Monday, August 05, 2013

Found While Looking for Something Else

At the moment I am in the middle of "Catholics in England: 1559 - 1829" by M.D.R. Leys. A fascinating read, well-worth your time.  (If you can find a copy: printed in 1961, out of print by 1962 so far as I can tell.)

Beginning on page 81, Professor Leys tells of Fr Henry Morse, S.J. and Fr Robinson, S.J., who were imprisoned in York in 1626 for their priesthood. Fr Morse was eventually executed but Fr Robinson remained in prison until he died in 1641. But while he was there, he ministered to the other Catholic prisoners and converted some others to the Catholic faith. And that is where he encountered John Bartendale.

As an old man, he used to tell a story of one of the Catholic felons. John Bartendale was a strolling piper who had been convicted and sentenced to be hanged -- the usual penalty for any serious crime. In March 1634 the sentence was carried out, and after he had hung for three-quarters of an hour he was cut down and hastily buried, not in a churchyard, but by the roadside. A passerby saw the newly dug ground heaving, and dug up the convict, whose throat muscles, strengthened by years of piping, had resisted the pressure of the rope. Bartendale went free, for it was decided that as he had been executed and buried he was legally dead.

I've enjoyed almost everything about playing pipes. I've met wonderful people, I've gone places and done things that I never would have been able to do otherwise. But strong throat muscles while being hanged is one advantage that had never occurred to me. I trust I shall not have to put it to the test.

If you can find the Sheed and Ward edition -  the only edition? -- you will find the story on page 82.