Divine Protection through Extraordinary Dangers

Experienced by Jacob and Elizabeth Goff and their Family during the Irish Rebellion in 1798

By Dinah W. Goff


This amazing memoir was first published in London in 1857, almost sixty years after the events it records took place.

In the unsigned Preface to the first edition, this account is described as showing “the remarkable preservation experienced by a family in Ireland, who, relying on the gracious protecting care of the Almighty for deliverance from lawless men, refused either to take up arms in their own defense, or to quit the perilous post of duty.” It added that “the Christian disposition of meekness and forebearance, strengthened by a holy courage and firmness, proved in this instance, as in many others, the means, under the divine blessing, of safety amid circumstances of extraordinary trial. On the other hand, the declaration of our Lord and Saviour is often fulfilled, that they who take the sword shall perish by it.”

As Dinah Goff’s story amply shows, these comments do not exaggerate the depth of the ordeal she and her family went through.

Of the author, nothing further is said, except that “having occasionally related to her young friends some of the striking incidents, of which she was a witness during the rebellion in Ireland, (she) has often been requested to commit the account to paper, that it might not be forgotten.”

Both for its place in the long, sad history of British colonization of Ireland, and its more uplifting place in the saga of the Quaker Peace Testimony applied in situations where its implications and cost were unmistakably clear, we can indeed be grateful that Dinah Goff at length acceded to these requests.

I am pleased to be able to make this story once again available to Friends and others interested in religious pacifism.

–Chuck Fager, 4th Month, 2001

Divine Protection

Dinah W. Goff

It has often occurred to me that I ought to leave some little memorial of the preservation extended by our Heavenly Father to my beloved parents and the family, as well as of the remarkable faith and patience with which they were favoured, under circumstances of a very peculiar and distressing character.

It was about the middle of the Fifth Month, 1798, that the county of Wexford, in Ireland, became a scene of open rebellion, headed by B—– H—–, a protestant gentleman, and two Roman Catholic priests, John Murphy and Philip Roche (Murphy was a chief instigator to cruelty and murder; he pretended to catch the flying bullets of the royalist troops, but was at length killed by a cannonball. Roche, though more humane, was finally hung.) The aims of the insurgents were various; some were more cruelly disposed than others; all determined to liberate themselves by force of arms from the unequal yoke, as they believed it, of the British Government, nd to become a free people; some to bring all Ireland to Catholicism, etc.

About ten days before the rebellion broke out, a Roman Catholic gentleman who resided near called on my father, and desired to speak to him in private. He then informed him that the county would, in the course of a few days, be in a state of general insurrection. My father replied that he could not credit it, for that he had frequently heard such rumours. The gentleman assured him that he knew certainly it would be so, and that he had procured a vessel, now lying at Duncannon, to convey himself and family to Wales, and that, as a friend, he gladly offered accommodation to our household. My father thanked him for this act of friendship, but said that it felt to him a matter of great importance to remove from the position allotted him by Providence, yet that he would consider of it, and consult his wife. After having endeavoured to seek best wisdom, my dear parents concluded that it was right for them to remain at home, placing their dependence and confidence in Him who alone can protect, and who has promised to preserve those that put their trust in him.

The estate and spacious mansion, called Horetown, occupied by my parents Jacob and Elizabeth Goff and the family, were situated about ten miles from each of the towns of Wexford and New Ross. The rebels formed two camps, at Carrickburn and Corbett Hill, one on each side of the house, at distances of two and five miles from it. This central position caused a constant demand on us for provisions, with which the insurgents were daily supplied, and they often said that they spared the lives of the family for that purpose.

A day or two after the conmencement of the rebellion, two carts were brought to our door, and the cellars emptied of all the salt provisions, beer, cider, etc., which were taken off to the camp. Fourteen beautiful horses were turned out of my father’s stables, and mounted in the yard by two or more of the rebels on each. Some, which had not been trained, resisted by plunging; but their riders soon subdued them, running their pikes into them, and otherwise using great cruelty. Much of our cattle they also took off, and orders were sent each week from the camp at Carrickburn, to have a cow and some sheep killed, which were sent for at stated times.

Soon after the general rising and arming of the people in the county of Wexford, (Keightley remarks: “It was in the county of Wexford that the rebellion really raged — a county which would probably have remained at rest, had not the people been goaded into rebellion by the cruelties inflicted by the military and the self-styled loyalists. It was here only that priests appeared among the rebels, and that murders on a large scale were perpetrated by them.” History of England, vol iii) we were roused one morning by the sound of cannon at a distance, and quickly heard that there had been an engagement at a place called “The Three Rocks,” on the mountains of Forth near Wexford, between the yeomanry and the rebels. After a severe conflict, the former were put to flight, with great loss of life; sixty or seventy were buried in one grave.

Two of my cousins named Heatly, whose mother had married out of our society, were officers in that corps, and escaped to our house under cover of the darkness of night. On their arrival, they found that their father and mother, and seven or eight children, had been turned out of their comfortable home, and had also fled for refuge to my father’s where they were affectionately received. We had all retired to rest when these young officers arrived. The thankfulness of their parents, who had never expected to see them again, passes all description: they were much affected, and immediately returned thanks, on the bended knee, for the preservation of their children.

For some days the two young men remained in the house, hiding from room to room, sometimes under the beds; as there was a frequent search for anus and Orangemen by the rebels. Some of the chiefs of these, having information of their being with us, called demanding them to surrender, and offering them the United Irishmen’s oath. This however they resolutely refused, saying they had taken the oath of allegiance to their sovereign but a few days before, and would never perjure themselves. On this, one of the rebels laid his hand on his sword, and in great irritation said, were it not for the respect they had for Mr. Goff, and that they did not wish to spill blood in his hall, their lives should be the forfeit of their refusal.

At length my cousins left our house by night, intending to make their way to Ross, and took shelter in the cottage of an old Roman Catholic nurse employed by the family; but by her they were betrayed, and handed over to the rebels, who took them prisoners to the camp. The lives of these interesting young men were, however, remarkably preserved, after they had endured much hardship in prison.

Two Roman Catholic menservants, belonging to our family, and lodging in the house, were compelled to join the rebels to save their lives: and were armed with pikes — the first we had seen. On my dear mother’s hearing of their having brought these weapons, she sent to let them know she could not allow anything of the kind to be brought into her house; so each night they left them outside the door. They behaved quietly and respectfully throughout, generally returning home at the close of the day.

The rebels set fire to the houses of many Protestants; and in the morning after the general rising, a Roman Catholic family, seven in number, came from Enniscorthy, apparently in great distress, saying they left the town on fire. They received shelter and hospitable entertainment from my dear parents, and remained with us the whole time. My mother often remarked, with reference to her large family, that provisions from day to day were so wonderfully granted, that it seemed, like the cruise of oil and the barrel of meal, never-failing.

About twenty persons surrounded our dinner table each day, beside those in the kitchen, four of whom were members of our society; which my mother considered a great advantage at that awful period. She frequently said that “hinds’ feet” appeared to be given her, in being enabled with extraordinary ease to get through the numerous household duties that then devolved upon her. Thus the gracious promise was verified in her experience: “As thy days so shall thy strength be.”

A rebel once inquired of her, “Madam, do you think we shall gain the day?” Feeling it to be a serious question, after a pause she replied, “The Almighty only knows.” He answered, “You are right madam; have a good heart, not a hair of your head shall be hurt; but when this business is over, the Quakers are all to be driven down into Connaught, where the land is worth about twopence an acre, and you will have to till that, and live on it as you can.” My mother smiled and said, “Give us a good portion, for we have a large family.”

Hannah and Arabella (afterwards Fennell) with Dinah W. Goff, aged about thirty, nineteen and fourteen, were the only daughters at home at this time. The two former usually walked three miles on First-days to the Meeting-house at Forrest, accompanied by two of the women servants, though they met with many interruptions on the way. One day some of the people said, as they passed the Roman Catholic chapel, “How they dare us by going through the streets! If they persist, they shall be taken and dragged to the altar of the chapel, and suffer the penalty of their ‘obstinacy.’” But my sisters passed quietly on. On one of these occasions, they remarked that a strange dog accompanied them: it followed them for some miles, and when they got safe home could not be induced to enter the house, but went away. This circumstance, though simple, seemed remarkable at the time.

I fully believe that their minds were not resting on outward help, but on that omnipotent arm which was mercifully underneath to sustain. They were enabled regularly to pursue their way, and to unite with the few Friends that were permitted to meet, remarking those opportunities as being peculiarly solemn. Our dear parents would gladly have joined them, but were unable from the infirmities of age to walk so far, and had no horses left to draw a carriage. The family were always assembled for the purpose of reading the Scriptures, after the fatigues of the day were over; and one evening, a priest coming in, as he often did at other times, perhaps to see what we were doing, remarked on the quietude which prevailed. My mother said it was usually the case when the hurry of household cares had ceased. He said he came with good news – that we were now all of one religion the world over. My mother then inquired what it was, as she believed there was only one true religion! He replied, that an edict from the Pope had arrived, and that it proclaimed the universal Roman Catholic religion, adding that it was high time for her to put up the cross. She asked what he meant by the cross. He said, “Put up the outward sign on yourself and your children.” She answered, That they should never do; but she was thankful in believing that her Heavenly Father was enabling her to bear the cross, and that she trusted He might be pleased to continue to do so to the end.

I was standing near him at the time, when he put his arms round me and said, “My dear child, we shall have you all to our- selves:” and, placing his hand on my father’s shoulder, he said, “Mr. Goff, you shall be one of our head senators.” This unhappy man, we afterwards heard, lost his life in attacking a Protestant gentleman, on whose kindness and hospitality he had thrown himself, when his own house was burnt down by the English troops. To us he was uniformly kind, and we thought his attention might, under Providence, have had some influence on the minds of the rebels. Many hundreds were daily on our lawn, and our business was to hand them food as they demanded it. Their fatigue and the heat of summer being exhausting, large tubs of milk and water were placed at the hail and back doors, with great quantities of bread and cheese. The servants were frequently obliged to stay up all night to bake bread for them, and my mother and sisters often made their hands bleed in cutting the bread and cheese; if not cut up, they would carry off whole loaves and cheeses at the ends of their pikes. They took carving-knives and others of large size from the pantry to fasten on poles, thus converting them into destructive weapons: on seeing which, my mother had the remainder carefully locked up after the meals. At times they gave us dreadful details of their own cruelty, and of the agonies of the sufferers, to the great distress of my sisters and myself. One day after a battle they related many such acts, and said they had had good fun the day before with the fine young officers, by tickling them under the short ribs with their pikes, making them writhe and cry out bitterly. I was handing them food at the time, and could not refrain from bursting into tears throwing down what I had in my hand, and running away into the house.

We were greatly struck by observing that, however outrageously a party might come, there were generally some among them who were disposed to promote peace. Such would say, “You ought not to treat them so–the poor ladies who have been up – all night making bread for you with their own hands.” One morning a most violent party advanced, yelling and swearing hideously like savages intent on rapine, so that we fully believed they had formed some wicked design; but two young men, who looked sorrowful and alarmed on our behalf, though perfect strangers, came forward, requesting we might all withdraw and shut the door, as they could not but dread the consequences if the party were allowed to enter the house. The young men stationed themselves on the steps of the hall door, drew their great cavalry swords, and, flourishing them, declared that no one should pass; pleading for us in the most kind and energetic manner — “Why would you injure Mr. Goff and his family, who are doing all they can, feeding and providing for you?” After a long struggle the company relinquished their evil purpose. The young men were quite overcome with the exertion and heat: my father warmly thanked them, and gave them silk handkerchiefs to wipe their faces, inquiring their names- one of them was called Dennis ———-of Gorey. On that occasion, many wicked-looking women were outside, evidently waiting for plunder; and, when disappoint- ed, they made frightful faces, and shook their hands at us as we stood at the windows. One of them was heard to say when they withdrew, “You are a set of chicken-hearted fellows!”

A severe conflict took place at Enniscorthy, the garrison being forced to surrender, and many hundreds, as we were told, left dead in the streets. Two days after it, our Quarterly Meeting for Leinster province was, in usual course, held there; and was attended by David Sands from America, a valued minister of our society, who was then traveling through Ireland, with Abraham Jackson as his companion. As they passed through Enniscorthy, the latter had to alight and assist in removing the dead bodies, which still lay in the streets, from before the wheels of the carriage. The meeting, though small, was said to have been remarkably solemn, as it well might be, and also much favoured; many other Friends with ourselves were deprived of the means of attending, by the want of horses which the rebels had taken.

A barn, about a mile and a half from us, belonging to a gentleman who lived at Scullabogue, was used as a prison, in which about 250 persons, chiefly Protestants, were confined–men, women, and children, some being infants in their mothers’ arms. There they remained from Sixth until Third- day, without receiving any food, except some sheaves of wheat occasionally thrown in, that the rebels might have the amusement of seeing them scramble for the grains. On the day of the battle of New Ross, sixty or more of them were brought out on the lawn, and offered, one by one, life and liberty if they would change their religious profession; but they all refused. Some, after being half tortured to death answered, “No; give me more powder and ball first.”

Two of the prisoners, named John and Samuel Jones, had attended our meeting, though not members; and their case was a particularly dreadful one. Samuel was kindly supported by his wife whilst he was unmercifully tortured; one limb after another being broken, and each time the question repeated, “Will you have the priest?” which he steadily refused: looking calmly at his faithful wife, and saying, “My dear, I am not hurt; I feel no pain.” His brother also bore his martyrdom with firmness, and was put to death by slow degrees in a similar way. The wife, with admirable fortitude, stood between them when they were shot, and held up a hand of each. She then implored the murderers to take her life also; but they refused, saying, “They would not dishonour the Virgin Mary by killing a woman.” I saw her afterwards in deep affliction passing our gate, as she sat in a cart with the remains of her husband and brother. On the same day,-.viz.the fourth of Sixth Month, –the barn was set on fire and all the other prisoners (said to be 184) were consumed. Some of the poor women put their infants out through the windows, hoping to save them; but the ruffians took them up on their pikes, and threw them back into the flames. I saw the smoke of the barn, and cannot now forget the strong and dreadful effluvium which was wafted from it to our lawn. (Yet Keightley remarks– “We fear, if a fair balance were struck of the bloodshed, the cruelties, and the other enormities committed during these unhappy times, that the pre- ponderence would be greatly on the side of the royalists.”)

In the engagement at New Ross the insurgents were defeated. This was an awful scene of conflict and bloodshed, continuing with but little cessation for nearly twelve hours. It is stated that 2000 persons were killed. The king’s troops retreated twice, and the town was in the hands of the rebels, when a reinforcement was understood to have come up and put them to flight. Some asserted that no reinforcement arrived, and that the assailing multitude fled when there were none to pursue them. General Johnson, who commanded the royalists, said that the success of that day was to be attributed to Providence, and was not the work of man. Several Friends of New Ross had previously retired to Water- ford; others who remained were remarkably preserved, though the town was set on fire in different quarters. Previously to the burning of the barn, a company came one day with two horses, saying they had orders to take my dear father and our cousin, J. Heatly to the camp-the latter being the father of the two young officers before-mentioned. It was nearly noon when they came and seized their two victims; and my mother having gone to give some orders in the kitchen, I ran to call her, saying they were forcing my father on horseback. On this she came out, and pressing through the dense crowd on the lawn, asked them peremptorily, “What are you doing with my husband?” On their saying they were going to take him to the camp, she said, in the same tone, “You shall not take my husband, for he is in poor health; and if you put him in prison I think he could not live many weeks; he will be here for you at any time you wish, as he cannot leave his house.” They were then silent, and quietly relinquished their design. My mother remarked, “We have got what you call protections from the generals.” These were sent for, and read aloud, to this effect:– “Let no one molest Mr. Goff or his family, they being hostages to the united army. Signed in the camp of Carrickburn by two generals, Harvey and Roche.” These documents had been previously sent without any request made by the family. The party were then satisfied, as related to my father: all entreaty was, however, unavailing with respect to my cousin, J. Heatly, who was taken away on horseback, amid the shrieks and cries of his afflicted wife and children.

We afterwards heard that they soon made him dismount, and walk ten miles to Wexford. They then put him on board a prison ship on the river Slaney, where he remained until the insurgents were totally de- feated. He witnessed many of his acquaintances and fellow-sufferers said to be to the number of ninety- seven in all-taken out of the same ship and put to death, with very cruel circumstances, on the Wex- ford Bridge; but he and a friend of his had a remarkable escape. The prisoners were called out – by two and two; and when it came to his and his friend’s turn, he made some excuses for delay. The rebels continued calling for them from the deck of the vessel, with their bayonets pointed down towards them: but they still delayed going. At this juncture, a rumour reached their guards that the English army were marching into the town; and this report throwing them into a state of terror, the lives of the two prisoners were saved. It proved; however. to be only a few yeoman, boldly preceded by an officer of the corps, which had been defeated in the engagement on the mountains of Forth. The rebels took flight in all directions, and Wexford was left in possession of the English, to the great joy of the loyal inhabitants, who had suffered many privations and cruelties.

John Heatly often related the circumstance afterwards, saying that Providence had in an extraordinary manner saved his life. He had been many years in the navy. His house, Rock View, was occupied for some time by the rebels, who left it a complete wreck; and persons in the neighbourhood said it was most amusing to see the country- people parading about in the silk and satin trains, which they took when plundering my counsln’s property. A party, who assumed the rank of officers in the rebel army, came to our house one day, and directed to have dinner prepared immediately. On my mother’s requesting the servant to lay the tables in the hall, they indignantly asked, “Is it there you are going to give us our dinner? Shew us into the best parlour in the house.” But on my mother assuring them that she had seen nobleman sitting in that hall, they became calm and satisfied. They then asked for spirits and wine, saying they would have some; and when my mother told them that there were none in the house, they were greatly irritated, still saying they must have some. On being spoken to by my mother in the singular number, they desired her not to say thee and thou to them, as if she were speaking to a dog; and on her again saying thou to one of them, he flourished his sword over her head, and said, haughtily, “No more of your theeing and thouing to me.” They ate their dinner, however, and went off peaceably.

We were now informed that orders had been given to take my dear father’s life, and my mother was most particular in keeping us all close together around him, saying that if it were permitted that our lives should be taken, we might be enabled to support and encourage each other, or else all go together! One day, about noon, a large company appeared on the lawn, carrying a black flag, which we well knew to be the signal for death. My dear father advanced to meet them as usual, with his open benevolent countenance, and my mother, turning to me, said, with her sweet placid smile, “Perhaps my stiff stays may prevent my dying easily.” On which the Roman Catholic who had taken refuge with us said, “Have faith in God, madam; I hope they will not hurt you;” she quickly pushed forward and joined my dear father, who was surrounded by a large party. He observed to them, he feared they might injure each other, as their muskets were prepared for firing; when one of them replied, “Let those who are afraid keep out of the way. My mother distinctly heard one of them say,”Why don’t you begin?” and each seemed looking to the other to commence the work of death. Some of them presently muttered, “We cannot.” At this critical moment some women came in great agitation through the crowd, clinging to their husbands, and dragging them away. Thus a higher Power evidently appeared to frustrate the intentions of the murderers, and my beloved father was again graciously delivered. One man said there was “no use in taking Mr. Goff’s life;” but his two sons, if there, should soon be killed, and then the estate would be theirs.

One morning a most outrageous party advanced towards the house, yelling and roaring like savages, evidently with some wicked design; but two young men who looked serious again interposed in your behalf, and would not allow them to enter. Thus were the words of David fulfilled: “The wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain.”

A young man, who, with his mother, kept a neighbouring public-house, used at that time often to walk into our drawing-room, lay his sword on the table, and amuse me and my young cousin by giving us his finely decorated hat to admire. One afternoon he tried to prevail on us two to go with him to the camp, saying, it was an interesting sight such as we might never have an opportunity again to see. We were then sixteen and fourteen years of age; and on my saying I did not think my mother would permit us to go, he desired us not to tell her, and promised to bring us safely back. My mother ever watchful, was at this moment crossing the hall; and seeing us together, she came forward and inquired what he was saying. When we told her, she asked him how he dared to request the child- ren to go to such a place? She them reasoned with us on the impropriety of listening to such invitations, saying, she should never have expected to see us again if we had once gone.

Three or four hundred English troops, accompanied by Hompesch’s German hussars, at length landed at Duncannon Fort; this was announced by the firing of cannon early in the morning. On my mother’s entering my room, I expressed much pleasure at the intelligence, when she replied, “My dear, we must rejoice with trembling; having much to dread from their being strangers, and we know not what may be permitted: we have only to place our trust and confidence in Him who hath hitherto preserved us!” This little army formed an encampment on my late uncle Cesar Sutton’s lawn at Longgrague, about two miles from us. The next day, whilst we were sitting at dinner, one of the servants said the rebel forces were coming from Wexford in thousands, intending to surround the English encampment. The royal troops, commanded by General Moore, having had previous information, were, however, on the alert, and met them on the road near our house. We counted twenty-four pieces of cannon belonging to the rebels which passed our entrance. A dreadful scene, partly in our view, was now enacted, and lasted for three hours; the firing was awfull. Having closed the doors and windows in the lower part of the house as much as possible, we all retired to an upper room, and there remained in a state of fearful suspense. It was a terrible sight, and deeply affected us, the cannonballs falling thickly about the house. On one of my sisters raising the window to look out, a ball whizzed by her head; and this; with many others, we afterward found. At length, seeing the poor deluded people running in all directions, we learned that they were routed.

Two soon came to the house to have their wounds dressed, which my sister Arabella did as well as she could; one had a ball in the cap of his knee, and both bled profusely: they expressed much thankfulness, and hoped they might soon be able again to fight for their freedom. A fine young man coming, who had received a severe wound in his side and shoulder, my dear mother used means to relieve him, and dressed him comfortably in clean linen, while he frequently exclaimed, “Do, ma’am, try to stop the blood. I don’t mind the pain, so that I may but fight for my liberty.” Observing him in danger from the great injury, she spoke to him in a very serious strain, and also recommended his going to the Wexford Infirmary. We heard afterwards that he died on the way a few hours after he left us. This battle was at Goff’s Bridge, on the 20th of Sixth Month. Several hundreds of the insurgents were killed, but not many of the military.

Soon after the firing had ceased, we observed two of the cavalry moving slowly and suspiciously up our avenue; on which my father went down to the hail door, and advanced with a smiling countenance and extended arms to meet them. One, who was a German, at once embraced him, saying, in broken English, “You be Friend–no enemy, no enemy;” and gave him a the kiss of peace; adding, “We have Friends in Germany.” We got them eggs, milk, bread, &c., to refresh them, after the excessive fatigue and excitement which it was obvious they had suffered.

The evening before this engagement, one of my sisters, passing through the servants’ hall, observed the coachman leaning on his arm, apparently much distressed. When she requested to know the cause, he hesitated and said he would not tell her; but on her entreating him, and adding that she should like to know the worst, he said that he had heard it planned at the camp, that, if they conquered the royalists, we were all to be murdered, and the generals were to take possession of our house. He then added, weeping, “Oh, our plans are too wicked for the Lord to prosper them!” My sister remarked that we trusted in a Power stronger than man, and able to protect us in the midst of danger; or to that effect.

During the night following this battle, our house was surrounded by Hompesch’s cavalry, who slept on the lawn wrapped up in their grey coats. The next morning twenty or thirty of the officers breakfasted with us, and told us that we had had a marvellous escape on the previous day; the cannon having been placed on the bridge, and pointed against the house to batter it down; even the match was lighted, when a gentleman, who knew my father and us, came forward, and told them the house was “inhabited by a loyal Quaker and his family.” They had previously supposed it must be a rendezvous of rebels, and feared, from its commanding position, that they themselves might have been fired upon from it. Some of the officers, being refreshed by their meal, even shed tears when they reflected on the danger we had been in. My cousins Richard and Ann Goff of Hopefield, near Horetown, had been observed by “the United Men” to persevere in walking to Forrest Meeting whilst the country was in a state of rebellion; and were apprized that, if they continued this practice, and refused to unite in the Roman Catholic forms of worship, they should be put to death, and their house burned. This threat brought them under deep mental exercise, accompanied with fervent prayers that they might be enabled to come to a right de- cision; and, collecting their large family together, in humble confidence that best direction might be mercifully afforded, after a season of solemn retirement, they laid the matter before their child- ren. On this memorable occasion, the noble and Intrepid language of Fade Goff, their eldest son, then about seventeen years of age, is worthy of being recorded. “Father,”t said he, “rejoice that we are found worthy to suffer.” His parents were deeply affected, and their minds became so much strengthened, that next morning, rising before daybreak, they all proceeded to the meeting, and were enabled to continue to attend Divine worship without molestation; expressing thankfulness in thus being permitted to accomplish what they considered their religious duty.

David Sands and his companion attended that meeting, and, returning to Horetown, were joyfully received by us: my dear mother saying that his visit reminded her of the good Samaritan pour- ing oil into our wounded minds. The three families now occupying our house all assembled with him on this solemn occasion, and his communication was truly impressive and consoling, inducing tenderness in all present. He first alluded to the deep trials we had suffered; then to the Infinite mercy which had brought the family through them; and afterwards offered a solemn tribute of thanksgiving and praise to the great Preserver of men, whose power had been so remarkably displayed for our protection, when surrounded by danger on every hand. It was indeed a memorable visit, for which thankfulness prevailed to Him from whom all consolation is derived. The Roman Catholic family had never before heard these plain truths so declared, nor witnessed anything of the kind; but they all united in prayer on their knees, and the mother said, “I never heard such a minister as that gentleman: he must be an angel from Heaven sent to you!”

The rebellion was not at an end; but, though peace and order were partially restored to our afflicted country, yet the sad consequences still remained; not only houses in ruins, burned and torn in pieces by both armies, were to be seen in all directions, but many of the rebels who were outlawed took up their abode in caverns In the wood of Killoughran, and sallied forth by night to commit depredations on such of the peaceable inhabitants as had returned to their dilapidated dwellings. Twice they visited us, and on these occasions our sufferings were greater than on any during the rebellion. My father had been urged to accept the nightly services of a guard of yeomanry, but always positively refused.

On the first night, having all retired to rest, we were aroused by a terrific knocking with muskets at the hail door. My dear father raised his chamber window, and requested them to wait a few minutes, and he would open the door; but they continued knocking still louder, and swearing most awfully until he went down. On his opening the door, they seized him, and instantly rushed up to his room, breaking a mahogany desk and bookcase to pieces with their muskets, and demanding money. My father handed them twenty guineas, which was all he had in the house; but they persisted in asking for more, and swore, in a most profane manner, that if he did not give them more they would take his life. I slept with a little niece in a room inside his, and we were entreated by my sister A. not to rise, as we should be of no use. I endeavoured to comply with her request, and remain quiet, til I heard a dreadful scuffle, and my father’s voice exclaiming, “Don’t Murder me!” I could no longer keep still, but opened the door, and saw one of the men, dressed in scarlet regimentals, with full uniform, epaulettes, a., rushing towards my father with a drawn sword in his hand. My sister intercepted it by throwing her arms round my father’s neck, when the point of the sword touched her side, but not so as to injure her. In the struggle the candle went out, and they called most violently for light. The horror which I felt at this awful moment can scarcely be expressed. My sister went down towards the kitchen, and found a man standing at the foot of the first flight of stairs; she asked him to light the candle, when he said she might go down, and he would stand guard, and not allow anyone to pass. This he performed faithfully, and she returned in safety. I could not, after this, leave the party, but followed them through the house. The dreadful language they used, some of which was addressed to my sisters, impresses me with horror to this day. Money seemed the sole object of their visit that night, as they repeatedly said, “Give me more money I tell you;” assuring my father that, if he did not give them more, they would murder him. They even said from minute to minute, while they held a pistol to his forehead, “Now you’re just gone.” They then forced him to kneel down, repeating the same words and presenting the pistol. Seeing his Situation, I threw myself on my knees on the floor, and clung with my arms round him; when the ruffians pushed me away, saying, “You’ll be killed if you stop there.” But my father drew me towards him more closely, saying, “She would rather be hurt if I am.” They snapped the pistol several times, which perhaps was not charged, as it did not go off. When they found there was no more money they desisted, asking for watches, which were given them, and at length they went away, after eating and drinking all they could obtain, and charging my father to have more money for them the next time, or they declared they would have his life. So saying, one of them, who appeared in a great rage, and had a cavalry sword in his hand, cut at the handrail of the hall stairs, the mark of which still remains.

About a fortnight afterwards–before the family withdrew to rest, my father had a presentiment that the robbers night come again that night, and sat up later than usual. After midnight they arrived, knocking furiously as before, and fully prepared to plunder the house. They soon emptied the drawers, and took all the wearing apparel they could get, that did not betray the costume of Friends; so that we were deprived of nearly all our clothes. On perceiving that they were taking all, my mother begged one shirt and one pair of stockings for my father, which they threw at her face in the rudest manner, using dreadful language. They behaved most violently, and, spreading quilts and sheets on the floor, filled them with all sorts of clothing they could get; they then called for victuals to eat and drink, desiring my sister to drink their health, putting the cup of small beer to her lips, and bidding her “wish long life and success to the babes of the wood,” as they called themselves. This she steadfastly refused. They then declared they would come again in two weeks, and take us all to live with them in the wood, “and to cut bread and butter for the babes.” Their behavior was so insulting, and my dear parents were so fearful of these threats being realized, that they determined on sending us young females to my cousins Goff and Neville, who were then merchants in Ross; and there we remained for some weeks, until tranquillity was restored to the county.

After the robbers had finished their repast, they threatened to take my father’s life, behaving very outrageously, and saying they must take him to their main guard at a little distance and murder him there, as they did not like to do it in his own house. They then led him out, and we all attempted to follow; but they pushed my mother back, saying that she should not come–it would be too painful a sight for her to see her husband murdered, which they certainly would do. It was very dark, but my sister Arabella positively refused to leave her father, and they allowed her to accompany him. Whilst crossing the lawn, the root of a beech-tree, projecting above the path, caused him to stumble; he then sat down, and said, if they were determined to take his life, they might as well do it there. My dear sister stood by in a state of awful suspense. They rudely asked him if he had anything to say, telling him his time was come. On hearing this, he remained quite silent, and they, not understanding it, hurried him to speak; when he said, he prayed that the Almighty might be merciful to him, and be pleased to forgive him his trespasses and sins, and also to forgive them, as he did sincerely. They said that was a good wish, and inquired if he had anything more to say. He requested them to be tender towards his wife and child- ren; on which they said, “Good-night, Mr Goff: we only wanted to rattle the mocuses out of you,” –meaning guineas.

When they took my father forcibly out of the house, my mother, though much distressed, was favoured with her usual quietude and composure of mind, trusting in the Lord, who had been pleased to support her through many deep trials, and then forsook her not. So strong was her confidence, that she even called to the servant for some warm water, to prepare a little negus for my dear father against his return; when I said, “It is not likely we shall ever see my father again alive, for they are going to murder him:” on which she replied, with firmness, “I have faith to believe they will never be permitted to take his life.” In about a quarter of an hour my valued and tender parent returned, pale and exhausted; and, throwing himself on the sofa, said, “This work will finish me; I cannot hold out much longer,” which proved to be the case.

Remarkable also was the protecting care vouchsafed to my uncle Joshua Wilson (my mother’s brother), whose residence at Mount Prospect, near Rathangan, was forcibly entered by a party of rebels. One night, after the family had retired to rest, they were aroused by a tremendous volley of musketry, which at once shattered the hall door; and a loud cry was raised of “Arms, money, or life!” with most awful swearing. My uncle went hastily down in his dressing-gown, followed by his wife, who heard them exclaim, “You are a dead man;” and seeing one of the men present a pistol at my uncle’s head, she rushed between him and the ruffian, exclaiming, “Thou shalt not, and darest not, take my husband’s life, or touch him; for the arm of the Almighty is stronger than thou art.” The man appeared confounded, and let the pistol drop from his powerless hand; it was very remarkable that the whole party left the house soon after, without doing any further injury. This great shock, and the alarming state of the country at that time, affected my uncle so much, that he left next day his comfortable and handsome residence, in which he had resided happily for forty years, and sailed for England, where he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives at Taplow Hill, near London.

  Many were the heartrending sufferings that some families endured, being turned out of their peaceful homes, and spending many nights in the fields and ditches. Others, who still remained in their houses, were wonderfully favoured with faith and patience under great privations, conscientiously adhering to the revealed law of their God, and thus experiencing, to their humbling admiration, the name of the Lord to be “a strong tower,” in which the righteous find safety. On taking a retrospect of this awful period, and of the strength of mind evinced by my beloved parents, sisters, and others, my heart overflows with living praise and thanksgiving to the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who was indeed “strength in weakness, riches in poverty, and a very present helper in the time of need.”

The repeated shocks and trials, which my honoured father endured during these fearful times, were too great for his strength of body; and on the 23rd of Twelfth Month, in the same year, 1798, surrounded by many of his family, he gently and peacefully breathed his last, being then in his sixty-third year. Our merciful Saviour sweetly sustained him in faith and confidence; his Almighty arm being underneath to comfort and support him whilst passing through the valley of the shadow of death. He never expressed a murmur; but, in humble Christian patience and acquiescence with the Divine will, often evinced his thankfulness for the mercies received. To one of my sisters, whom he observed weeping a short time before his death, he said, “Do not shed a tear for me, my dear; but rather rejoice and be thankful that the Almighty has been pleased to permit me to die in peace, with my dear family around me; and not by the hands of wicked and unreasonable men.” He took my hand affectionately, and said, “My dear child, I must leave you all;” and, after a pause, added, “Keep near to the Lord, and he will be a Father and a Friend to thee when I am no more.”

Horetown now passed to my eldest brother, William Goff, and my beloved mother removed to Dublin. She survived her affectionate husband nineteen years, and died in that city in the seventy-eighth of her age, in perfect peace. For several years she was in the station of an elder. She always endeavoured to rule her own house well, and was accounted worthy of double honour, and much beloved by her many descendants. Sixty children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, were living at the period of her decease, in the year 1817.

She was grand-daughter of Thomas Wilson, an account of whose religious labours is published with James Dickinson’s. Her last illness was short, being caused by a paralytic seizure, of which she had previously had several. On the morning before the seizure, she entered the drawing-room with an expression of countenance remarkably solemn, and, kneeling down at my side, engaged in fervent vocal supplication for her numerous family, that the blessing of the Most High might rest on them, and that He might be pleased to continue with her to the end. Many consoling expressions she uttered, and when near the close she said to me, “May the blessing of the everlasting hills surround thee, my dear child, when I am gone.” She was perfectly conscious to the last, and sweetly resigned to her divine Master’s will.

It is comforting to have a well-grounded hope, that, through the mediation and redeeming love of our blessed Saviour, the spirits of both my beloved parents have entered into the mansions prepared for the faithful; and that they are, through unmerited mercy, united to the just of all generations, “who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”– to whom be glory and honour forever and ever!

Thus have I cause to commemorate the great goodness and mercy extended by our Heavenly Father to his unworthy creatures throughout a season of inexpressible trial and distress. May his gracious dealings never be forgotten by one who feels undeserving of the least of all his mercies, and who, in taking a retrospective view, can gratefully adapt the language, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits!”

I am the only one now remaining of twenty-two children, and ever felt much attachment to my parents, whose pious and watchful care over their large family in our early years, lives in my heart as a sweet memorial, calling for gratitude to Him who gives us pious friends. This feeling, I believe, was cherished by all the rest of their children, now, I humbly trust, through unmerited mercy and redeeming love, united to them in that happy state, where all trials and sorrows are at an end, and where all is joy unspeakable and full of glory.  

The foregoing has been written from memory, after a lapse of nearly fifty-nine years, the affecting events being still vivid in my recollection.  

Dinah- Wilson Goff

Penzance, Cornwall, Twelfth Month 23rd, 1856. 

A sum of money was raised by Government to compensate the sufferers in property, and a portion of it was offered to my father, Jacob Goff, with others, in consideration of the great loss and damage he sustained; but, as a member of the Society of Friends, and not taking up arms in defence of Government, he felt that he could not accept it.

  The minds of many Friends having been deeply impressed with a thankful and humble sense of the many mercies, preservations and deliverances, which our Society experienced, during the connections which prevailed in this nation, in and about the year 1798; it was thought desirable that some memorial of them should be preserved–as well in commemoration of those remarkable preservations, as to transmit to posterity some account of the signal mercy of the Almighty, who is indeed a shield to those who put their trust in Him

It seems not unsuitable to observe, that for years previous to the breaking out of the rebellion in 1798, many of the inhabitants of this nation suffered great depredations, by persons breaking into their houses at night, and demanding and taking their arms. In the years 1795 and 1796, the sundry Quarterly Meetings were concerned to recommend to Friends, who had guns in their houses, to destroy them; which was united with and confirmed by the National Half-year’s Meeting for Ireland, held in Dublin, in 1796, as appears by the following minute, viz:

“National Meeting, Fourth Month, 1796

‘The subject of some in profession with us having guns in their houses, which might be made use of for the destruction of mankind, and other instruments of a like nature, having come weightily under the consideration of Friends in the three provinces; this Meeting, under a solid feeling, is of the judgment that all such should be destroyed, the more fully and clearly to support our peaceable and Christian testimony in these perilous times.

It appears that the labour of Friends, to carry into effect this recommendation of the National Meeting, was attended with a good degree of success; such Friends as had guns having very generally destroyed them. We have abundant cause to believe that this concern originated from the influence of best Wisdom, and that, under Divine Providence, it was a means of lessening (in some degree) the shedding of human blood; as those weapons would probably have fallen into the hands of violent men; and likewise, that it tended to preserve some of the members of our Society, who might, if they had had guns in their houses, in an unguarded moment of surprise or attack, have used them so as to take the lives of some of their fellow-creatures.

The winter Half-year’s Meeting was, in the year 1797, discontinued; and, as matters of importance to the Society might arise, requiring immediate notice, a Committee was appointed to meet as occasion might require, to consider of and assist in such things of that nature as should occur in the interval between the Yearly Meetings, relative to our religious Society.

The commotions in this land, and the consequent sufferings of Friends, furnished abundant occasion for this Committee to take into their serious consideration the state of their suffering brethren; for, by the confusion and scenes of war that followed, several members of our Society suffered much loss of property; by which some were reduced from having comfortable houses and property, to want the assistance of their friends for the support of their families. The cases of such were, accordingly, the subject of the consideration of said Committee; who, in 1799, returned a report to the Yearly Meeting then held, of which the following is an extract:

“We apprehend it proper to inform the Yearly Meeting that, shortly after our appointment divers members of our religious Society having suffered loss and damage, in their property and substance, in various ways, by the disturbance which existed in the nation, we came to the judgment that it would be inconsistent for any of our members, in most, if not in all cases, to seek for or receive compensation from Government, or other legal redress by presentment; and having received accounts from different parts that divers Friends had suffered so materially as to stand in need of assistance, we recommended to the different Monthly Meetings to set forward a liberal subscription, to afford some relief to those Friends. The sum of £3,847 ls.9d. has been subscribed and received; and, a number of suffering cases having been laid before us, we have adjudged the sum of £2,217 7s. 2d. for their relief; their losses appearing to amount to upwards of £7,500, exclu- sive of many cases not yet disposed of or returned, and there remains a fund of £1,630 4s. 7d. still to be applied for, this purpose. We have also re- cieved account of the losses of sundry Friends to a considerable amount, whose circumstances did not make it necessary for them to receive any relief at present.”

The said Committee further reported to the Yearly Meeting in 1800, viz:–

“We have attended to the cases of those Friends who have suffered in the late commotions, and believe suitable assistance has been afforded to such; and that there are not now likely to be any further cases transmitted to the Committee. The amount distributed to those who appeared to stand in need is £2,852 15s. 10d.,and the balance remaining in the hands of the Treasurer being £994 15s. l0d., we have come to the judgment that it be returned to the different Monthly Meetings, In proportion to the sums sent up by them; and that it ought to be returned, in like proportions, to the Friends subscribing the same.”

The Yearly Meeting in London, 1799, being dipped into sympathy with Friends in Ireland, cordially offered their assistance if further exigencies should require it. Neither did distance of place prevent our brethren in a distant land from desiring to contribute to the necessities of their friends in distress; for, by the following extract from the Epistle from the Yearly Meeting, held at Philadelphia. in Fourth Month, 1799, it appears that the same spirit of brotherly affection and sympathy prevailed In the hearts of Friends there, viz:

“We retain in affectionate remembrance the sympathy of Friends in your nation, and the generous relief you afforded to our brethren, who were much stripped of their property by the war in this country some years since; and we are thankful in feeling a degree of the same brotherly love, by which we are made one in the Lord wherever dispersed or situated; desiring, if at this time, or in consequence of future trials, brethren among you should be reduced to similar circumstances, we may receive information and be permitted to follow your benevolent example.”

It is worthy of commemoration, and cause of humble thankfulness to the Preserver of men, that amidst the carnage and destruction which frequently prevailed in some parts, and notwithstanding the jeopardy in which some Friends stood every hour, and that they had frequently to pass through violent and enraged men in going to, and returning from, our religious meetings–which, with a very few exceptions, were constantly kept up– the lives of the members of our Society were signally preserved.

The following extract from the Epistle from the Yearly Meeting in Dublin, 1801, to the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia, exhibits the singular preservation we then experienced:-

“Your Epistle given forth in 1799, addressed to Friends in Ireland, we received, which feelingly carried with it genuine marks of strong affection and near sympathy with us, under the trials which Friends in this land, previously thereto, and about that time, laboured under.

“It is cause of humble thankfulness that the dispensation was not of a very long continuance, though many Friends suffered very deeply in their property while the conflict continued; it fell much more severely on some parts of the nation than on others. A considerable sum was raised, which, under the direction and management of a national Committee, was administered to the relief of the sufferers, in such proportion as, from accounts transmitted of their loss and circumstances, they appeared to require. When their wants were supplied, there was a redundancy, which was directed to be returned to the subscribers~ so that we do not at present stand in need of making any other use of your brotherly offer of assistance than to express a grateful sense thereof. It is cause of thankful acknowledgment to the God and Father of all our mercies, on retrospection to that gloomy season, when in some places Friends did not know but that every day would be their last, seeing and hearing of so many of their neighbours being put to death, that no member of our Society fell a sacrifice in that way but one young man.”

May the mercy and loving-kindness of a gracious God, thus signally manifested, be so deeply impressed on our hearts, that the complaint taken up formerly respecting a highly favoured people may not be applicable to us: “He forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” But in grateful remembrance of the Lord’s gracious dealings towards us, and of the preservation we experienced in those times of imminent peril, may we be concerned to walk in deep humility and circumspection before Him all the days of our lives, having our expectation and dependence on the Lord alone. “Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!” And may we thereby be incited to walk in all respects consistently with our peaceable principles, that so the excellency thereof may be conspicuous in our conduct, and the standard of truth and righteousness exalted amongst the nations, whereby we may be enabled, from living experience, to adopt the language of the royal psalmist, “0 Israel, trust thou in the Lord: He is their help and their shield!”

Read and approved in our Yearly Meeting, held in Dublin, the 30th of Fourth Month, 1810, and in and on behalf thereof signed,

Samuel Bewley,
Clerk to the Meeting this year.

Leave a comment