By E. Joyce Best







Bishop Poyntz said:                                                                                                                                                                                        

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 in 1997.