Posts Tagged ‘antiques’

A Bitterly Cold Day in the Workhouse and Thoughts on John Byrne

March 28, 2014

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Some weeks ago we attended the Prayer and Fellowship event at the Faith Mission Centre in Durrow, but before travelling home we spent an interesting time in the Donaghmore Famine Workhouse Museum, County Laois. Renovations are still being carried out here but I have to say that I found it a most comprehensive and fascinating guided tour, giving an insight into how life must have been for those who were unfortunate enough to have to live there at the time. It was so icy in that gloomy place, to the point that I could imagine very vividly indeed what it must have been like to be confined within its cold grey walls all those years ago. In the mid 19th century, Ireland, like the rest of the British Isles, was dotted all over with these workhouses which supposedly were a superior alternative to starvation on the outside.
In reality terrible hardship and disease awaited those who entered the workhouse. Standing in the infirmary, I looked for a moment at the bars on the windows and suddenly shivered when I thought about how whole families were brought so low. To be ill at all within a workhouse would almost certainly have meant death in those days.
The tour also took in a wide variety of antique agricultural implements from the time when the building was used as a co-operative from the 1920’s – a different era but still there were many hardships for people.
While we were given the tour and commentary about the building in its workhouse era, we had to climb some wooden steps to get to another level where I saw what I thought was a young boy lying on the floor. For a moment I stopped in shock but then realised that this was just a model, showing how the inmates would have gone to sleep on the hard floor at night, on a sack filled with oaten straw. Somehow I suspect that they got little sleep under those overcrowded, cold and uncomfortable conditions.
The Lord never intended that families be segregated like this and that children, especially, should live under such inhumane conditions. If life here offered no dignity, death offered even less. There were many deaths in this particular workhouse – and a communal grave into which bodies were emptied from a cart without ceremony. This great pit is still in evidence today; the person who gave us the tour told us that this grave was to be properly marked, in respect for those who had been buried here.
According to records, one poor soul (John Byrne) who was ‘retarded,’ soiled himself and was subsequently ‘washed’ in a nearby cold river as a punishment, with the result that he ended his days in the infirmary, having caught pneumonia. I can only imagine how he must have felt in those icy cold waters on a February day all those years ago.
In all, three eras are represented within the confines of the great grey buildings: the workhouse era of poverty and famine; the age of the co-operative society, and also the era when it was occupied by British soldiers (the ‘Black and Tans’) during Ireland’s war of independence. Graffiti is still in evidence on the walls from the time it was occupied by the latter.
As I followed our guide (we were his only customers that cold day) I thought about how much misery those cold grey walls had been witness to – and how many injustices had been perpetrated within this terrible place and the heartbreaking stories of the many souls who had lived here. I especially thought again about young John Byrne and how he had suffered so cruelly.
Even in this modern age life can be cruel – very often children and elderly people are the victims of neglect and abuse and other vulnerable sections of our own communities can be open to abuse too. In recent times I have encountered a lack of compassion for those who really need it; many people in this world are self-seeking and self-centred, caring little for the deep troubles of others.
Somehow the lovely hymn “Sing we the King Who is Coming to Reign” came to mind when all these thoughts were going through my mind.
As this world with all its turmoil draws to a conclusion, the people of God should not be surprised to find more and more opposition and hostility towards them especially. Society may have advanced in technological terms but the current state of the world we live in could be described in these words:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection….” (see: 2Timothy 3v1-5)
Jesus said: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10v22)
And praise God injustice and cruelty shall be no more for…“Wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King!”
Sing we the King who is coming to reign;
Glory to Jesus the Lamb that was slain;
Life and salvation His empire shall bring,
Joy to the nations, when Jesus is King.

Chorus
Come, let us sing praise to our King,
Jesus, our King, Jesus, our King;
This is our song, who to Jesus belong
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.

Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin,
Doubts shall not darkness the witness within,
Hell hath no terror, and death hath no sting,
Love is victorious when Jesus is King.

All men shall dwell in His marvellous light,
Races long severed His love shall unite,
Justice and truth from His sceptre shall spring,
Wrong shall be ended, when Jesus is King.

Kingdom of Christ, for thy coming we pray;
Hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day,
When this new song Thy creation shall sing
Satan is vanquished, and Jesus is King!

C. Silvester Horne

Links to this hymn: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/i/singking.htm

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“Little Pillows” by Frances Ridley Havergal (1891)

February 19, 2014

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Very often people have house clearances when someone in their family dies and invariably many books of interest are deposited with charity shops. The latter can certainly be a good source for out of print and very old or rare Christian books! It is also true to say that many people may recognise the value in an antique but are simultaneously blind to its riches in the spiritual realm.

 Just recently my daughter picked up a copy of a tiny (approximately 4.5 inches by 3 inches) antique book, “Little Pillows” by Frances Ridley Havergal from a charity shop. This little book was clearly meant for children but the beautiful simplicity in the way in which it was written has been a great comfort to me in recent days… or should I say nights. I have read a little chapter every night before going to sleep, which is clearly what the book was intended for, as it is described by the author as “A Book of Good-Night Thoughts.”

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), although her life was short, was a prolific writer. An English poet and hymn writer, she also wrote melodies, tracts and works for children. It is wonderful to think that this writer’s works are still touching and comforting souls in today’s world, although she has been with the Lord for 135 years now. It is somehow irrelevant to me that “Little Pillows” was written for children, for it has touched me with the love that inspired it to be written – more than any great work of theology.

In the first chapter an explanation is given on how the little book came to be written. An aunt, on saying goodnight to her little niece, asks her: “Now shall I give you a little pillow?” On hearing this, the little girl responds that she has one and then in the author’s words…

“Then I told her that, just as we wanted a nice soft pillow to lay our heads down at night, our hearts wanted a pillow too, something to rest upon, some true, sweet word that we might go to sleep upon happily and peacefully. And that it was a good plan always to take a little text for our pillow every night…”

As a child when I had difficulty sleeping, my mother always said to me: “Think about all the nice things.” She too loves the words from Philippians 4v8…

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

What better way to go to sleep, than with lovely, pure thoughts based upon the Word of God?

The following are two links to “Little Pillows, A Book of Good-Night Thoughts” by Frances Ridley Havergal (1891)…

https://archive.org/details/littlepillows00havegoog

http://wonder.riverwillow.com.au/books/little_pillows.htm

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“Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord…”

February 22, 2013

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Just recently my daughter purchased this lovely old picture with its ornate frame in a charity shop, for the sum of just £5! The scene is evocative of an old rural way of life that was always close to my heart. When she first held her purchase up to me, tears came into my eyes and I was struck by those words and touched by them – because I believe that they were intended especially for me at that very time on that very day. The full verse is: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55v22)

Who else can we cast our burdens upon? Yes, we may ask faithful friends and acquaintances to pray for situations in our lives and we may open our hearts to those who are closest to us, but when all is said and done, there is only One on whom we can cast the great burdens of our hearts and the heartaches that would weigh us down: the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

David, in the midst of all his battles, wrote this and many other such psalms in anguish, for he had many enemies. In the following Psalm (56), he declares: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.” (Verses1&2)

Today, if we seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, we too will have many enemies. Indeed, the very demons of hell are against us. Yet “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8v31)

Paul said of Satan… “we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2Cor 2v11) He will use all sort of strategies against us but with David we can say: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Psalm 56v3&4)

I feel that this lovely picture should have pride of place in our home, where perhaps it will touch other hearts over the years, whatever their spiritual condition. May the Lord bless it to all who read.

On Genealogy – and a Spiritual Inheritance

May 23, 2011

It must have been a nostalgic moment for President Obama when he first encountered the little Irish village of Moneygall in County Offaly, from where his great-great-great grandfather emigrated in 1850. I had similar feelings when I first visited the tiny cottage on the shores of Lough Neagh, where my great-grandmother gave birth to ten children. Not all of those children lived into adulthood and of those who survived, many emigrated to the U.S.A, because of the economic circumstances of the time. I often wonder are there any descendants of those children still alive today… Photographs of my ancestors were passed on to me by an elderly relative – and a wedding ring belonging to that same great-grandmother who had the ten children. To this day I wear it, this precious heirloom… and I will pass it on to my eldest daughter.

I often daydream about the life of my hard-working great-grandmother (Mrs. Elizabeth Turkington) who lived under such humble circumstances. But where are they today, the descendants of those daughters who emigrated in the nineteenth century? Sometimes I take the well-worn ring off, hold it in the palm of my hand and dream of how it must have been for her all those years ago…

Someday, when I get the time, I hope to delve into old church records pertaining to my ancestors in that area. Perhaps after much research I may even find at least one descendant from that original family who is still alive! I believe that as we grow older, that yearning to find our ancestral roots grows more intense and yet I know that for those who belong to the Lord, it is more important by far to reach our living relations with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The years pass for us all, with their joys and sorrows, just as it did for our ancestors from long ago. One generation follows another quite quickly and a few generations later we will be forgotten of those who still live on the earth. Still, I believe that Christian writers who live in this age can leave an inheritance of spiritual significance, for the words that we write can live on to challenge, convict and encourage.

I would therefore encourage those who have a sincere desire to reach out to souls – to keep writing to the glory of their Lord and Saviour. Yes, there will be discouragements and there will be those who misunderstand or even mock your efforts – but your writings can survive the rolling years, inspiring others long after you have been taken Home.

Antique heirlooms and photographs may be beautiful possessions – but how wonderful to know that the Christian’s writings can survive to reach future generations with the truth and love that has been gleaned from God’s precious Word. “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” (Psalm 45v1)