The Congregation was officially known for the first 60 years of its
existence as "Killaney" which is not only the name of a townland, but also
of the small parish of which the townland is a member. The parish was
referred to by Rodger of Dunesfort when he was granted a charter by John de
Courcey in 1194 as the Church at Anelor.
The name Killaney or, as it is called in the census of 1605, Killeny,
Anaghalone, Anaghdoloun - all corrupted forms of cill - cluain - the Church
in the meadow surrounded by a marsh. The name is carried on to a degree in
the local name " Anagh Bridge."
The site of the ancient Church occupies the crest of a low hill almost
surrounded by loughs and marsh. Improved drainage has now reduced the area
covered by water.
The Loughs are a continuation of the Ravernet River or, to
give it its old name, Garriclough River (the lough in the rocks) which
divided the old Barony of Castlereagh and Kinelarty.
The largest lough is Lough Henney (eanach a marsh). In it there is an
island which, says the census taken at Ardquin 4th July 1605, was occupied
by Toole or Tare McPhelin McIvor. On this island some military antiquities
have been found including a helmet made of plate iron with brass fittings,
dating from 15th - 16th century, which was found in 1852. It is now in the
Ulster Museum. There was also found a bronze caldron which was given to Lord
The old Church site still exists in a circular enclosure. The Church was
badly damaged in the 1641 Rebellion.
The Reformation in Scotland had brought a social as well as a religious
transformation. The development of a strong small farmers' movement against
the feudal landlords was expressed politically in democratic ideals as well
as culturally in the form of Presbyterianism. When these lowland Scots came
to the land of the rolling hills around Boardmills they were determined to
leave the feudal system of farming behind them in Scotland.
The new settlers very quickly changed the Boardmills countryside,
draining the drumlin country which had stood as a barrier to communication
between Ulster and the rest of Ireland.
It was these heavily wooded hills separated by countless Loughs and bogs
which impeded movement. The prehistoric isolation of the North from the rest
of Ireland was partly due to the great concentration of drumlins between
South Down and South Cavan.
In extending the Scottish lowland way of life into Ulster they were soon
to see themselves as founders of a new society based on the fundamental
rights of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The old Church at Lough Hinney was never restored following the damage of
the 1641 uprising and by 1837 the Church was in ruins. At this time services
were regularly held in the Carricknaveigh Old School. By 1847 there was now
no trace of the old Church.
At this time the Marquis of Downshire offered £150 and a plot of ground
towards building a new Church. This offer was, presumably, taken up, for the
new Church was built at the Church Corner in the 1850's.
Professor Andrew Melville of the Church of Scotland told King James I
when he was still only James VI of Scotland, "Sir, I must tell you there are
two Kings and two Kingdoms in Scotland. There is Christ Jesus the King and
his Kingdom is the Kirk, whose subject King James VI is, and of whose
Kingdom he is not a king nor a lord nor a head, but a member."
When James came to the throne of England he did his best to suppress
Presbyterianism. His youngest son, Charles I, carried on this suppression of
the Presbyterians. As King of Scotland, Charles had tried to impose the
state religion of England upon his Scottish subjects.
He had tried to do this because, as King of England, he was head of the
religion and, according to his view, the religion of the King must also be
that of his subjects.
It was Thomas Wentworth, the King's Lord Deputy of Ireland who, against
his better judgement, armed the First Earl of Antrim, Randal MacDonnell in
response to the secret instructions of the King to invade Scotland and make
war on the Presbyterians led by the Earl of Argyll. It was these arms that
the Gaelic Irish Chiefs of Ulster turned on the Protestants of Ulster on
22nd October 1641. Six months after, Thomas Wentworth was executed on Tower
Hill. It was in these troubles that the old Church at Lough Hinney was
damaged and never repaired.
When Toole McIvor was living on his island refuge on Lough Henny, Queen
Elizabeth died early on the morning of 24th March 1603. A few months before
her death, the occasion of the momentous change, which was to have such
far-reaching effects for this part of Co. Down was fairly trivial. The
change was perhaps inevitable.
The unfortunate drunken Gaelic Chief Conn Mac Neill O'Neill in his grey
castle overlooking Belfast was gathering with his brothers, friends and
followers at Castlereagh having a great drinking party. He sent some of his
servants into Belfast with small wooden casks for a supply of wine. On the
way back, having been drinking, they encountered some soldiers who treated
them badly and took the wine from them. In the scuffle which followed, one
of the soldiers received a wound from which he died the following night.
This affair was magnified into levying war against the Queen and Conn was
promptly clapped into prison in Carrickfergus dungeon. Not long afterwards
Hugh Montgomery came to his aid, sending his agent from Ayr to win the heart
of the gaoler's daughter. He was so successful, that she opened the cell and
Conn lowered himself down the rope to a waiting boat to be taken to Largs
According to another account Conn's wife assisted by smuggling in rope
hidden in two big cheeses.
In Scotland Conn readily agreed to divide his estate with Montgomery, if
a pardon could be got from the King.
While Conn was away from Castlereagh some of his friends hired a
stonemason to build a protective wall round his castle, which had fallen
into ruin. When Conn returned he found they had used the stones of his
castle to build the wall. The weak and irresponsible Chief Conn O'Neill soon
disappears from the scene. He appears to have parted, on unfavourable terms,
with portion after portion of his lands to Hugh Montgomery, James Hamilton,
Sir Moyses Hill, ancestor of the Downshire family and to have died in
poverty. In 1616 he conveyed to Hamilton and Hill his ancestral property at
Castlereagh and the last remaining parts of his lands. Conn's son Daniel, a
minor at the time of these transactions, became a Protestant, entered the
English Army and came to be in favour at the Courts of Charles I and Charles
II. Many years after his father's death he petitioned the Lords of the High
Court of Parliament to set aside grants which had been forfeited by his
family. Montgomery was charged with having taken from Conn eight townlands
to the value of £15,000 for the consideration of £317 and Hamilton and Sir
Moyses Hill are said "by many undue practices and circumventions" to have
procured from the petitioner's father 66,000 acres upon the "onlie
consideration" of £60 fine when paid and the yearly rent of £160 Sterling.
The petition was unsuccessful and brought to an end the easy rule and
ancient customs of the old aristocratic Gaelic order in Ulster, after having
flourished for a thousand years was now being swept away.
The O'Neill territory in this part of Co Down had passed forever from
O'Neills into the possession of Lord Downshire's family. Charles II writing
to the Duchess of Orleans on 24th October 1669 says, "Poore O'Neale died
this afternoon of an ulcer in his gut. He was an honest a man as ever lived.
I am sure I have lost a very good servant."
The name Boardmills is evidently a term applied since the Scots settled
in the district.
The earliest reference to it is in the list of those convicted by Act of
Irish Parliament of James II in 1689, where "Hugh Fairley of Boardmil" when
judgement of treason was recorded against him, also the forfeiture of land
and goods, for favouring the cause of William III.
In 1737 Lady Middleton leased the watermill at Boardmills to William
Fairley, gent of Lisnatrunk, with 12 acres of land, the grist of four
townlands, of half of Killaney and of the lands in Drumra for £15 a year.
The state of the farmers grew steadily worse as the century grew older. Poor
farming and an insufficient area under tillage left good harvest years with
little more food than satisfied the needs of the population. When there were
bad years, and a succession of them came, a state of famine existed. The
years of 1740 - 41 were years of great distress.
Oatmeal (or as the Scots called it corn) largely the support of Down
folk, was twice or three times its usual price. Intense and long continued
frost at the beginning of 1740 had destroyed a large part of the stocks of
potatoes. For some years at this time the emigrants leaving Belfast and
Derry for America were never fewer than twelve thousand annually, and nearly
all were of Scottish descent and Presbyterian. To Ulster the loss of her
youngest and best was irreparable.
When the Scots first came to Down, without watermills, it was necessary
to bring flour and meal from Scotland across from Port Patrick to Donaghadee
or grind with quaim stones, a tiresome and awkward drudgery they were forced
to undergo. (As the native Irish did to make their graddon.)
We had two cornmills, one in Bresagh, most likely the first to be built
(Grid ref 338595) with an auxiliary windmill 17ft in diameter and 22ft high.
The Carrickmaddyroe cornmill measured 25ft by 20ft with a projecting dust
house 12ft by 9ft. It was driven by a breast wheel 15ft in diameter and 4ft
wide with an iron shaft and rim and wooden spokes and buckets. The mill had
three pairs of grind stones.
The Kiln measured 56ft by 23ft and was built of field stones. A stone
above the door was inscribed "This kiln built by John Fitzsommons (sic) Anno
Domini 1799." The Valuation books noted that the mill had a poor water
supply and only worked for about four months in the year. This was the
reason for the auxiliary windmill (Grid Ref 344599). The stump of the
windmill is about 20ft high, the mill is 20ft in diameter and the walls 3ft
thick. Above one of the doors is a stone which reads "This mill was built by
John Fitsimons Anno Domini 1813." John's name on his headstone in old
Killaney graveyard was spelt Fitzzimons when he died in 1846 aged 93 years.
This family came to East Down from France in the Norman invasion of John De
Courcy in 1177. As well as builders they were expert carpenters, skilful in
the manufacture of the wheel-less slipe, until it was replaced by the
revolving axle solid block wheel cart. This was again displaced by the fixed
axle spoke wheel cart, which was still in production seventy years ago at
the Temple. These local carts were equal in quality to those imported from
When Sir Moyses Hill came into possession of this area the lands were
covered with valuable timber. Local legend says the Fitzsimons family
transformed tree trunks into boards at their saw mill:- hence the Board
The Bresagh cornmill may have been constructed from overlapping boards
known as clapboard or weatherboard construction, also a Board Mill.
The eighteenth century pronunciation of many words differed from our
modern late twentieth century.
The shifting of accent has taken place in many words of our language
during the last century.
Words like sea, speak, cheat, please, release were then pronounced say,
spake, chate, plaise, relace. Such words as receive, conceive, perceive were
pronounced by our forefathers as resave, consave, presave. Tea was tay.
Wheat, treat, heat, meat, neat, were whate, trate, hate, mate, nate. Leaks
was lakes, means was mains, sermon was sarmon, weak was wake.
In the early part of the eighteenth century a cloud appeared on the
Church's sky, which was destined in the end to cause much hurt and division.
Before this the Synod's troubles had all come from outside. Her ministers
and people had stood firmly together, one in doctrine, principle and
1705 A number of young clergymen in the neighbourhood of Belfast formed
themselves into a clerical club, to discuss theological and other topics.
They called their club "The Belfast Society" and ultimately it became a most
influential body. Strange views were proposed and put forward at the
meetings. One of these was that subscription to creeds or confessions should
not be required by the church. Their doctrine became known after a chance
use of the words "new light" in speaking of non-subscribing ministers and
their teaching. They gave the name to a party which was for a time the
dominant party in the church, that had been one in faith and doctrine in
times of persecution. At the annual meeting of the General Synod, amid a
general uneasiness, a very large attendance of the members indicated the
anxiety felt for the safety of the church. The ruling elders especially
mustered a great force. Seventeen memorials were presented from seventeen
sessions asking that all members of the Synod may be obliged to subscribe to
the Westminster Confession of Faith as a confession of their faith. The
Belfast Society argued strenuously against even a voluntary subscription,
but it was carried against them by an overwhelming majority, almost all the
members in attendance adding their signatures.
1719 From this originated the names Subscribers and Non-subscribers by
which the two parties now began to be known.
All over Europe it was a time of looseness of thought and coldness of heart.
In Scotland "moderatism" was in the ascendant - deadness in faith prevailed.
Over here in County Down we did not escape the widespread influence. The
Westminster Confession of Faith began to be pushed more and more into the
background. The practice of requiring subscription to it from licentiates
and ministers fell into sus pension in Down. The faith of the congregation
had cooled. The main cause was the introduction from Scotland of that kind
of teaching and preaching to which the term "moderatism" was applied.
Freedom from the persecutions suffered by the fathers of the seventeenth
century appears in the early eighteenth to have bred a certain laxity and
neglectful attitude in religious observances of the sons. Presbyterians
remained Presbyterian, but carelessness came with relief from trial.
While the "new light" was working to the disadvantage of the Irish
Presbyterianism and moderatism began to shed its chilling influence over
Scotland and Northern Ireland, a counteractive was being prepared by the
King of the Church in His own mysterious way. This was the introduction into
Ireland of the body called Seceders. Three hundred and eighty four years
ago, the Rev Edward Brice was the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland,
when he came from Drymen, Sterlingshire to the congregation of Broadisland,
Ballycarry in 1613.
A Scottish army was sent in 1642 to put down the rebellion. The first
detachment of the 10;000 strong army under the command of General Robert
Munro arrived in April. When the main army came it brought with it its
Presbyterian chaplains. Each regiment had a "Kirk Session" and on 10 June
1642 the four sessions met at Carrickfergus to constitute the first
Presbytery in Ireland. From this time the Scottish Church in Ulster assumed
the regular and organised form which it still retains, and from this period
the history of its ministers, its congregation and its ecclesiastical courts
can be traced in uninterrupted succession; and now about a hundred years
afterwards, gave Ulster as a new gift the first seceders.
The Secession movement began in 1732 when four ministers of the Church of
Scotland seceded from the established church, on account of the toleration
of certain errors in doctrine, the evils of patronage when the ministers
began to be imposed upon vacant congregations against the will of the
people, and a general laxity in discipline. The first case of a minister
being imposed into a parish against the will of the people took place in
1725, and from this time onward case after case occurred with no redress.
Rev Ebenezer Erskine urged the need for reform, and described Scottish
ministers as those "who snuffed the light of Christ out of the Church." For
this he was suspended and then deprived of his congregation. Three other
ministers united with him in protesting against this high-handed activity.
The Seceders had their own troubles. "The breach" in 1747 divided them on
the question of the lawfulness of its members taking an oath required to be
sworn by those who were elected to serve in town councils in some Scottish
This oath pledged the swearer to the maintenance of the true religion
presently professed within its realm. Those, who defended the taking of the
oath, were known as the Burghers, while those who objected to it, being
In the early years of the eighteenth century the Synod of Ulster had been
very active in extending the Church, but for some time past this important
work had been overlooked. There was great hesitation on the part of the
Synod in dealing with Church extension.
There were districts, where the inhabitants were at a great distance from
the meeting houses, which they were expected to attend regularly. The case
of Boardmills is an example of this inconvenience.
This state of things is generally attributed to the selfishness of the
ministers of the Synod who, dreading the decrease of an income already
insufficient, were in the habit to meet invasion of their districts with
At this time 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. At this period the Regium Donum was a fixed
sum of sixteen hundred pounds divided over about one hundred and fifty
The addition of new congregations naturally decreased the dividend paid
to each minister which was only about ten pounds per annum. It was this
portion of their income which was marked by certainty and punctuality. The
contributions of the people were small and irregularly paid. This was how it
happened that the evangelical seceders became the extenders of enlargement.
Without authority of the Synod they built new meeting houses, as is the case
in Boardmills, and sought to be established into a new congregation in
connection with the Synod of Ulster. When the opportunity for church
extension was refused by the Synod, they were warmly embraced by the
Seceders, who were always ready to encourage those who were dissatisfied
with their own communion.
"The breach" of 1747 left us with two Secession Synods instead of one.
Both stood apart from the Synod of Ulster and from each other. All three
Synods were mutually suspicious and looked on each other with bitter
The warm fire of the evangelic preaching by the Seceders contrasted
strongly with the exact and cold moral preaching of many members of the
older Synod. It captivated those who were of a devout and spiritual nature,
and those who loved the simple truth and fervour of the Gospel. Even the
rigid discipline exercised by the new body, with the interference of
ministers and elders in the personal and family life of its adherents was no
deterrent, but was welcomed as a return to the precise and clear-cut
principles and ideals of covenanting times.
In 1663 the two principal inhabitants were John Todd of Carricknaveigh or
("Toddstown") and John Cowden of Carrickmaddyroe. The Todds, their tenants
and neighbours, McKees, Shaws and Edgars were all loyal members of
Saintfield congregation for three generations.
From the first half of the 17th century until the middle of the next
century the Scottish inhabitants of Killaney were associated with the
congregation of First Saintfield, whose first minister Rev Alexander
Hutcheson owned Drumalig and resided there. The second minister, Rev
Archibald Dickson, also had his residence in the same neighbourhood.
1739 Following the death of the Rev Archibald Dickson in March 1739, a
vacancy of four years followed. During this period the congregation was
split into two opposing sides. On 6 October 1741 the quarrel had reached
such a height that some Boardmills members of the congregation petitioned
the Presbytery to have "supply of sermon at ye Boardmil." Presbytery refused
and the issue lapsed.
Thirty years before in March 1712 the Presbytery granted a "supply of
Sermon" for the district of Kilmore, when the church was erected at Rademon.
Mr Dickson's stipend, already very small, was now seriously diminished.
1743 Mr James Rainey was ordained on 8 March 1743. Unhappily his ministry
was very brief, as he died on 20 January 1745
1745 The congregation then became hopelessly divided on two rival
candidates to fill the vacancy, Mr James McKane or Mr Richard Walker. The
Boardmills members of the congregation were Mr Walker's strongest supporters
and they sent three repre sentatives, John Todd, William Blakely and James
Smith, to the Presbytery to plead for the appointment of Mr Walker as their
constant supplier in Boardmills, where they intended to build a meeting
house in the spring 1746.
1746 The Presbytery apparently ignored this request, and on the 25 August
1746 they received an ultimatum from the Boardmills Presbyterians requesting
a supply of sermon at Boardmills which, if not granted, would be obtained
elsewhere, and "they would hear no more at Saintfield." This request
astounded and distressed the Presbytery, who sought the advice and aid of
the Rev Andrew Malcom, a pious and eminent minister of that day and of great
influence in the Church. Mr Malcom wrote to the congregation "exhorting them
to peace and unity." A compromise was arrived at and instead of Mr Walker
being appointed supplier at Boardmills, he was called to Saintfield and
ordained there on 28 July 1747, after a bitter disagreement lasting nearly
While the Todds and others of Boardmills section still remained faithful
to Saintfield, there were others who had gone too far over to the secession
to think of returning to their old allegiance. The ordination of Mr Walker
failed to reconcile those at Boardmills - it was too late. A meeting house
had been built and seceding preachers had been called in before this
decision was made; the Boardmills congregation was practically an
When Boardmills was in disagreement with the General Synod of Ulster it
soon received the attention of the Seceders. Missionaries were sent to the
district. On 3 September 1746 Rev George Murray of Lockerbie was appointed
to proceed to Ireland for several sabbaths, one of which was to be spent at
In 1746, Mr John Swanston, probationer, was also sent on a mission of
three months duration.
On 24 May 1748 at the new church at Falkirk, a reference was read from
the Associate Presbytery of Glasgow regarding two calls to Mr John Swanston,
one from Killaney and one from Ballyroney, both in County Down. Mr Swanston
also received a call from Kinross, which the Burgher Synod decided should be
accepted. The calls from Boardmills and Ballyroney (Drumgooland) were not
overlooked, and to soften the disappointment caused by their decision, the
Synod sent the Rev Andrew Black of Cumbernauld, and Mr Thomas Mayne,
probationer who was a member of Mr Black's congregation to Ireland, "to
order things there in the Gospel." This mission resulted in Mr Mayne being
ordained at Ballyroney on 20 June 1749 by the Presbytery of Glasgow. Mr
Mayne was in this way the first Burgher minister settled in Ireland.
Two days after the ordination of Mr Mayne, the Rev Andrew Black, 27
years Mr Mayne's senior, was installed at Boardmills. A meeting of Synod at
Stirling on 2nd of May 1749 considered a call given by the congregation of
Killaney to Mr Andrew Black. A considerable time having been spent reasoning
upon the subject and in prayer, after which the majority voted for Mr
Black's transportation from Cumbernauld to Killaney "to serve in the work of
the ministry as their lawful pastor thereat." Mr Black's admission to be
upon Thursday, 22nd June next, which day they appointed to be observed as a
day of fasting and humiliation by the congregation of Killaney - that the
Presbytery of Glasgow meet at Madero on the said day at 10 o'clock before
noon. This to be announced at the new meeting house of Killaney by the Rev
John Swantson, minister of the
Gospel at Kinross. Mr Swantson was to preach the sermon at the admission.
The Rev Andrew Black was born in 1700 in Cumbernauld, Scotland, then a
village between Glasgow on the road to Falkirk and Sterling.
In 1747 Mr Black sided with the Burghers, but for some reason he resigned
from the Burghers in 1749.
Mr Black had three daughters, Mrs Magill, Mrs Menown and Mrs Watt.
Mr Black settled down to live on 11 Irish acres and 34 perches in the
townland of Bresagh to a crowded diary of a crowded life. He was a man who
spent a great part of the day in the saddle or on foot, sometimes far into
the night. In fair or foul weather he travelled for baptising (children were
baptised at a much earlier age often at one or two days old) marrying,
visiting the sick and dying, attending markets and buying cattle. His life
was half that of pastor and half farmer.
On 24 July 1751 Mr Black founded the first Burgher Presbytery in Ireland,
the Presbytery of Down with Mr Mayne and Mr Clark. Mr Black was very active
and zealous in his endeavours to extend the church. In April 1752 we find Mr
Black before the Synod bemoaning the lack of Gospel in Ireland. The
societies at Loughaghery, Ballynahinch and Lissara were fostered by Mr Black
until they became established congregations. Wherever a body of people
hungering for the Gospel made application for sermon to the Seceders, the
opportunity was never neglected.
He retired in 1777 and died on 6 July 1782.
Between 1717 and 1775 some 300,000 Ulstermen set sail for the New World.
About the year 1729 the tide of emigration set with persisting force to
the other side of the Atlantic which was remarkable, considering the danger
and hardship of the voyage in those days before the general use of John
Harrison's chronometer which made possible the calculation of longitude. The
large body of those who left the country were Presbyterians. They were
denied responsibility and high office. They were subjected to crippling
rents and taxes by landlords, church and state and so with little or no
opportunity or motivation, no reward for their hard work and no real future
for their families, they left.
The years from 1770 to 1775 were years of social unrest, because of
increased rents, heavy fines for the renewal of leases that had lapsed, the
making of roads without payment.
The Test Act was still in force, which debarred all but members of the
Established church from holding any office of financial reward under the
Many small farmers were weavers, who paid their rents from the money
derived from the loom or spinning wheel. At this time the depression in the
linen trade was so great that trade was at a standstill.
By the time Independence was declared in America in 1783, some 123 Ulster
settlements had put down root there. It is said that there were more
Ulstermen in the Shenandoah Valley at the time than there were in the Lagan
Valley and Belfast, numbering one million. Today their descendants number
over 20 millions.
In the same year as the Church was founded here in 1748, John Gill was
born at Lisban Road. The following year Jean Shaw was bom at Loughinney in
1749. They married about 1768.
Reproduction of Certificate of
introduction of John Gill and Jean Gill or Shaw to Mr Isaac Duncan of
Philadelphia from Minister and Elders of the Church
The Rev Andrew Black gave them a reference to go to America, accompanied
by Sarah their infant daughter. Sarah was born on 4 September 1769. They
moved to the Cumberland area of Central Pennsylvania, where so many Scots
Irish settled from Philadelphia, before moving west to new frontiers. John
joined the militia and the American Revolution to fight the British to gain
independence for his new country. He served in the 5th Regiment,
Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1780 in the company of Captain Isaac Seely,
commanded by Colonel Francis Johnston.
After the war John was given 200 acres of Bounty land (with Indians) in
Northern Westmoreland County in Western Pennsylvania.
The great Ulster philosopher, Francis Hutchenson was born at Drumalig in
1694. The principles, he advocated, found their way via American
revolutionary thinkers into the Declaration of Independence and are embodied
in the American Constitution.
John Gill's descendant, Linda Gill Bhame, visiting Boardmills in 1996
says "some people said the early Presbyterians were too stern, too rigid and
too work oriented." However, I think they came from good, kind hearted
people, who knew right from wrong and were well taught by such as Rev Andrew
Mr Black was succeeded by Rev Joseph Longmoor, son of Robert Longmoor of
Monaghan, licensed by Monaghan Presbytery and ordained as assistant and
successor to Mr Black in October 1778. Mr Longmoor is recorded in the Church
Register as having married Miss Frances Hutchinson of Dublin on 30th
November 1784. During his ministry there were two secessions from the
Congregations. A large number of members living in the neighbourhood of
Saintfield erected the Secession Church (2nd Saintfield) in 1796.
There is little doubt that the political sermons of the Rev Thomas Ledlie
Birch, Minister of General Synod Congregation (1st Saintfield) turned away
some of his members to the advantage of the Secession cause. He also found
fault with Mr Longmoor for going to Dublin (his mother-in-law being on her
death bed, or having died in Dublin) and leaving his people without public
worship for a Lord's Day or two. It was also during Mr Longmoor's ministry,
that the Covenanting Congregation was formed at Boardmills. Mr Longmoor was
upset by this new Congregation and, in fact, published a sermon on the
occasion, contrasting the doctrines of the Seceders with those of the
Covenanters. The present Church (1st Boardmills) was built in 1802 during Mr
Most of the old meeting houses have disappeared or altered out of
recognition. The old meeting houses in County Down were thatched buildings
in the shape of a cross of the kind called "triple Aisle" represented in
plan by the letter T, with a door at each end of the cross. Part of the old
walls were incorporated in the new building.
The Secession Church did not receive the grant from the Regium Donum or
Royal Bounty which had long been enjoyed by the Synod of Ulster, but in 1784
the Government made an annual grant of £14 per annum to each Burgher
Minister. In 1803 the Government increased the grant to the Synod of Ulster,
payment being made according to the size and importance of the Congregation
- £100, £75 and £50.
The Burghers denounced the Synod of Ulster in the strongest terms for
accepting the classified grant, which cut across all Presbyterian ideas of
fairness. At the same time a Burgher Committee was making secret
representations to the Government for an increased grant.
In 1809 they were granted £70, £50 and £40. The Congregation of Boardmills
was divided into two rival and conflicting parties, who became estranged
beyond all hope of reconciliation, some not willing that their Minister
should take the revised grant, which his Church had been denouncing for six
In the midst of this heated disagreement Rev Joseph Longmoor died.
In 1838 the principle of classification was done away with. The Regium
Donum was in that year equalised, each Minister both of the Synod of Ulster
and the Secession Synod receiving £75 per annum. This figure continued until
it was abolished by the Irish Church Act in 1869.
It was Mr Longmoor who was instrumental in securing a permanent lease for
the Manse Farm. Mr Longmoor was Moderator of Synod 1790-1791.
The Elders during his period of service were James McKee, Hugh McKee,
Robert Edgar, John Deans, John Dunwoody, John Little and David Shaw.
His gravestone inscription reads
"He died October 10th 1809 aged 56 years.
He attended with punctuality and
to the various duties of his official labour among
a numerous Congregation for the space of
Those who favoured their Minister taking the revised grant wanted Mr John
Sturgeon, son of the late Secession Minister of Ballynahinch and Lissara, as
Minister and a call to him was signed by 138 persons with 91 members
This protest bearing ninety-one signatures was presented to the Synod at
Cookstown against his admission to Boardmills. He accepted, however, and was
ordained on 31st August 1810, the stipend promised being fifty pounds with
the Manse Farm. Shortly after the ordination Mr Sturgeon married Miss Jane
Thompson of Drum and signified his intention of accepting the Regium Donum.
Those members who dissented were a strong element of the Congregation and
wished to hear more candidates, but they were outvoted. They desired a
further hearing of young men and held a meeting and appointed a deputation
consisting of Mr John Gill, Lisbane, Mr James Edgar, Lisbane and another
gentleman, a Mr Warwick. They were to proceed on horseback to this meeting
of Presbytery in Cookstown, to oppose the call, and ask Presbytery to order
a further hearing of young men. The deputation was received by the
Presbytery in a manner not over-dignified or courteous. The Minister who
introduced the deputation was himself a Boardmills man, Rev Samuel Edgar of
Second Ballynahinch Secession Church, and a nephew of Mr James Edgar one of
the members of the deputation. He stated to the Presbytery that, those
comprising it, were three cross, irreligious and seditious men from
They replied by declaring, "We are Christ's free men." The members of the
deputation returned home and informed their friends of the reception that
they had been given. They remained true to their principle of the Gospel
free from Government grant, and urging that the Ministers should depend
entirely on the contributions of the people.
They began organising themselves into a "Congregation" and asked their
friends in Scotland to send them supplies. Ministers came over periodically
and preached to the Congregation during their stay in a disused quarry, the
present site of the Church at 2nd Boardmills. This state of matters
continued for about six years.
One of these Ministers who supplied during this period was named Rev Mr
Torrens and he was well liked among the people for, in addition to his other
qualities, he had an almost unlimited store of wit and humour: Mr Torrens
and the other Ministers who supplied lived amongst the new Congregation
during all this period of nearly six years and made many friends. Their
courage, determination and resolve were admired by even those opposed to
In 1811 a determined effort was made by the new Congregation to have a
local and substantial meeting house. At a meeting held in the disused quarry
the following office bearers were appointed to undertake and carry out the
project. 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.