|Through Two and a Half Centuries 1748-1998
The Lord our God be with us,
as he was with our fathers;
Let him not leave us,
nor forsake us: 1 Kings 8:57
Then he shall go out in the
year of jubilee, both He,
and His children with him. Leviticus 25:54
We wish to acknowledge our appreciation for the valued assistance we have received in assembling this review of our interesting past and bygone days.
We would especially like to thank the following: -
Mr Robert Bonner, Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House.
The staff of the Ballynahinch and Saintfield Libraries.
The members of the three congregations who supplied material of Historical Interest.
Reverend Kenneth McConnell B.D. for the many splendid and attractive pictures of groups from the organisations in the three churches, for his sustained encouragement and support with all our Jubilee Year Commemorations.
Mrs Thelma McGladdery and June Kirkpatrick for their expertise, help and support.
Mrs Hazel Kirk for her dedication and commitment to typing this review
for our Jubilee Year.
For as a poet once said-:
It was born out of this hunger to worship God that a real need was found for the erection of a local meeting house. Over the centuries one house evolved into three, and back again into one united congregation, although we still maintain three buildings. Yet as another wise sage said:
"True worship doesn't depend on preacher, or place, but on the attitude of the heart".
Aware of that fact, people here are striving to remain true worshippers, as well as taking an old fashioned pride in keeping God's meeting house well furnished. The people at large are country worshippers at heart. As such it is their prayerful wish that God might send a revival so that many of our neighbours and friends might be attracted to Christ and found to be swelling the ranks of our congregation. Then that generation can begin to chart another story in the history of Boardmills. Who knows there may be another historian who shares the enthusiasm of Mr Fox, to whom we are indebted for collating all the information in this book.
May God continue to bless this Hamlet.
May we have great plans for this area to prosper and bless it beyond our wildest dreams.
May God bless all who share our joy in celebrating our Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary.
REV KENNETH McCONNELL, B.D.
Early History of the District
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 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 Downshire.
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.
Two Hundred and Fifty Years
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 and freedom.
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 commills, 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 Scotland.
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 Mill.
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 worship.
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.
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 burghs.
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 named Anti-burghers.
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 sturdy resistance.
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 congregations.
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 coldness.
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 two years.
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 accomplished fact.
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 Killaney, Boardmills.
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 Crown.
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.
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 Black.
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
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 Longmoor's ministry.
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.
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.
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 dissenting.
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 Boardmills.
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 them.
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.