November 26th, 1894
Central Hotel, Thalee, Ireland
My Beloved Angee,
I wrote you a few lines from Athlone this morning and having some time to wait here for a train to Galway this evening will tell you about the matters of interest at Athlone which my note made reference to. I have noticed in the papers lately that there has been in Cork and Athlone especially some street preaching which has brought out the most terrible persecution and hostility on the part of Roman Catholics who have yelled at and stoned the evangelists and often covered them with rotten eggs so that more than once they have had to fly for their lives and seek protection of the police. At Athlone it was getting quite alarming and the preachers continued every Sunday thundering out the gospel protected by quite a little army of police who kept the mob from rushing upon them. One of the officers of the police was in the room of the hotel at Athlone on Saturday night in plain clothes and after writing your letter I had a little chat with him and then learnt who he was and that a force of from 80 to 150 police armed were brought into the town every Saturday night to protect the preachers on Sunday. There were special precautions yesterday because a Fenian Lodge were having an anniversary of the 3 Manchester Martyrs (Fenians) who were hung there for murder a few years ago. This was a spectacle indeed – a great crowd of all the worst Irish characters in the place with muffled drums draped with black and fifes playing a funeral march – a black banner with white letters on the front "In memory of the Manchester Martyrs" – after a while they returned in a very lively spirit making a great noise as they passed thro' the streets. It seems the evangelists knew of this demonstration and very wisely avoided any collision with them and took up their stand in the market square soon after 12 guarded from their lodgings by police and a circle of 20 or 30 around them beside a large force standing like soldiers close at hand. The people using violence for many weeks past have been arrested and many are now in prison so that the adults are a little cowed but yesterday they sent their children – boys and girls from 8 to 15 yelling and screaming to the top of their voice so that it was with much difficulty the preachers could be heard – I got down just as it commenced and certainly never witnessed such a sight in my life – I walked up close to the circle of police and you may judge how my heart was touched to see one of the preachers a noble fellow with a voice like thunder shouting the simple truth of the gospel – I noticed a boy – a poor ragged sholers [?] little fellow not so big as Hilda, shouting incessantly to the preacher "Y'er a liar, Y'er a liar" – his little face quivering with excitement – most of the respectable towns people kept back and there were a good many protestants whose sympathies have been called forth and there appears to have been much blessing. Well they sang a hymn to finish but it was scarcely audible and the preachers returned to their lodgings under a strong escort. I had turned in at a little Methodist chapel in the morning and was greatly refreshed by the ministry of the pure word in a very faithful way and the service was over soon after 12. On my return from the Market Square I met the Wesleyan preacher who stopped and spoke to me and invited me to his house to tea at 5.30 which I accepted – a peaceful happy home with the voice of praise filling it – the wife and children were very nice. Soon after my arrival the two street preachers came – the chief man is called George Williams and has not long since left Dublin Castle where he has been engaged for years in the government. He is a gentleman and I remember that not long since a question was asked in the House of Commons by one of the Irish members if they were employing men to preach on the streets of Cork – Williams has not long since retired with a pension and of course the government cannot control him now. Well you may imagine what a time we had together and he told me what an encouragement it was to him in the market square when I walked up so near to him – he could read he said the sympathies of my heart in the work – well we had some prayer together after tea and Mr Williams preached in the little chapel in the evening and afterward in another large room and I spoke for a few minutes only – under 10 mind, so you need not trouble. I do not know who he is connected with but he is one of the most powerful evangelists I have ever heard in my life. In appearance he is very much like Edward Cross – is an Irishman and as bold as a lion. This morning I met him at the station and we came on together as far as this town – he and his brother evangelist are gone to Galway where they are staying for the week and will return to Athlone again next Saturday night. D.V. I leave here at 8 this evening and expect to reach Galway about 9.30 and leave there again tomorrow for Ennis and Limerick – I may reach Cork by Saturday – Mr Williams wants me to see his converts there and I may hear something more about them. What an awful spirit is concealed behind Roman Catholicism – I could hardly have believed it had I not been eye witness and yet this is the power poor Mr Gladstone was willing to put the Protestants of Ireland under as well as everything else. The hatred to the truth is much more fierce than among the heathen in India or China.
Well I have had a little more encouragement in the business today and many have said that had they not given their Xmas orders I should have had one and promise me one on my next call.
And now my beloved wife my story is told and it is one of His goodness and mercy indeed – little did I think y'day morning when I was praying for the Lord's people in Athlone that I should have had the joy of seeing so many of them before that day was over, or when listening to that dear fellow in the Market Square that in a few hours we would be sitting side by side at a friendly meal, but so it was.