Please Pray for the Canonisation of
Blessed John Anne (Amias) and Blessed Robert Dalby
Martyred on 15 March, 1589 at York, Beatified 15 December, 1929 by Pope Pius XI
The fifteenth of March is celebrated in the Diocese of Hallam as a Feast Day to honour Blessed John Anne [Amias] who was martyred for the Faith on that day in 1589 at York. He died under the alias of John Amias, a name created to protect his family during the persecution of the Reformation.
Before joining the priesthood, he married a Wakefield woman and worked as a cloth merchant until his wife’s death. Making sound financial provision for his two children, he went overseas to study for the priesthood. On arrival in Paris, he wrote to John Talbot, the Squire of Salebury in Lancashire, a long letter signed “Jo Amyas for so am I named at Parise”. This letter fell into the Government’s hands and is held in the Public Records Office. Later he wrote to a friend in London. This letter says that an answer must be addressed to “Jo Amyas for so they have my name, otherwise it will not come to my hand…” So, his true name was not Amyas. This letter is also in the Record Office.
On 25 March, 1581 he was ordained to Priesthood by the Bishop of Chalons in the church of St Mary in Rheims. He returned to England the same year. He retained the name Amyas and commenced his missionary activities until he was apprehended at Melling in Lancashire, with a fellow priest, Robert Dalby, on Palm Sunday, 1589. They were taken to York Castle for trial.
At the trial a criminal called Bramley saw a great round light hanging over their heads, and he was so moved by their speeches to the judge, that he repented his former life and asked to be made a Catholic, and died with them. The judge taunted “Amias” with being a bankrupt. The martyr replied, “Not so, I am a gentleman by birth of an ancient house and when I gave up my trade I was able to live with the best.” And he called upon the Queen Elizabeth’s Attorney to confirm this, which Martin Birkhead, the chief prosecutor for the Crown, did. He also, was a Wakefield man.
The next day, having said Mass, with Richard Dalby, they were drawn on the one hurdle (a type of sledge) to the Knavesmire, York, where they prostrated themselves in prayer. According to historical records* one 20 year old witness to the execution said, “They were led like lambs to the slaughter.” He described how Blessed John kissed the gallows, then lifted his hands to heaven forgiving all who had procured his death.
His body was then cut down, dismembered and disembowelled, and his organs were cast in a fire. His head was impaled on a stick. According to the same young man, a woman pushed through the crowd and fell on her knees, her eyes raised to heaven. The witness said, “She declared an extraordinary motion and affection of soul.” She was taken away, whether to prison no one could say.
The Anne family moved to Burghwallis in 1617. In 1942 Burghwallis Hall was purchased by the Diocese of Leeds and came into the care of the Diocese of Hallam in the early 1990’s. One member of the family survives and lives in the Diocese.
The Centenary of the Beatification is in 2029. The hope is held by many that it would be the moment of Canonisation. Contact was made with The Congregation for the Causes of Saints in January, 2018. The reply was comforting and optimistic but reiterated that one miracle, obtained through the intercession of each one, is necessary for their Canonisation. Please seek their intercession.
*Fr Greene SJ, MS Challoner (quoting Dr Champney, an eyewitness) Morris, Stanton, Gillow, Pollen and Newdigate. John Carmel Heenan, Bishop of Leeds (1954), Wakefield Express (2004).
In the picture it is believed the third figure on the right is Blessed John Anne.