Memoirs of Robert Goodbody (of Mountmellick, Clara and Tullamore) 1781-1860

Robert Goodbody was born at Mountmellick in 1781, the son of Mark and Elizabeth (nee Pim), both Quakers and merchants. He settled in Clara on 17th October 1825 where he took over the Brosna mills, formed the Brosna mills company which later became Robert Goodbody and Co., Robert Goodbody and Sons and eventually M. J. and L. Goodbody.

The original of the memoir or account is held at the Library of the Society of Friends, Dublin. In her Guide to Irish Quaker Records, 1654-1860, (Dublin, 1967), Olive Goodbody wrote:

‘Robert Goodbody, ancestor to nearly all the family of that name in Ireland, was the second son of Mark and Elizabeth (Pim) Goodbody of Mountmellick. He married (first) Margaret, daughter of Jonathan and Sarah (Robinson) Pim, by whom he had six sons; (2nd) Jane daughter of James and Deborah (Bewley) Pim (no issue). In the 74th year of his age he wrote a full retrospective account of his life. The early part contains much of local interest, of marriages into, and visits between other Friends’ families, and details of life of the period. There is a full and vivid account of the Rebellion of 1798, with many details of happenings in Rathangan, Mountmellick and Wexford. Mention is made of the precautions taken and help given by Friends in the very wet summer of 1799, when the timely purchase of potato and other seed, resold at a reasonable price, averted distress.

Robert Goodbody did not follow his father’s trade of a tanner, but became a flour miller and baker. Following the death of his wife, he moved in 1826 to Clara, in King’s Co., having bought a partnership in the Brusna Flour Mills.

Amongs visiting Friends noted in this life are Job Scott, Thomas Scattergood, William Crotch and Hannah Barnard whose preaching, in 1800, was the cause of closing Sycamore Alley Meeting House for a period. The visit of John Wesley to Mountmellick, about 1798, is also noted.’

I am grateful to the Michael I. A. Goodbody for the typescript issue of the Memoir. I have not compared this typescript with the original.

Being now within three months of seventy-four years old [written at Tullamore on 22nd January 1855], I think it would possibly afford satisfaction to some of my children, if I should note down some occurrences of my life.

I was born the 9th of 4th month 1781. My father’s name was Mark Goodbody, and my mother Elizabeth the eldest child of Robert and Alice Pim. My father was born in the year 1749, and my mother in 1753. They were married early in the year 1777 – They had a son before me, born in 1779, who died of the small-pox at the age of 4½ years – I don’t recollect him, as I was for some time previous at Tullylost, in the County Kildare, and was continued there for some time to avoid infection. My grandfather Robert Pim died while I was at Tullylost, both he and my brother died early in 1784. I suppose that if I had been at home I would have remembered them both, as I well remember the year 1784. My father removed that year to the house on the ground where Thos. Pims’ house now stands.

I was born in the house where my father-in-law Jonathan Pim lived. He raised it and improved it in 1792. All my children were born in the house where Thos. Pim built.

I recollect Rebecca Jones and Sarah Grubb being in MtMellick in the summer of 1785, but I don’t recollect their persons.

I think the first time that I was at Meeting was in that year at the marriage of Jane, the daughter of John Halton by his first wife. She married a friend from England named Tucket. She died soon after. He had a sister who travelled here as a minister about 1820. She was a well qualified minister. I well recollect the provincial school being set up perhaps in 1786, and Aunt Shannon’s soon after. Mary Ridgeway, an eminently good woman and a powerful minister, had been travelling in England and being at Ackworth School admired it so much that soon after she came home, she introduced the great want of education among friends in low circumstances in the women’s meeting at a Qy. Meeting, and offered to go into the men’s quarterly meeting where she laid her concern with such weight that the meeting took it up and agreed to have a school established, this was the origin of the Provincial School. I had this from good authority.

The first school that I went to, perhaps early in 1785, was to Sally Thompson who then had a large school of boys and girls near opposite to where Ann Strangeman lived. She was a very good hand at teaching girls good needle-work. She taught me my letters and I don’t think I quit her school until I could read pretty well. I never was very apt at any other learnings. I went for several years after to John Taylor, first in the old thatched Women’s meeting house, which was rebuilt in 1787. Anthony Pim was then the tallest boy in the school and perhaps I was the lowest. There was then several girls at the school one of which was very kind to me often giving me nice white bread, her name was Mary Shannon a handsome girl. She afterwards had three husbands, the latter and herself still living.

Flogged at school

I think she must be 80 years old and probably she and I are the only persons of that large school now living. John Taylor was a great man for flogging and often whipped me for bad writing, which the terror that it put into me, often prevented me from improving in anything. The fact was that I think I had a dull capacity, and dislike to school which flogging produces, made me worse. I think I must have also been very childish for a boy of my then age, as I often took great delight with my sisters in their baby-house.

In the fall of the year 1788 I had the small-pox naturally, one brother and two sisters. My brother Thomas took it first, when he was better my sister Sarah and I were down, lying in two beds in the same room. We were both very ill, I was covered over in all parts of my body with confluent pock, and was blind for many days, with a very sore throat. I don’t think I ever was stout for many years after, and I lost my eye-lashes, never having them good to this day. I well recollect old Betty Jackson (Mary Thacker’s mother: of all that family were very intimate with ours, and were a very good natured family), but to return, she was sitting by my bedside, I was listening to her saying that I was grinding my teeth, and that it was a sign of dying. That did not alarm me, the very probably that I might be really like to die, but I set to grind my teeth as long as I could. When I was getting better I had a great appetite but having a very sore throat I could take nothing but flummery then called sowings, which word calling for was never out of my mouth like a cry. I being blind, and well remember the first objects that attracted my sight when recovering it. My sister Ann had but a few spots, but made more noises crying than us all: she was then about two years old. All the rest of us were very badly marked, and I was a long time very red after it, and was annoyed by the boys calling me frosty face.

I ought to mention that I have
a perfect recollection of my great-grandmother Wyly mother to my grandmother Pim, she died at the age of seventy seven in the 12th month 1786. I was frequently at her house perhaps before 1785, but from that time until her death she had me at meals. When at Tullylost she lived at Thomastown near that a fine old-fashioned place which she kept extremely neat. She was very neat also in her person. She wore one of these silk velvet black bonnets, which can be sat upon: It had also a cape or pillareen attached to it, which I don’t recollect having ever observed on any other person. I recollect her at Meeting in Rathangan. She had a four wheeled chair as it was then called, and her man, Larry Luck, riding a horse leading her horse. She used a stick with a crook on its head, and I remember her bringing me one morning after breakfast out to walk with her to see men she had turning a heap of manure. The field long after her death I remember, but perhaps about 40 years ago there was a Glebe House built on the same spot, Thomastown being a parish. While my family lived there there was an old ruin of a church there, and a burying ground, but since that there has been a new church built. I don’t think I ever went to Thomastown that my great-grandmother did not caution me against going to the well, which was the very means of my going to look down into it. It was a draw well very deep with a round house over it, covered with flags, and a windlass for drawing up the water. I think it was 80 feet deep, and I used to go to the door and look into it. Thomastown was in a valley and yet there was a great want of water on the land before that well was made. I have heard that in long dry weather the cattle would have to be driven near a mile to water. My great-grandmother was greatly respected by her neighbours and by friends who knew her. Her maiden name was Metcalf – It is very odd how dreams bring the features and persons of those long dead into recollection. Often have I on dreaming of her, had her person so renewed in my memory that when I awoke I felt as if I had just seen her.


This year John and Mary Helton removed to Bristol from Mount Mellick, having an auction before they went. They lived in the house where Anthony Pim since lives, and Jonathan went to live in after his son James’ marriage. John Helton and Jonathan Pim were partners in the tanning business. My parents had a great regard for John and Mary Helton and were sorry to lose them as neighbours when they went to England. They had two sons, John and William, the latter died, I think, of the small-pox very soon after they left Mount Mellick, a boy of very promising disposition. The other lived to grow up and married Anne Alexander. He died a few years since.

I may mention that I recollect seeing John Wesley coming out of the Methodist meeting in Mountmellick, it might be in 1789. His picture often reminds me of his person.

In the spring of 1789 my dear Grandmother Pim broke up house, and had an auction which lasted more than a week. She had a well finished house, and very neat; it was then, I think, the decentist, or best house among friends in Mountmellick. She and my three Aunts and Alice Simmons came to lodge at my father’s, he having previously raised the back part of his house to accommodate them. They paid well for their accommodation, and my Aunts done much in the house, also making clothes for us all. My grandmother was a tall woman, and lusty, made much like my Aunt Margaret. My Aunt Alice was a good book-keeper, and had articles in the shop to sell on her own account. She was generally in the shop until shortly before her marriage in 1800, and was very clever there, setting my father much at liberty when called by business from home. My Aunt Sarah had been brought up by her grandmother Wyly until her death, and only then came to reside with her mother. Alice Simmons also lived with her grandmother and came also with Aunt Sarah. My grandmother’s house stood where Jonathan Pim’s shop is now. Mary Ridgeway’s and Artistis Sparks her sister also lodged with my father when I and my brother was born, but on my father’s moving across the street she went to grandmother.

In 1789 Mary Ridgeway and Jane Watson went to America. I well remember her going round the town to bid farewell. She came to my father’s after meeting on a first day evening, and the family and her were both in tears. I don’t recollect that I ever witnessed such a parting scene. They set out next day for Cork, where they took shipping in a vessel of Anthony Harris’ who went with them, and afterwards brought them back in 1792. Mary Ridgeway had with her her daughter-in-law, the wife of her son John, who was then in Philadelphia. Her name was Elizabeth, a sister of Mary Thecker. She was a tall, handsome woman, and well beloved in Mountmellick. Her brother Nathaniel took her in a chair, now called a gig, to Cork, in company with her mother-in-law; but the grief of her family on parting with her was excessive. There was no parting of them until my father took her in his arms and carried out and placed in the carriage. She was a very nice woman, and much loved by her acquaintances. She died in a few years afterwards, perhaps about 1795, and her husband, of the yellow fever a few years afterwards. A son of theirs, named Joshua, was brought over by his mother’s family in 1803. He was very unhealthy but a nice sensitive lad, he died perhaps about twelve years after.

I think it was in 1792 that Richard Shackelton a well-known character among Friends, being much devoted to the good of the Society, came to Mountmellick in the 7th of 8th month to attend the school committee then the Annual Meeting. He rode from Ballintore on 3rd day. I recollect him coming to see our family after dinner, and seeming well, and telling my grandmother of the death of his 1st cousin, a Metcalf married to John Boardman, I think her name was Hannah. Richard Shackelton attended the monthly meeting next day, and in the 2nd meeting was so poorly that he had to go out of meeting, which was the last time I ever saw him. He took to his bed, and died a few days after of fever. It was said that he got it by being shaved by a barber who had previously shaved a corpse, who died of fever. Richard Shackelton was a remarkable character. I think that for years he attended the yearly meeting of London, which at that time was both expensive and troublesome. He always wore spectacles and even then had bad sight.

I recollect Samuel Neale of Cork well. He was a large minister, and was in much esteem among friends as such. He often was at meetings in Mountmellick, and largely engaged therein.

In the 9th month 1793 my brother Samuel, a handsome child, died of the small-pox, about three years old. I was fond of him and felt very much seeing him, for perhaps 12 hours dying very hard in convulsions. My sister Jane was then but about 5 months old, and had it very bad. My mother was nursing her. She was frightfully swelled in her face, near the size of two infants. I well recollect the care my mother paid to her, night and day, holding her on her lap, and trying to keep her nourished at t

he breast, although a loathsome object as well as offensive, but she recovered. That was the time my sister Alice had the complaint, but she was not very ill.

Job Scott was in Mount Mellick a few days after, but not at our house on account of the infection. On 1st day morning he spoke longly. He was a great minister, and in the evening Robert Thacker was married to Mary Jackson – There was a very large crowded meeting, and several clergymen there. He commonly gave the clergy a great dressing often saying in his discourse that the Church of England Hierarchy would soon fall. I remember him afterwards at the winter meeting in Dublin saying on the same subject that the child was now born would see its downfall. I fear friends are sometimes led astray when they attempt to predict. However he died a few weeks afterwards of the small-pox, at the house of Elizabeth Shackelton of Ballitore.


In the spring of 1794 there was two weddings at my father’s house. The first was Lucy Wyly a beautiful young woman, 1st cousin of my mother, to Joseph Malone, an ordinary pock-marked man. She died a few years after. She got acquainted with him at Clonmel. She left children after her, but it turned out a foolish match.

The other was the marriage of Cooper Clibborn to Alice Simmons. There was a very large wedding company. Sally Cooper, his Aunt, acted as a mother to him, and James Clibborn then a very handsome man acted as his father. James Clibborn was then a minister in good esteem, and a very plain dressed friend, which he never departed from afterwards. My grandmother acted as Alice Simmons’ mother and perhaps my uncle Joshua Pim as father, but I am not certain whether he was there or not. Sally Clibborn afterwards Metcalf, was then a most beautiful young woman and I presume it was there Francis Metcalf first got acquainted with her. They were married the next year. There was great grief the morning after when Alice Simmons was leaving us with the whole family. She was of a most amiable disposition. I sometimes think what a job there must have been to get up a large dinner in two rooms, and also a large supper. The tea was taken in a room upstairs, or rather two rooms, both which are still standing, the bedstead being taken down and it converted into what is called a drawing room, but how such a thing would now appear. But still everything was of the best, both of eating and drinking, and also variety of dishes, but at that day the sweets, some of them, were laid on the table with the meat.

In the 4th month of 1794 after the quarterly meeting my brother Thomas and I went to Ballitore School. My father’s man went with us to bring home our horses, as we rode. In our company we had Sarah Shackelton and Jane Thomas, also Abraham Shackelton, of course 6 horses. All those persons except myself are long since dead.

The first time my brother Thomas and I was in Dublin was at the winter meeting in the 11th month 1793, Job Scott being there. We thought Dublin a very great place then. We lodged at Thomas Pim’s and Robert Simmon’s, No. 34, Back Lane. It was then a good new house. They were wholesale Woollen Drapers. That part of the city is wonderfully reduced since. I passed it lately and could hardly recognise the house, the canal being then under repair.

My aunt Goodbody, and some other of the family I don’t recollect, both went and came in a chaise, and the first inn I ever was at was in the town of Naas. I staid near two years at Ballintore School, leaving it sooner perhaps in 2nd month 1796, on account of illness. My father and mother came with a hack chaise and brought me home, my brother being with us, but he staid at the school another year.

The quarterly meeting in Mountmellick in 3rd month 1796 was uncommonly large, perhaps none since so large. Thomas Scattergood was his companion was a traveller. Alexander Wilson was with him. There was also a number of ministers there. William Cratch from England, a powerful minister, but Thomas Scattergood was an extra-ordinary man, (a small thin man) a large minister, and something peculiar in his loving addresses, and his countenance also was indicative of his being of the right stamp – He dined at my father’s after the meeting. Being a tanner he inspected my father’s tanyard. Mary Ridgeway was also with him at dinner, as she often was with us. I recollect that Mary Ridgeway had a scruple to drink out of silver. We had a mug for her to take her beer, in which there was always put a bit of hot toast for her. She also had a dislike to see a great display of glasses and wine at the table after the cloth was removed, but still she used to take one glass of wine. What would she say now to be told that it was wrong to take any fomented liquor? I hope she would not have found fault with anything for which there is scripture authority for. I think it is a very dangerous thing to set ones judgement over scripture, if once done there is no end to the errors it brings in.

Death of Robert Goodbody’s grandmother

On the 26th of 9 mo. 1796 my dear grandmother died suddenly in her 63rd year. (My grandmother died on the 26th of 9 mo. 1796 of a 2nd day, and was buried at Rathangan the 6th day following).

She had been for some time in declining health. Her husband dropped dead twelve years before, and she never after had good spirits, which was increased by her only son Robert marrying out of Society to an Elizabeth Palmer, a person well connected, but of some very loose living family, then living in Ossery, which at that time was famous for viscious living. He settled with his wife’s family. I don’t think his mother ever saw him afterwards, but once a short time before her death, when he breakfasted at my father’s in her company. He was naturally a good-natured man, but had little firmness or sense. He died in Dublin in 1806 leaving a widow and family. To return to my grandmother, she was going up stairs after dinner, perhaps 1½ hours afterwards, and was in the act of speaking to my aunt Alice, enquiring something of her, when she dropped dead on the stairs. My poor aunt called in great fright to get help to lift her up, I heard her call and with others run up, but she was dead and her jaw fallen. Except my aunt and I all the rest of the family were from home at the meeting of Edenderry. The day before was the first day, and I recollect well her getting us children into the back parlour and she sitting in the window reading to us the conclusion or summing up by William Penn, of No Cross no Crown. The family that were from home were sent for immediately, and came back that night about 12 o’clock. I was awake in bed not having slept, and my father came to see me. I recollect Fanny Bewley, and Margaret Pim, afterwards my wife, coming to lay my grandmother out. She was buried on the 6th day following at Newtown near Rathangan, having a very large funeral leaving Mountmellick, and we met on the road at or near Cushina most of the friends of Edenderry, and Rathangan, Joseph Inman and Ruth, Joshua Wilson and Hannah, Samuel Neale and Debby, Abm. Neale and Whelan’s carriages. At the burying ground

was the first place I ever saw Samuel Emlin who was there with Mary Ridgeway. There was a very long silence, but no speaking. I went with my aunt Margaret to Tullylost that night, and home next day, all the rest returning the day before. Dorah Harvey, Mary Pim’s sister died and was buried the same day I got home at Rossenaless [sic]. Next day Samuel Emlin was at the meetings in Mountmellick, and several meetings afterwards as he and Mary Ridgeway entered on a family visit in Mountmellick. He was a large powerful minister. I recollect one of his texts was, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously, out of Isaiah: he seemed to have the scriptures all by heart.

I think that it was in 1797 or 8 that Elizabeth Pim, my wife’s sister died of galloping consumption. She was a sober young person aged about 16. My uncle Richard’s only child Sussanna, who had been several years at Clonmel school came home, in the 11th month 1797. In about a year afterwards he placed her at my father’s to diet and lodge, I suppose to perfect her education. Perhaps she might be then 16 years of age, but in a few weeks afterwards in the 1st mo. she became ill, and it turned out the small-pox. My uncle took her home, in great trouble about her, but they were aware that she never had the disease before. I think that she died at the end of four weeks afterwards, having suffered greatly, and at times in great anxiety about her well being, but died peacefully. Her mother, a weak-minded woman at the best (her maiden name was Ester Gatchell) soon after got astray in her mind, and died a few months after, leaving my uncle very desolate, but a sister-in-law of his continued to reside with him. He afterwards in the year 1800, married my aunt Alice Pim.

Rebellion of 1798

The rebellion of 1798 was a memorable time. There was a very disturbed winter before, taking arms and robbing houses of the Protestants. In the spring a proclamation by Government was put out, that the country people that had arms, if they would deliver them up, and take the Oath of Allegiance, they would be protected. Perhaps the lower orders about Mountmellick pretended that they were innocent. I don’t recollect that they gave up any arms, but I was on a visit at Uncle Pims in Rathangan (as that family had moved in from Tullylost for safety a short time before), and perhaps the Co. Kildare was under Martial Law, but I there saw in the 4 mo. numbers of men perhaps hundreds, giving up their arms and taking the Oath of Allegiance, and getting out their protections. But in 6 weeks after, when the rebellion broke out, the same people in fact the country with few exceptions, all R. Catholics came in as rebels, and murdered every protestant man they could lay their hands on, perhaps upwards of twenty – The protestants got into a house next William Pims who was then ill in bed, and thought to defend themselves there but before that the rebels had murdered several of the protestants. They also murdered James Spencer, the landlord of the town, in a barbarous manner in his own house and cut his head off. They afterwards brought up his affected widow at their head, getting her to speak to the protestants in their garrison, and to request that they capitulate and that their lives would be spared: which she did, but almost immediately after they were all murdered.

My cousin Joshua Pim knowing that he was obnoxious to the rebels, brought his man with him over to Mountmellick on 5th day to my father’s, and sent back his man with a horse, a man that had been reared under the family at Tul