BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES OF MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS WHO WERE RESIDENT IN IRELAND.
By Mary Leadbeater. Printed by Harvey and Darton, Gracechurch Street, London, 1823
Family History Library, Salt Lake City Utah
British, 941.5, K2lm
George Rooke was born at Boltonwood in Cumberland, in the year 1652, of parents who were religious characters. He lost his father when he was eleven years old, and his mother being left with several children, a widow, and in narrow circumstances, he got but little school-learning. At sixteen he was apprenticed to Thomas Drewry, a carpenter and joiner, one of the society of Friends; whose conduct in his family was exemplary, and who treated his apprentice with kindness. Being invited, he accompanied his master to a meeting, in which the ministry of John Graves had such an effect on his mind, that he felt it right for him to take up the cross, to become one of the despised people called Quakers, and to adopt their simple language, habit and manners.
In the time of his apprenticeship, and soon after he joined Friends, he met with an accident which endangered his life. Returning home on a dark night, he fell into a coal-pit, twenty-seven yards deep. From this perilous situation he could not, by his own efforts, extricate himself; and there, in the spring of life, with the unimpaired gifts of health and strength, he was likely to perish miserably by a lingering death. But his race was not to end so soon: warfare and trials were not to be thus escaped. His moans were heard by some persons, who came that way for water to a neighboring pit. They called to him, and on his answering, brought a light; and one of them, who was let down, fastening a rope to a belt aroung his body, the youth was drawn up almost exhausted, with two ribs broken, but otherwise uninjured. He soon recovered.
On the expiration of his apprenticeship, he commenced business on his own account, working either in his own shop, or with his neighbours; constant in his attendance on meetings, both on first and other days of the week. About the twenty-fifth year of his age, he appeared as a public minister, acceptably to his friends; the more so, as he was cautious and fearful of himself. Thomas Trafford coming from Ireland, to visit Friends in the north of England, desired to have his company. He was unwilling to give up to this service, being sensible of his own weakness, till encouraged by his elder friends to consider the proposal. He did so; and in consequence, united himself with this Friend in the work of the gospel. And thus an attachment was formed between them which continued through life; for their friendship was built on the sure foundation, which the storms incident to this state of being could not shake. They had meetings in many places, which afforded satisfaction: "For," says George Rooke, "in those early days, the Lord's power did mightily break in upon the people, to the tendering of many hearts, and refreshing his heritage." This was George Rooke's first journey; his next was with Peter Fearon. They acquainted George Fox with their concern to visit Scotland, who gave them advice, and recommended it to them to travel on foot, as the warfare between the Scotch covenanters and the army of Charles II.commanded by the duke of Monmouth, made it probable that they would be deprived of their horses by one party or the other. The first meeting they had was at Kelso, the day of the battle at Bothwell Bridge, wher the covenanters were routed. George Rooke mentions a meeting which they held at the lord (perhaps, laird) Swinton's, who, with his wife and some of their servants, had joined Friends. And a brother of this lord, a military man, protected them from disturbance, when they had a meeting at Leith, wher meetings had been much interrupted, and Friends abused. They left Edinburgh with peaceful minds, and on their road from thence met with several parties of soldiers, who, George Rooke relates, "carried very civilly to us; for we, keeping in the innocency of the truth, were preserved following our Master's business, as it is written; 'Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of tht which is good?'"
After paying a second visit to Scotland, in 1681, he went from thence for Ireland. At Portpatrick, finding the people, on the first day of the week, sauntering about, and attending no place of worship, because their pastor was in prison for debt, he had a meeting with them, much to their satisfaction and his own. He landed in Ulster province, and the first meeting he had in Ireland, was in Lurgan. From thence he went to Dublin, to the national meeting; "where, " says he, "there were a great many of the ancient Friends, from several parts of the nation, come there to worship God, and to manage the affairs of truth in a godly discipline, which I greatly rejoiced at; and they were very loving and respectful to me, which was great encouragement to me, I being then but a youth."
After visiting the meetings in this land, with his countryman, William Carter, they attended the half-yearly meeting, held at Dublin in 3d month; where they met several from England, who came to visit their brethren. "Now, " he ads, "the yearly meeting in London approaching, after I had staid some meetings in Cjmberland, I went up, in company with several Friends, who were appointed representatives for that county, to attend it; where I was glad to see several of the first stock, both ministers and elders, the remembrance of whom is comfortable to me to this day." After this meeting was over, (a confirming one to him,) he travelled through several parts of England, and met with the Separatists at Hull, where the mouth of the gainsayers were stopped by the power of truth. Friends suffered much from these people; being, at some places, kept out of their meeting houses by them, and obliged to hold their meetings in the open air, sometimes in frost and snow. Government was also severe upon them at this time.
When not engaged in religious services, George Rooke was diligently employed at his trade, careful not to be burdensome to his friends. Of his second visit to Ireland, he gives this account: "I felt drawings in my mind to visit Ireland again, having my true friend, Thomas Wilkinson, for my companion. We landed in Dublin, where we were kindly received by Friends; and after having had some meetings to good satisfaction, we travelled to the north, and visited Friends in that province, and the most, or all the meetings of Friends in the nation; the Lord's goodness going along with us, and giving us utterance and skill to divide the word and testimony that we were called to bear. And finding our spirits clear, we parted with friends in great love, and returned home in peace."
He proceeds: "After I had staid some time about home, I found drawings to visit Friends in Westmorland and Durham: and at Stockton, where I had a meeting, the mayor of the town sent one of his own officers to the meeting, to bring me before him; and when I came he tendered me the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and because I refused to swear, for conscience sake, (because it was abreach of Christ's command, who said, 'Swear not at all,') then he would have me enter into bonds for my good behavior, and to appear at the next Quarter Sessions. But I told him I was bound to good behaviour already. 'What,' said he, 'have you been before some justice of the peace, that has bound you already?' 'No,' said I; 'but I am bound by principle, to behave myself towards the king, and all his subjects, as becomes a Christian.' 'But, for all that,' said he, 'you must enter into bonds.' 'I cannot,' said I; 'for I believe thou and I will differ in that: thou wilt call that a breach of good behaviour, which I think is good behaviour.' 'What is that?' said he. 'I suppose thou wilt call it a breach of good behaviour, if I go to one of our meetings before the sessions.' He said, sure enough he would. 'Then,' I said, 'I would not bring any of my friends into that snare, to have them bound for me.' He said it was but a month to the meetings so long? 'No,' said I; 'if the Lord spare me health, I can no more forbear going to meetings, than Daniel could forbear praying to his God, although the decree was but for thirty days.' So he committed me to the custody of a sergeant that night, and the next day he sent to know if I was in another mind than I was in the day before. I sent him word I was in the same mind that I was in before, and that I could not enter into bonds. And then he wrote a mittimus, and got a man to convey me to Durham jail; where I was kept prisoner till the sessions, when I was called before the justices, who tendered me the oaths again, and asked me if I would swear. I told them I did not know that I had ever sworn an oath in my life. 'It may be,' said they, 'he knows not how to swear: read the oath over to him.' So they read the oath, and I told them that I could not, for conscience sake, swear, because our Savior had said, 'Swear not at all.' So they committed me again to the custody of the jailer. About a month after, our friend Robert Wardell came to the city, and stirred himself pretty much, and spoke to several of the justices for my liberty, and obtained it, that I should go home, and stay till they sent for me, which they never did."
About the year 1686, George Rooke, being at a meeting at Haverfordwest, a widow, who was present, being affected by his ministry, offered him the parish called St. David's Head, she having the advowson of it, which he conscientiously refused.
George Rooke visited Ireland four times before he settled in this country. In 1686 he married Joan, the daughter of John Cooke, and settled in Limerick; but still continued diligent in the exercise of his gift, to the edification of the churches. Happy was it for him that his heart was fixed on more enduring substance than the perishable things of this life, when national calamities involved him, as well others, in deep distress! During the first siege of Limerick, military men were stationed in his house; and his wife was abliged to watch over the provisions she had prepared for her family, lest the soldiers should make a prey of them. One day, just after she had been thus engaged, a cannon-ball entering the house, dashed to pieces the seat she had quitted beside her kitchen-fire. The soldiers were disposed to be turbulent, and planned how they should intimidate the family. They conversed in Irish, not suspecting that Joan Rooke, who was present, understood them. She heard them out, and then calmly told them, that she knew what they said, and would inform their officer of their purpose, if she perceived any attempt to execute it. this alarmed them: they became submissive, and were no longer troublesome. Yet, suspicion resting on the protestant inhabitans of the city, they were subjected to militay oppression; and, at two several times, George Rooke and other citizens were imprisoned, (not knowing on what account,) on pain of death if submission was refused. These imprisonments were but for a short time, the longest not exceeding two days; and were probably intended more to show the power vested in the governor, than to exert that power to the injury of the peaceable inhabitants. After the first siege was raised, the governor informed George Rooke, that, if he chose to remove into the enemy's quarters, he must agree with him for a pass. There were great preparations for another siege; their house had been shot through in many places by cannon balls; friends had written to them from Dublin, advising them to quit Limerick, though they should leave all their property behind. They concluded on taking their departure. It was but little of value they were able to take with them, in comparison of what they gave up: their house was well stocked, and their furniture excellent. So far from ever again desiring to possess such accommodations, Joan Rooke, from that time, aspired to nothing in her house but what was simple, whole, and clean. She left the place of her birth, with her husband and three little children, to undertake a long and perilous journey, accompanied by a guide, on whose fidelity their lives appeared to depend, through a country exposed to contending armies, and what was still worse, to the depredations of the pitiless Raparees, who lay in wait to plunder and destroy. The distress and alarm with which they were surrounded, increased when they saw one of their neighbours lying murdered by the way-side. That strength which is gained by a reliance on the protection of Providence, was their support, in those dismal days of tedious travel, in which they were obliged to use caution to avoid the banditti; and this caused delay on the road. Their guide was faithful, and his integrity was remembered and repaid by them, when in his old age, he stood in need of a friend. Their friends in Dublin, rejoicing in their preservation, welcomed them with a tender and affectionate reception.
From Dublin they sailed for Cumberland, where they remained about two years, George Rooke steadily obeying the divine command to go forth, when he believed it was issued to him. In a journey to Scotland, he was accompanied by a valuable elder, Jonathan Bowman, and they were usefully engaged in stirring up the few Friends there, to support the testimonies of their religious profession: a duty which had been too much neglected. He thus relates a circumstance which occurred on their return; "Comming to a place called Killy, on the borders of England, we lodged there, and having some victuals dressed for supper, we sate down to refresh ourselves; and waiting upon the Lord to feel the motion of life, I was opened to give thanks to Him for his providence, that had attended our travel, as also for the mercies that we were about to receive. And the woman of the house, being a Presbyterian, seemed to be mighty well pleased that such men were come to her house; but her husband said he never heard so much from any of our people. 'What people are they?' said his wife. 'They are Quakers,' said he, 'Nay,' said she, 'they are Presbyterians.' 'Nay,' said he, 'but they are Quakers.' 'But are you Quakers?' said she. 'Yea,' said I, 'they call us so.' 'Then,' said she, 'I will not eat with you.' She then began to run out against us. So, after we had done supper, I began to talk with her very mildly; and she was so far reached, that she became very loving. Thus the Lord makes way for his truth, in those that seem to oppose it."
In 1693, George Rooke settled in Dublin for the remainder of his life. He and his wife sold their estate in Limerick, to enable them to follow business; and though diligent in providing for the maintenance and education of an increasing family, he slackened not in his zeal for the promotion of piety. He was much concerned on account of the affirmation, which the legislature, kinkly yielding to their religious scruples, had granted to the people called Quakers, to be accepted instead of an oath. The first form of this was not easy to the minds of many Friends, because the sacred name wa mentioned therein: they were, therefore, not satisfied to avial themselves of it, and this exposed them to a continuance of suffering. However, in course of time, such a one was granted as was to the satisfaction of all. In his travelling by the sea-coast, George Rooke was earnest in advising Friends "against any clandestine way of dealing, whereby the government is defrauded, and the fair dealer is hurt."
In 1737, George Rooke lost his beloved wife, of whom he gives the following testimony: "She was a careful and loving wife, and good help-meet, both in things temporal and spiritual; always willing and ready to help me forward, when I found a concern and drawings to travel abroad in truth's service; and in my absence, was very diligent in taking care of the family and prudent management of our outward affairs, as also in a circumspect conversation, and tender, motherly advice to our children, for their good; and was troubled when she saw any of them, or others, who descended from religious parents, and were educated in the profession of truth, take liberty in conversation, habit, or speech, contrary to the holy principle we profess; exhorting them to mind the truth in themselves, whereby they might be preserved from the hurtful conversation, and foolish fashions of the world, in apparel or otherwise. She was visited with a lingering sickness for several months before she died, and preserved in much patience and innocency, as a child; and was glad to see honest Friends, who came in love to visit her, though at sometimes so weak of memory, that she could not distinguish them by name. And as she died in his favour, and is at rest from all her troubles, and various exercises which had attended here.
"She quietly departed, the 17th of the 7th month (Sept.), 1737; and was decently interred in Friends' burying place at Cork-street, the 20th of the same, aged near eighty-four years; and may friends and neighbours accompanied her corpse to the burial, among who she had lived in love and good esteem. "George Rooke. "Earl Street, in Dublin, the 20th of the 12th month (Feb.), 1737."
With this, the testimony given forth by the women's meeting of Dublin fully concurs; mentioning her as a mother of the church, whose exhortations in meetings of discipline were weighty and lively, recommending to faithfulness in support of our ancient testimony; for truth, she said, was the same as ever.
At this time, his only daughter, Rachel Carleton, a widow, lived with George Rooke, and with her children, comforted his declining years, while he waited patiently for the termination of his long journey through this world. Beloved by all ranks, and all ages, he was often surrounded by the little children of his neighbours; who, accosting him as a grandfather, looked up with delight to his benign countenance. If it happened, which it seldom did, that he was treated with unkindness, he bore it calmly, forgave, and seemed to forget that such a circumstance had occurred.
Thus he lived, in the enjoyment of tranquillity, till, in his ninety-first year, a pleurisy,in a few days, put an end to his long and exemplary life.