|SECOND BOARDMILLS CHURCH
AND HALL, 1963
||THE MANSE, 1963
BOARDMILLS lies equidistant from Lisburn, Saintfield and Ballynahinch,
and is the name usually given to the townlands which comprise the parish
of Killaney-Killaney, Carrickmaddyroe, Carricknaveagh and Lisban--and
Bresagh, which lies in the parish of Saintfield. The earliest reference to
this name is found in a list of Protestants who were attainted and
declared traitors by the Dublin Parliament on the 29th May, 1689, where
the name of Hugh Farley of Boardmills appears. Farley was a miller, and as
the district was heavily wooded he probably carried on his activities in a
wooden building. This may have given rise to the name by which the
district is known to-day.
Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century there was no Presbyterian
Church in Boardmills, and the people worshipped in Saintfield. But with
the growth of population in Boardmills a feeling grew that the district
ought to have a church. Following the death of the Rev. Archibald Dickson
of Saintfield in 1739, some Boardmills members of the congregation
petitioned the Presbytery to have "supply of sermon at ye Boardmil."
Presbytery refused, and the matter lapsed.
The Rev. Dickson's successor in Saintfield, the Rev. James Rainey, had
a brief ministry in 1745. The Saintfield congregation became divided over
the choice of a successor, the minority favouring Mr. James McKane and the
majority Mr. Richard Walker. At a meeting of Presbytery on the 5th
November, 1745, it was decided to lay aside the rival candidates and draw
up a new list of probationers. This step did not please the Boardmills
members of the congregation, who were Mr. Walker's strongest supporters,
and they sent three commissioners-John Todd, William Blakely and James
Smith-to the Presbytery, to supplicate for the appointment of Mr. Walker
as their constant supplier in Boardmills, where they intended to build a
meeting house in the spring. They intimated at the same time that if their
request was refused, they would require disjunction certificates, and, if
these were refused, they would like to know the reason why.
The Presbytery apparently ignored this request, and on the 25th August,
1746, they received an ultimatum from the Boardmills Presbyterians
requesting a supply of sermon at Board mills, which, if not granted, would
be obtained elsewhere. This communication surprised and troubled the
Presbytery, who were desirous of retaining the Boardmills people in
connection with the Synod of Ulster. They replied stating that at present
they had no man to send on this mission, but that when one was available
he would be sent, adding that they would be careful to aid and encourage
them to the utmost of their power.
Finally, in February, 1747, the Saintfield congregation called Mr.
Walker, presumably to gratify and reconcile those at Boardmills, but it
was too late. A meeting house had been built, and seceding preachers had
been called in before this decision was made. In September, 1746, the Rev.
George Murray of Lockerbie, and Mr. John Swanston, a probationer, were in
the field, and by the time Mr. Walker received his call the congregation
of Boardmills was practically an accomplished fact.
Who were the Seceders? There have been many books written about the
Secession Church, but it is sufficient for the narrative to state that in
1733 a number of ministers of the Church of Scotland withdrew from the
jurisdiction of the mother Church and formed themselves into a separate
body, the Associate Synod. The Seceders, as they were called, insisted
upon the doctrine of grace and asserted the rights of the people in the
election of ministers. They sent missionaries into Ireland, where their
love of sound evangelical doctrine won them many hearers.
The first minister of the new congregation was the Rev. Andrew
who was installed in Boardmills on the 22nd June, 1749. By this time the
Associate Synod was divided into two opposing parties, the Burghers and
Anti-Burghers; and Boardmills joined the Associate (Burgher) Synod.
At this date each minister of the Synod of Ulster received a share of a
government grant known as the Regium Donum (King's Gift), which was first
given to the Synod of Ulster by King William III, in recognition of the
loyalty of Irish Presbyterians. The Secession Church did not receive this
grant, but in 1784 the government made an annual grant of �14 per annum to
each Burgher minister, thus giving parity with ministers of the Synod of
Ulster. In 1803 the government increased the grant to the Synod of Ulster,
payment being made according to the size of the congregation.
The Burghers denounced the Synod of Ulster in the strongest terms for
accepting the classified grant, which cut across all Presbyterian ideas of
parity. Ministers were denounced as "Government hirelings" and "wolves in
sheeps' clothing," while acceptance of the money was denounced "as selling
the crown off the the head of Christ." At the same time, however, a
Burgher committee was making secret representations to the Government for
an increased grant. This increase was granted in 1809, but on the same
lines as the grant to the Synod of Ulster. A large minority of the
congregation of First Boardmills was not willing that their minister
should take the revised grant, which his Church had been denouncing for
In the midst of the heated argument, on 10th October, 1809, the Rev.
Joseph Longmoor, the Rev. Black's successor, died. The congregation,
already weakened by the secession of members who had formed Bailiesmills
Reformed Presbyterian congregation, became hopelessly split over the
choice of a successor. (1) Those who favoured their minister taking the
revised grant wanted Mr. John Sturgeon, son of the Rev. John Sturgeon of
Ballynahinch and Lissara, as minister, and a call to him was signed by 138
persons, with 91 members dissenting.
The call to Mr. Sturgeon was duly made out, and presented at a meeting
of Synod at Cookstown. Those who opposed the call to Mr. Sturgeon
appointed a deputation of three (Messrs. John Gill, James Edgar and
William Warrick) to go to Cookstown and ask the Presbytery to order a
further hearing of candidates. The deputation was not accorded a very
favourable reception, for the minister who introduced them (Rev. Samuel
Edgar of Loughaghery, and a nephew of James Edgar of the deputation) told
the Synod that the deputation comprised "three cross, irreligious and
seditious men from Boardmills." They replied, "We are Christ's freemen,"
and returned home to tell their friends of the reception they had been
Mr. Sturgeon was ordained on the 31st July, 1810, and signified his
intention of accepting the classified Regium Donum. Those members of his
congregation who were opposed to this action formed a congregation, and
sent a petition to the Glasgow Presbytery of the Original Secession (Old
Light Burgher) Synod on the 3rd November, 1811, asking for supply of
sermon. The petition was granted, and ministers were sent over
periodically. During their stay they lived among the congregation, and
preached in a disused quarry belonging to Robert Cairnduff,
Bresagh. In 1811, at a meeting in the quarry, plans were made to build a
church, and the following committee was formed :Messrs. John Blakely, John
Shaw, James Wiley, John Gill, William Blakely and John Simpson, each of
whom gave �25 as a personal subscription, while the site of the church
with the ground attached, was the gift of William Gilmer, Bresagh.
|(1) The first reference to Bailiesmills in the records of the R.P.
Church is at a meeting of the Reformed Presbytery in Garvagh on the 10th
April, 1805, when Mr. John Stewart, a licentiate, was appointed to preach
at Bailiesmills on the twelfth Sabbath following the meeting. At this date
the Covenanting Societies in the Boardmills and Bailiesmills districts
were part of the Knockbracken congregation. At a meeting of Presbytery on
the 14th August, 1806, the Societies of Cargycroy, Loughaghery,
Carrickmaddyroe and Loughearn presented a petition by their commissioner
John Priestly. It stated that "on account of their extreme distance from
Knockbracken and the old age and inflrmities of several of their members,
they could not attend on ordinances as they wished and prayed that they
might be separated from that congregation.
The Presbytery considered the petition, but could not grant it as
they were not furnished with documents expressing the sentiments of the
Session and Congregation on the subjects. The Societies renewed their
petition the following year and it was again rejected. Finally, on the 9th
September, 1807, the four Societies, together with the Society of
Flush-hilt, were disjoined from Knockbracken.
Bailiesmills congregation is listed as a vacant congregation in
1811, and was supplied by the Synod until 1826, when Mr. John Wright
Graham was ordained as the first minister.
Longmoor was opposed to the growth of Covenanting Societies in the
parish, and in 1806 he published an attack on the Reformed Church. We have
a copy- on our shelves and the title reads: An/Appeal/To/The
People;/Wherein/Subjection, in Things Lawful, To the Present/Civil
Rulers/In the United Kingdom of/Great Britain and Ireland/is evinced to be
agreeable to the Word of God/To which a few things are
subjoined/Respecting the Extent of/Christ's Mediatorial Dominion/By Joseph
Longmoor/Minister of the Gospel of Killeny.
Building operations were begun early in 1812, and later that year, on
the 17th of November, the congregation, being anxious for the settlement
of a minister, requested a moderation. The Presbytery, learning that there
was no Kirk Session, declined the request until a Session was constituted.
On 5th January, 1813, the congregation petitioned Presbytery for an
election of elders, and the Presbytery granted the request and appointed
the Rev. Robert Aitken of Kirktilloch, to preach and preside. Messrs. John
Rogers, Samuel Abernethy, David Shaw, William Martin, John Pettigrew and
William Warrick were elected, and ordained in May, 1813, by the Rev.
Robert Torrance of Airdrie.
On the 4th August, 1813, the congregation again petitioned the
Presbytery for a moderation, offering a stipend of �80, The request was
granted, but the Presbytery stipulated that the stipend should be paid in
British currency, and that a convenient house should be provided for the
minister. The Rev. Alexander Brown of Burntshields was appointed to preach
and preside, and a call was made out for the Rev. Robert Aitken of
Kirkintilloch, signed by 112 members and 22 adherents.
The Presbytery, however, declined to translate Mr. Aitken, and the
congregation, on 12th April, 1814, applied again for a moderation,
offering the same stipend as before. The Rev. John McKinlay of Renton,
presided at a meeting of the congregation on the 8th September, 1814, when
a call was made out to Mr. John Shaw, a probationer, and signed by 73
members and 4 adherents.
Mr. Shaw accepted the call, and was ordained the first minister of the
congregation on 18th March, 1816. The Rev. Robert Aitken began the
services by preaching from Matthew xvi.18, last clause, the Rev. Robert
Torrance preached the ordination sermon from Acts xxvi. 16, and addressed
pastor and people, and the services were closed by the Rev. Alexander
Stark of Falkirk, who delivered a discourse from Hebrew x. 27. The day of
the ordination had been looked to as a great event by the congregation;
and although the church was roofless and had no seats, the people regarded
these temporary inconveniences of comparatively little account on such a
memorable occasion. (1) Towards the close of the service a slight shower
fell, and this was regarded by many as a token "that the Almighty was now
dropping the dew of heaven as His blessing."
Second Boardmills thus became the first Original Secession Church in
Ireland. On the 19th October, 1817, the Rev. Shaw ordained Mr. William
Stewart as the minister of Garvagh and Ballylintagh, the second
congregation of this communion in Ireland. The next year they requested
the Synod to erect them into a presbytery, to be called the Associate
Presbytery of Down and Derry. This request was granted, and the first
members were the two ministers and two elders, William Shaw of Boardmills
and Joseph Warden of Garvagh.
We know nothing of the Rev. Shaw's ministry, and little of his personal
life. He was a native of Boardmills, and had been educated by Professor
John Rodgers of Cahans for the Burgher, ministry. Opposed to the
classified Regium Donum, he joined the Boardmills congregation and was
licensed as a probationer of the Glasgow Presbytery of the Original
Secession Synod on 4th August, 1813. In May, 1824, he was chosen Moderator
of that body, and just a year later-23rd May, 1825-he died of fever, aged
Mr. Shaw married Anne Warden, a sister of Joseph Warden, the Garvagh
elder, and she survived her husband for almost half a century, dying on
the 29th July, 1874, at her eldest daughter's home in Coleraine. This
daughter, Margaret Anne Shaw, had married her cousin, Joseph Warden Caskey,
a Coleraine dentist, in 1839. The Rev. Shaw's only son, John Warden Shaw,
emigrated to Canada in 1846.
|(1) The church had a slab inset over the entrance, with the taunting
inscription "For Christ's freemen." In the Ordnance Survey Memoirs (1837)
the church is described as a plain oblong building, white-washed and
slated, 66 ft. x 42 ft., and holds 560 persons. The congregation numbered
900, compared with 1,100 members of First Boardmills, and 12
Episcopalians, who worshipped in Carricknaveagh schoolhouse.
BOARDMILLS DURING MR. SHAW'S MINISTRY
When the Rev. Shaw was ordained living conditions were very different
to what they are to-day. Farms were very small, ranging in size from four
to twenty acres, though a very few were thirty acres or over-for example,
the townland of Killaney with 147 acres had thirteen farms, and
Carrickmaddyroe had forty-one farmers on 969 acres. The farm houses were
one storey, and were beginning to be slated-the first slated house in the
district was John Kilpatrick's of Bresagh.
All the farmers were tenants of the Marquis of Downshire, and paid between
40s. and 45s. rent per acre, while window, hearth or land tax, county cess
and tythes amounted to about 4s. 6d. or 5s. per acre.
Weaving was a common occupation in Boardmills. There were about sixty
full-time weavers in the parish of Killaney, and in addition most of the
farmers were part-time weavers. The linen and yarn was sold in Lisburn and
Saintfield. Weavers wages were comparatively high-from 12s. to 18s. a
week, compared with the 6s. received by farm labourers.
Our ancestors lived on a Spartan diet. "The basis of their food is
potatoes and oatmeal; their drink, buttermilk and skimmed milk. Most of
the farmers have salted pork, and many salt beef for their winter's store,
but the food of the poor is rarely better than potatoes and salt, or a
small herring, and sometimes butter. Oaten bread and oatmeal porridge is
unfortunately a treat to the poorer classes."
The chief crops grown were potatoes, corn and flax (R. Fitzsimmons had
corn and flax mills in Carrickmaddyroe, and J. Simpson had corn and flax
mills in Bresagh), and the farmers chief source of income was selling
salted butter and pork. In 1816 a young pig sold for 3s!