In Light of Day

The Martyr of the Moors

Nicholas Postgate - Martyr of the Moors -

The cold wind blows and mud covers my toes,

But in my heart I know, they need me so,

With warmth in my soul I stride forth,

Through the streams and heather the wild Moors I go.

I am always fascinated by human behaviour and in North Yorkshire there are many tales of Saints, Martyrs and inspirational figures. A story from the heart of the North York Moors inspired my artwork of Nicholas Postgate.

Father Nicholas Postgate was born in 1596 at Kirkdale House, Egton not far from Whitby. At a young age he entered Douay College in France and in 1623 received his minor orders (a rank in the Catholic Church). Seven years later he returned to England settling in Ugthorpe, a few miles away from his birthplace to minister his parish. Blackamoor, a long extinct parish was huge, from Guisborough to Scarborough and to Pickering. Even though at that time being a Catholic priest was punishable by death, and many sought refuge in hiding, Nicholas continued to meet his parish, always on foot and always refused to travel by horse or cart.

What inspires me, is that he was incredibly generous regardless of status or religion. Stories are told of how he would share his food (even after walking dozens of miles) or give away his clothes while visiting people in some of the remotest areas of the North York Moors. Father Nicholas earned the title ‘The Good Samaritan of the Moors’, and sadly it is his death that is most remembered.

While performing a baptism in Little Beck near Whitby, Nicholas was arrested and condemned for being a priest. He was hanged, disembowelled and quartered in York. He was aged 82 when he passed to this barbaric execution. In 1987 Pope John II canonised Father Nicholas making him among 85 martyrs of England and Wales.

With my art and knowing of the moors he walked, I imagine that as he walked across the high moors he felt somehow close to God. That the long time he spent walking was a form of meditation that helped him grow his compassion and belief, and that we too can experience similar calmness of the mind, engage with nature and find inner peace.

For further details and a book about Nicholas Postgate visit here

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