Service of Song at Conisborough – The Pilgrim Fathers

March 1880

Mexborough and Swinton Times, March 12

Service of Song at Conisborough.

The Pilgrim Fathers

On Moday Eveninga service of song was given in the Wesleyan Chapel, Conisborough, by the choir entitled “the Mayflower, or the Pious Pioneers” illustrative of the history, trials and triumphs of the famous pilgrim fathers, who left this country owing to the oppression of James first, and found a colony in North America, which they called New Plymouth, in commemoration of the last English soil touched, and the kindness met there.

Mr John Blythe, resided and Mr Stapleton Smith gave the connective readings.

There was a very good attendance. After the usual devotions the chairman expressed the pleasure he felt in been present, notwithstanding that he had not given consent for his name to be put on the bill. He hoped they would have a very enjoyable and successful service.

“Come me that love the Lord” was then sung by the choir and congregation, after which Mr Smith commenced the reading the most interesting portions of which we append:

A few years after Columbus had crossed the Atlantic, the English, under the guidance of John Cabot, found their way to North America; but as it appeared to be a bleak and sterile country, no attempt was made to exploit it for nearly a century.

Sir Frances Drake, who first circumnavigated the globe, obtained some knowledge of the eastern shores of North America; but to the famous and ill-fated Sir Walter Raleigh must be given the credit of first exploring the coast, giving it a name, and attempting to found a colony. In those days colonisation was little (if at all) studied by the English government, so that there was no stimulant to emigrate.

But under Providence, the stimulant arose; an incentive stronger than the influence of Kings, the love of ease or the terror and peril of misery. The stimulant was religion.

Religion, which had for centuries, under stable tyranny been converted into the instrument of oppression, no sooner flung off the yoke than by its inerrant force, it compelled many bodies of people to give up their most cherished traditions, abandon their native soil, their customs and habits, to settle in the wilds of a distant continent which they had little or no knowledge. And this was done, not for emolument, nor the acquisition of rank of wealth, but merely that they might obtain that liberty of conscience, which was denied them in their native land.

But now we live in happier times, when the various sections of God’s church labour for one object – the redemption of mankind – and established churchholds the right hand and fellowship to all who love the Lord. Queen Elizabeth was especially severe against the Puritans; the first act of Parliament inher reign declared her supremacy in the church, and all chose to think for themselves incurred imprisonment, torture and even death. Hence, multitudes of puritans who had during Mary’s reign, rushed into exile to escape the “grasp of vindictive bigotry” returned to England, only to find that their position was now scarcely less intolerable

(The passage goes on to describe the further religious persecutions of the Puritans and Non Conformists leading to their exile)

The Puritans assembled at midnight in a lonely part of Lincolnshire. It was stormy weather – emblematic of their fortunes – and as a portion of the company was being carried in a boat to the vessel, which was to convey them from England, some soldiers appeared in pursuit, and seized the women and children, who were awaiting for embarkation.

As an eyewitness quaintly described it: “Pitiful it was to see the every case of these poor women in distress; what weeping and crying and every side.” But after the magistrates had detained the poor creatures (they could not imprison them for the sole crime of wishing to follow their husbands and fathers). “They were glad to be rid of them on any terms, though they had no homes to go to, and in the meantime had endured misery enough.” Such was the plight of the Pilgrim Fathers and their followers, from the land of their birth. And who, looking back at that terrible’s night of storm, disaster, and grief, could have prophesied, that out of that darkness would come such glorious light.

They resided several years in Holland and then one of their number – Robinson – conceived the grand idea of founding an English colony in America, where already the oppressed of other nations had found refuge.

The Speedwell and the Mayflower, one vessel of 60 and the other of 120 tons, were chartered and equipped for the voyage. Amongst the leaders must be mention the name of Miles Standish (who was born Standish, near Wigan, Lancashire; from whom the place derives its name), who although not a member of the congregation, was a brave soldier, and his military experience andcourage made him a great acquisition to a small colony, in a land where the savages were numerous, and mighthave to be met in combat.

They left Delf Haven, Holland in July 1629, the farewell with their pastor. Mr Robinson, who knelt upon the beach, and blessed them at their departure was most affecting. They were not long in reaching Southampton, and from here on August 5, 1629, the pilgrims, 101 in number, finally embarked; and it was that their piety prompted them to appeal to the Almighty, before setting forth upon what was in those days, a long and perilous voyage.

On 8 November they landed at Cape Cod, the southern part of the Bay of Fundy, and welcome indeed was the cry of “land ahead.”

The pilgrims found themselves upon a barren and bleak coast, at the commencement of winter, but the consciousness that the impending evils were but the thorny path which led to that haven of liberty of conscience, which they had already suffered so much, supported them. After many mishaps and dangerous encounters the boat’s crew found themselves in a “fair sound” under the lee of a small island.

The next day was Sunday; but tired and exhausted as they were, the duties of the Sabbath were performed with the same punctilious regard that they received in Leyden. This speaks volumes after the stuff these men were made of.

Their return to Cape Cod was affected safely and on December 11, 1621, the weary travellers of the Mayflower “took grateful possession of the promised land, although the land was a frozen desert.”

The first Chronicles of the colony are very sad ones. After having been cooped up in unhealthy proximity on board the Mayflower, the pilgrims, enfeebled by the voyage, had to face a North America winter, with little or no provision against its severity. They rapidly succumbed to their hardship. Before half the year had gone, half the emigrants were dead. But this fearful mortality did not crush the spirits of these intrepid people. “Let it not grievous,” they would say to each other, “that we have been the instruments to break the ice for others; the honour will be ours to the worlds end.”

Nor were their hardships soon surmounted. At the end of the third year, we find them so near famine that only 1 pint of corn remained. Often a piece of lobster, or other fish, without any other adjunct was the sole edible to be procured. Yet in the midst of all their wretchedness, their isolation, and their privations, they remained faithful to their cause.

A graver peril threatened them than even hunger or disease – a collision with the red men, who from the first had been jealous of their pale faced brothers usurption of the soil. An Indian named Squicula, who had been kidnapped to Europe, and picked up a smattering of English, accosted the colonists. He proved of service, as the medium of a treaty with Massatoit the Sachem a neighbouring tribe, which endured for 50 years. There is no doubt that the pilgrim fathers treated the Indians well.

But the Varrajausetts, a ferocious tribe disliked and suspected the settlers; their bloody thirsty chief went so far as to send a threat of hostilities in the shape of a rattlesnake skin stuffed with arrows. Bradford, the governor knowing that disdain was the only way to avert bloodshed, returned the skin full of powder and shot. This had the desired effect, and for some time after, the whites and the Indians got along peacefully.

But Thomas Weston, a mercenary speculator, arrived in 1625. He got a grant of land, and came to prosecute the fur trade, with about 60 companions; after a brief struggle the enterprise was resigned, but not before some Indians had been ill treated by his men. The Indians threatened vengeance on the New Plymouth Colony, as with the Weston settlers; a conspiracy of several tribes formed and only the gratitude of an Indian who Winslow had nursed during a dangerous sickness, saved the colony from annihilation.

Capt Standish was called upon to quell the invasion, which he promptly did. The wonderful courage of Miles Standish has been the theme of historian and poet alike. He seems to have been from the traditions that have come down to us, a born warrior. Fearless in the field, and prompt to act, no doubt but for fame, the infant settlement might have been erased by the pitiless tomahawk of the savage. His courage and fearlessness inspired the pilgrims and they rallied to a man.

By the resolute action of Capt Standish and his gallant little followers a complete victory was secured. This feat of arms had the desired effect of greatly intimidating the savages, which was of vital consequence to the colony; for from that moment it’s secure establishment may be dated. When Miles Standish returned to the colony. He was received with every demonstration of delight, and the chorus of congratulations upon the victory was throughout the settlement. The colony ultimately prospered and increased in habitants, and we should let allharsher memories disappear in the blaze of triumph, which surrounds the names of the glorious Pilgrim Fathers, who were the real founders of the great American Republic.

One word in conclusion. It would seem impossible that in 250 years can have arisen a vast state, containing 50 millions of inhabitants, a quarter of whom are the descendants of those grand old Puritans, whose settlement in New England we have been tracing. But the work was divinely blessed, and the consequences to the civilised world are even yet incalculable.

May he who guided the little band of Purists in Pilgrim Fathers safely over the waste of waters, who watched over them in the wilderness, and protected them from the savage, strengthen by His blessing the bonds of unity linking the Old World to the New, and the Union Jack to the Stars and Stripes.

The organist was Mr G.W.Oxley, who played in an admirable manner. The efficient choir was under the able conductship of Mr J. K. Bateson.

We now gave the pieces which were sung:

“God moves in a mysterious way.” Sung heartily by the choir and congregation.

“I know not if the dark bright,” a duet for first and second troubles was well taken by Mr Farnsworth and Mr Blakely.

“To Queen and country faithful,” “Hoping on,” “By sturdy faith supported”, “To Thee, Oh Lord of Mercy” and “They were weak and craven hearted,” were respectively sung with much feeling and precision.

“Sunrise at sea,” “A solo for female voices.,” was allotted to Mr Rawding, who managed the high notes very creditably.

“Land ahead,” “We trust in Thee,” “What joy, what joy,” “The Pilgrim Fathers rested,” were each excellently rendered.

Mr Laughton´s basso sounded well in “The approach of Indians,” and Miss Lawrence and Miss Morley very satisfactorily supplied the first and second trebles.

“On to the field,” and inspiring song, was sung with unison and verve, the solo been very nicely taken by Mr Wilson.

“Blessed are the dead,” “There we shall meet and rest,” and “Song of Victory,” were variously given with good effect.

“Home, sweet home,” was sung with much expression by Mr Farnsworth and Messrs, Blakely, Rawding and Lawton.

“Our fathers long ago,” a piece speaking of the departure of the Mayflower from England and the trials endured and overcome by the Pilgrims, was sung with good effect by the choir, after which the National Anthem was heartily joined in by the congregation.

The usual vote of thanks were accordingly carried.

A collection was made at the close on behalf of the choir amounting to £5 17s 6d

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