Thursday, 28 February 2013

28th February 1813: A Quaker missionary, Thomas Shillitoe, visits the families of George Mellor, Jonathan Dean & John Walker

A print from an etching of Thomas Shillitoe, which appears in a biography by William Tallack
Thomas Shillitoe was a Quaker minister and missionary, originally from London. In 1812, he had moved to Barnsley, to be close to his widowed daughter, and in early 1813 decided to visit the families of the Luddites executed at York. He began his journey on Sunday 28th February 1813, and his journal, published over 20 years later, describes what took place:
First-day, 28th of 2nd mo. I left Barnsley on foot; reached Paddock meeting-house in due time for meeting, where I met with my companion Joseph Wood. Some close religious labour with our kind friends of this meeting being required of us, a sense of having endeavoured thus far, through holy help, to discharge our duty, afresh animated us to look with confidence for help from this same Divine source, in the prosecution of this arduous engagement before us. At the close of the meeting, Friends were requested to stop, before whom we spread our religious prospects, and presented the minute of our monthly meeting, allowing us to proceed therein. Friends of Paddock meeting being previously informed of our intention, made arrangements for our accommodation.

After dining with our kind friends John and Phoebe Fisher, of Spring-dale, accompanied by John Fisher and Abraham Mallinson, we proceeded to the house of the widow and five children of [Jonathan] Dean, of Long-royd Bridge, who suffered for rioting. The widow's mind appeared to be under very great distress, with her helpless, fatherless children; the oldest child being about eight years, the youngest not more months old. All that was alive in us and capable of feeling for her, plunged as she was into such accumulated distress, we felt to be brought into action. We next visited the widow and three children of John Walker, who suffered for rioting, one of the children an infant at the breast. The feelings of distress awakened in my mind, in sitting down with this family, were such, that I was tempted to conclude human nature could hardly endure to proceed with the visit before us. We endeavoured in both cases to impart such counsel as came before our minds, which we had reason to hope was well received; and that their being thus far noticed, had a tendency, in some small degree, to add a ray of comfort to their deeply-tried minds.

After tea, feeling my bodily strength a little recruited, and my resolutions afresh excited, we proceeded to the mournful house of the parents of [George Mellor], a single young man, and one of those concerned in the murder of the master-manufacturer. We sat with the parents, who are living in a respectable line of life. In this opportunity we had fresh cause to acknowledge holy help was near, furnishing matter suitable to the deeply-tried and afflicted state of mind in which we found them; whilst we endeavoured to be upon our guard that nothing escaped our lips, that should be the means of unnecessarily wounding their feelings. Our visit was thankfully received by both parents, and, as we afterwards understood, was like a morsel of bread at a time when they appeared almost ready to famish. The father acknowledged, the melancholy circumstance had brought their minds into such a tried state, that they had concluded to move to some other part of the country; but our visit had tended to settle them down again in their present place of residence.

This is from Shillitoe (1839, pp.184-185).

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