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1615 - 1702
John Leyburne, bishop and pastor. John was from that area above Kendal, of halls
and farms from Selside to Skelsmergh, which has always had deep Roman Catholic connections.
Some perhaps, certainly the eight martyrs from the area about Dodding Green, could
have more obvious claims to sanctity, but quiet, realistic wisdom has its place also. Macauley
described him as a man of 'some learning and a rich vein of natural humour . . ..the
most cautious, dexterous and taciturn of men'. He was a bishop, aged 70 years, called
for by James II, and he needed all these qualities to save his co-religionists from
that Monarch's rashness. Certainly Leyburne put right aside any temptation to be a
court prelate in a Catholic re-establishment. He turned rather to pastoral work.
In 1687 he set out on a great tour of his scattered flock, especially bringing the
sacrament of Confirmation. In a springless coach, little batter than a cart, he toured
most of England, the England before the transport revolution. In Cumbria he confirmed
22 at Greystoke, 127 at Corby and 426 at Brampton. Children and adults walked for
days to meet him, sleeping out in the fields beside the chapels. He confirmed about
30,000 on that tour. This was a turning point in the Roman Catholic story in England. The
direct successors of Leyburne and his flock make up the Roman Catholic community
today. He Showed the way ahead; realistic, humble, assiduous pastoral work. Plotters
and dreamers of his own church opposed him, but it was Leyburne who went into the
Tower for a spell in the time of reaction of 1688. So he came in some way close
to the martyrs of former years from his family and native lands.