Feature photo: Remains of the homes at Bellevue where Richard Pidgeon and his young family would have lived, c.1798-c.1813; October 1996
The Life, Religious Experience, and Journal of Nathaniel Pidgeon
(Note: Some revisions have been made to the paragraphing in an attempt to improve the readability of the extract.)
I was born at Bellevue (1803), the seat of the Right Honorable George Ogle, in the County of Wexford, Ireland. My father, Richard Pidgeon, removed there with his brother Henry, from the County of Wicklow, a short time previous to the rebellion of ’98. They were members of the Church of England, and had been enrolled as yeomen in Ogle’s Loyal Blues. As soon as the peace of the country became disturbed, the yeoman assembled at Dungannon (sp. Duncannon) garrison, as a place of retreat and security, until they were reinforced by an army from England sufficient to quell the insurrection.
My father then returned to Bellevue, and a few years after married my mother, Elizabeth Foley, of Baladicken (Ballydicken), of whose issue I was the only son. (Nathaniel had 3 sisters; Elizabeth 1809, Phoebe 1811 and Ann 1815.)
At my christening there was a large party, and abundance of Irish whiskey drunk; for, although my parents were in general rather moral people, and exceedingly strict in the bringing up of their children, yet they were strangers to real religion, and manifested no objection to occasional festivities of this kind.
My father, at this period, was great loyalist – fond of company, and possessing an undaunted mind, was often led astray, and sometimes got into difficulties. In Ireland, about this period, no Protestant was safe; Government had issued orders to have the leaders of the rebels seized and executed. Many individuals were sent to New South Wales. One of this class, named McDonald, being in a public house, near Ferry Carrig Bridge, my father and uncle Foley, while passing the same (house) at night, on looking in, saw McDonald and determined to make him a prisoner, although surrounded by many of his friends. My father stepped into the room where he was, drew his sword, ordered him to rise, adding that he was the king’s prisoner. Some of his companions rose to take his part, upon which my father struck the mantel piece with his sword, saying – the first man that moves from his seat, or offers resistance, shall take the consequences. He brought his prisoner out from amongst them, led him along two miles of a lonely road, and lodged him in the gaol. The act of committal being informal, the prisoner was discharged, and my father confined for a period of three months for false imprisonment.
Another instance of his rashness and over-zeal was shown whilst in the yeomanry. There was a corporal in the company to which he belonged, of enormous stature and bulk, who on coming into the barrack-room one night, said some insulting words to my father, who immediately challenged him to fight, although not much more than half his size; the corporal struck my father, and knocked him into a coal tub, but on recovering himself, and again encountering him, struck him such a blow to the stomach as rendered him unable to renew the personal combat.
I recollect my mother sending me to the country public-house to bring him home, and having to pass a lonely church-yard, it being a late hour at night, he stopped on the road to challenge all the spirits to fight. I was greatly terrified, and ran, as if for my life, leaving my poor father to contend with his ghostly antagonists single-handed.
My father, although ungodly, was yet careful to maintain great domestic discipline, and sometimes performed family worship. On one of these occasions, when I was about seven years old, while he was reading a chapter in Revelations, I felt greatly affected, and thought much on death and eternity. I took the quinsy about this time, and was on the point of death, but a medical relation of my mother’s came and drew blood from my foot, which led to my recovery.
When about ten years old, my father removed with his family to Killoughram Forest, the seat of Colonel Phaire. While here, a gentleman of the name of Factman, who had been reduced in circumstances though extravagance, was afterwards converted to God, and joined the Methodist Society, went about the country preaching the gospel. He called one Sabbath afternoon at our dwelling, and we accompanied him to a farm-house at some distance, where he intended to preach. This was the first Methodist meeting I had attended, but cannot say it produced any effect on me at the time. I recollect one day attending a funeral, when the clergyman came into the churchyard to bury the corpse, clad in a shooting jacket, accompanied by his dogs and carrying a gun. There was, however, one good minister at a distance from the place where we resided, and whom we often went to hear. He usually performed service in the farm-houses throughout his parish, but a Puseyite bishop silenced him.
The death of my uncle, Henry Pidgeon, who came home after a campaign on the Continent of Europe, and was sergeant in the 9th Lancers, made a deep impression on my father’s mind. He returned home with a broken constitution, and died a thorough penitent. About the time of his decease, my father fell upon his knees, he made a solemn promise to God, that he would lead a new life, and became much altered in his altered conduct, and commenced reading family prayers from the Week’s Preparation.
About this time, a very advantageous offer was made to my Father by a relative, named Evans, who lived in Newtown Barry (Bunclody). He sold off his property and went over to America, where he purchased a large tract of land; he then came home, and freighted a ship, offering to take my father and his family over there free, and give him a farm in Ohio. My Mother, however, would not consent. He then offered to take me, but neither would she consent to that.
I continued to be the subject of serious impressions, but did not know in what true religion consisted. I always entertained a hatred to open vice, and often went in search of the cows in the wood, would fall on my knees, and pray most fervently to God. I became fond of music, and learned to play the flute, which led me away, and proved a snare to drive me farther from God. Not long after this time, an old man of the name of Bulger, came into our neighborhood preaching the Gospel. He had been a very wicked man during the early part of his life, and had been many years on board a man-of-war, engaged in the slave trade. After coming home from a voyage, he wandered into Mount Pleasant Chapel, in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. When the Minister gave out his text, the text, as well as the appearance of the Preacher, who was in tears at the moment, so powerfully affected him, that he could not attend to what was said afterwards. He never rested until he had obtained peace with God. Returning to his native place, he became the honoured instrument in the salvation of many souls. He was rather rough and singular in his manner and appearance; he wore a grey frieze coat, knees breeches, and grey stockings, with shoes well greased – for he would not use blacking or polish. When retiring to bed he always prayed on his bare knees, and washed his face in the morning with his tears. He would not use any intoxicating drinks, or use any food in which alcohol was put. He would not allow an unconverted man to sing hymns in the meetings, or tolerate music in churches. He held his meetings generally in barns and farm-houses, and wherever he went, sinners were converted. When he arrived in our Parish, the news was spread abroad that a strange man had come to the place, who preached that men should everywhere repent and know that their sins were forgiven. Not having heard any such doctrine in the Church, we all set off next evening to hear him – some riding, and others walking, to a place called Puck’s (Buck’s) Bridge, a few miles distant. When we arrived, we found the farm-house crowded. He had commenced singing one of Lorenza Dowe’s hymns: he then prayed in a most impressive manner, and addressed the people with tears streaming down his face. His words, however, made no impression on us at that time: for, as we were returning home, we procured a person to play the fiddle, and it being moonlight, we danced part of the way home. The next night we renewed our visit, and shortly after the service commenced, my Father was convinced of sin, and became so miserable, that if he could of got out of the room he would have left, but it was so crowded that he could not stir. I became somewhat concerned, and my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was fully awakened.
Mr. Bolger was invited to preach at a farm-house, near my Father’s, belonging to a Mr. Bolton. The first night he preached there, a young woman named Woods, from Dublin, was awakened – he invited all who were concerned to remain to be prayed for. This young girl fell on the floor under strong convictions, and rose up soon after praising God – her face shone like an angel. All her friends were, at first, greatly alarmed, and indeed, it seemed strange to us all: some were for throwing water on her to bring her to, but he said – “Let her alone”. She soon afterwards returned to Dublin, and was persecuted by her ungodly relatives for not doing as they did – going to parties and dressing gay. She did not live long – but I believe, died happy in the Lord. This was the beginning of a glorious work – many were awakened, and turned to the Lord.
My father’s distress was very great, it nearly bordered on despair – he thought he could not be saved. One night after coming home from the meeting, he determined to remain up all night in prayer to God, for a token if he was to be saved: he continued in prayer until one o’clock, and then lay down – turned his face to the wall and still prayed on, when suddenly, the room became full of light. In one corner of it, he saw a woman and a lovely infant in his arms, the later looked earnestly at him and smiled. The impression made on his mind was that it was a token for good, and was led to hope that he might at length find salvation. Another day after dinner, being tired, he fell asleep, and dreamt he was on a journey, and came to a place where there was a great gulf which he had to cross, here, there was a bridge so narrow, that only one foot could be placed upon it. He imagined he would never get over, but he made the attempt, and was falling in, but making a spring he reached the opposite bank and was saved. At that moment he awoke, uttering a scream, and leapt across the floor, so as to frighten us all.
Mr. Bolger was carrying on his meetings at some distance and such was the earnestness for the word of life, that my Father, myself, and sister traveled seven miles to the place where he was to preach, at Mr. B. Whitey’s, of Gurrasu (Gurrawn). When we arrived, the place was crowded, and at the close there were many and much distress of mind, my Father and cousin were amongst the number. Such a cry for mercy was raised, as could be heard at a distance – the auditors all prostrate on the floor, but one after another rose and praised the Lord. I stood looking on, convinced of sin, but not distressed. The meeting at length broke up, and the converts returned home singing praises to God. I felt myself unworthy of their company, and walked somewhat behind. My dear Father’s joy was just the reverse to what his grief had been, it was unbounded. And such was his zeal for the Lord and desire to save souls that he entertained serious thoughts of leaving his family to travel the country to exhort sinners to repent and turn to the Lord. He had several manifestations from God; was of which was a ray of light that shone around his head while at work, early in the morning. There was several other similar occurrences which took place at that time. He mentioned it to Bolger, who told him they were the forerunners of trials, afflictions,& c. And so it turned out afterwards – he soon had to wade through deep waters, and suffered great losses, together with persecution for his attachment to the Saviour.
I still remained without salvation, being ignorant of the way to obtain it. I expected a sign from Heaven or something like it. I followed my amusement as usual, and was one day playing the fiddle when Mr. Bolger came into my Father’s house. I shall never forget the look he cast on me, saying – “Young man, I would not like to hear of your death!” This expression went like a dagger to my soul, nor did I ever play a tune after on the fiddle. That day, when he was leaving our house, I had to show him the way through a large wood, which was a great trial to me, as I feared his company. Mr. Bolger still continued successful wherever penitence were in his meetings; if they wore ornaments of any kind, or anything that fostered their pride, he would immediately desire them to remove them from their persons, or he would do it himself. Under his instrumentality, a mighty flame of religion spread over the country, and many were turned to the Lord. One family in particular who had been grossly wicked, and a terror to the neighbourhood, were awakened. They heard Bolger in the morning and as he had to preach about seven miles distant at night, the wife said – “George, we must go to the preaching tonight.” And, although it had been a very wet day, they went, and both came home happy in the Lord, and were as distinguished for piety afterwards as they had been for wickedness previously. Sometime after they emigrated to America.
Whilst these revivals were going on the Parish Minister was absent, but when he returned, he was surprised to find so great a change in the Parish – instead of a few as formerly, the Church now was crowded. The young converts sung with the clerk, and responded so devoutly, that the Minister could not tell how to account for it. He made some inquiries from the clerk as to the cause, who told him that the Methodist missionary had visited the place, and had preached, that salvation by faith alone might be obtained by all true penitents. But he did not hold with their views, and opposed the work openly, decrying the possibility of sinners knowing that their sins were forgiven. He held a bible class, and many of the young people in the class having been converted, he inquired from one of them if she knew that her sins were forgiven; she replied that she did, upon which he, quite offended, walked out of the school. The following Sabbath he called my sister Elizabeth, and asked her; she gave him such a Scriptural account of her conversion and the witness of the spirit, that he said – “I believe you.” That week he remained at home, and the following Sunday, came out and preached the doctrine in his church and stated that the Methodists were right, advising attendants on their preaching.
About this time two missionaries, Ousley and Graham, visited us, and their labours were blessed. They preached in the streets and in the market-house of Enniscorthy. They used to ride into the market, place their horse’s backs against a wall, sing a hymn in Irish and afterwards in English, and preach in the same manner alternately. Ousley seldom preached without weeping. The Minister previously referred to, opened his house for the reception of the preachers; and when they were going to Conference, would supply money to bear their expenses. The regular preachers came round now occasionally, and formed the new converts into classes, and appointed leaders. On the night the names were taken down in our preaching place, my father and many others joined – I requested permission to put down mine.
I was sent about this time to the town of Enniscorthy, to serve my apprenticeship to the cabinet-making business; and although I joined the Church in that town, yet I soon became more careless than ever; I became acquainted with some trifling professors, who led me astray. I soon lost all my former convictions, but still continued to meet in class; I got acquainted with some very agreeable, worldly companions, who led me further into sin, inducing me to frequent taverns and places of amusement; but all this was done privately, fearing to be turned out of religious society, and still hoping to become religious at some future day. I, however, had a fear of God, which prevented me throwing off all restraint. It was a great trouble to meet in class, having nothing to say, save that I desire for salvation. Being an indoor apprentice, and Enniscorthy being about four miles distant from where my father lived, I was in the habit of going out to see him every Sabbath. One day, shortly after I went to business, as I was entering the skirts of the wood where he lived, who should I meet but James Bulger on his way to preach; he caught of my hand and said “that is a cold shake.” He then surveyed me from head to foot – put his hand on some gethers that were on my shoulder, and desired to know what they were for. I did not like to see him at this time, as I could not bear his plain dealing, although he often called to see me in the shop. One day he called, and after shaking hands with me, he stepped up to a wicked chair-maker, saying – “I will shake hands with you too.” The chair-maker was greatly offended, and asked – “Do you think I am the devil.”
I spent seven years of my apprenticeship very agreeably, being an indoor apprentice in a very agreeable family, who treated me with respect and kindness. I lived in a circle of friends who very sociable, and much in the habit of giving dinner and evening parties, and I always had plenty of invitations, which made my apprenticeship appear to pass quickly away. During the last year of my time, I began to go to greater lengths in sin, and gave up class-meeting entirely. I would steal out of my master’s house and join a party of young men in serenading, and afterwards go somewhere else and lay down till morning. On one of those occasions we had a supper of oysters and whisky punch, one of the party being a druggist’s apprentice, and the place where we were drinking was over a druggist’s shop, he drank punch out of a human scull.
My conscience sometimes would speak out and make me very miserable. Just at the close of my apprenticeship, one winter’s Sabbath evening, with plenty of snow on the ground, my companions called for me to take a walk around Vinegar Hill, a place noted for a battle fought there between the King’s army and the rebels in the year ’98. My companions pressed me to into a public-house; I at first refused, but at length yielded, although my conscience rebelled against such an act on the Sabbath. We remained there until we were all nearly drunk, and the landlord refused to give us any more liquor. We returned, singing the “Boyne Water” through the town. It was about ten o’clock when I came home, and I thought I would pay a visit to one family with whom I was intimate, which was the only religious family I then visited. Just as I went upstairs and placed my hand on the handle of the door of the sitting-room, I heard them singing hymns inside. I stopped, and the thought shot like a dagger to my heart, “where are you going – these people are serving God, and you are a servant of the devil.” My conscience felt and owned the guilt – the Divine Spirit once more strove with me. I ran down the stair and could go no farther than the bottom step, where I sat and wept. One of the family coming down in a hurry, exclaimed “Oh, is this N. Pidgeon!” I immediately arose and went into my master’s yard, sat down on a log of mahogany, and gave vent to my grief by a flood of tears. I then solemnly promised the Lord, if He would spare my life until morning, I would turn to Him and make a surrender of my heart. I fell on my knees that night, which I had not done for at least twelve months previously; I slept but little, and arose next morning determined to carry my resolution into practice. My companions in sin sneered at me, as is usual in all such cases, but, knowing the consequences of a life of sin, I disregarded them. I now commenced meeting in class again, and to attend all religious services.
My apprenticeship having expired, I removed to Wexford, the country town, and there became acquainted with a few young men who attended the chapel, although not religious – something like myself. The cause of God being very low, I became careless again, and my convictions died away. We formed ourselves into into an amateur band, and after the morning service in the chapel, would go outside of the town towards a romantic glen, with our instruments, and play hymn tunes. I now became as careless as ever, and was led into scenes which I afterwards sincerely regretted. In order to look uniform, we dressed ourselves in blue jackets, with white pearl buttons. Having got an invitation from one of the party to a cold collation, about seven miles up the river Slaney, we set off from the quay in high glee, playing “Rule Brittannia.” We spent the day at Oilgate, and when returning home at night, had a narrow escape of our lives; for the boat I was in, getting foul of one of the piles of the bridge, was nearly capsized. However, we got home safe, and I was somewhat smitten in conscience; but it soon wore off, and I went in on the old course.
Having received a letter from a fellow apprentice, Horatio Lowther, who was then in Dublin, I set off for that place and stopped for a few days. I had some serious thoughts about going to America. I just then got another letter from another fellow apprentice, who was recently out of his time; he made me an offer of partnership in the cabinet-business, in Wexford, which I accepted – our prospects were good. My partner’s brother was a timber merchant in the city of Waterford, who assisted us in starting. Neither of us had any experience, but we had good friends, and got on well for some time, and the business greatly increased.
About this period, a young man came down from the County of Carlow, where there was good work going on amongst the people. He was the son of our Circuit Steward – was all alive, and very zealous. He commenced talking to his brother, and was made the instrument of his conversion. Thomas and Matthew Rowe now enjoyed religion; Matthew called on me the evening of the day the Lord blessed him, and told me the change that had taken place. He had been sitting on the bench at his work as usual (as a watchmaker), and was lifting up his heart to God in prayer, when a sudden change came over him. He jumped up from his work, ran home, and in calling his brother, said – “were you praying for me?” he was answered – “yes.” He told him what had just taken place, and both retired to a private apartment and went to prayer again. When he related the whole to me, I was again struck with conviction. I thought, I have been a member of the Church for about eight years and yet without religion! I now determined to seek the Lord with my whole heart, and abandon every sin. The next day was the Sabbath, I attended chapel, and wept all the time – I thought my heart would break. When the service was over, I went with the two Rowes to their father’s, and they prayed with me. I continued in distress until the evening service; when the congregation was dismissed, a few young men determined to remain – they locked the chapel door and commenced praying for me. My distress increased considerably. I was in agony – determined not to leave the chapel until the Lord would bless me, and the peace speaking blood was applied. After much earnest agonising prayer was offered up for me, I was enabled to exercise faith in the all-atoning blood. Several encouraging passages of Scripture were applied to my mind, and I laid hold of eternal life; my chains fell off – my heart was free. I praised the Lord with all my powers of body and mind; I prayed and praised for about half-an-hour. We agreed to hold a meeting next night at nine o’clock. When I came out of the chapel, I thought everything wore a new aspect; I felt the force, and realised the truth of that prayer, “All is yours.” I could look upon all that God had made as mine through my Saviour’s merits, and in going home through the streets, I felt as one of another world.
My father was ill, confined to bed, and given over by the doctors. He was a backslider. I walked into his room and told him what the Lord had done for me; he burst into tears, and never ceased praying until the Lord healed his backslidings. In a few days he was well, both in body and soul. Next day, my joy not being so great as it was the previous evening, I was tempted to doubt the reality of the work in my soul, and to give up my confidence, and look for the right blessing; but knowing that the devil does not work righteousness, I was resolved to keep what I had and get more – went to the chapel according to our previous arrangement. But what was our astonishment, when at nine o’clock we found the chapel full – the news of my conversion had spread through the town, and I felt quite abashed to see so many of my acquaintances there. A blessed work began, and souls were saved every night. We sometimes could not break up the meetings until one o’clock. Five or six young men were converted. When this work broke out the preachers were at Conference, and on their return, the place was all in a flame. The blessed fire spread to all the towns and villages around. My soul was all on fire; and in company with about six young men, all brought to God lately, I went to a place called Broadway, about seven miles from town, on the next Sabbath after I found peace with God, and exhorted the people to turn to the Lord. After which, coming home at night, one of our party became tired and could not proceed, so we struck out a plan by one lowering his back and holding two in front – the tired man could sit on the back of the man who stooped; we took turn about till we got home, having carried the tired man about five miles after that fashion.
Now that I had got religion, I was determined to be in earnest, and put away whatever was an obstruction to my progress in the divine life. I found it necessary to give up music, of which I was passionately fond, and disposed of my claronet and flute – I found it took up the time I should spend in reading, or on my knees in prayer. I also gave up smoking for the same reason – I thought it seemed an idle habit. I also then became a total abstainer, although we had no Total Abstinence Society in the country. What led me to give up the use of intoxicating drinks was as follows: I was in the habit of attending a prayer-meeting on the Sabbath afternoons, and was accustomed to take a small portion of whiskey punch after dinner, and then go to the meeting. I found I had not the spirit of prayer on that occasion as I had at other times. Although I fell a fullness of the animal spirit, yet the absence of that holy feeling and melting influence of the spirit of God, was taken away by the little drop of punch. I became a public man, and determined to labour to turn sinners to the Lord. I thought it would be inconsistent in me to preach self-denial and not practice it. We now founded a plan for missionary enterprise, and got it signed by the preacher; and in order to improve our minds, we purchased a library to have in common. We also bought a horse for use of the Mission, and kept him among us; we struck out two lines in different directions in the country and went two in two. The horse was taken by those who had the longest journeys, which was about ten miles. We also held a band meeting, in order to forward the work of grace in our own hearts, and fit us for the public work in which we were engaged. I purchased the life of John Smith, which was made an unspeakable blessing to me at this stage in my experience. I determined to seek purity of heart, and sought a band mate, the person I opened my mind to, who said he had the same impression on his mind in reference to me, and we agreed to meet at five o’clock in the morning in the chapel. It was winter time and plenty of snow on the ground – many a morning three hours before day, I met my band mate, and although bitter cold, we lit a lamp and spent an hour together. Many other baptisms of the Holy Spirit we received on those occasions. One morning the preacher met with us, and while engaged in prayer, the power of God ascended – we were bowed to the ground. The Lord so filled our souls, there was no more room till the vessels were enlarged. I went home and into my workshop, but was afraid to speak to any of the men. At breakfast, I attempted to relate the circumstance to my sister, but I was so overwhelmed with the presence of God, I thought that I should die under the divine power. I got two class books from the Minister, and raised two classes the first year of my conversion.
One Sabbath, I had to preach in a farm-house, when a young woman, one of the family, became greatly distressed, and retired to a barn fastened herself in till she had obtained peace with God. I left the house to go further on to hold another meeting, and in a lonely part of the road – I heard a step behind me, and on looking backward, saw a man with every apparent intention of injuring me. On coming up, he lifted his stick and said – “You bloody swaddling rascal, I will knock your brains out.” I looked kindly at him, and said – “I never injured you, and why therefore, take my life? You must be a child of the Devil; I am a servant of God, and you cannot hurt me unless God permit you.” I continued to talk to him until the stick fell to the ground, and he walked on, and I saw him no more.
At this stage of my experience, I was often assailed with a temptation to laugh. On one such occasion, I had to preach in Broadway chapel, in the Barony of Fort. The temptation came upon me so strongly, that I was in great distress. I gave out the hymn and prayed, it still continued; I thought every moment I would be obliged to laugh out. My distress was indescribable. I prayed to the Lord that he might, before I should disgrace His cause by laughing in the face of the congregation, let the ground open and swallow me up. In an instant the temptation was gone, and I was greatly blessed. One man was awakened and found peace, and died soon after happy in the Lord. Some of the young men began to grow cold, and one after another made excuses and gave up the Mission work, until I was nearly left alone, with the exception of my band mate. But they still continued members of the Church. I now became more determined than ever to give myself more fully to God and the work. My motto was comprised in two words: “No Surrender”. I was not without an abundance of temptations to give up. The flesh began to cry out and rebel, but I had drawn the sword and scabbard was thrown away. One Sabbath day, I went to a distance to hold meetings in company with another person. We held meetings alternatively in another place. It was my turn to hold the service. Just as we entered the house, the power of God so overwhelmed me, that I dropped on the floor, and wet it with my tears. It seemed as if the body was to be dissolved, and the immortal part to fly away and be at rest; but I soon learned that these manifestations were only preparing me for trails and further usefulness.
I now began to experience some difficulties in my business. I had entered into partnership previous to my conversion with an ungodly man and we did not pull together. He was not industrious. We had about fourteen hands employed; but owing to a depression in business and too much competition, together with a want of experience we did not succeed. I had to go up to Dublin to purchase some mahogany and other goods. I called Mr. W. Houghton – that man of God, so useful in saving souls. I stood in his shop, and we exchanged our experience. He invited me to one of his classes in Gravel Walk Chapel, and such a class I never saw. I attended his meetings while I remained in Dublin, which were made a great blessing to me, and helped to form my character as a Christian. By observing his spirit and mode of labouring, I understood how it was he was so successful in winning souls. It was usual for Mr. Bolger to call at my house when he came to Wexford, as he went round the circuit. He attended our love-feasts, and if any fashionably dressed persons stood up to speak, they would be almost be sure of reproof. One day, there was one of that character stood up to speak, he arose and said, he did not know what brought them there with their foolery and vanity. Indeed, he was a terror to the luke warm and worldly professors, and they did not like him.
The first few years of my Christian experience I read a great deal; especially the word of God and the standard works of Methodism, which proved a great blessing and assistance to me in after years when I could not command time. When some of the young men that started with me gave up the mission the horse was sold, and I had to walk. My custom was to start on a Sabbath morning with a crust of bread and cheese in my pocket, reach the place of my first appointment, hold a meeting, after that meet a class; afterwards walk about five miles to a village called Cornwall, visit the houses and then hold a service at night. Often had I to walk home on a winter nigh ankle-deep in mud, after labouring hard all day and travelling many miles of the country with nothing else to eat but my bit of bread and cheese. One night after such a day I was so overcome with fatigue and weakness that I thought that I would have to lie in the ditch all night; however, by much assertion I reached home. I soon suffered from the effects of these labours; became ill with brain-fever, and was brought near to the gates of death. When my life was despaired of, this scripture kept ringing in my ears – “If I live I am the Lord’s, and if I die, I am the Lord’s; so living or dying, I am the Lord’s.” After a few weeks I was enabled to resume my work. In one place, a gentleman’s housekeeper was awakened and the following Sabbath she crossed the river Slaney and came to a house where I was holding a service. When she came to the yard gate and heard the singing, she would have fallen to the ground had she not been supported by her sister. Her cries for mercy were so loud that I could hardly hear my own voice, when the Lord set her soul at liberty. She had not strength to go home for some time, although, a strong, healthy woman. Another person was awakened and found salvation, and afterwards went to the County of Cork and opened her house for preaching. One Sabbath, as I was returning from an appointment, there were four or five Roman Catholics on the road, who commenced swearing just as I came up. I reproved them mildly and mentioned the name Lord Jesus. One of them fell into a passion, declaring that he would throw me and the Lord Jesus in to the ditch.
My difficulties in business now accumulated. My partner left me in debt, and I was often in great straits to meet my engagements. On one such occasion, I did not know what to do. I went to prayer, and received an answer by a man coming from a great distance on a very wet day to buy some things, which met my necessities; but in the midst of all my worldly difficulties my soul prospered. I continued the five o’clock meetings, and my desire for usefulness increased. I obtained a missionary spirit from the first day of my conversion. Many persons told me if I did not give over such exertions, particularly my voice, I would soon be in my grave; but I could not refrain without loosing my earnestness for souls, and I was determined that this should not be the case, let the consequences be what they might. My mode of acting in the work met sometimes the disapproval of some of the Church. I never thought of waiting to be called; as it regards preaching, sermon-making was never part of my work. I never could set my mind to composing sermons. From the first I saw Hell open before me, and thousands of souls rushing onto it. I knew that from the Word of God and what He had done for me, that Jesus Christ came to save all who would come to him. My business was to rush into them with the gospel, and warn, entreat, and beseech them to escape the burning pit, and be reconciled to God.
I never did approve of the present mode of preaching the gospel. I think it unscriptural and formal, and is a hindrance to that dependence on spiritual assistance, without which all preaching would be useless. The mind is so taken up with trying to remember the different points of the text, and so concerned to make a good sermon, that a failure on that point, or an error committed, would never concern the preacher nor his having no souls converted under the sermon. If the Spirit should bring a train of thought or an idea before the mind, they are at not at liberty to follow it up; or, if they do, they are in danger of loosing their reputation. If some of this class was asked when done, what they intended to effect by their sermons, they would be ashamed to tell. When the Holy Spirit began to depart from the Church, then they began to make preaches in Colleges in the same way as they make lawyers and doctors. As for myself, my custom since my conversion is to get on my knees is to get on my knees and ask the Lord for a subject, and then for ideas and words to convince. Believing that the Lord could supply his followers with matter and words when brought before Magistrates, he could surely do so when preaching. It is certainly right to read and study, and think. I cannot help believing, that the plan generally adopted, we inherit with many other things, from Popery.
Having occasion again to go on business, I stopped at a Methodist boarding house, where I had the pleasure of the company of that eminent servant of the Lord, Gideon Ousley. One night he told me some of his experience. When he was first awakened, he had no knowledge of the Methodists. He went to one denomination after another, but could get no relief. At last he thought of the swaddlers, who had lately come to the place, but also heard that they practiced the black art, and people who visited their meetings were strangely wrought on; but he said, he thought he would go to their meetings and sit near the door, so that if any attempted to practice on him, he could make his escape. “But,” continued he, “I was not long there before I was convinced they were God’s people, and soon obtained salvation. Being able to speak the Irish language, I immediately went about preaching the Gospel – knowing the disease and cure. Mr. Wesley inquired at next Conference if there were any young men who could speak the Irish language, and being told of Gideon Ousley I was immediately appointed, and have continued to this day.” I had this interesting conversation about twelve months previous to his death.
Before I left Dublin, I called to see my old friend, William Houghton, and found him successful in his Master’s work. He was then about getting a chapel built near the Royal Barracks, for the soldiers. His wife was as zealous as himself. At one of his meetings I met a man of the name of Wall, who was then very successful in carrying on the Lord’s work. I invited him to Wexford, to assist us there. He came after some time with another young man of the name of Butler. Mr. Banks was then labouring on our circuit with all his might for a revival. He was a plain and faithful man. He had to attend the Conference, and a young man by the name of Duncan preached on the Sabbath morning Wall and Butler arrived. Wall took the hymn book when Duncan had done preaching, and gave out a hymn and spoke for a short time, and then went to prayer. A blessed influence came down – the people seemed taken with surprise. The communion rails were soon full of penitence, and meetings were held every night and souls saved. I accompanied Wall and Butler to the country; and so much was my heart in the work, that I then had serious thoughts of resigning my business and setting out through the land to call sinners to repentance. But it was overruled. From the time of my conversion, I determined to keep no female company lest my heart be drawn away from God, until I decided on getting married. Messrs. Wall and Butler stopped at my brother-in-law’s (Leary) who was a merchants son, residing in Waterford, and previous to the revival and come to live in Wexford and kept a Stationer’s shop. He had been educated in the Society of Friends, but was awakened and converted in the previous revival in Wexford, and married my sister. He kept an open house for all strangers who were zealous in the Lord’s cause.
One Sabbath evening about this time I was with Wall and Butler holding meetings in Enniscorthy, when a young woman came into the room where we were, with her Mother and sisters. The moment I saw her, the impression was made on my mind that she would be my wife, although at that time unconverted. She afterwards received a change of heart in the revival under Wall and Butler. One day I said to Mr. Wall, “It is impressed on my mind that Eliza Proud will be my wife.” To which he replied, “How do you know whether she would have you or not?” I said, “I don’t know; but will you ask her, and if she refuses I shall think no more about it.” He did so, and the result was favourable. In a short time all things were arranged through the instrumentality of a friend named Steel. We were shortly afterwards married, nor have I ever had cause to regret our union.
Soon after our marriage I had to part through deep waters – trails connected with my worldly business – one difficulty after another followed, till I was obliged to give up all my stock to my creditors. And since that I have paid one hundred pounds of deficiencies by working as a journeyman. I can clearly say I have wronged no man. After my partner left me I struggled as hard as ever a man did in this world, to get clear of my difficulties and out of debt; but the currant was too strong against me. Seeing I could not succeed in business in Wexford, I determined to proceed to England and work as a journeyman, and leave my wife with her friends until I got employment. I felt much at leaving home – I never had such a trial before. I took my passage in the steamer, and arrived in Liverpool about four o’ clock in the morning; took my travel bag in my hand, and walked on till I met two policemen, with whom I stopped to make some inquiries. One of them asked me if I was a Methodist, and upon replying in the affirmative, he told me that he was a Primitive Methodist. He took me home to his house, knocked up his wife, and got me some coffee. We then prayed together and parted. I have ever looked on that as the hand of Providence. I called to see him afterwards before I left the place.
I remained a short time in Liverpool seeking employment, but could get none. I visited several of the chapels, and was much blessed; heard Robert Aitken, in his chapel and took the sacrament with him when the congregation was dismissed at night. He was leaning over a pew shaking hands with the people as they passed out. Amongst the rest he shook hands with me, and asked if I was pardoned. Replying in the affirmative, he then asked if I enjoyed the blessing of a clean heart. Oh! How his earnest, affectionate manner struck me. I heard Dr. Beaumont also, in Pitt-street Chapel. And to such preachers I never heard before. I now started on the train to Manchester somewhat cast down. A stranger in a strange land, with only three pounds in my pocket, and no friend. But I knew I had one that sticketh than a brother, who would never leave me or forsake me. My firm determination was to serve Him, let my lot be cast where it would, or however situated. I felt comforted in the assurance that all would be well at last. Having arrived at the station in Manchester, I walked on to Deansgate, and put up at a public-house, the people of which seemed surprised that I drank no intoxicating drinks – nothing stronger than tea or coffee. I went one night into Oldham-street Chapel and met in a class. I also attended a Missionary meeting in the same chapel, where all the great preachers of England were speaking. I called at all the cabinet factories, and could get no employment. So I took the train and went on to Bolton, then from that to Rochdale, where I got employment at Mr. Nicholson’s Organ Factory. He was a Methodist, and a prayer leader also. In all the towns I passed through my first inquiry was for a Methodist chapel.
I now sent for my wife, and spent eight of as happy months as ever I spent in my life. I soon found out all the simple warm-hearted souls in the place, and was quite at home. Amongst them the cause of God was low at that time, owing to a division that had taken place a little before, through Dr. Warren. I attended all the prayer meetings, and after a short time things began to look up, and converting work to go on again. I visited all the villages around Rochdale. One Sabbath, heard Ingram Walten, Esq., preach, at Lower Place: and such an earnest, simple-hearted man! It was a Sabbath-school sermon, in which he said – “If we don’t get money, we shall try to get souls.” And so he did. For there were many in distress, who obtained deliverance. I heard that eminent servant of God, Hodson Casson preach. He came on a Saturday, and went to the band meeting. After relating his own experience, he said, “All who are happy in the Lord, shout – Glory!” And indeed there was a blessed shout. I attended all the meetings while there. He would never leave while there was any in distress. The Monday evening prayer meeting was low when I went there; and in company with a few others we laboured to raise it. Instead of a few, as was formerly the case, it now was full on the Monday evenings, and the custom was to pray without being called on. One night, the preacher came to lead the meeting, which he had not done before. While I was there, I gave out a verse on my knees, as I sometimes do before I engage; when he said, “Stop, brother, I will lead.” It threw a damp over the meeting and I could but with difficulty engage in prayer. I told some of the brethren next day that I would not attend the meetings any more – that I could find a more profitable way to spend my time. So I got a bundle of tracts and commenced going from house to house, and talk and pray with the people: and the Lord blessed me greatly in the work. I after, while there, met with the Primitive Methodists, and attended some of their outdoor services. One Sabbath night, on my way home from the Wesleyan chapel, there were some men standing under a lamp-post, I addressed them on the subject of Religion; their numbers increased until I had a large congregation. Many of them Socialists and infidels – they set on me and blasphemed religion. Some of the Primitive Methodists were passing from their chapel; when they came up, I heard them say – “Oh! ’tis the Irishman.” This was my first attempt at outdoor preaching.
About this time, I received my letter from my brother-in-law, stating his intention of going to Australia, and inquiring whether I would go with him; adding that, if I would, my father and mother also, and all the family would go. I had thought of the subject before, and at once consented, and made arrangements to that effect. The Rochdale brethren were very unwilling that I should leave them. The last night I was with them, was at the renewal of the tickets. They wanted to know what I was going for, I said I mean to be a missionary wherever I am, and live for Heaven.
I started for Liverpool, and met my family – sixteen souls in all. It was about Christmas, and the weather extremely cold. We were two or three days in the ship before we left the harbour – shut up without any fire or candle light; neither would be allowed in the docks. My heart sickened at the prospect we had before us, for three months at least; but it was too late to repent, and endeavoured to make up my mind for the worst. I could see from the way the agents treated us while in the river, what we had to expect. Nor were those of us who paid our passage any better treated. My poor father was very ill, but he was a man who never let his spirit down at the severest trial, and seemed to feel glad at having all his family with him. We were towed out of Liverpool harbour by a steamer, and the day after was subjected to a heavy gale of wind right ahead, which continued to increase for several hours, until it blew a perfect storm. The ship toiled heavily, until by one tremendous blast she was thrown on her beam ends, when one of the big guns broke loose and swept across the deck with a terrible crash. I thought it was all over with us, knowing, from the nature of the channel, we were in great danger. Our family proposed prayer, so we knelt down and called on the Lord. Whilst thus engaged, my confidence in him increased. I felt I could exercise faith in the promises, and the Saviours words came to my mind – “O ye of little faith!” I thought the same Almighty power was here as had been in former days with the apostles in the ship. In a moment the winds ceased, and there was a perfect calm. I then went on deck to see how things stood; satisfied the Lord had answered prayer, and found the sailors had gone down to change their clothes – the canvas was all taken in, and the ship lay like a log of wood rolling from side to side, and not a breath of wind. There was no one on deck but the Captain and first mate. I saw two lights beyond the ship, and on inquiring what they were was told they were lights on the Isle of Man. The first mate afterwards assured me if the wind had not fallen at the time it did, we would have been in a few minutes totally wrecked; that we had sailed round the Isle of Man three times and were then drifting ashore. I then told him we were saved in answer to prayer, he said, he fully believed it.
This circumstance of introducing prayer into the ship aroused some backsliders, and brought us acquainted with several seriously inclined persons, and opened my way for usefulness on board. The day after the storm a breeze sprung up, and we soon came in sight of my native land; the coast of which as we passed along was familiar to me. I felt a degree of melancholy at the thought of seeing old Ireland no more. We dashed along the outskirts of the Bay of Biscay, and the weather continuing rough, we were nearly sea-sick. I was wonderfully sustained and enabled to knock about and assist the other members of the family who were helpless. The weather soon became more settled, and I requested the Captain (who was a proud austere sort of man) to allow me to hold service on the quarter-deck every Sabbath evening, to which he kindly assented.
My trials and privations on the voyage were very great. The food was bad – the tea seemed to smell like hay water, and we could not make use of the meat. The only thing we relished were cakes which we contrived to bake in the galley with much difficulty. My wife was in a very delicate condition, and had to suckle a baby – nor did I think we would ever reach the end of the voyage. But a heavy trial came upon my dear father, who was ill when we left Liverpool, and gradually became worse. He had left his comfortable home – sold of his property to go with his children, and now that death appeared to disappoint his expectations, I thought he might feel unhappy on that account, so I said, sitting on his berthside – “father, do you feel sorry for leaving home?” he replied – “No”. “Do you think you will die?” when he looked calmly at me and said “I don’t know, but I am not afraid to die. I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” In a few minutes after, my sister turning round to wet his lips, found that the immortal spirit had taken its flight to the spiritual world, and my dear father was no more. I had the distressing sight of seeing his body committed to the deep. The burial service was read by the doctor, and the ship’s bell tolled – it was a solemn scene. I saw his body let down and descend beneath the blue wave. I thought I would see my dear father again when the sea gives up its dead.
I now commenced holding prayer meetings on the quarter-deck on Sabbath and Thursday evenings. The Lord enabled me to take up my cross and preach before the Captain and cabin passengers, who were always present. And to crown my efforts with success, one backslider was awakened and professed to find mercy, who was a great blasphemer when he came on board. A proud young man was awakened also who earnestly sought the Lord. He was accustomed to retire for prayer behind the jib on the bowsprit. One day, while earnestly supplicating the throne of Grace, the Lord spoke peace to his soul. He came and told me of the change; and his altered conduct soon brought persecution on him from his old companions in sin. The first mate had been a backslider and much addicted to swearing at the men, and was very passionate, but was also awakened. Often would he send for me during his watch to walk the quarter-deck, when he would open his mind and lament his fall. From him I received much kindness. I afterwards heard he died in an hospital in India on the way home.
We now drew the line, and anything to equal the beauty and splendour of the scenery in this latitude could not be found. It was delightful to assemble on the quarter-deck in order to worship God. About the going down of the sun, the appearance and beauty of the sky baffles all description, with the ocean like a sea of glass under our feet. Many a blessed hour we spent in singing the praises of God and talking of his goodness. At length we drew near South Africa. And one Sabbath morning I went upon deck, when the captain said – “Mr. Pidgeon, do you see Table Mountain!” I looked and saw something like a cloud in the horizon: the day was very calm, and towards evening we came near, and were creeping round the base of the mountain to Table Bay. All were delighted at once more seeing land, and admiring the little white washed cottages along the side of the mountain, and wishing to be there. As the night was falling, a cloud began to cover the top of the Mountain: sure omen of an approaching storm. It began to blow immediately – the Captain seemed alarmed, and in endeavouring to enter Table Bay, the ship missed stays and ran aground about twenty miles from Cape Town, on a sandy beach. The vessel kept thumping on the sand until she was embedded. It was now at about nine o’clock at night; the blue lights were hoisted and minute guns fired. We imagined every moment that she would go to pieces, and expecting death before morning. O such a scene! All seemed distracted. Some, who mocked our meetings, now came to me ringing their hands and crying – “Oh! Mr. Pidgeon, what will we do?” I told them not to be running about in that wild manner, but get on their knees and employ the few moments they had to live in calling on God for mercy. Some of the poor papists got their holy water to throw against the wind in order to lay it! We got on out knees and continued in prayer, but many resorted to the use of intoxicating liquors to drown trouble. We were pressed to take some but refused, thinking it better to go into the presence of God sober. I prayed while I was able, and felt prepared for life or death. My dear mother, wife, and child, devided my attention. Both the former seemed to look to me for help, and I thought I would soon be torn from them by the violence of the waves. I went on deck towards morning and saw the Captain, who cried like a child for his vessel, which was nearly on dry ground.
We were taken off by the government boats to Cape Town, and were much rejoiced to find ourselves once more on solid earth. Great was our thankfulness to the God of all our mercies. The Cape people were very kind to us, and as part of the soldiers’ barracks were unoccupied, we were all lodged in it. There was an Irish regiment lying there, and the kindness and good-nature of the soldiers were unbounded – they took us into their rooms and refreshed us with coffee, and although it was musty, I never enjoyed anything so much before. The Governor sent us a cart of grapes which were refreshing. Our family now took lodgings, and determined to remain in Cape Town. I went to the Wesleyan Minister, Mr Smith, and showed him my note of removal. He called to see us, and seemed to be a very kind-hearted man, he and the friends there very much wished us to remain. The following Sabbath we went to the Wesleyan Chapel, and O! how grateful and refreshing were the means of grace. It was, after our voyage and late trouble, like water to the thirsty. Having determined to remain in cape Town, I got employment and went to work; but through the persuasion of the Captain we changed our mind. The ship having been got off and made all ready for the remainder of the voyage, we again embarked, having stopped three weeks at Cape Town.
It was a very rough day when we embarked, and the boat had like to have been capsized in the surf on leaving the shore. However, we got again on board the ship, all things being ready we hoisted sail and soon lost sight of Table Mountain and had remarkably rough weather for a long time. We steered to the south and every day brought us into a colder climate. We had much better treatment the remainder of the voyager. I again I resumed my work, and would take my stand by the man at the wheel, so whether he liked or not he was obliged to hear. When the weather would be too rough to hold the service on deck I went below, and hung a light from the deck, and jammed myself between two boxes in order to conduct the service.
There was one cabin passenger, a great enemy to our meetings, who gave himself to drinking at the Cape, and shortly after we left he went out of his mind and died. About this time a most melancholy circumstance occurred to a man named Reid, a sailor, who sometimes attended the meetings and seemed to be under serious impressions. One evening, after holding a conversation with him on the necessity of turning to the Lord and seeking salvation now, he answered by saying he could not be religious in that ship; but when he would return home he would become Godly. I said, “How foolish it was to put off so important a work until you return to England – you might never reach there, and what then would become of your resolutions”. That day had been very rough, and towards evening it blew so hard that the Captain ordered the main-top-sail to be taken in, and for that end all hands were ordered up at ten o’clock at night. The vessell was lying on her side, and the sea running mountains high, when someone cried out there is a man or lad overboard. The names were called over, and poor Reid was missing. He had been stepping from the mast to the yard-arm, and missing his hold, tumbled over into the foaming surf, and was seen so more! The news caused a sensation of horror to run through my soul, and I remembered our conversation a little before, and the truth of my reasoning – “It might be too late.” Little did he think while procrastinating, of the folly of his conduct, and that that night he should meet a watery grave. Poor Reid who acts so foolishly on that point.
There are thousands like him who continue in spite of invitations and entreaties to do the same, and like him, are overtaken at last. O that this, as well as the end of all such have like him put off from day to day the work of their soul’s salvation, may be a warning to others before it is too late; and attend to Our Lord’s injunction – “Be ye also ready for in such an hour as you think not, I will surely come.” After some time we came in sight of New South Wales and it is remarkable – both the Cape and this land were discovered on Sunday mornings. It commenced blowing hard just as we were about to enter Bass, Straits; and from our former troubles we were under very uncomfortable apprehensions of danger. We had to lay to all night, surrounded by rocks; the next morning became more favourable and we soon cleared the straits and stood along the coast for Sydney heads. I was the first to see the lighthouse and felt thankful for the heavenly father for his goodness to me and mine. The pilot came off, and it was night before we got inside the Heads. We came up the harbour by starlight and cast anchor off Battery Point May 20 1841. (It was actually May 14 according to the journal of “The Oresetes”.) Next day we made arrangements for landing our families, and took lodgings; and once more being comfortably settled on solid ground, we felt thankful to the God of all our mercies, whose kind protecting arm defended us in the hour of danger and sore trials. My brother-in-law, Leary, lost two fine children on the passage; so also did my brother Mullen lose one, besides two just after we landed.
I now called at the mission house and gave my letter of removal to Mr. Schofield, and joined his class which was very large. I then sought employment and obtained it and Mr. E. Hunt’s, in Jamison-street, at 8 shillings per day; I was, however, horror struck at the wickedness of both men and boys while in the shop, it seemed as if I had been landed on the borders of Hell; but I dared not reason – my duty was plain so I determined to reprove and rebuke sin in all its horrid forms; at first they looked at me as if they intended to throw me out of the windows – but seeing me determined they soon left off swearing, and in a short time there was scarcely an oath to be heard in the shop. There was one back slider amongst them who became awakened and turned to the Lord and joined the Church. Being now settled in employment I began to attend all meetings, especially the prayer meetings, and contributed my might of labour to forward the work of the Lord. I said to my brother-in-law, Leary, one night coming from a prayer meeting in Liverpool-street, that it was impressed on my mind the revival would begin there, and so it did, shortly after.
TO BE CONTINUED………..
I never did get around to transcribing more of this. However a good digital copy of Nathaniel’s 1857 edition is available online and fully searchable at Hathitrust