WLLIAM PATTON, M.A., 1736/1745
THE appointment of the Rev. Patton, after six years of strife, could
hardly be described as propitious. However, it was the only thing could be
done having regard to the developments in the congregation. The time for
reconciliation had long passed and there was nothing but to recognise that
reunion was out of the question.
An extract from the Session records dated 7th July, 1736, reads, " This
day the Rev. William Patton was installed and settled as minister to the
congregation of Lisburn by, the Reverend Presbytery of Templepatrick,
viz., 15 in number then present who gave him the Right hand of Fellowship
and received by the people. The Rev. James Cobbham did preside in the
installation and preached on 2 Tim. 2.15 : `Give diligence to present
thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, handling
aright the word of truth.' Mr. James Fraser gave the Exhortation
afterward. All performed with comely order and solemn manner."
The new minister was a native of Dunboe, being educated at Glasgow
where he graduated in 1708, and being subsequently licensed by the
He joined the Route Presbytery in 1718, and on receiving a call to
Ervey, was ordained there in December, 1721. He resigned his charge at
Lisburn in 1745, to accept a call to Plunkett Street, Dublin, where he was
installed in that year. The Rev. Patton was reputed to be a
non-evangelical, not unusual at that time and the fact that he became
Moderator of the Synod in 1751 illustrates the doctrinal leanings of that
period of Presbyterian history. He died in Dublin on 22nd April, 1759. One
cannot help but feel that the appointment of a minister to the charge in
1736 must have been greatly welcomed by those still adhering to the old
congregation and the Rev. Patton during his short ministry in Lisburn made
a valuable contribution in the restoration of more normal congregational
activities. The wonder is that the congregation had been able to survive
as an ecclesiastical entity.
As an aside to the events of the congregation at that time, the
Cathedral records show that in 1735, when the Rector was the Rev. Anthony
Rogers, an Englishman, the parishioners on the Down side of the river
revolted against paying Church cess and indeed it was decided to compel
them to do so by invoking the law. In 1743, the Rev. Richard Dobbs
(Carrickfergus) became Rector and during the period of his ministry it is
recorded that " the surveyors of roads were regularly appointed " and that
an attempt, not quite successful, was made to light the town.
PATRICK BUCHANAN, M.A., 1747/1763
MR. BUCHANAN was born near Omagh and received his education at
Edinburgh, where he graduated in 1736. Licensed by the Strabane Presbytery
in 1745, he accepted the call to Lisburn, being ordained on the 29th July,
1747. He is described as a non-evangelical and it would seem, therefore,
that the tendency towards moderatism still prevailed in the congregation.
At that time, it would appear the lay-out of the main streets of the
town was much as at present in the central area. There were, however, only
a few houses on the north side of Bridge Street and the Chapel Hill area
was not by any means fully built up. The Longstone, near which the
original Meeting House was situated, was on the south side of the street
after which it is named and at the highest point inside what was the town
boundary. Railway Street was known as Jackson's Lane and was built up only
half way down each side, leading to the fields of Michael Jackson near
Fort Hill. The present roads to Belfast and Hillsborough and the
Magheraleave Road were not made for many years after. One travelled to
Belfast as best as one could by the most direct way through the village of
Lambeg, along which King William travelled in 1690. The town had doubled
the width of its boundaries since its foundation and the population was in
the region of 4000. The trade of the town was prosperous with the growth
of the linen and damask manufactures arising from the influx of the
Lisburn has always been noted for its good highways which were due, to
a great degree, to the effective work and foresight of Sir George Rawdon
during the seventeenth century when acting as agent for Lord Conway.
Communications were opening up by the middle of the eighteenth century
with increasing trade. In 1761, "Turnpike Committees were in existence to
look after the upkeep of the roads and to make possible the operation of
coach services to Dublin and other places." The journey to Dublin at that
time took three days.
In 1753, an Act of Parliament was enacted for the construction of a
canal between Belfast and Lough Neagh and in 1763, this had been so far
implemented as to make the waterway navigable between Belfast and Lisburn.
This was an event of considerable importance in those days for the trade
and industry of the town. The necessary finances were provided, in part,
by the imposition of a local duty on beer and spirits.
The Rev. Buchanan died on 1st November, 1763, after a ministry in
Lisburn of sixteen years.
JAMES BRYSON, M.A., 17641774
M R. JAMES BRYSON, son of John Bryson of Holywood, was born in 1730,
and on studying for the ministry, was licensed by the Armagh Presbytery in
1762. He received the call to Lisburn and was ordained on 6th June, 1764,
being then 34 years of age.
Linen markets were often the scenes of fraudulent practices as buyers
and sellers waged a perpetual battle, of wits. So about that time attempts
were made to establish uniform standards for linen exposed for sale at the
weekly market in Lisburn. The system inaugurated required that, after
inspection, the webs which passed scrutiny would be stamped and sealed so
as to put down the ramp of bogus claims being made about quality and
measurements. However, the weavers did not approve of such an innovation
as it was felt that they would, in consequence, be placed at the mercy of
the linen drapers, with the result that there was considerable opposition
to the plan. This came to a head in 1:762, when Lord Downshire attended to
seal the first webs. He was attacked in the market and only his courage
prevented widespread riots. A mob marched on the residence of Mr. John
Williamson at Lambeg because he was one of the leading supporters of the
new inspection scheme and it was only with difficulty that very serious
occurences were averted. The system then inaugurated was succesful and was
subsequently ratified by an Act of Parliment in the same' year.
About that time, the firm of Coulson commenced activities in Linenhall
Street, a name which was to resound far and wide as the hallmark of fine
damask. The linen trade was flourishing and to meet the growing needs of
the bleachers in the Lagan Valley, the Vitriol Island works were set up on
the site now occupied by the Island Spinning Mill.
The river had recently been made navigable to Lisburn and within a year
navigation was possible to the Union Locks near the bridge on the
Hillsborough Road. This was an epoch making event as till then the only
means of transport had been by road, with horse drawn vehicles. The
development of the canal' brought engineers of renown from many places to
the town and must have been a source of much interest to the; inhabitants.
Omer, who was well-known in connection with the Boyne and Shannon
Navigations, was occupied on the project for a time and later Robert
Whitworth assumed responsibility, his plans being approved by James
Brindley, the celebrated engineer of many of England's inland waterways.
The first indication of intention. to erect the present Meeting House
is contained in the Session Minutes dated July, 1756, which reads, "At a
Meeting of the Session to-day it was resolved that ye Session and
Committee of the Congregation, of Lisburn do meet on Thursday next ye 8th
inst. at ye Meeting House at ten of ye clock in ye forenoon to deliberate
upon and prepare such overtures for ye approbation of the Congregation who
are afterwards to be brought together in general as shall be judged by
them most meet for repairing or rebuilding the Meeting House and other
matters of a Publick Nature, and the Revd. Patrick Buchanan is appointed
to notify this to ye Congregation."
" Lisburn, July 11th, 1756: The Session this resolves ye Congregation
shall not be called together for consult concerning ye overtures made by
ye Session and Committee last Thursday about ye Meeting House and other
public matters before ye first Sabbath in August." " Lisburn, August 1st,
1756. This day ye Session gives their opinion ye Friday next will be ye
most convenient for the Congregations meeting for approving or
disapproving the overtures made by the Session and Committee regarding ye
Rebuilding of the Meeting House and other Publick Concerns and accordingly
appoint Mr. Buchanan to intimate ye same to ye Congregation."
It was not until eight years later that the projected rebuilding of the
Meeting House got under way and very comprehensive details are available
in the congregational records about the various phases leading up to the
actual construction work on the Church in which the congregation worships
to-day. On 26th November, 1764, at a meeting of the members of the
congregation it was resolved, " that James Fulton in building a New
Meeting House shall be the Director and Overseer of the works, that John
Barclay shall be the Projector and Architect. That a subscription be
opened towards building same, accordingly the following persons, members
of the Congregation paid the sums annexed to their names." A total of 116
persons contributed ?134 16s. 3d. to this appeal for funds.
At a meeting on 10th April, 1765, Francis Burden and David Wilson were
delegated " to apply to the Members of the Established Church in Lisburn
for help to build, accordingly the following persons gave the sums annexed
to their names." In all a total of ?84 14s. 10d. was received from 39
subscribers including the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Traill, who gave
?11 7s. 6d., the Rev. Dubourdieu, Chaplain of the Huguenot community and
Mr. M. Crommelin. It is recorded that " all the above, liberally,
according to their circumstances contributed who were asked."
Direct subscriptions were received from a number of persons throughout the
country, one of note being ?11 7s. 6d. from the Earl of Moyra, who was the
grandson of Sir George Rawdon, the great man of earlier times in Lisburn.
The various Presbyterian Congregations contributed to the funds, as indeed
did " Priest Morgan on behalf of his flock," with a donation of ?10. A
total of ?541 12s. 3d. was collected from all sources and this was
augmented by a loan of ?200 obtained from Mr. Dan Cormier, a member of the
Building operations got under way and the details of the various items
of expenditure are very fully contained in the congregational records. The
actual construction work cost ?592 19s. Od. which covered the supply of
timber, iron for the roof, slates, glazing, carpenters' time, making of
pulpit, etc. Included is an amount of ?1 designated as " James Fulton paid
for Stones, Lime, Masons' and Labourers' wages." One cannot help but
conjecture why such a small amount was shown under this heading. Was it a
nominal charge made by John Fulton, who apparently was a local builder,
and he, in effect, defrayed the real cost himself? It is probable that the
letters " I.F.," cut on a large stone, portion of the wall of the Church
near the main door, allude to this John Fulton-Director and Overseer of
The actual area of the Meeting House did not include that now occupied
by the four rows of pews under the back gallery on the ground floor. This
space was included in the Church proper over a century later and
originally was the vestibule. The present vestibule was then used as a
The raising of funds for the erection of the fabric of the Meeting
House was but a beginning, as subsequently such matters as " flagging,
matting of House "and " the Cornish and Painting " required subsidiary
collections from the members of the congregation. The total expenditure is
not definitely recorded but must have been in the region of ?700/?800.
With the approach of the opening of the new Meeting House for public
worship in 1768, very complete regulations were drawn up for the allotment
of sittings. The original of this is perfectly preserved in an entry in
the Session records:-" For Selling and Managing the seats of the New
Meeting House in Lisburn."
||That the Committee shall
Divide the Seats to Different Clafs or Lotts and lay the whole
Stipend and expence upon them in such a manner that the
first Clafs or Lott shall pay most and every Clafs following shall
Gradually diminish down to the last Clafs.
||That before any person
shall be Entitled to receive any seat or part one, he must first
have paid something not only to the Building of the Meeting House,
But also to the Erecting of the Seats.
||That every man who has been
for two years a Regular Member of this Congregation or Christian
Society shall be Accomodated with a Seat or Share of one in
proportion to the Stipend he paid for two years past, the Sum he
gave to the Building of the Meeting House and what he allows for
purchasing a property in this House.
||That however should any
person by his Subscription to the Building of the House and the
Stipend he has formerly paid, etc., be Entitled to a Better
Seat, than he is willing to pay the yearly Rent of, Or that Stipend
that according to the first Rule is Regularly laid upon it, he must
then be Contented with one, the Rent of which he is willing to pay.
||That according to Rule the
3rd he that for two years past has paid most Stipend, has given most
towards Building the House and Seats is Entitledto the first Choise,
he that is next to him to the Second Choise, he that stands in the
third place to the third Choise and so Downwards. So he that takes a
Seat entirely for the use of his own family shall be Entitled to a
Choise before him that admitts a partner: and where two take a Seat
to themselves they shall Chuse before three that agree about one and
||Cor : Hence there can be
but one family in a Seat. . ."
|Passing on the
next clause of interest is the seventh which reads:
||" That the Stipend be paid
Monthly, and that he who falls behind his payments till arrear of
his Stipend be equal to the Purchase of his Seat, shall Sell his
Seat or Share for the payment of Such Arrears, That is every Maxis
Seat is his Freehold while he Continues in the Congregation and pays
the Rent of it, so anyone who Inclines to leave the Congregation and
give up his Seat shall be at Liberty to dispose of it to none but
the Committee for the time being, who if the Seat be left in good
Order Engage to give him for it the price for which it was at first
purchased and May then dispose of it in the best manner they can for
the benefit of the Congregation."
||Then the eighth clause
provides for the allocation of sittings to those entitled to a seat
and able to pay stipend but unable to purchase same, the ruling
being that they "shall be accommodated in the best way the Society
can afford." " Such as are unable to do neither shall also be
provided with seats as far as ,possible."
||The ninth clause stipulates
that " former arrears of Stipend must be remitted before being
allowed any Seat or Sitting." The final clause; number ten, provides
" that if two or more in any Clafs who are Equal in their payment
shall Chuse upon the same Seat, then the Affair shall be Determined
by Casting Lotts."
The whole Meeting House was therefore divided into various classes of
seats with specified purchase prices and amounts payable as stipend. There
were eight different classes ranging from eight seats designated Class I,
which cost six guineas each and were liable for stipend at the rate of ?
10s. Od. per annum, to a number scheduled as class 8, which were granted
free of charge but with liability for stipend at 10/1 per annum.
The late Mr. Hugh McCall in his writings states, " When the house of
worship known as the First Presbyterian Church of Lisburn was being
erected in: 1766/7,no member of the congregation did more to aid in the
collecton of funds and the right construction of the house than Dr. Betty,
an eminent physician, who resided at Chapel Hill. His son, Henry West
Betty, was a linen merchant who owned a bleach field near Ballynahinch
and his grandson, William Henry Betty, was the noted `young Roscius' of
The Rev. Bryson resigned the charge on 28th July, 1774. It would appear
that all had not been well between him and some of the congregation, as
one reads of some disagreement having arisen. He was installed in 2nd
Belfast in 1774, but in 1792, removed with a section of that congregation
to Donegall Street, Belfast (now Cliftonville). He became Moderator of the
Synod in 1778. The real reason for his departure from the Lisburn
congregation so soon after the opening of the new Meeting House is a
matter for conjecture.
Of general interest is that Henry West Betty, a member of the
congregation, gave evidence to a Committee of the Irish Parliament on the
state of linen manufacture in 1764. He stated he came from " the Heart of
the Manufacturing Country in the finer Branches" and said, "that there
most of the business was carried on by a sort of Middle Men who are called
Manufacturers who buy Yarn and give it to Weavers to work up and bleach
the Linen themselves." Betty gave his profession as manufacturer, buyer of
brown linen and bleacher.
On the fly leaf of the Rev. Bryson's opening sermon on 18th May, 1766,
he writes, " For somewhat more than a year before I had been allowed the
liberty of worshipping God in the Established Church ; a measure in which
Arthur Smyth, the then Bishop of Down and Connor very readily joined with
Richard Dobbs, the Rector of Lisburn." Surely this state of affairs in the
town of Lisburn reflects well the spirit of tolerance which prevailed in
those days when feelings ran high between Churchmen and Non-Conformists.
That the Rev. Bryson was a famed minister in his day would. appear from
various reports. According to the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, " Several
volumes of Bryson's manuscripts are in the Assembly's College." The
preservation of his sermons points to his ability as a preacher. That he
was popular with the Masonic Order is apparent for "he was a freemason and
seems not infrequently to have preached Masonic sermons in Parish
Churches. For instance in June, 1795, he preached at Ballylesson Church
before some twenty lodges." It took something more than average
ministerial powers to break down the prejudice which existed in those days
and permit a non-juring minister preach in an Established Church.
GEORGE KENNEDY, 1775/1779
MR. KENNEDY, eldest son of the Rev. Andrew Kennedy of Mourne, was born
in 1751, and received his education for the ministry at Glasgow. He was
licensed by the Armagh Presbytery in 1773, and on receiving the call to
Lisburn, then aged 24 years, was ordained on 15th February, 1775.
Unforiunately his was destined to be a short ministry of just over four
years owing to his untimely death on 5th April, 1779. His uncle was the
Rev. Gilbert Kennedy, who had occupied the pulpit of the congregation for
a brief period after the death of the Rev. Alexander McCracken in 1730, at
a time when dissension was rampant amongst the Presbyterians of Lisburn.
Little of note is contained in the records of congregational activities
during his brief pastorate.
WILLIAM BRUCE, B.A., 17791782
Mr BRUCE, second son of the Rev. Samuel Bruce, minister of Wood Street
(Stephens Green), Dublin, by his wife, Rose Rainey of Magherafelt, Co.
Derry, was born in Dublin on 30th July, 1757. His .family, having direct
descent from the royal blood of Scotland, gave to the Presbyterian
ministry of Ireland seven ministers in six generations. Of these, the
first, Michael Bruce (1635/93) of Killinchy, married a granddaughter of
his grand uncle, Robert Bruce (1554/1631), who had anointed Anne of
Denmark at Holyrood, 17th May, 1590.
William Bruce lost his father in his tenth year, and, after passing
through three Dublin schools, entered Trinity College as a pensioner on
8th July, 1771. He supported himself by private tuition: but in June,
1775, obtained a small scholarship, which he was allowed to hold for four
years without complying with the statutory requirements of conformity.
Graduating A.B. in 1776, he went for a session (1776/77) to Glasgow, and
for two sessions (1777/79) to Warrington, where he studied theology under
Dr. John Aiken, father of Mrs. Barbauld. Among big fellow students at
Warrington was Nathaniel Alexander, successively Bishop of Clonfert(1801),
Down and Connor (1804) and Meath (1823/40). He was called to Lisburn on
8th August, 1779, and ordained on 4th November by the Bangor Presbytery,
the presiding minister being the Rev. Samuel Martin Stephenson, M.D.
The congregational records disclose a letter dated 2nd May, 1779,
addressed to the Reverend Presbytery of Bangor by James Reade, Clerk of
Session, stating " We the Protestant Disenting Congregation of Lisburn
request the Reverend Presbytery of Bangor to invite the Rev. Mr. Wm.
Bruce, now a probationer at Warrington in England to proceed to us one
month as soon as convenient. They further request the Reverend Presbytery
to appoint such supplys in the meantime as to their Wisdom shall seem
The actual call presented to Mr. Bruce is worthy of note, being dated
8th August, 1779, in which is written: "We the Members of the Protestant
Difsenting Congregation of Lisburn, being deprived of the stated
administration of the word and ordinances of the Gospel among us, by the
Death' of our late worthy Pastor the Rev. George Kennedy and convinced of
your abilitys and Qualifications for the sacred office, have unanimously
agreed to invite you to accept the pastoral care of us for our edification
and instruction. And we do hereby with the concurrence of the Revd.
Presbytery of Bangor invite beseech and call upon you Mr. Bruce to take
upon you the charge and oversight of us in the Lord, to discharge among us
the various parts of the Ministerial office according to the Laws of the
everlasting Gospel. And to encourage you to accept of this our unanimous
call and hearty invitation, and that you may be enabled to attend upon the
ministrations of the Gospel without distraction, we do cheerfully promise
you all due respect and support in your office. And particularly the sum
of the Eighty pounds sterling yearly for your Support among us.
In Testimony to all we have publicly subscribed these Presents at our
Meeting House in Lisburn the Date annexed.
Signed by One hundred and fifty one.
James Reade, Clerk of Session."
After the ordination " the following members entertained the Revd.
Presbytery of Bangor at the house of F. Logans. Messrs. Henry Bell in the
Chair, Messrs. Roger McNeale, Vice-president. Dr. Beatty, John Barclay,
Capt. Burden, John Whitla, James Fulton, James Kennedy, James Read, John
Kenley, Joseph Fulton, Richard Fulton, John Wightman, Dr. Lauderdale, J.
McClean Senr., John Wilson, Thomas Patton.Each subscribed 11/4?
towards the meal and refreshments provided for their thirteen ministerial
guests and themselves. Mr. Logan's bill for the meal was computed at 5/5
per person making a total of ?8 2s. 6d. and the charge for the
refreshments came to ?1 10s. 11d., made up of 15/2 for Port, 8/1?
for Claret, 4/- for Brandy and 1/8 for Punch. The records do not disclose
whether any but the lay gentlemen present partook of these refreshments.
Little information is available about the ministry of the Rev. Bruce
and only matters relating to the finances of the congregation appear in
the records. For instance, the stipend collect for 1779 amounted to ?66
5s. Od., for 1780 ?54 17s. 2d. and the following year ?51 15s. ld. At that
time Robert Burden, John Wightman and William Rea were looking after the
congregation funds. There was a further subscription list " for paying off
the Debt now due by the Protestant Difsenting Congregation of Lisburn "
opened in August, 1779, and closed in October, 1780, to which forty-seven
members contributed ?127 19s. 4d.
In the year 1778, international tensions were growing. War with France
followed the American War of Independence and the Presbyterians of Ulster
took a prominent part in the newly formed Volunteers enlisted for the
defence of the country. Being in full sympathy with the popular movement
of that time, the Rev. Bruce at once joined, as a private, the "Lisburn
True Blues": was hailed by Hon. H. S. Conway, M.P. at a Volunteer
gathering in Belfast in 1780, as " a patriot worthy of the Church of John
Knox "; took part in the sham fight of 20th July, 1781; and on 22nd July
preached at Lisburn in a short blue swallow-tail coat. with brass buttons
(lettered " Lisburn True Blues "), red cuffs, collar, and facings, white
breeches, and black leggings. The former minister, the Rev. Bryson, then
with 2nd Belfast was also a staunch supporter of the volunteers being
appointed chaplain to the two companies enrolled at Belfast in March,
The increasing importance of Lisburn as a centre of the linen trade is
illustrated by Arthur Young's correspondence in 1779, in which he stated "
that a third in value of bleaching in Antrim and Down. was being done
there." It was also observed that "not till 1780 did the small Port
(Belfast) at the river mouth begin to exert an important influence over
the economic life of the hinterland."
The year 1779 marked another stage in the furtherance of the Lagan
Navigation scheme with the Marquis of Donegall taking the initiative in
raising of funds for its advancement. In 1781, Richard Owen, a Lancashire
engineer, started work to complete Whitworth's plans to connect up with
Over the years 1780/2 the Irish Parliament gave protection to the newly
established cotton industry in Ireland, a step which was to have
considerable effect on local industrial development and employment
conditions. The result of this legislation was an influx of English
capital to finance the building of mills and the manufacture of cotton.
In 1775, the Rev. Thomas Higginson became Rector of the Cathedral and
was the last Government Chaplain of the French Huguenots at Lisburn. He
was succeeded in 1781 by the Rev. William Traill, a Scot, who it is stated
was an eminent scholar, but according to the late Dean) Carmody, "it is
sad that his chief energies had to be directed to the street paving of
The Rev. Bruce resigned the charge in 1782 on accepting a call to
Strand Street (Stephens Green), Dublin. In 1790 he was appointed minister
of First Belfast Congregation and for the years 1790/1822 he vas Principal
of the Belfast Academy and President of the Linenhall Library from 1798
In later years, Dr. Bruce (Glasgow, 1786), who sometimes described
himself as " an alarmed Whig," became a power in Ulster, on the side of
the Constitution. He had taken no part in the movement of the United
Irishmen, and strongly condemned its oath of association. He was for the
gradual, as distinguished from the immediate, emancipation of Roman
Catholics. In the insurrectionary panic of 1798, he sent his family to
Whitehaven, and the Academy boarders to their homes. On June 8th, the day
after the Battle of Antrim, he enrolled himself as a private in the then
Belfast Merchants' Infantry, known as " The Black Cockades," this being
the only sign of uniform adopted. He was doing sentry-guard with his
musket, on 12th June, when an officer of the Royal Artillery declared that
" a finer soldier than Dr. Bruce he did not see that day." He wrote the
Presbyterian Address to George IV on his visit to Dublin in 1821, and
attracted the King's notice by his "majestic form and noble bearing,"
when, as Moderator of the Antrim Presbytery, he appeared on the deputation
which presented it.
He paid great attention to congregational singing, drawing up a hymn
book in 1801; but he successfully discountenanced-not, however, on
religious grounds a proposal in 1807 for the introduction of an organ. He
broke the established silence of Presbyterian interments by originating
the custom of addresses at the grave. He did not favour the presence of
lay-elders in Church courts; nor does it appear that any persons were
elected to this office in his congregation during his ministry. The;
Widows' Fund, founded (1750) through the exertions of his grand-uncle,
William Bruce (1702/55), publisher in Dublin, was greatly improved by his
efforts and judgment.
His leanings were towards non-subscription. This trend,
as far as he was concerned, was deep rooted, as his forbears had been
somewhat suspect in this direction. The religious views which he expressed
were not popular but, despite this, it is understood that he was much
respected by all with whom he was associated.
ANDREW CRAIG, 1782/1824
THE REV. CRAIG, Minister of Moira, received the call from the
congregation early in 1782, and was installed on 7th June of that year. He
was the son of Andrew Craig of Dechomet, Drumgooland, born on 4th March,
1754, and after receiving his divinity training at Glasgow in 1771, was
licensed by the Dromore Presbytery in 1777. The new minister, then
twenty-eight years of age, was regarded as a non-evangelical.
It was in 1784, that John Barbour of Paisley, who was to become a
member of the congregation, came to Ulster and set up business at the
Plantation, on the Down side of the River. The place name has been stated
to have originated from this event with the influx of Scots workers
employed by him, but, as the Session Records make reference to the
Plantation as early as 1748, this is a false assumption. He was a man who
established an industry in the district which through himself, and his
descendants, was to have such a tremendous effect on the economic life of
the town and the firm he founded was destined to achieve world-wide fame.
About that time the cotton industry began its short life in Ulster and
after some mills had been erected at Belfast, in 1790, James Wallace, a
Yorkshire man, built a large four storey cotton mill at Bakery Lane, the
foundations of which still remain. Bakery Lane is now the entrance passage
from Castle Street to the rear premises of Messrs. Alexander Boyd & Co.,
Ltd. It was here that he installed, in that year, the first steam engine
in Ireland, having purchased one of Watts 15 horse power engines in
Glasgow. The arrival of the engine and the mechanics to erect it caused
something of a sensation in Lisburn in those days. Then, in 1793, a second
mill was built by George Whitla and Robert Stirling, the former being a
member of the congregation. It is interesting to note that about that
period there was sufficient machinery in the Lagan Valley to encourage a
Yorkshire man named Hodson, who had worked at Birmingham, to start a small
engineering works in the town. He operated lathes by water power, mainly
turning rollers, spindles and bobbins, and employed ten workers, to whom
it is stated he paid good wages, none less than 3/- and some 7/- per day.
The attraction of higher earnings in the cotton mills naturally led to a
transfer of labour from the hand weaving of linen.
In 1794, the canal was completed, making navigation possible from
Belfast to Lough Neagh. The Marquis of Donegall, with a ,party, made the
inaugural trip with much celebration on the way. The completed canal was
not satisfactory, a story current being that a ship had sailed to the West
Indies and back to Belfast during the time occupied by a lighter on the
voyage to Lough Neagh.
There was great discontent throughout the land at the summary way in
which the House of Commons had treated the question of Reform and in June,
1789, several leaders, including Gratten and Charlemont, established the
Whig Club in Dublin " to obtain an internal reform in Parliament."
Soon after, the Northern Whig Club was started in Belfast but, it went
much further than the Southern Club: not only did it demand Parliamentary
Reform but, it sought the abolition of all tithes, and the emancipation of
the Roman Catholics. The citizens of Belfast at that time were noted for
their radicalism, there was no town throughout Europe that rejoiced more
at the success of the French Revolution. In July, 1791, the inhabitants
celebrated the Fall of the Bastille with great enthusiasm and rejoicing.
Though the Test Act and the disabilities relating to marriage between
Presbyterians had been abolished, still the Established Church had the
monopoly of place and power. The Presbyterians were excluded from almost
all the posts under the Crown and naturally this produced great
resentment. The payment of tithes to the Rectors of that Church was
another grievance. Further, the commercial restrictions which had been
imposed by England, had ruined trade and helped to drive thousands to
America, were not forgotten. The Presbyterians had also shown much
sympathy with the successful revolt of the American colonies in which many
of their kinsmen had taken a leading part. These reasons induced many to
join the United Irishmen hoping through this means to obtain justice and
freedom. Disaffection grew and eventually culminated in the ill-fated
revolt in June, 1798.
The conflict is of particular local interest through the activities of
Henry Munroe whose father was a Presbyterian, but his mother, an
Episcopalian, had brought up her children in her own church. He carried on
a draper's business in a shop on the Meeting House side of Market Square.
He was a strong Liberal in politics and had joined the United Irishmen in
1795. However, he had decided to have no part in the rebellion of 1798,
but considered it expedient to absent himself from home at the time. He
met the insurgents as they converged on Ballynahinch and was persuaded to
take over leadership. The battle was fought and lost, and on being
captured he was tried by courtmartial on 18th June, found guilty and
hanged in front of his shop in Lisburn. He is stated to have been brought
out of prison under a strong guard and was dressed in a dark coat, nankeen
knee breeches and white stockings. On his way to the scaffold he was
permitted to call at the house of Dr. Cupples, Rector of the Cathedral, to
receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper and this reverend gentleman,
solicitous for his welfare during the period of imprisonment, had ensured
that he was provided with food.
Napper Tandy, a prominent United Irishman, who figured in Paris in 1790
and for some years after, was the son of James Tandy, a linen
manufacturer, who lived at Bridge Street. He was known as " Croppie "
Napper Tandy which derived from the hair style affected by the United
Irishmen. In those days it was the fashion to wear the back hair very long
and tie portion of it with black silk ribbon, the " queue " as it was
called, hanging over the coat collar. The United Irishmen cut off what was
called the queue, hence the origin of the term " Croppie." A portrait of
Henry Munroe shows he continued to wear the queue even to the day of his
Luke Teeling, who was a friend of Henry West Betty, the linen
manufacturer, lived at Chapel Hill in a house immediately adjoining the
Chapel. His son, Bartholomew, left home in 1792, and on going to France
became a lieutenant in Napoleon's bodyguard. He came back to Ireland as an
officer with the French troops, landing at Killala, Co. Mayo, the force
being eventually defeated at Colooney, Co. Sligo, where he was taken
prisoner. He was brought to Dublin, but having resided in Paris for six
years he had become such an accomplished linguist that Major Sirr, the
chief military officer in the city, was unable to assure himself that he
was actually Teeling of Lisburn. The Major had him brought to his
residence and, knowing that Lisburn merchants were often in attendance at
Dublin Linen-Hall, he sent a servant there to say a gentleman of that town
was anxious to see a Lisburn merchant. William Coulson, the founder of the
Damask Factory, came to the house and, at once, recognised Teeling and by
shaking hands with him unquestionably proved his identity. The unfortunate
Bartholomew was immediately tried, found guilty and hanged the next day.
In 1800, there was much distress in the town amongst the hand weavers
owing to the introduction of power looms with the result that, largely
under the auspices of the Quaker community, relief was given by providing
food. The succeeding years saw the Peninsular War and it is understood
that a ballot was con ducted to obtain men for army service.
With the news of Trafalgar in 1805, came further reports of
difficulties for the linen weavers locally due to the inroads of cotton
Then in October of that year, one reads in the congregational records
that repairs were necessary: a state of affairs now noted for the first
time which was to become all too familiar to succeeding generations down
to the present day. The roof of the Meeting House had become defective and
?108 had to be spent on reslating it. The question of rebuilding a house
in the Shambles (Smithfield) came up and the necessary finance was
provided by a loan of ?200 from the Minister, the Rev. Craig. This was
secured to him by two bonds of ?100 each executed by several members of
the congregation. Three years later in 1808, the records contain the first
reference to the Praise in the Meeting House, when James Mann, the Singing
Clerk, having removed to Belfast was succeeded by John Fulton.
During those years there was much distress in the town and, in 1810, a
Philanthropic Society was set up to provide assistance to the needy. The
depression arising from the quarrel between Britain and America put both
the cotton mills out of existence. In 1813, George Duncan, a member of the
congregation, brought over a Scots woman to teach his workers tambouring.
Industrial unrest became evident about then due to the formation of a
Cotton Operatives Union. This was not kindly accepted by the employers and
violence was not unknown in the Belfast area.
In 1817 work was commenced on a new road from Finaghy to Dunmurry and,
with this connecting link, an alternative route to Belfast was in due
course provided. Prior to this the old road via Lambeg had been the main
The first evidence of the organised instruction of the children of the
congregation appears in 1814 when a school was opened in the Meeting House
by a number of the young ladies. Many will recollect the centenary of this
event being observed in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First
It was in 1821, that the Psalmody of the congregation suffered a sad
blow in the loss of the Singing Clerk, Robert Deveney, through a fall from
About that time, the Rev. Craig was in declining health and it was
decided to appoint an assistant and successor. He was then living at
Strawberry Hill, on the Down side of the river, and died there on 9th
June, 1833. Over the latter part of his ministry conditions in the town
were very bad. There was much unemployment and, due to malnutrition, there
was much illhealth and outbreaks of fever. There had been a series of poor
harvests which contributed to the difficulty of the poor getting enough to
eat. Times were hard and the spirits of the people were at a low ebb .
The Rev. James Morgan, who succeeded the Rev. Craig, has left in his
writings a pen-picture of this fine old man in which he stated : " He is a
most agreeable man. It was said he held some opinions not the same as
mine, but if so, he did not express them. He was silent on the subject of
religious doctrines. He was a man of the old school-a thorough gentleman,
well informed, meditative, reasonable, kind. In many ways he was highly
useful to me. He was the best reader I ever heard except James Sheridan
Knowles. He told me he never read a chapter in the pulpit without first
studying it and preparing himself to read it as it ought to be read. When
he noticed anything wrong in my reading, or speaking, or pronunciation, he
took me aside in the vestry, and taught me how to speak. When he approved
of my public appearances he commended me. He never spoke to me about any
of my doctrines on which we might differ, holding that I was free to
preach what I believed to be true. Whenever it was necessary he preached
for me, and told me he always carried a sermon in his pocket lest it might
be required. We had never the shadow of a misunderstanding. On many
subjects of practical importance he had proverbial sayings, which I was
accustomed to hear with great attention, as they were the result of much
observation on society. When I was called on to leave Lisburn I asked his
advice, but he said he never gave one in such a case, as it was like the
choice of a wife, where every man ought to act for himself according to
his taste and liking. I revere his memory."
home to Lisburn
JAMES MORGAN, 1824/1829
IN 1824, the Rev. Craig went into retirement and, after overtures to
the Presbytery of Bangor by a deputation headed by Mr. William Barbour, a
call was made to the Rev. Morgan of Carlow which he accepted.
The Rev. Morgan was the second son of Thomas Morgan of Cookstown and,
at that time, was twentyfive years of age, having received his divinity
training at Glasgow, 1814/15. He was licensed by the Tyrone Presbytery in
1820 and was ordained at Carlow in June of that year. He was an
outstanding preacher of the day, subsequently becoming the first minister
of Fisherwick Place congregation in 1828, and afterwards occupying the
Moderatorial chair of the General Synod in 1831/2 and of the General
Assembly in 1846/7. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity at
Glasgow in 1847 and was the convener of Foreign Missions from the
inception of the General Assembly in 1840 till his death in 1873. There is
no doubt that his brief ministrv in the congregation was one of great
acceptance and distinction.
The Rev. Morgan married, in 1823, the daughter of John Gayer who
resided at Derriaghy House, and this may have had some bearing on his
desire to come north. His wife had been brought up at Lambeg by her
grandmother, one of the earliest adherents and converts of John Wesley. He
had been encouraged to consider Donegall Street Congregation, but this did
not materialise and he was advised to get in touch with the Rev. Craig
before returning to Carlow. This he did, preaching at Lisburn and, as a
result, in due course receiving a call.
In his writings he observes, "Thus commenced a most happy and
prosperous ministry in one of the pleasantest places. While I had this
personal comfort in my new sphere, there were many other advantages. My
colleague was old, and had not been able to do much for some years. The
congregation had, consequently, suffered somewhat, but the people all
continued to respect him, and though the attendance at public worship had
declined, they were still in large numbers round about. When I began to
preach and visit them at their houses, they were speedily roused, and came
in large assemblages to the Church. We commenced an evening service, and
all classes and denominations attended it. We established a
Sabbath-school, and multitudes of children flocked to it. The ministry in
the Church of Ireland was not then vigorous, and many of the people waited
on mine. No minister could have greater encouragement than was graciously
given me. I was wholly occupied in my work. I did not need to seek
anything beyond it. I was altogether satisfied in it."
He goes on to say, "Nothing had been promised in my call in the way of
support, further than that I should have what the Church produced in the
form of seat-rents: but it was large, and in a brief period it needed to
be extended by making the gallery more commodious, so that the income
increased greatly. The last year I was there I received from the elders
?180 -a sum almost unexampled in those days. But there was better than all
this. I had many seals to my ministry in the conversion of sinners. It was
my purpose without delay to get acquainted with the entire Presbyterian
population, whether connected or not with the congregation. Not a few, I
soon found, had fallen away from Church-going habits. As I went from
family to family, I inquired if they knew of any Presbyterians in their
neighbourhood. In this way I found very many who had been long estranged
from the House of God. By perseverance I discovered, I believe, all such
persons in the town, or within a circle of two mile around it. At length
my list, containing the names and numbers of the families, amounted to
five hundred householders."
Turning to more general matters, it was in 1825, that the present
Dublin Road was opened at the junction of Bow Street and Longstone. Much
traffic was being conveyed by a lighter on the canal resulting in great
activity at Lisburn Quays, the facilities there being provided free of
charge to the users of that means of transport. Again one notes that the
depression continued to affect the cotton weavers and much hardship
prevailed in the district.