Ouseley, Gideon (DNB00)

OUSELEY, GIDEON (1762–1839), methodist, was the eldest son of John Ouseley of Kiltecacley, co. Galway, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Surrage of Tuam. He was grandson of William Ouseley of Dunmore, and was born there on 24 Feb. 1762. Sir Ralph Ouseley [q. v.] was his brother. Their father's first cousin Ralph was father of Sir William Ouseley [q. v.] and of Sir Gore Ouseley [q. v.] . The family had been settled in Ireland since 1625. Their ancestor, Sir John Ouseley, who was ambassador to the Emperor of Morocco, and fell at the siege of Breda in 1624, is described, like his father, as of Courteen Hall, Northamptonshire; but the family came originally from Shrewsbury (Lipscomb, Buckinghamshire, s.v. ‘Ouseley.’

Gideon's father, although a deist, determined to make his son a clergyman, and he was taught by Father Keane, a Roman catholic priest. Failing to enter Trinity College, Dublin, owing to his defective knowledge of Greek, he studied with his cousins, afterwards Sir Gore and Sir William Ouseley, under a private tutor, one Dr. Robinson. Not long after an estate in Roscommon falling to his father, the whole family removed thither, and Gideon before he was twenty-one married Miss Harriet Wills of Wills Grove, and settled on an estate given her by her father near his own. A life of rollicking pleasure soon dissipated his own and his wife's fortunes, and the property left him by his father-in-law being disputed by the heir-at-law, Ouseley proudly declined to prove the validity of the deed. They returned therefore to Dunmore, and continued leading the gayest of lives, until a severe gun accident deprived Ouseley of the sight of his right eye. In his enforced seclusion his wife read to him Young's ‘Night Thoughts,’ and other books, which made a profound religious impression.

In April 1791 there arrived in Dunmore the 4th royal Irish dragoon guards. Among them was a party of methodist soldiers led by Quartermaster Robinet. Under the ministry of these and of John Hurly and David Gordon, preachers of the Athlone methodist circuit, Ouseley became an earnest methodist. After preaching his first sermon at a funeral in the churchyard, he one Sunday rose in his pew in church to defend the methodists from an attack made on them by the curate in his sermon. In spite of the derision of his friends, Ouseley soon decided to become an itinerant preacher. The next year he and his wife settled in the town of Sligo, and opened a girls' school. During the rebellion of 1798 Ouseley was often in much peril, but after its suppression he was appointed by the Irish methodist conference missionary to the Irish-speaking population, in conjunction with Charles Graham. They commenced their labours on 11 Aug. 1799 at Riverstown, and made their centre at Clones. Their district embraced the nine counties of Ulster, yet more than once they were found preaching in Cork and Tipperary. Presbyterian and episcopal churches were not unfrequently open to them, but thousands of their services were held in the open air, at fairs, wakes, or markets, in the fields, barns, or scutch mills. Ouseley spoke in Irish, and with the true Celtic gifts of enthusiasm and humour. He possessed an extraordinary power over his hearers, and preached to catholics and protestants alike, studying the missal, the canons, and the catechism of Trent, in order to converse intelligently with the former. In 1836 Ouseley came to England for six weeks, and preached in most of the large towns, receiving a hearty welcome.

He died in Dublin on 13 May 1839, and was buried at Mount Jerome cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin. His wife died on 12 Feb. 1853, aged about ninety.

Ouseley's principal work was ‘A Short Defence of the Old Religion; or of Pure Christianity against certain Novelties; in some Inquiries addressed to the Rev. John Thayer, Roman Catholic Missionary;’ 1st ed. 1812; 2nd. ed. enlarged, Limerick, 1814; 4th ed., Dublin, 1820. It was reprinted as ‘Old Christianity against Papal Novelties,’ 5th ed. enlarged and improved, including a review of Dr. Milner's ‘End of Controversy,’ Dublin, 1827. Ouseley also wrote: 1. ‘The Substance of a Letter to the Rev. Mr. Fitzsimmons, Roman Catholic Priest, of Ballymena, Ireland, on some chief Pillars or prime Articles of his Faith, especially Transubstantiation, Propitiatory Sacrifice of the Mass, and Divine Worship of the Host,’ 2nd ed., Leeds, 1816. 2. ‘Rare Discoveries: a calm Reply to a Roman Catholic Prelate and his Confreres,’ by G. O., Dublin, 1823, 12mo. 3. ‘Five Letters in Reply to the Rev. Michael Branagan,’ Dublin, 1824, 12mo, which were answered in ‘The Methodists and Bible Societies Refuted,’ by W. J. Battersby, Dublin, n.d. 4. ‘Letters in Defence of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, in which is opened the Real Source of their many Injuries and of Ireland's Sorrows,’ addressed to D. O'Connell, Dublin and London, 1829. 5. ‘Three Letters to the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, and Peter Augustin Baynes, D.D., Catholic Bishop of Siga,’ Dublin and London, 1829.

[Life, with portrait, by Rev. W. Arthur, 1876; Memoir of the Ministerial Life of Ouseley by W. Reilly, 1847; Methodist Mag., October 1839, p. 849; Cat. of Trin. Coll. Library, Dublin; London Quarterly Review, April and July 1876, p. 485; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.]

C. F. S.