I am pleased to accept the kind invitation to launch this important publication for
at least two reasons:
1. To congratulate the author Mrs E Joyce Best, the editor and compiler Dr Kathleen
Rankin and the Lisburn Historical Society on publishing this important well presented
and illustrated chapter in local and social history. Incidentally both the author
and the editor have Huguenot connections - Mrs Best through her husband Mr Bill Du
Bourdieu Best and Dr Rankin whose maiden name was Lilley.
2. On my own behalf to recall that many years ago my Mother who hailed from Lisburn
told me that on her maternal side there was a connection with a Huguenot named Anne
Goyer and this family is cited in the text. While I have never proved this fact I
have no grounds for disbelief.
First of all, a word about the term Huguenot. Many and various have been the attempts
to explain its derivation. It may have been intended to be a nickname just as originally
were the words - "Christian", "Quaker", or "Methodist". Some have said that it once
stood for a small coin and if so was a term of contempt, a belittling of their value
in the eyes of the state. Others maintained that the word came to symbolise the Protestants
of Tours who were supposed to assemble by night near the gate of King Hugo who was
regarded as a spirit. Others have connected it with the patriotic party "Hugues"
which in 1510 defended the city of Geneva and also their faith against the Roman
Catholic Duke of Savoy.
Laying aside the question of derivation, the name can be taken to apply to the people
of France who in the 16th century adopted the Reformed Faith as taught by John Calvin.
The French Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries were confronted by the
alternatives of abandoning the worship and practice of the Reformed Faith or returning
to Roman Catholicism or becoming Roman Catholics whichever was appropriate.
St Bartholomew's day falls on the 24th of August. For most of us Bartholomew is perhaps
a vague figure - one of the twelve apostles - but this day is anything but vague
in history for on it 425 years ago, 1572 began one of the great religious persecutions
in history. Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, was the instigator. Admiral Jaspard
de Coligny and the Huguenots were the victims. It: lasted thirty days and the death
toll has been variously put at 50,000 to 100,000 French Protestants. The other significant
date is 1685 with the Revocation of the toleration granted by the Edict of Nantes.
This finally led to an exodus of what has been estimated between 400,000 to 600,000
refugees from France, seeking asylum in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and something
between 5,000 to 10,000 came to Ireland. Those who arrived here settled in places
like Dublin, Waterford, Portarlington, Wexford, Cork, Youghal, Innishannon, Belfast,
Lisburn and many other places. They came as soldiers (either mercenary or as members
of the English army), workers skilled in lace, linen, silversmiths, goldsmiths, and
a few farmers (most of the latter were found in County Cork). A handful of refugees
but their qualities, spiritual and material have greatly influenced this land out
of all proportions to their numbers.
Over the years I have ministered in three areas associated with Huguenots - Dublin,
Cork, and Lisburn. In Dublin, within the parish of St Ann where I was Vicar, there
is a small cemetery in Merrion Row, beside the Shelbourne Hotel. Over the gateway
there is the inscription "Huguenot Cemetery 1693". Apparently William III granted
them this piece of land for a cemetery and he paid eighteen shillings five and halfpence
(£1 Irish) to the Bluecoat School (Kings Hospital). D'Olier Street, well known to
all, was named after Jeremiah D'Olier whose father fought at the Battle of the Boyne
and who was made a freeman of the city and High Sheriff in 1788. In St Stephens Green,
No 52 before it became the Representative Church Body Headquarters was the home of
David La Touche, first governor of the bank of Ireland in 1793. Industry demands
finance and the La Touch family were leading Irish financiers in their day. In St
Ann's church there is a window to the memory of William Digges La Touche who died
in 1882, an indefatigable churchman who helped to set up the Representative Church
Body. St Luke's church near the Coombe (now alas closed) was originally built to
accommodate their workshop. That church and St Patrick's Cathedral were originally
much associated with the early immigrants. At one time, there were four Huguenot
congregations in Dublin.
In Cork can be found to this day, French Church Street - a reminder of days when
they had their own place of worship in that city. Many of the Huguenot immigrants
to Cork were talented gold and silversmiths. In that diocese there is much church
silver Communion plate - the product of the Goble family, father and son who were
both named Robert.
Others were interested in education and it is reasonable to suppose that Rochelle
school's name harped back to this. Near to Cork they were found in considerable numbers
in Youghal and Innishannon where they worshipped in the respective Church of Ireland
churches. Indeed as in Dublin they were eventually assimilated into the Church of
Ireland. Names to-day like Defoubert, Delap, Duklow (Duclos), Fleury, and Perdue
are reminders of a remarkable people and their story is told in "Silver Sails and
Silk Huguenots in Cork 1685-1850', by Alicia St Leger (1991).
So I come to the main purpose of this evening the launching of "The Huguenots of
Lisburn, the Story of the Lost Colony". Again I reiterate our gratitude to Joyce
Best, Dr Kathleen Rankin and all involved in this timely book and if I may say a
long overdue story told.
Huguenots came here in the 17th century and their part in the development of, what
we now call, the Borough has been largely neglected or forgotten. The first arrivals
came in the 1660's but the best-known Louis Crommelin did not settle until 1698 when
encouraged by King William III to expand and develop the linen industry in the area.
After a brief history of these interesting people the book tells of the beginnings
of the colony. It is noted with interest that the Boomer family (originally Bulmer)
must have been amongst the first arrivals for when King William was en route from
Carrickfergus to the River Boyne. He had trouble with his carriage crossing the River
Lagan at Drumbeg where he had an enforced stop while his carriage was repaired by
Rene Bulmer (Boomer), the local blacksmith whose family were described as in the
phrase of the day "Protestant Strangers". Incidentally we are told that on leaving
he gave Mrs Boomer an embrace; I hope her husband was properly paid! Painstakingly
the book offers pen portraits of many immigrant families connected with our town.
Pride of place rightly goes to the Crommelin family for Louis was the father of what
became the flourishing Irish linen trade and he brought with him some 70 linen makers
to set up the industry here. While in the south of Ireland the linen schemes almost
petered out, the Crommelin legacy was for centuries one of the backbones of the Ulster
economy. Preaching in the 18th century the Rev Philip Skelton a noted Church of Ireland
cleric of that time said "The men who planted this trade among us in the space of
half a century have turned our wilderness into a garden". High praise but it must
also be noted that these men and their families brought to this country other gifts
e.g. in the realm of Literary journalism, librarianship, banking, working in silk,
poplin, sugar refining, and horticulture. Many also served with distinction as clergymen.
There is an interesting chapter on the early Huguenot pastors in this town of which
undoubtedly the Rev Saumarez Du Bourdieu is the most outstanding. Father and son
gave much to Lisburn and its hinterland. Here to this day in Christ Church Cathedral
is a monument to Saumarez Du Bourdieu who died in 1812; also the grave of Louis Crommelin
and other members of his family are interred in the churchyard. After four generations
the Huguenots were virtually assimilated into the life of the Church of Ireland.
The author lists some ninety surnames of Huguenot stock originally connected with
Lisburn and some of these are still with us Alderdice (originally Alderduis), Boomer
(Originally Bulmer), Frizzelle (originally Frizze), Mayes, Refausse (originally Refasse).
This well written and excellently illustrated book is a reminder of our goodly heritage
here in Lisburn, of a group of refugees who contributed enormously to this town and
far beyond its environs. I commend it to you; every citizen of the Borough should
proudly possess a copy and we have in it a very good idea for a Christmas present