own ministry in association with William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. After five years with Booth, Smith became an independent evangelist before joining the Wesleyan Methodists as a Connexional Evangelist.

Smith was a brilliant preacher whose tours around the country inspired many conversions. His colourful background and fine singing voice added to his popularity. He also made many successful visits to Australia and the United States and earned particular acclaim for his ministry to the troops during World War 1. He died on board the Queen Mary while on his way to Florida where he intended to spend the winter for the sake of his health.

Smith was married in 1879 to Annie Pennock and was the father of one son and two daughters. After Annie's death in 1937, Smith married Mary Alice Shaw of Los Angeles, his junior by fifty-two years.

Source: A Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland, edited by John Vickers (Epworth Press 2000) and Methodist Recorder, 7 August 1937

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