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college then residing at Rhemes, and partly in that of Rome, where he remained above six years, and then was made priest, and sent upon the mission. Before he left Rome he obtained of father Claudius Aquaviva, general of the jesuits, to be admitted into their society ; who being fully satisfied with the testimonials of his virtuous life and conversation in the college, was willing to dispense with the usual probation, and instead of a regular noviceship, to appoint him this laborious and dangerous mission. He came over into England in the company of father John Gerard, lately admitted in like manner into the society, in the year 1588, and was sent by father Garnet, his superior, into Worcestershire, where he laboured for about seventeen years with admirable zeal and success in the conversion of souls. The place of his residence was Henlip, the seat of Mr. Abington. This gentleman's sister, Mrs. Dorothy Abington, having been brought up, in queen Elizabeth's court, was an earnest protestant, and violently prejudiced against catholics, and especially against priests. Father Oldcorne endeavoured to reclaim her from her errors, and reconcile her to the catholic religion, but in vain. his arguments from scripture and tradition, however strong in themselves, did not remove her prejudices, and she seemed obstinately resolved not to give ear to his remonstrances. He was determined therefore to try another expedient to cast out this deaf and dumb devil, which was fasting and prayer, and this quickly succeeded; the protestant lady flung herself at his feet, bathed in her tears, and desired to be received into the catholic church, which was done accordingly, to her great satisfaction.
Great were the labours of this zealous missioner in Worcestershire, and the neighbouring counties, and many the dangers he was exposed to, from which sometimes he was delivered by a very extraordinary, not to say miraculous providence. His labours, added to his other mortifications and austerities, impaired his health so far, that a vein breaking in his breast, he had like to have died through loss of blood; and though he escaped death, such a weakness was left with him, especially at the return of the season of the year, that he was scarce able to stand ; he was also afflicted with a cancerous ulcer in his mouth, for which he could find no cure. Upon this he resolved on a pilgrimage to St. Winefride's Well, to obtain of God the recovery of his health and strength, by the intercession of that holy virgin and martyr; when behold, in his way thither, lodging at a catholic house, he was told by the priest of the family, of a stone which had been taken out of the aforesaid well, and kept in that house. Father Oldcorne, after mass, applied this stone to his mouth, devoutly recommending himself to the prayers of St. Winefride, and in half an hour was perfectly cured of his canker, and proceeding on his journey, and bathing himself in the well, recovered also his health and strength. These particulars father John Gerard declared he had both from father Oldcorne himself, and from the priest of the family where he was cured of the canker.
After the discovery of the powder plot, father Garnet, as we have seen already, being sought after, and found at Henlip, in the same hole with father Oldcorne, the latter was also apprehended and carried first to Worcester, and then to London, where he was five several times
racked in the Tower, and once with the utmost severity for five or six hours together, and yet, neither by his own confession, nor by any other sufficient testimony, could it appear, that he had any manner of knowledge of the conspiracy. He was sent down again to Worcester, to be there tried in the Lenten assizes. The things alledged against him, besides his being a priest and a jesuit, were, first, that he had invited to Henlip, and there harboured and concealed his superior, father Garnet, who had been proclaimed a traitor. Secondly, that he had approved of the gunpowder-treason, at least after its discovery, and had defended the contrivers of that villainy. To the first he answered, That he had indeed invited father Garnet to Henlip, but it was a month or six weeks before the proclamation was issued out against him, and if he did not afterwards discover and betray him, he did not conceive any crime in that. To the second he replied, That he had no manner of knowledge of the plot, till it was made public to all the world, and that he had neither approved nor defended it. However, he was brought in guilty by the jury, and received sentence of death as in cases of high treason, and was accordingly executed at Worcester, April 7, 1606, being Monday in Passion-week. He had the comfort of reconciling to God and his church, one of the felons that were executed with him, who died with great marks of faith and repentance. Littleton also was executed at the same time, and in the hearing of thousands of people, publicly asked pardon of God, and father Oldcorne, for having wrongfully accused him of the conspiracy.
Father Oldcorne at his death recommended himself in his private devotions to Almighty God, begging the intercession of the holy virgin, and the saints, his patrons; prayed aloud for the king and all the royal family; for his accuser, (whom he said he heartily pardoned,) for the judge, jury, and all any way concerned in his death; protesting to the last his innocence as to the plot, and so was turned off the ladder, but quickly cut down and butchered alive, anno ætatis, 45, societatis, 18. His head and quarters were set up on poles in different parts of that city, his heart and bowels were cast into the fire, which continued sending forth a lively flame for sixteen days, notwithstanding the rains that fell during that time, which was looked upon as a prodigy, and a testimony of his innocence.
Ralph Ashley was executed at the same time for no other crime but being servant to father Oldcorne, and therefore, as it was supposed, an abettor of his pretended treasons.
An Extract of the Reverend Mr. Christopher Robinson's Relation of the Trial and Death of Mr. John Boast, or Bost, M. A., who suffered at Durham, July 24, 1594, Mr. Robinson being an eye-witness.
When I came to the bar, the jury was giving in their verdict; four were found guilty for felony, and three for treason, (as they spoke) but indeed for religion. Judge Beamont stood up and made a speech, &c. The cruel judgment was no sooner pronounced, than Mr. Boast sung with a joyful heart and cheerful countenance te Deum laudamus, &.c. and Mr. Ingram answered, te æternum Patrem, &c. Then Mr. Boast said, qui odit animanı suam in hoc mundo, in vitam æternam custodit eam, &'c.
• Besides these two, there was a layman condemned who had some time been a minister. This man laying aside his ministry became a catholic, and persuaded divers, as it is reported, to become catholics, whereof one caused him to be apprehended, &c. Mr. Boast and Mr. Ingram seeing him to fail, spoke unto him; their words did so work in the good man's heart, that not long after, in the presence of the president, of the judges, and of the whole consistory, he cried out, I am resolved, I am resolved. The judge said, wherein art thou resolved ? In matters of faith, said he. And by whom? said the judge. Even by these two, said he (pointing to Mr. Boast and Mr. Ingram) martyrs before God; martyrs, I say, before God; for though you make as if they died for treason, yet in very truth they die for religion ; and if it were a thousand deaths, I am very well content with them to suffer. You would have laughed (continues my author) to hear the mutterings of our enemies at the poor condemned prisoners. Mr. Boast, Mr. Ingram, and Swallowel were commanded presently to be carried away, and truly they went away rejoicing that they were to receive such a severe judgment for God's cause, as might very well be gathered by their cheerful countenances, which did joy my heart not a little, in seeing them take such joy in bearing up their irons.
• At four of the clock (Wednesday the 24th of July) the under-sheriff fetched the prisoners forth, and laid Mr. Boast in a cart, and a little new-pulled line being laid under him, he laid along upon his back, holding his hands up towards the heavens, and so he was carried toward the tree, speaking nothing, but having his mind occupied in meditation; except only that he gave his blessing to two or three women, which fell down upon their knees in the street, as I heard, whom the sheriff commanded to be apprehended. I heard this, I say, for I left my guide to
mark the things that happened in the way, between the prison and the trees, and I went myself to provide a place at the trees before the sheriff came, where I might both hear and see whatever did happen. Now when the martyr was brought unto the trees, he raised up his body, for he had all this time laid upon his back, took off his night-cap, and gave them thanks for the pains they had taken in bringing him to that place. A minister standing by, and seeing him to take all things in good part, and to behave himself so patiently, accused him (as if he had been guilty) of ill-behaviour. A gentleman (whom I take to be Edward Musgrave, of Allston-moor,) hearing, said to the minister, my friend, say not so, for Mr. Boast has behaved himself very well; he has behaved himself marvellously well. Then they bid him come forth of the cart, which he did, and having stood a little while on his feet, they bid him step up the ladder: he paused a little (at the first step) and made the sign of the cross, and said, Angelus Domini, f.c. with an Ave Maria. At the next step he paused again, and said, ecce ancilla Domini, &c. with another Ave; and at the third step he said, et verbum caro factum est, Sc. with a third Ave Maria. Then being come almost to the top of the ladder, he turned himself towards the people, made the sign of the cross, and offered to make a speech to the people; but he had no sooner begun to speak, but the sheriff
' staid him, and commanded the hangman to do his office, and to put the rope about his neck: which being done, the hangman would have immediately turned the ladder, but the sheriff staid him, and told the martyr, that now he should speak; but the martyr offering again to make the speech (which he had designed) because the people did expect somewhat of him, was staid again, and bidden to make him fit for God, and say his prayers. Then the blessed martyr said, I hope in God that if you will not suffer me to speak unto you in this world, this my death will speak in your hearts, that which I would have spoken.'
• At last said he, seeing you will not suffer me to speak to you, suffer me to speak to my soul in the psalms of the prophet David. You may, said the sheriff. Then said the martyr, holding up his hands towards the heavens, fixing his heart upon God, and lifting up his eyes:-Convertere anima mea in requiem tuam, quia Dominus beneficit tibi. Return, O my soul, into thy rest, because God hath done well unto thee. And why hath God done well unto thee? It followeth ; quia eripuit animam meam a morte, oculos meos a lacrymis, pedles meos a lapsu. Because he hath delivered my soul from death. From death, what is that? From the sting of heresy, wherewith our country, alas ! is infected, plagued and pestered. So, said the sherifl
, keep your peace, speak no more. Alas! said he, this is but the psalm of the prophet, and therefore cannot be hurtful. Yea, said the sheriff, but you make a commentary upon it; say it in Latin as oft as you will. Then the martyr seeing it was not allowed to speak English, repeated the words of the prophet in Latin until he came to the end of the psalm. Then said one, let him be sorry for his offences towards his prince: I, said the martyr, I never offended her; and when they urged he had offended her, he said, I take it upon my death, I never went about to hurt her: yea, I wish to God that my blood may be in satisfaction for her sins. Despatch,
despatch, said the sheriff to the hangman. Then the hangman turned the ladder, and the martyr went down, saying in manus tuas Domine commendo spiritum meum. The hangman having a knife in readiness to cut the rope, offered presently to cut it as soon as the ladder was turned, but the sheriff staid him till he had hung the space of a Pater Noster, and then commanded the rope to be cut. Then one taking him by the feet, two or three keeping his body as it did fall, ran with it till they came at the fire, which was made a good space from the trees. But by the time they had carried him to the fire, he was well near revived, came unto himself and spoke ; and prayed that God would forgive his bloody butcher when he was ripping up his belly.-To be short, (for I see that I blot the paper with tears) they cut off his members and hurled them into the fire, even in his own sight, as judgment was given; they pulled out his bowels in a most butcherly manner, cut off his head, and mangled his sacred body, in quartering, most pitifully.—This is that cruel tragedy which I both heard and saw.' So far Mr. Robinson, who afterwards glorified God by the like death, for the same cause of his religion and priesthood, at Carlisle, August 19, 1596. P. S. Mr. Ingram suffered at Gateside head, by Newcastle, and Mr. Swallowel at Darlington.
Mr. Boast was taken at the Water-houses, within three or four miles of Durham, at the house of one Mr. Claxton, whose wife received sentence of death for harbouring him, (her husband being at that time abroad :) however, she was reprieved by the means of friends, and afterwards pardoned.
Mr. John Yaxley, a reverend priest, in a letter dated July 17, 1707, which I have now before me, relates, that when the hangman, pulling out Mr. Boast's heart, showed it to the crowd, with a behold the heart of a traitor, a voice was heard to this effect: no, the heart of a servant of God; at which Mr. Roger Widdrington of Carlington, (father to that very virtuous gentleman Sir Edward Widdrington,) who heard the voice, was so struck, that he was thereupon reconciled to the church. Which account says he, I received from Widdrington castle, and from a brother in the county of Durham.
He adds, in the same letter, that when Mr. Hill, Mr. Hogge, Mr. Holliday, and Mr. Duke, were put to death at Durham, “1590," brook near the common gallows, “ other relations call it a well,” at the time of their execution ceased to flow, and has remained dry ever since, and is thence called Dryburn to this day. Above twenty years ago, says he, I have been shown the hole from whence it issued, and the marks of its former channel. This is a constant tradition here. I have also received the following relation of a conversion wrought then. Mr. Robert Maire, of Hardwick, great grandfather to the present Mr. Thomas Maire, of Larkington, married Mrs. Grace Smith, only child to an eminent lawyer of that name, at Durham. Both husband and wife, who were then protestams, were present at the execution of the priests above named, and being much moved at their courage and constancy, were thereupon converted. The gentlewoman's father who was very rich, and a puritan, was so exasperated at this, that he made his last testament, (which is yet kept in the archives of Durham,) and gave his