Saint of the Day – 19 April – Blessed James Duckett (Died 1602) Layman Martyr, Bookseller and Publisher – born at Gilfortrigs, Skelsmergh, Westmorland, England and died by hanging on 19 April 1602 at Tyburn, London, England. Patronages – booksellers and publishers. Blessed James is also celebrated with the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales on 4 May.
James became a bookseller and publisher in London. Brought up a Protestant, he was converted by a book, a friend of his, Peter Mauson lent him The Foundation of the Catholic Religion while Duckett was serving his apprenticeship in London. After reading it he became convinced of the truths of the faith and he decided to become a Catholic. Earlier he had twice been imprisoned in Bridewell for not attending the Protestant services. Both times, his employer interceded arranged for him to be freed, presumably paying the required bail. However, it seems his employer was concerned for his own safety and requested James to find a job elsewhere.
He was received into the Catholic Church by an old priest named Weekes who was imprisoned in the Gatehouse at Westminster. Two or three years later, about 1590, he married a Catholic widow but out of his twelve years of married life, nine were spent in prison for his new faith. Their son later became a Carthusian monk and recorded much of what we know about his father.
He was active in propagating Catholic literature. He was finally betrayed by Peter Bullock, a bookbinder, who in order to obtain his own release from prison, betrayed James. Duckett’s house was searched on 4 March 1601 and he was arrested on a charge of having 25 copies of Fr Southwell’s [the Martyr St Robert Southwell (1561-1595)] books on his premises. For this he was at once thrown into Newgate.
At the trial, Bullock testified that he had bound various Catholic books for Duckett, who admitted this but denied other false accusations in a self-possessed manner. The jury found him not guilty but the judge, Sir John Popham, the Lord Chief Justice, browbeat the jury, which reversed its verdict and Duckett was found guilty of felony. Despite the betrayal of Duckett, Bullock was taken to his death at Tyburn in the same cart as Duckett on 19 April 1601.
James Duckett’s son was the John Duckett who later became Prior of the English Carthusians at Nieuwpoort in Flanders. He related that on the way to Tyburn his father was handed a cup of wine, which he drank and told his wife to drink to Peter Bullock and to forgive him. When she declined, he chided her gently until she did. On arrival at Tyburn Tree, James kissed and embraced Bullock, beseeching him to die in the Catholic faith, without success.
At the same trial, three priests, Thomas Tichborne, Robert Watkinson, and Francis Page, were condemned to death. For some reason their execution was remanded to the following day.
James Duckett was Beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.
The Triptych above, with the following quote is from Fr Lawrence Lew OP:
“A tryptich in St James’ church, Spanish Place in London showing some of the martyrs who died for the Catholic faith from 1535 – 1680 and whose memory is kept collectively on 4 May. In the centre is the triple gallows known as the ‘Tyburn Tree’.
Below is a citation from the Tudor Stuff blog.
From 1535 to 1681 Tyburn was transformed into a place of cruelty, torture and execution for men and women because of their religious belief. It had become an act of high treason to be a Catholic priest, or to associate with Catholic priests . It was also legal treason to refuse to accept the monarch as “the only Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”, in the reign of King Henry VIII, from 1534 onwards under Elizabeth I, Charles I and Charles II.
Tyburn had been a place of public spectacle where crowds gathered for entertainment. The martyrs, however, brought a new spirit into the barbarities and butchery of Tyburn. This new spirit was one of joy, spontaneous humour and wholehearted forgiveness of those who had brought them to their life’s end at Tyburn. This spirit flowed over into the crowds around the Tyburn Gallows.
“Thus”, write the nuns at Tyburn Convent, dedicated to those who died, “the holy Martyrs transformed Tyburn’s Deadly Nevergreen Tree into the Tree of Life and the Gate of Heaven, which it remains to this very day”.”