From William O'Bryan at Millpleasant near Plymouth, to Mary O'Bryan on the Isle of Guernsey, Channel Isles.
18th September .
He has been somewhat concerned by her silence as he had assumed that she would send a letter through the post if Captain Ledstone had not arrived to act as a courier. They have been several times to the quay and to the Captain's quarters asking for a parcel. They spoke on one occasion to the Captain, who told them that he had been in Exeter. Her father would like to hear from Mary at least once a fortnight.
O' Bryan has got plenty of news which he could tell her if he had time. The Captain is apparently to leave tomorrow, and this afternoon O'Bryan intends to visit 'friend' Benny, one of the Millbrook Society, who lives in St John's Parish. Recently Benny was thatching a roof when the ladder broke. Another man tried to catch him but was unable to keep hold of his clothes. Benney was lucky to escape with his life, although his head is very bruised and his mental powers impaired.
O'Bryan intends to visit Kingsand tonight in order to make the most of his limited time.
Mary's letter arrived yesterday and was the cause of much joy. O'Bryan rode into Plymouth in the morning to speak to Mr Drew and on his way back, was told at the 'Comm-1' [?Commercial] Inn that the ship Alfred was in the Sound. The tide was out and she was therefore unable to berth at the quay. He returned home and their 'little venture all' Catherine [O'Bryan's daughter] took a boat alongside and returned home with the 'prize' [Mary's letters]. Captain Sellars was at their house and therefore received his [letter] immediately. Besty Henwood of Millbrook called soon after to find out the news as did Sarah Cory and Sister Cook from Kingsand. Such letters arouse some people to be 'active' and others to be 'generous'. No doubt Harry [Major] will be glad to have extracts from them for use at his missionary meetings.
Yesterday morning he saw Mrs Drew, who has very recently returned from visiting friends in Jersey. She said that [Mary Ann] Werry had attracted much attention there and that Mr Drew's brother-in-law a local preacher named Musgrave has offered to try to sell any books which O'Bryan may care to send him.
He is very grateful that God has seen fit to use his own daughter in the work and that Mary feels strong. Spiritual matters are discussed. James [Thorne] thinks that O'Bryan is harsh sometimes, and O'Bryan certainly feels that he sometimes has a 'short' method in doing things, although he does feel that he is as kind as most people.
There is something remarkable about Mary's dream about her mother [Catherine]. The night before she boarded the vessel [for the Isle of Wight] she was wearing a new bonnet and Eliza Jew (Mary's spiritual sister ie fellow preacher) was with her, as she is intending to assist [Mary] Toms after Catherine's return to the mainland. Reference is also made to Mary's dream about 'dear father Wesley'. O'Bryan would very much like Mary to write down everything that she can remember about such dreams. The last dream that Catherine had about [John Wesley] was similar and O'Bryan is convinced that Wesley is often close by him.
Is Benjamin Ball in Guernsey or Jersey? He was about to answer a charge before the local preachers' meeting but left the neighbourhood and some believe that he has gone overseas. O'Bryan hopes that the preachers will be careful not to accept anybody without a 'travelling ticket' or a recommendation from O'Bryan. Mary should write as soon as possible to [Samuel] Smale or Mary Ann Werry about it. O'Bryan feels sorry for poor Ben.
[A list of figures is given with no explanation].
Spiritual matters are discussed.
If O'Bryan was again Mary's age, he would make great improvements. He would manage his time better and keep a detailed daily journal.
19th September .
Last night he saw friend Benny and found him much better, except for a stiff neck. He said that while he was falling he felt that he would die but experienced no fear, which is great blessing.
Mary's dear mother [Catherine] has also had an adventure. There is a new steam packet service to Portsmouth [the steam vessel Sir Francis Drake], which takes one day over the passage. The fare for the main cabin is £1.2.0, for the fore cabin 11s 6d and staying on the deck costs 8 shillings. O'Bryan went on board her and thought her a fine vessel. Catherine and Eliza took their passage on deck as it would only be for one day and all the cabins had been taken. It proved as well, as they did not like to stay below because of the smell. It is more pleasant than a coach journey for those who like the sea air, and they can have hot or cold meat and drink at any time, as at an inn. He has no doubt that everything would have been well if the crew had known how to manage and had been attentive to their duties. About noon the ship laid to for two hours while the ship's company were eating and drinking. Afterwards the captain began to gamble and spent much of the rest of the day below playing chess. The men were all said to have been drinking alcohol except for the steward who was very attentive to the passengers, but had nothing to do with working the vessel. The engine men appeared to be Cornish miners 'who are often like fishes for drinking'. The engineer finally lay on the deck and had to be carried below. At last someone discovered that the water in the boiler was almost all gone, with the result that the boiler was getting extremely hot. They poured water over it with the result that considerable steam was emitted with loud noises. The amount of steam was so great that it was discharged from the pipes over the deck. Mary's mother was wearing a new bonnet which was ruined and her cloak was also spattered with steam and soot. If they had gone below it might have been even worse, as the boiler was close to exploding, with no engineer on board in any meaningful sense.
The captain of the Windsor Castle and his wife were on board. In this emergency the women, who were all gathered at the stern, apparently acted better than the men. The captain's wife decided that the boiler fire must be put out, and her husband supported her decision. The fire was extinguished, which probably saved the ship from being blown up. The only thing left to do, was to hoist sail. Towards morning a captain of a warship came on deck and asked if they knew where they were, which they did not. Apparently the ship was close to the Eddystone Rock heading in the direction of Falmouth. The captain took command of the vessel and sailed close to the breakwater. A fishing vessel was in the vicinity, and Eliza, Catherine and several others took the opportunity of climbing on board her and so safe to land. They arrived home before the family had left the breakfast room on Wednesday morning. They had been gone since eleven the previous morning. Eliza looked pale but Mary's mother was in very good spirits, considering that they had spent all the previous night on an open deck. The crew had tried to persuade them to stay on board as they were sure that the ship would be ready to leave again in three hours, but Mary's mother was not so easily persuaded. The ship left again a day or two later and this time the boiler burst, but with no loss of life that O'Bryan has heard of. Since then they have not heard anything more about the ship, and presumably its reputation has been destroyed.
He thinks that it was Wednesday evening that another steam packet called here on the way from Ireland to Portsmouth. She had apparently left Ireland on the Monday and was two days on passage. Catherine and Eliza did not fancy going to sea again so soon. They remained here until Saturday and then left on the Diligence, a two horse carriage which has lately started to carry passengers on a scheduled route to Exeter. The fare is cheaper than the coach. They stayed in Exeter on Sunday and set off at five on Monday morning for Southampton. O'Bryan received a letter from Catherine, which she wrote on Sunday night and [William] Mason dropped a line to say that he had seen them off on Monday. He had expected a letter yesterday to say that they had arrived but nothing has arrived so far.
[William] Reed has written a very pleasing letter about the work in the St ?? circuit, where the people are expressing a great interest. He says that there was £20 owing on the chapel at Breage [near Helston] just a year ago, which the congregation though poor has now reduced to £5 after fifty of the congregation each agreed to contribute a small sum of money every week. At another place in the circuit the people are building a chapel themselves. Robert Couch has written to say that he has not felt the power of God to such an extent as since the last Conference. Harry Major `seems to be much in earnest'. He wrote a little while ago to say that they had a local preachers meeting, at which one of those present said that he had a dream of the `Bryanites' going through the land sounding trumpets. Some people said that there was no need to make such a noise at which a voice was heard to say that if `professors' had been as keen at they should have been, thousands who are now in hell would have been in heaven.
[William] Mason has also written of preaching out of doors. Apparently he preached last Sunday week and soon it was in the newspaper that `a preacher of the Ranters party had preached in St Paul's Street [Exeter]. Soon after he went in the street again, and while in prayer the first time two constables came and put him before the Magistrate, who examined him and ordered him to appear the next day at the Town Hall. Wm told the Constable he must soon appear at the bar of God. He came out and found scores waiting round the magistrate's door to know the result, when the friends went down the street singing "Come ye sinners poor wretched" and scores of people at their heels. The next day the Constable came to tell Wm that he must appear another day. Wm told him he might if his business did not call him another way. So when the said day came Wm went to the Town Hall, after a while, he and the constable were called for, but no constable appeared against him; at last he found a man who was brought for a witness. The court asked of him if Wm preached at such a place. The man said he did not hear him - the people said so!… Wm made his defence, the Magistrate interrupted him, and said he did not want a sermon there. Wm had not such a congregation for some time before, and did not know when he might again, so it was well to make the hay while the sun shined. One of the Magistrates said he doubted not that his motives were pure; but Wm was led into an error, Wm said no, he was led by the spirit of God…and said John the Baptist, our Lord and the Apostles preached in the open air; and our Lord commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel…One of them said that was past, He [Mason] said, the words spoken to the disciples were to all that God inspires and sends forth…that much good had been done by out door preaching - that God was pleased to make his illiterate disciples instruments of great good; and even now, no human learning would qualify a preacher; but he must be inspired by the spirit of God; and thus…simple means answered great ends. He asked them what corrupt the minds of the public most singing Hymns, or singing songs in Exeter streets…They said they could not allow it, and if he did persist with it, they should call him forward again…'.
Mr Lyle has been ill at Bray's shop, although is now recovered and gone to Moorwinton.
- Sarah Cory is recorded as a female itinerant in the minutes of the first Bible Christian Conference of 1815, which stationed her at Luxillian in Cornwall. Several other members of her family were also involved in the work. Source: Bourne
- Mary Toms (b.1795) was born in Tintagel, North Cornwall. She was converted as a young woman by a Methodist preacher during a visit to Plymouth. Toms was deeply affected by a meeting with William O'Bryan in 1817 and while making her living as a dressmaker, started preaching soon after. She was stationed in Luxillian by the second Bible Christian Conference, and later served in the Scilly Isles. In 1823 she became the first Bible Christian missionary to work on the Isle of Wight. She married on the island a year later and settled in the town of Brading, from where she continued to work as a local preacher. Source: Bourne, pp.126-139 and Revd. J. Woolcock, History of the Bible Christians in the Isle of Wight (1897)
- Eliza Jew was an early Bible Christian itinerant preacher. In 1823 she accompanied Catherine O'Bryan, wife of the founder of the Connexion, to the Isle of Wight. They arrived only six weeks after the arrival of the first Bible Christian missionary on the island [Mary Toms]. She was subsequently stationed in Jersey in the Channel Isles, Devonport, Portsea and Southampton. She disappears from the record after 1827. Source: Revd. J. Woolcock, History of the Bible Christians in the Isle of Wight (1897), and Beckerlegge
- William Mason (1790-1873) was born in North Devon. A champion wrestler in his youth, he was converted by William O'Bryan in 1816 and joined the Bible Christian ministry. He was responsible for the opening of missions in Kent, Northumberland and West Somerset. Mason was immensely strong, with great physical presence and stamina. His wife Mary Hewitt was also a preacher of note. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)
- Robert Couch entered the Bible Christian ministry in 1820. He was stationed in the Scilly Isles in 1823 after which he disappears from the record. Source: Beckerlegge