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About John Kemble
John Kemble 1599-1679
Born in 1599, in Herefordshire into a prominent local Catholic family. He had four brothers priests. Kemble was ordained a priest at Douai College, on 23 February 1625. He returned to England on 4 June 1625 as a missioner in Monmouthshire and Herefordshire. Little is known of his work for the next fifty three years, but his later treatment shows the esteem and affection he was held in locally. Arrested during the Titus Oates Plot confusion at his brother's home, Pembridge Castle, near Welsh Newton. He was warned about the impending arrest but declined to leave his flock, saying, "According to the course of nature, I have but a few years to live. It will be an advantage to suffer for my religion and, therefore, I will not abscond." He was arrested by a Captain John Scudamore of Kentchurch. It is a comment on the tangled loyalties of the age that Scudamore's own wife and children were parishioners of Father Kemble.
Father Kemble, now 80, was taken on the arduous journey to London to be interviewed about the plot. He was found to have had no connection with it, but was found guilty of the treasonous crime of being a priest. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. He was returned to Hereford for the sentence to be carried out. Before he was led out for his execution Father Kemble insisted on saying his prayers and finishing his drink. The assembled party joined the elderly priest in a smoke and a drink. To this day the sayings, "Kemble pipe", and "Kemble cup", meaning a parting pipe or cup, are used in Herefordshire. Addressing the assembled crowd before his death, the old priest said: "The failure of the authorities in London to connect me to the plot makes it evident that I die only for profession the Roman Catholic religion, which was the religion that first made this Kingdom Christian."
He was allowed to die on the gallows before the butchery was carried out on his body. Thus he was spared the agonies suffered by so many of the Catholic martyrs. One of the martyr's hands is preserved at St. Francis Xavier, Hereford. His body rests in the (Church of England) churchyard of St Mary's, Welsh Newton, and local Roman Catholics make an annual pilgrimage to his grave. Miracles were soon attributed to the saintly priest. Scudamore's daughter was cured of throat cancer, while Scudamore's wife recovered her hearing whilst praying at the Kemble's grave.