John Rigby (martyr)

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This article is about the saint. For the artist, see John Rigby (artist). For the attorney general, see Sir John Rigby.


Saint John Rigby (ca. 1570 – June 21, 1600) was an English Roman Catholic martyr who was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. (He is called "Thomas" Rigby in The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, p. 81 footnote; Pellegrini & Cudahy, New York, 1952, a story about the Jesuit priest John Gerard.)

Life[edit]

Rigby was born circa 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary (née Breres). In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter Mrs. Fortescue was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy. Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her, was compelled to confess his Catholicism, and sent to Newgate. The next day, the feast day of St Valentine, he signed a confession saying that since he had been reconciled to the Roman Catholic faith by Saint John Jones, a Franciscan priest, he had not attended Anglican services. He was sent back to Newgate and later transferred to the White Lion. Twice he was given the chance to recant, but twice refused. His sentence was carried out. He gave the executioner who helped him up to the cart a piece of gold, saying, "Take this in token that I freely forgive thee and others that have been accessory to my death."[1] Rigby was executed by hanging at St Thomas Waterings on June 21, 1600.[2]

Canonization[edit]

He was canonized in 1970; his feast day is October 25.[2] Saint John Jones, the priest who had reconciled Rigby, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.

Legacy[edit]

St John Rigby Roman Catholic Sixth Form College in Orrell, Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester is named after St. John Rigby. One of its buildings, Harrock House, is named after Rigby's birthplace.

References[edit]