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Blessed Nicholas Postgate - the Martyr of the Moors

Blessed Nicholas Postgate - the Martyr of the Moors

Father Nicholas Postgate is one of our best-loved martyrs whose lonely mission in the wilds of the North York Moors has captured the imagination of people of all faiths. Known as 'The Good Samaritan of the Moors' due to his generosity to all, regardless of their status or religion, he walked around his huge 'parish' of Blackamoor, always declining the offer of a horse. He shared his food and clothes and visited people in remote areas to offer both spiritual and practical help, wanting to understand the plight of the poor and to empathise with them in every way.

Most remarkably he began this work when he was more than sixty years old, and continued almost into his eighties. Although born in those moors, he attended the English College at Douai where he earned the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and then returned to England to work as a chaplain for wealthy families in great houses. That secret work took him to places far away from his beloved Blackamoor. Returning to the moors in the early 1660s, he embarked on a completely new role that was to earn him everlasting admiration. This work nourishing the Catholic faith came to the notice of Parliament just when the fabricated 'Popish Plot' of Titus Oates brought a return of the persecution of Catholics. A highly experienced Government agent, whose employer was alleged to have been murdered by Catholics, was ordered to hunt down, capture and prosecute Father Postgate.

This book, the most comprehensive ever written about the martyr, relates that story and reveals previously unpublished information about Father Nicholas Postgate DD, Martyr of the Moors.

Peter Walker, who writes as Nicholas Rhea, was born some 400 yards from the family home of Nicholas Postgate at Kirkdale Banks and has taken a life-long interest in the martyr. He attended primary school in Egton Bridge, the village so strongly associated with Father Postgate, and after winning a scholarship to Whitby Grammar School, left at the age of 16 to become a police cadet in the North Riding Constabulary. During his latter years of service he was the press officer for North Yorkshire Police, and was responsible for the press arrangements during the visit of Pope John Paul II to York in 1982, the first visit to England by a reigning Pontiff. He was delighted to hear Pope John Paul commemorate Father Postgate in his list of 85 English martyrs.

He writes: "The desire to produce a book about this charismatic priest of the North York Moors has remained with me since the earliest days of my writing career. In recent months, I have made time to research his life not only from previous publications and records but also from visits to his native moorland - along with some help from my family and my computer.

"The results have astounded me! I discovered I was born within 400 yards or so of what was surely his family home. By tradition, this was said to be at Egton Bridge in North Yorkshire's Eskdale but this book contains material never previously published as it suggests a different place of birth."

"Another discovery was that he created iconic decorations within some moorland homes - folklore experts call them witch posts but my research indicates they are not associated with the deterrence of witches. The X-marks are symbols of the Five Wounds of Christ and they identified houses in which Mass could be safely and secretly celebrated at a time when being a Catholic priest carried a sadistic death penalty.

"The book also includes details of the unsolved murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, a senior magistrate in London's Westminster, plus a list of locations associated with Father Postgate including those where relics may be viewed.

"I hope this modest paperback introduces him to a wider audience."

Read an interview in which Nicholas Rhea talks to the Yorkshire Post about Blessed Nicholas Postgate.

Blessed Nicholas Postgate - the Martyr of the Moors was published by Gracewing Publishing on 31st May 2012, price £12.99, ISBN: 978-085244-785-7, and is also available for order from Amazon.

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