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Host Bill Heid talks to Pilgrim historian Sue Allan, who shares stories about the Pilgrims most Americans have never heard.
Did you know that before the Mayflower even sailed for America, the Pilgrims nearly died during a trip from England to Holland, where they lived for 12 years before their journey to the New World? And do you know why they took refuge in Holland to seek religious freedom? Why not France or Spain or any number of countries during that time? And why did they leave Holland?
Off The Grid Radio
Released: November 21, 2013
Bill: It’s that time of year again. Our favorite time of year, I think the thing that you and I share so much in common is that we both love these pilgrim fathers. I would just love to bring that chat up again about them. Talk a little bit about your book as well, if we could.
Sue: Yes, fine!
Bill: You know what we could do? You know what would be fun? If before that chronologically, we could talk a little bit about the email conversation that you and I had, the exchange about Drake and his connection, first. I think we’ve been talking a lot about Drake over here and you made some really fascinating comments about it as well, in addition to Sue Jackson, so I thought it would be fun to get your take on Drake.
Sue: Certainly. I’m glad that some of that was new to you!
Bill: Yeah, it’s very exciting. I didn’t know Drake very well. I knew who he was, but when we did this project – and of course that’s what brought me over to England when I went up to Scrooby and hung out with you for that day – is we were in the studio in London, working on this Under Drake’s Flag project that’s finally done. So I’m introducing the world to Drake and at least Drake – from at least where I sit – a really truly forgotten hero, and it’s just so refreshing to hear about guys like this. He reminded me, I guess when I started to research him, I thought about Bradford and I thought about (inaudible 2:21) and I thought about that same kind of plucky, practical Christianity that the pilgrims got, he had.
Sue: Exactly. And it’s that sort of strength that saw them off.
Bill: It got them through some pretty tough times. I think so many of our listeners are interested in self-reliance, Sue, and survival and how do you make it through hard times? Well, the first thing I would say, you have to have an attitude and you have to have a reason why you are going to make it. I guess the common glue that sort of binds the pilgrims and is the same thing that bound Drake up is this idea of God’s sovereignty, but not just sitting back and knowing God is in charge, but this idea of taking actin and be willing to be action-oriented. Tell our listeners a little bit about your comments when I brought this up and I said to you, Sue, “What connections do you see between Drake and the pilgrims?” Talk a little bit about your response.
Sue: Well, on the surface, you wouldn’t think that there would be anything in common with two events that took place decades apart. But Drake is so important because you have to look not about the wonderful and fortuitous defeat of the Spanish martyr. You have to look at the flipside. What would have happened had Drake failed? And that is where the story gets really scary. A lot Americans don’t really know our English history. So I’ll recapture is this point in time. Elizabeth was on the throne and Queen Elizabeth was seen by the rest of Catholic Europe as a (inaudible 4:11). And these were terrible times (inaudible 4:16) because the church of Rome was much different from today and they thought anyone that was a Protestant as an enemy. An enemy to be destroyed. And this was the situation with Elizabeth of England. So Philip of Spain had three goals really. He wanted to destroy Elizabeth, remove her from the throne. He wanted to stop the support that Elizabeth had given to Holland. And also, he wanted to stamp out this evil, as he saw it, of Protestantism. And had he succeeded, that’s when the world would have become a very different place.
Bill: Talk a little bit about the connection going from … we had made the point that, look down in the Spanish main, Drake had really cut that artery off, so he had cut a lot of the wealth off that was coming up from Peru and that area, crossing Panama, and so he sort of – that’s one of those supply line issues that Philip, the problem that he had. A lot of his wealth was coming from a long ways away. And Drake effectively cut that off, but Drake was also interested in establishing (inaudible 5:38), establishing sort of turning America that used to be – well, probably the Pope, Henry the Eighth probably made this an easy decision for the Pope to kind of hand it off to Portugal and Spain. I guess North and South America were really Portuguese in Spanish territories. Drake said, “No, I don’t think so.” And so he cut that artery off. He kind of was effective over there, and we’ve kind of been talking about that point, but I think with what I hear you saying, there’s an interesting pilgrim connection here because who would have been one of the first people that, let’s assume that Philip wins and the Spanish are back on the throne again. Spanish bishops are back in England and Catholic bishops – who do they go after first?
Sue: It would be the same was it was in the reign of Queen Mary, King Philip’s late wife. He was (inaudible 6:35) of England at one time, and people tend to forget that. And in her reign, the first people that were rounded up were all of the people behind all of the bishops, all of the clergy. This would have been the first to be purged in England, followed very quickly by anyone who had offended Philip. The Queen, Elizabeth, would have been removed very promptly and probably executed, but also her court and one person in particular in her court would have had special attention. And that was a Secretary of State, William Davidson. When he was Secretary of State to Elizabeth, he had handed her the death warrant for Mary, Queen of Scots.
Bill: A very big deal indeed, and I guess then the question becomes – I kind of know the answer but setting you up, Sue – who worked for Davidson?
Sue: William Brewster.
Bill: So now we’re back into this place where people, Americans, need to get the history. Brewster would have got it, Davidson would have got it – well, I guess the Queen already kind of gave it to him a little bit.
Sue: Still, the fact that he had been languished in the tower would not have impressed the Spanish. He was instrumental. He would have to be punished.
Bill: And then of course they would have went after all of Davidson’s connections, which would have included Mr. Brewster, who worked for Davidson, and so tell us a little bit about the relationship between those two men.
Sue: Well, the relationship between these two men seemed very much to be a mirror of the relationship between (inaudible 8:26) and Brewster. Brewster seems to have been almost a surrogate son for Davidson. He had groomed this man, this young man, to become a career diplomat like himself, and there was a very strong bond between them. And probably spiritual as well, because Davidson is know to have been a stanch puritan, so they probably shared a lot of religious beliefs as well. And you have Davidson fall from power and in the Tudor era, if your master fell from power, you just deserted him. You moved onto the next one. This didn’t happen in Brewster’s case, and this shows there must have been a really strong bond between these two men. Brewster stayed on and served Davidson, even when he was languishing in the tower in London in disgrace.
Bill: Now, was Davidson a Cambridge man as well?
Sue: Davidson had Scottish connections.
Sue: So we don’t know how he came to meet Brewster. Probably traveling the great North Road on diplomatic missions up to Scotland, and there was a lot of diplomacy going on between the two countries at the end of Elizabeth’s reign.
Bill: I guess what I’m trying to make the case for is this gritty belief system – and a lot of this came from Geneva – that a lot of the Cambridge guys had. It seemed to have been something that really stuck with them. Do you want to kind of set that up a little bit too, because I know that area you live – you live up by Scrooby and that area – it seemed like these guys were really influenced. And of course these pilgrim fathers we were talking about were not foolish people. They were educated people, at least a lot of them were. And really had quite an education, didn’t they?
Sue: Yes, and you have to look at who is teaching them. A lot of the teachers, if you like, a lot of those passing on their beliefs at Cambridge are folks who have been in exile in the reign of bloody Queen Mary. They’ve already had to leave the country for their beliefs, and they’re coming back to England and in Elizabeth’s reign, where the church has not been settled in the way they think is right, of course they are expounding their beliefs very certainly and trying to convert others to the same mindset. This is why Cambridge was such a hotbed. Even William Brewster’s father’s employer, the Archbishop of York (inaudible 11:03), he had been in exile in the reign of Mary. So there’s a lot of strong feeling there. And you know, this fight begun in the way back. It just happened with our pilgrim fathers and separatists to fight for purifying the church. It’s a rolling snowball going down a hill and it’s gathering pace.
Bill: Yeah, and there is – as you mentioned – there’s a little bit of a backdrop, as there is to most historical events. They don’t just start from nothing. There are events swirling about them, and this was a tumultuous period as we’re talking about. So as I said, a lot of people here like this idea of, what is this kind of grittiness that’s necessary to survive, and I think that kind of sets us up well because we think a little bit about the pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day and we certainly celebrate Thanksgiving Day in this country. But I guess for the sake of this interview, what I’m interested in is, this wasn’t the first time. There’s hard times once they landed, but let’s set the situation up to realize the hard times really began for our pilgrim fathers and really for the folks up in Scrooby and that area where you live really started a lot earlier, didn’t it?
Sue: Yes. Go back to Mary’s reign. Mary comes to the throne, she becomes Catholic. Before that, the church in England in the young King Edward had almost been purified. And folks got used to an established church with England that was more like the continental style of Protestant churches. And then to go through all of this turmoil with Mary and having to either flee for your life or see so many of your friends executed for holding the same beliefs as you, and then coming back to England and finding all those gains had been gone because Elizabeth had settled her church in the way it had been at the end of her father’s reign must have been very disheartening.
Bill: Well, disheartening indeed. I don’t think that people today – people say, “Well, these are hard times.” But they’re not hard times if you use history as a backdrop and you certainly look at our pilgrim fathers. If you look at this period of time, you thought you were okay one minute – even like Brewster working for Davidson – and the next day someone else would come in under power and it was such a top-down system. Which one of my loves about the pilgrims is, they were really sort of bottom-up guys, with respect to their philosophy and theology. That’s what they really gave us, but their ideas really clashed locally with the authorities, so they really made several … they tried to live peaceably, but it would just never seen to work out, did it?
Sue: No, no. And in England, at the time, you couldn’t live or even think differently from the state. This was it. There was no wiggle room there for you to go your own way and not clash with the state. And this is what is so awful about the Elizabethan England. It’s almost a police state. It’s almost like one of the Cold War countries in the past. Very similar. And you’re going to face hardship if you’re going to try and stand up for what you believe is right and for what your conscious is dictating, if it clashes with the state.
Bill: And the point that you and I both are making about the pilgrim fathers in this situation, they were willing to do that. They had a faith that ran deeper. It wasn’t an existential faith. If you’re willing to die for what you believe, it ran pretty deep. So let’s go back to the time period a little bit. Elizabeth was wobbling for awhile. There was a lot of freedom and then she said, well, you could go if you didn’t want to conform and then she changed her mind – which Elizabeth, that’s what she did a lot of, right? And then she came back and said, “No, you can’t go.” This is toward the end of her reign. Some of her people would want to make sure you were very compliant, didn’t they?
Sue: Yes. After the (inaudible 15:43) Puritans in 1592, it becomes very difficult to be a decenter in England. Because by that Act, it’s illegal for you to be any sort of a decenter. And you have to present yourself at your local church and conform to Elizabeth’s idea of religion. You have to and whether you liked it or not. And this is a terrible thing to have imposed on you.
Bill: Yeah, and if you don’t show up, people are looking around and saying, “Where’s Sue Allan? She’s not in church. I guess we should try and figure out why she’s not in church.” And then a process of inquiry takes place. They had their own sort of secret police, tattletales. It would be very, very tough to live in the Scrooby area during this period of time, wouldn’t it?
Sue: Yes. It would have been. And what would have been even tougher – and people don’t realize this is so – is this had been a Catholic stronghold as well. So you were not liked by the established church in England if you differed, and you weren’t liked by those holding onto the old religion. So you’ve got enemies in every turn.
Bill: You’ve got enemies everywhere. So these folks we’re meeting, it’s been a year since I was over there and walked around that area including the great North Road with you. And tell us a little bit about, just geographically, who is meeting where? You’ve got a couple of groups meeting, right? A couple of non-conformist groups meeting in the area where you live?
Sue: Yes. There are two distinct congregations who may have actually been one in the same group to begin with. They certainly knew each other and may have met together. And I’m talking of course about the congregation (inaudible 17:38) headed up by John Smith and hidden by the (inaudible 17:43) family, and then at Scrooby we have a congregation meeting there and under the protection of William Brewster.
Bill: Tell us a little bit about what Brewster was doing at the time. He no longer worked for Davidson, so he’s back in Scrooby. Tell us a little bit about him biographically. We know what his beliefs were. He was a Cambridge man, well educated. Very astute individual. Very capable individual. What was he doing during this period of time for employment?
Sue: He was an extremely capable person. He’s the background, the facilitator of this movement. He’s the spy. He’s the conscious of them. He’s the man that gets everything done. And to allow a congregation to meet at Scrooby would have been extremely dangerous, for two reasons. One, Scrooby Manor belonged to the Archbishop of York, so he’s flying in the face of the Archbishop by having decenters on the property. The other thing is he’s holding a crown position. He is the master of the Queen’s post at Scrooby and then the King’s post. And being a crown position, if you’re doing something against the crown – which this congregation were – that’s tantamount to treason. So it was a very dangerous stance that Brewster could have taken. And yet he did. His face was strong that he was fearless.
Bill: Most interesting. And he, of course, you had Brewster there. You also had Bradford there as well. You want to just give us a little short bio on Bradford?
Sue: Yes. Bradford was a very young lad. He’s another hero, because he joins the group as a teenager. He’s not born until the spring of 1590. So he’s a young man when our group – I think at about their exodus come 1607 – he’s a young man but so spiritual. You’ve got to admire someone so strong in the face, so young. And I could imagine him as another being treated as another son for William Brewster. Because Bradford had lost his father young, then lost his grandfather who had brought him up and does not seem to have had a good relationship with his uncles, but was a very bright young man. Particularly when he was young and known to be a great reader. Yes, for someone so young to take such an active part, it just tells you something about that man who is later going to be the Governor.
Bill: Later going to be the Governor. And again, this aspect of courage and character very prominent in Bradford as well.
Sue: That’s right. Very, very prominent. But this is where they met, at Scrooby. And I have some exciting news about where they might have met, because I’ve been researching Scrooby Manor and I have rediscovered the chapel which was thought to have been missing from the existing building.
Bill: So this is the building where you and I were at a year ago? So the chapel, there’s been a lot of things said about Scrooby. No, they didn’t meet there because there wasn’t a chapel, and this and that. And so, you’ve actually located – folks, the thing is over in England, people, they don’t make shrines out of these places. People actually move in and live there. So the place where the pilgrims met and where all of this got going, there’s a family that lives there now. It’s not like you just walk in anytime you want or borrow the building. It’s not public property. So how did you go about doing the research here?
Sue: Well, the house was really just the fragment of Scrooby Palace, Scrooby Manor as it once was. It’s a brick-built section of the original building that had been used for humble farm laborers for probably the last hundred, 200 years. And in fact there was a great debate whether this building was original or whether it was made from reclaimed materials. But there had been mentions of a chapel way back in Joseph Hunter’s time, way back in the 1840s and 1850s, there’d been talk of there being a chapel, but no evidence of it has been seen for the last 140 odd years. And so it was assumed it wasn’t there. But as luck would have it, there was some rain damage from one of the (inaudible 22:27) roofs in the house, and the very thick, old Victorian plaster had blown. So it had to be taken off and replaced, and as they were taking one section of plaster off, I was called in. And the owner said, “There’s a strange shape coming out of the wall. What is it?” And when I looked, my heart almost stopped. Because it was clearly the outline of a (inaudible 22:54). And I said to them, “Wow. If that’s what I think it is, then just further along to the side of it, you should find an east window. This is a chapel.” And sure enough, the outline of the original stone window started to emerge from the plaster work as well.
Bill: So Sue, was this always a chapel, or maybe prior to the pilgrims meeting there, or were they the ones that built this or was it there for the dignitaries to worship when they went through there on the great North Road?
Sue: It was the Archbishop’s private chapel. And it would have been built sometime between 1482 and 1515. So that chapel had been there long before the pilgrim fathers, (inaudible 23:47) would have used that chapel. Henry the Eighth visited in 1541. He would have used that chapel. The number of important people who would have been there is, it reads like a list of Tudor celebrities.
Bill: That is really pretty amazing. And is that in your book? Is some of that in your new book that you’ve written?
Sue: Yes, it’s all in the new book. For the first time, not only do we now know what this particular surviving building is, I’ve managed to work out an entire, almost-complete, ground plan for all the missing buildings as well, that attack Scrooby Manor from the 1200s, right the way through until the present day.
Bill: Wow. And this is all in the new book, In Search of Scrooby Manor?
Sue: That’s right. All in the new book. And also, some insights into Brewster’s family as well. There’s one or two surprising things about his father, which may also explain why our elder William Brewster returned home form London after Davidson was released.
Bill: Certainly. Tell me more about this. This is … I’m fascinated by it, because as you know, I’m always interested in just what makes up the mindset of people and I love the actions, but I’m always interested in what motivated people to action.
Sue: Well, I’m afraid some of it may reflect badly on William Brewster’s father, because he’s accused of some quite awful things while William Brewster is away with Davidson. Toward the end of his life, he’s accused of some unsavory meetings with a certain lady from a nearby village, and he’s brought to court for that. He actually brings out the court case for defamation over that. You can imagine his name has probably been terribly slandered in the area. And it may not necessarily have been true. Again, you can imagine if there are folks in the area who are really upset about the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, they will know that Brewster’s son works for the man who organized it. Who had the death warrant. So there may have actually been some element of Brewster being set up, Brewster Senior being set up with these unsavory claims. Perhaps to lose him his position as the Archbishop’s bailiff. And also, there is after the Archbishop’s death, there’s also a case brought against William Brewster Senior for financial irregularities. And again, that seems to have been a setup as well. So all of this heartache, it’s not surprising that Brewster Senior becomes very ill and young Brewster comes back to Scrooby and his father dies shortly afterwards. And Brewster is there having to pick up the pieces of all of this scandal. It must have been an extremely trying time.
Bill: Yes. Especially coming back from working in the queen’s court. I mean, you know you go from this position of really quite of an esteemed thing to coming back and now you’re picking up these pieces in what looks like a scandal.
Sue: Yes. But, it didn’t break Brewster. This is a man who, you could imagine, he has his faith that he would be looking for the reasons of, “Why has this happened? This is a test to get through.” He has his faith. I’m sure he would have just taken it in his stride.
Bill: Yeah, he was very much a man who would have said, “What is God doing with me now? And what are my obligations as a result of that?”
Bill: Okay, we’re going to take a short break. We’ll be right back right after that.
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Announcer: Off the Grid News. Because you want a different paradigm.
Bill: And Bill Heid here with you once again for another episode of Off the Grid News. I’m going to take this another step. I think one of the things with the pilgrims that I so much appreciated – Brewster and Bradford especially – is that if something bad happened to them, they almost had this kind of unnatural thanksgiving perspective. In other words, they were thankful for things often times, and if you read Bradford’s book you get this firsthand. They were thankful for things, the kind of things bad that happened to them sometimes. I mean, that’s most remarkable people.
Sue: Yes, they were. It’s like that saying, if you’re handed lemons. They have this amazing and incredible resilience. You know, if something is said, it’s something for them to overcome. This is all in God’s plan, and they just seem to grasp it and get on with it. They have the faith to do that, and where you and I, in our bleak moments might sit back and think, “Oh, no. Why us?” This never seems to cross their minds.
Bill: Yeah, they’re always saying, “I wonder what God’s going to do next?”
Sue: Yes. And you just have to admire them for that, for that spirit.
Bill: You do. And can we talk a little bit about another guy.
Sue: Richard Clifton is the spiritual head – if you like – while our group is here in England. The congregation at Scrooby may have been meeting for a lot longer than we think. They may not have just started to meet after the clergy are being dismissed. They may have actually been meeting at Scrooby manor for a number of years, even before James comes to the throne. You don’t know. But, in that area, the main preacher of separatism was Richard Clifton of (inaudible 31:51).
Bill: Talk a little bit about his background. Give us a little idea of who he was and what his faith was, because whoever was preaching to these guys, I guess my point is, whoever is talking every week is really telling them and employing them to sort of say, “Look, here’s what, here’s how we have to live.” So whether it’s the text that he’s choosing or the sermons that he’s giving, he’s really, no doubt, having a profound effect. Granted, these guys already had a great faith, but he must have been a great, great man.
Sue: Yes. He was. And if you read Bradford, Bradford reads with him, writes with him, in a very favorable light. You know, he describes him as being a very brave and reverend preacher, and having brought many people to the cause. And like, like everyone else in this story, Clifton’s a Cambridge man. He is a Cambridge man and comes to the area around about, we think, 1586, is his first appointment at Babworth. He’s there in 1586. He’s the vicar. Briefly, he’s been a vicar somewhere else for a few months. Before that, we assume he was at Cambridge. Because he was born around the start of the reign of Queen Mary. So he must have been at Cambridge for quite a lot of his adult life. He comes to Babworth and almost immediately he begins to (inaudible 33:24) of the local authorities by doing such things as not wearing his (inaudible 33:32). Not making the sign of the cross at baptism. This is all the things that separatists and puritans are known to kick off about. They don’t want these (inaudible 33:45) in the Catholic church in their services. So almost at once, he’s up against the state and he’s also drawing an enormous number of people to hear him preach. So if you think we have Brewster coming back probably toward the end of 1588-89, Clifton is already established in the area. And is a very forward preacher. And no wonder you find Brewster and Bradford and others making that journey from Scrooby to go to see and hear him preach as often as possible.
Bill: And it wasn’t like they got in their Mercedes, right?
Bill: They had a ways to go. How far was it for these fellows?
Sue: As the crow flies probably about six miles. But depending on the time of year. In the summer, the great North Road would be (inaudible 34:45) to walk along. It would be great. The ground would be hard. This time of year – and I know the (inaudible 34:52) the great North Road still exists – it would be awful. Because it would be (inaudible 34:59) with water. It would be muddy, churned up and it would be a very difficult journey to make on foot or even by horse every week. But, as often as they could, we know that people would gather from the surrounding villages to hear Clifton or if you were lucky, he might have even come to (inaudible 35:19) to preach and I expect that he would have been there at Scrooby Manor quite often.
Bill: Again, we’re talking about just this gritty faith that these folks had. We’re talking about what it takes to survive. Talk a little bit about the attempted trips to get out of there, and get to Holland. Because we have some real heartache here.
Sue: Yes, we do. Because the first escape attempt takes place in Boston, which most folks won’t realize is about a 60 mile trek from Scrooby across country, to escape to Holland. Because if you can’t stay in England any longer, you don’t have many choices of where you can go if you want to leave England. Because the rest of Europe is Catholic, Holland is that stronghold of Protestant. And again, way back to Drake, because if the martyr had succeeded, Holland would have been returned into the Spanish fold and they wouldn’t have been a boat hold for our separatists to escape to. So that’s just another thought.
But can you imagine having to pack up all of your family, all of your belongings, and travel? And it would have been probably 10 miles a day, so it’s a good six, seven day walk trek with children – young children in arm, babes – and having to camp out at night. Because you wouldn’t bear to light a fire, because there would be searches looking for you. You couldn’t go to a town and try to find somewhere to bed down for the night, in case you were spotted and people informed on your whereabouts. Because Brewster had been the Master of Post at Scrooby, and his absence would have been noticed probably within the hour. So it was a real danger that these folks would have been rounded up. And in September, it’s cold in England, we would go through a mini ice age back then. So you can imagine the mothers, with children that they can’t keep warm. They can’t feed them hot food. They’re walking all day. They’re hiding. And then, when they finally get to just outside Boston, where the men have arranged for a ship to come and pick them up and take them to Holland, to get that far and then be betrayed – gathered up and then the menfolk thrown into prison and you are on the streets and you don’t know whether those men are ever going to come out again. Are they going to be executed? After all, what they’ve done is very dangerous. And it must have been absolutely awful for those women. Everything of value had been taken from them. The menfolk had been thrown in to prison. I think I would have given up then.
Bill: Sure. Sure. I think most people would have. But they didn’t, did they?
Sue: No, this is the amazing thing. They didn’t. Even after all of this, and their valuables taken off of them. Eventually the men were released, but where do you go? The whole group must have hid out over the winter, because they certainly didn’t return to Scrooby. And gathered themselves together to make a second escape attempt the following spring, just as soon as they could. And again, that is thwarted, because this time they go to the (inaudible 39:07), and the women get to the rendezvous point first. They’ve got their children and all the valuables with them. The men have gone over land (inaudible 39:17) and this time they’ve engaged a Dutch ship to take them to Holland. And it looks as though everything is going well. The men can see the women on the shoreline. They start to take the men onto the ship, but the women have got themselves stuck. They’re in a barge and they got stuck in the mouth of a creek because the (inaudible 39:41) of tide or river, (inaudible 39:44) and the children were probably getting seasick, so they put in and by the time the ship had come and the men were getting on board, the mud had held them fast like flies on (inaudible 39:58).
Bill: So they couldn’t get off, their barge was stuck?
Sue: That’s right. And then with some of the men on the ship, suddenly from that vantage point of being on the ship, they would see what the women couldn’t probably. That a large group of searches, armed men, were honing in on the women. They were coming along the shoreline, and that was it. At that point the Dutch captain cries (inaudible 40:28), which Bradford quotes in his writings, and he’s off. Some of the men are on board, and they’re off. They have no choice, because if the searchers can get onto that ship, they will confiscate it. We know that some of the party of men who weren’t aboard stayed behind, and hid themselves. Because they could help those women. And again, our group, they have a mentality that you don’t see amongst the general populous at this time in England. They had this great feeling that this (inaudible 41:06) the weakest. So those who were the last to get on the ship and hadn’t made it were the leaders themselves. And we know that. And amongst them was Richard Clifton. And the reason we know that is I just recently re-found his family Bible in Oxford, and it has the date of when he arrived in Holland. (Inaudible 41:33), so we can take that date, probably the leaders such as Brewster and the others to have arrived in Holland. Because while the menfolk were forced to go across without their women, the women were left behind, probably absolutely terrified what was going to happen to them. They were never in danger, because women were (inaudible 41:58). Authorities wouldn’t hurt women or children, because we were worthless, women and children. We were nuisance value. It’s the men that they wanted. So they were always going to be released, eventually. Which is what happened. And the men that were left behind managed to (inaudible 42:18) them away to Holland, piecemeal. But those men who had got on that Dutch ship, they didn’t have an easy ride at all. You know what happened to them?
Bill: They got into some bad weather, didn’t they?
Sue: They got into some awful weather! They got into the North Sea, this most dreadful storm blew up. And it was really awful. Bradford writes about it. So it sounds as if Bradford is on the ship. He’s a young lad. It sounds as if he’s on the ship, because it sounds like a first-hand account in his writings. When he talks about the water coming into the ship, and running through the (inaudible 43:01), through this awful storm that is tossing this tiny ship back and forth and there could be nothing worth than being batten down, below deck, because the storm is so bad. There’s nothing worse than that happening to you if you’re a land lover. Unless, of course, all the mariners have come below deck with you and battened themselves down and are saying things like, “We’re doomed. We’re all going to drown!” Because the storms had been so bad. This is what they had to do. They had to just let the ship go. Either it floated and survived the storm, of they all sunk and they drowned. And this went on for days and days. The ship was blown almost up to the coast of Norway. That’s a very, very long way from England. And Holland. But even then, Bradford says at the height of the storm, when you can hear all the beams of the ship creaking, the water’s coming in, you’ve got the sailors saying, “We’re all doomed,” Bradford said, “Even then, they prayed in earnest. Lord, even now, thou can save us.” Even now, that darkest moment, they had that faith that they could still be saved. And they were. (Inaudible 44:25).
Bill: Boy, there’s some takeaway value there, isn’t there?
Sue: Yes. Instead of making your last confession or whatever, they’re saying, “No, it’s fine. Yes, everything is terrible around us, but it’s fine. We believe now, God can save us.” And their faith saved them. It’s incredible.
Bill: It is incredible, and then they end up in Holland. I guess I wanted to talk a little bit about that as well. They end up in Holland, and again with respect to here’s a people that they find a place where there’s some freedom to worship, but it’s still not their deal, is it? They’re there for awhile, but they still don’t feel at home. Talk a little bit about landing and who was there already, because there was a group already that had emigrated. There was kind of an English church already there. Was it in Amsterdam?
Sue: Yes. The first stop was Amsterdam, and you’re right. They don’t stop for very long. There were various English (inaudible 45:29) there already, and already formed their different churches. And amongst the groups that were already there are John Smith and his congregation from (inaudible 45:39) and others called the Ancient Brethren who had been there a bit longer and are more established. And this is where the problem begins, because there’s a lot of friction between John Smith and these groups. And it causes a lot of upheaval. And amongst the groups that John Smith – the Ancient Brethren, who John Smith has really upset – are friends of Richard Clifton. So when our group of separatists decide, “You know, we would be better.” There were other reasons as well, like getting work. Work restrictions and other restrictions, but mainly it was this friction that caused our group of separatists from Scrooby to think, “You know, let’s move to (inaudible 46:29).” They would be far better off removed from Amsterdam where they could contain their own congregation. And of course, Brewster knew (inaudible 46:39) very well, because he’d been stationed there with his old master, William Davidson, and probably knew the town fathers and the language.
Sue: But yes. At this point, Clifton – and Clifton, who Bradford describes when he came into Holland was the fatherly old man with a great white beard – he even says it was awful, you know, that such an old man should have been forced to leave his country at his great age. Clifton decides to stay in Amsterdam, so there’s no great parting of the ways. In fact, contact remains between Brewster’s group and Clifton, right up until Clifton’s death a few years later. But Clifton is an old man, and he stays. And a spiritual head at (inaudible 47:37) becomes John Robinson. And that’s where Robinson really comes to the fold.
Bill: Yeah, he was invited, I believe, to even hang out at the university there to engage, so Robinson again must have been someone who was very well educated to have the Dutch professors say to him, “Why don’t you come in and argue our points that we’re trying to make in these discussions with us?”
Sue: Yes. And many of his writing survive, which show how eloquent he was and yes, he was such a gift to the group. Because he could argue their point so precisely. And with great wisdom.
Bill: The other thing I like about him, Sue, is if you read Bradford’s book – and everybody should read this book, Plymouth Plantation – is you get the letters that these folks had been writing back and forth and there’s a lot of letters in there from John Robinson, and if you want to talk about somebody, he reminds me of the Apostle Paul. If you want to talk about somebody who really has an unbelievable heart. Not only a gifted intellect, but a sensitive man who wants things to work out for everybody.
Sue: Yes. That is so … that comes across so clearly in his writing. You know, what a wonderful man, and it’s such a shame, but it’s such a shame that he didn’t get to live long enough to come across to the New World. But it wasn’t meant to be, and it’s a shame. He died in 1625.
Bill: Oh, 1625. Okay.
Sue: But somebody had to stay behind. You see, the congregation had been there for 12 years. You can imagine, there were a lot of folks that were getting old and at the end of their lives, and there was a lot of very young folks. Somebody had to stay behind to minister to them while the colony got itself going. And he chose to do that, and did not see the founding of this, what they probably thought of as an Eden in the New World. And it’s a shame. It’s a shame he didn’t get to see that, but I could imagine that knowing that he was dying, I don’t think he would have, I think he would have accepted that with a very gracious heart. He was that sort of a man.
Bill: Yeah, content to, to sort of with what God was doing, and as you had mentioned that’s kind of something that they all shared very, very much content. Not afraid to work hard. Not afraid to labor. But then always content. So that’s another one of the attributes I think we talk about take away value, this belief in a sovereign God and also that that sovereign God uses folks like me to get things done. So it’s quite a potent formula.
Sue: Yes, he does. (Inaudible 50:41) will be done, and we will fall in with that, because … we may die along the way, we may face hardships, but His wills will be done, and that is the be all and end all. His will will be done. No matter.
Bill: Yes, yes. And you had mentioned just not being able to get over to the new country, but I think one of the things from Bradford’s book I think I find most remarkable in line with what you just said was were the comments about, “Look, we want to build this commonwealth. This Christian commonwealth. And we want to build the city on the hill. But you know what? And we want to sort of, we want to evangelize it. If we can tell other people about Christ,” then there’s this thing about, “If all we are is a stepping stone, then that’s enough.” They were content with being a brick in the wall, right. They didn’t need to be the crowning achievement of anything. They saw themselves as soldiers in a war, willing to work hard and willing to be content with how it all works out.
Sue: They were literally happy to be the buns, buried in the ground for the vine to be able to grow from.
Bill: Very much the case. Sue, I know you love these people, and as I said that’s one of the things I think we share. You’ve done so much research and you’ve done so many good things. Is there anything else you want to say. We’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving when this is aired, it will be next week. When people hear this, it’s a little bit of a way for folks to just get an idea of how the pilgrims thought and who they were. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Sue: Well, not to tell you about, but an observation, which is, you know, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.K. And I feel that’s a great, great pity. I actually celebrate Thanksgiving.
Bill: Yeah, you would!
Sue: Of course I would! But England as a country doesn’t, and I think we need, you know, a focus point. Even if it’s just one day – and it shouldn’t be, it should be every day – we should focus on what these folks were about. What they achieved. And how we should really try to be following their example more closely. Because we are wandering away at our peril.
Bill: We are. We’re really wandering away. We’ve cut ourselves off from history. I often make the point that we’re ruthless, both England – and it was just really England for awhile, but I guess England always kind of sets a precedent for us, the United States as well – we no longer know where we’re from. What our roots are. Who we are as a people.
Sue: And that’s important, because what happens to a tree if its roots die? You need your roots to sustain you, and you forget where you came from. You forget the sacrifices of others, and then what you are now, or what your country becomes, doesn’t that become pointless? Doesn’t it lose so much and begin to die?
Bill: I think it does. And the only glue that holds you together is money, then I think it’s only a matter of time before there really is … you don’t need to see the externals, you need to see the internal. And it’s from internals that externals proceed forth from. So if you see what we’re thinking about and where our heart is and that we’ve forgotten, as you said, we’ve forgotten the folks that have really made a lot of sacrifices for us.
Sue: Yes, and they achieved a lot of things for us. We enjoy so many human basic rights, which we wouldn’t have enjoyed back in, you know, back in Tudor England. These rights have been fought for and gained for us, and what do we do with them? We fritter them away.
Bill: We’ve squandered them, yeah. And in the couple just minutes that we have left, Sue, talk about your website mayflowermaid.com, and what all you do. I’m very interested in your pilgrim tours. Folks, there’s not a greater experience than walking up to Scrooby Manor and taking a look around and Sue does a lot of that. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what you do in addition to writing books? The great books you’ve done.
Sue: Well, the tours, the tours came about because there was no one here. Folks making their own pilgrimage to Scrooby would be met by a locked church, a manor house you can’t visit, and no way of getting from one pilgrim site to another. And so I took that on myself to be a service to others. And I’ve been doing this now for, well, it’s seven years in all. And it sounds awful, because its cast as a business, but it’s not.
Sue: It’s so wonderful to go to walk folk around the trail, to retell the story, and to share, to share all of this. And I’m so thankful for it. I get to do something I love, and promote the pilgrim fathers, and there’s so much going on at the moment because we are actually going forward to try to get our own visitor center at Scrooby dedicated to the pilgrim fathers, and hopefully we’ll have one up and running by the big 2020 anniversary. Which will be great, because I’m getting quite old to be doing these tours.
Bill: You’re going to need to find yourself an associate that can come and help you! But you know what would be a lot of fun is if we had people listening to this contact us and say, “You know what Bill? We’d like to go over there next year sometime and hang out there.” Maybe we could bring a group over. So if anybody that’s listening to this wants to go over and wants to sort of go over in a group of maybe likeminded people, I think it would be a lot of fun to have you show us around, so we’re going to shoot for that and see what happens.
Sue: I’ll always be available.
Bill: That would be just awesome. That would be just awesome. Sue Allan, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate what you do and your books are great. Folks, go to mayflowermaid.com, check it out. There’s a lot of great stuff there. Thanks again Sue.
Sue: Thank you so much, Bill. God bless.
Bill: God bless. Thanks.
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