Rev William J Burke the Missionary
Rev Burke was an excellent speaker and a fearless missionary. In the early days of his vocation he used to rise sometimes as early as four in the morning and travel the land preaching to farmers in the field. As his preaching skills became more renowned he was invited to England to give lectures, often to packed halls. In some of his talks he would tell of his experiences and conquests as a missionary in a lecture in Dunkinfield, Manchester:
The lecturer gave a narrative of his own life, how he was brought up a Papist and then converted to Protestantism. Since then he had laboured hard as a missionary of the gospel. and had visited every Irish mission station but two, often traveling as much as 600 mile a moth, the greater part on foot and sometimes having to go up to the armpits in fording streams and crossing bogs. He calculated from a careful personal inquiry which he began in 1842, that fro that year to 1862, no fewer than 30,00 Romanist in Ireland had been converted to Protestantism.
His work for the missions extended to writing to the papers too. He did not hold back and did not mind shaming the church he broke away from. From the letter to The Record, 20 February 1851, when he lived at Ballycroy (an Irish Society mission station in Co Mayo, north of Mulranny). Despite the subject matter his eloquence is evident:
‘The poor fellows were in great spirits manuring their land, despite their hunger and nakedness, resting in faith in the Lord to supply the seed from the superfluity of God’s elect: but having all the Papists busily employed putting down their potatoes, and the poor converts having received no relief for that purpose, like Moses on the mount, their hands are becoming faint and they stand in need of an Aaron to hold them up.
Oh, if the Lord’s people were to know the suffering, and the persecution for Christ’s sake in this locality, they would freely give, say 16l to 20l, to purchase seed potatoes, which, with God’s blessing, together with the employment that will be given in the erection of the Church, would strengthen our hands much, very much’.
William John Burke was fearless and never shrunk away from expressing himself, these traits were passed on to his daughter Emily, however they took on a slightly different form.