Mercedes Gleitze was the first person to undertake the Irish Channel in 1928.
Mercedes arrived in North Down where thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of her. During the summer of 28 she attempted the North Channel 3 times. Unfortunately she did not succeed in her personal struggle to champion the crossings of all crossings. The news paper reports at this time stated that it could never be crossed.
No one tried again till 1947 when Tom Blower successfully made both shores.
Below is a photo Mercedes and trainer Mr. Gregory handing her tea. training for Irish Channel off Blackpool.
Beannchar, the Irish name of Bangor, comes from the Old Norse for ‘horned bay’. Bangor Bay, after which the town is named, is located on the southern coast of Belfast Lough, just before the Lough opens into the Irish Sea. The town now serves as a dormitory town for Belfast 25km (15miles) away, but has a long and illustrious history of its own.
Monastic Bangor and its Saints
The current location of Bangor Abbey has long been a religious site for the area. Indeed, Bangor rose to such importance as a religious centre that it appears on the Mapa Mundi. The monastery was first established on a site known as the ‘Valley of the Angels’ by St Comgall in 555, and became a centre for sending out Celtic missionaries to mainland Britain and Europe. Indeed, still to this day, the Faith Mission Easter Convention and World Wide Missionary Conventions are still held in the town.
One of the early monks was St Carthage1. He set up as a hermit at Kiltallagh, before being forced to leave by the neighbouring bishops. He then came to Bangor, to study under Comgall for just a year before heading back to his native County Kerry to establish churches at Kilcarragh and Kilfeighney. In 590, he established a monastery at Rahan, near Tullamore, and was promoted to Abbot-Bishop. This grew into a great monastery but was soon surpassed by the establishment of a another at Lismore, County Waterford in 635, where he died four years later. Lismore is still a major cathedral city in Ireland today.
One of the early missionaries was St Columban2, who was born in Leinster around 543. He would have studied under Comgall before leaving Ireland in about 590, accompanied by 12 fellow monks, among them the saints Attala, Gall (circa 550 – 645) and Columbanus the younger. They established themselves at Annegray in the Vosges Mountains, Gaul3 and built monasteries nearby at Luxovium4 and Fountaines.
However, Columban and his follower’s Celtic practices caused the local clergy and the Burgundian court to try and force them away. Columban appealed to Pope Gregory I (circa 540 – 604) for support, but the campaign lead by King Theodore II (circa 586 – 613) eventually forced them to abandon Luxovium in 610 and flee to Switzerland.
Here Columban, Gall and others preached to the pagan Alemanni people and are remembered in Bregenz, Austria5 and Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, and other locations, for the work they did. Columban was forced out of here as well and fled to Italy, setting up a monastery at Bobbio; here he died in 615. Gall stayed in Switzerland setting up a hermitage at what is now Sankt Gallen before dying there in 645.
Other monks who were associated with the monastery at Bangor include:
· Findchua, who is chronicled in the Book of Lismore.
· Luanus, who founded 100 monasteries.
· Dungal, who defended orthodoxy against the Western iconoclasts.
Danish Raiders and Rebuilding
9th Century incursions by the Danes razed Bangor, sacking the town and the abbey. It was partially rebuilt, when St Malachy (Máel Máedoc úa Morgair) was appointed the Bishop of Down by Archbishop Caellach of Armagh. In 1127, the year after he completed the restoration of the abbey, he was appointed Bishop of Connor. Caellach then broke with the Celtic tradition of hereditary succession by nominating Malachy his successor in 1129. However, having followed opposition on his appointment to the Bishopric of Connor, Malachy did not accept the position of Prelate and Archbishop for another three years. Then for the five years he held the position, he did not enter the city of Armagh, for fear of his own safety. He decided to stand down from his position and on a trip to Rome to find his successor, Pope Innocent III (1160 – 1216) created him Papal Legate for Ireland. He is accredited with introducing the Latin Liturgy and the Cistercian Order to Ireland, and he was also the first Irish Catholic to be canonised.
The English dissolved the monastery in 1542 and the current abbey was built from the stones of the former in the 15th Century with a majestic tower. A spire was added in 1693.
In all, there are three church towers or spires that can be seen on approach to Bangor by sea. Apart from the Abbey, these belong to First Bangor Presbyterian Church and St Comgalls, Bangor Parish Church both just seen from Main Street.
Development of the Town
From being a Neolithic settlement to the establishment of the monastic settlement and beyond the shores of Bangor Bay, Bangor had a long history of settlement. Its location in a sheltered bay so close to the Irish Sea established it as a fishing port and harbour. A tower and tower house were built in 1636 as a custom house down at the docks. These are still present today and house a tourist information centre. The sandy beaches at Bangor Bay and nearby Ballyholme Bay later established it as a holiday resort for families to escape the industrialisation of Belfast. The Bangor to Belfast rail line is still one of the busiest lines in Northern Ireland today.
Queen Victoria visited the down and drove along the sea front giving the road its current name of Queen’s Parade. To the east of the bay were laird’s boats that tourists could hire out for a row in the harbour. Beyond that was Pickie Pool, an outdoor swimming arena, where many generations of Bangor and indeed Belfast children learned to swim. On the other side of the bay, the docks developed to take in goods and coal, whereas the fishing vessels moored adjacent to the harbour in the Long Hole and natural small fjord-like inlet. Along the sea front, facing the various hotels and tourist amenities, a sandstone clock was donated by the McKee family, which still works and bears their name to this day.
Open Spaces in Bangor
The Castle and its land was long the private preserve of the Hamilton family and stretched from the abbey the whole way along Abbey Street to what is now Church Street and back along the Gransha and Newtownards Roads to what is now the Ring Road. It was surrounded by a high wall, bits of which still remain to the north of the land along Abbey Street. With the town expanding though, the demand for land and amenities grew. Part of the land was given over for the market, then last century part was given up for the building of secondary schools for girls, and some more for their athletics fields. Eventually in 1973, the whole Castle and lands were given to North Down Borough Council as a Council Building and for Civic Amenities. Today the Castle Park and its former lands comprise two secondary schools, one primary school and the Institute of Higher Education, the Valentines playing fields, a Cineplex, council offices and a heritage site. There is also an arboretum and gardens that contain some rare species that the family established for their pleasure which the community can now enjoy.
The former brick works seems an unlikely location for the second major open space in the town, but when the manufacture of bricks ending at the close of the 19th Century, it became a gift of the Ward family for the people of the town. They developed landscaped gardens and also a bowling green and two tennis courts. Ward Park has developed through the years – the site of the tennis courts became first one, then two other bowling greens, the tennis courts moving to another part of the garden. A small children’s animal park, with rabbits, peacocks, budgerigars and guinea pigs was established on the banks of the stream, which is the home for ducks and other wild fowl. The town’s war memorial is also located in the park, along with a heavy infantry gun captured in the First World War, which has become a great climbable play thing for the children of the town.
Late 20th Century
The late 20th Century saw a major shift in the state of the town. Out of town shopping centres at Springhill, then also Clandeboye6 and now at Bloomfield, led to the degeneration of the town centre. The once proud Queen’s Parade was gradually dying, as holidaymakers went abroad rather than to the nearest available beach. The first phase of this redevelopment was to clean up the bay, which was heavily polluted. So with European funding two breakwaters were built, the outer one stretching out from the old west pier, the inner stretching out from Pickie Pool, which itself was now disused7. Then the beach was concreted over to enable a landscaped car park and the base on which to built a marina. A new harbour office and lifeboat station were built on the new waterfront and named Bregenz House.
Pickie Pool was pulled down as part of the development of the marina and in its place, a new children’s play area has been established, with climbing frames, sand pits and café. Also a train track that the kids can sit on winds its way across the fun park, past the pond with its pedalo swans. The location was once part of the promenade for Bangor and the path from the McKee clock out along the marina and past Pickie fun park has been landscaped to include fountains, borders and places of tranquillity to revive this quality again.
A new shopping centre at the foot of Main Street, covering the site of the old gasworks and reaching to High Street, was built to try and encourage people back into the town centre to do their shopping. The Flagship Centre was the first phase of the planned redevelopment of the sea-frontage that by now had many vacant and run down properties. The council started to buy up the majority of Queen’s parade with the intention of re-establishing a theatre in the town in a leisure, hotel and conference facility that will mirror the modern marina it is facing.
As well as encouraging people to moor at the marina, other transportation systems were in need of an overhaul, as the Victorian railway station was no longer capable of being one of the main stations on the Northern Irish Railways network. Alongside the station there was a ramshackle bus station that offered very little shelter from the elements. Over an 18-month period, the old stations were pulled down and an integrated bus and train station was built in a modern style. The roof of the glass-fronted structure reflects the seaside location with an impression of waves that sweep and lap over the train platforms. Computerised bus display boards make it easier to locate the correct bus stand and time of departure.
Bangor has over two millennia of history, but it is not resting on it; it is looking to the future and trying to provide an environment that the ever-increasing population is going to utilise and enjoy.
1 His Irish name is Mochuda.
2 Columbanus in Latin.
3 Modern day France, near the German border.
4 Modern name Luxeuil.
5 Bangor’s twin town.
6 Burnt down in 1987, rebuilt as a retail park.
7 People preferring the heated warmth of the indoor pool at the leisure centre.
“Short trips only now in this motor boat” Jimmy Laird used to shout when operating cruises from his boat “Alice”. Departing from his wooden Jetty between Grays Hill and Pickie Pool. Even though it may have been a strange thing to shout, his boat was always very popular, many generations took their children for a first “sea adventure” aboard the “Alice”. Bangor Bay also had up to 108 rowing boats with eager sailors hiring them out for one hour at a time. At this time Bangor had 14 boats plying for hire to all towns and parts of the Belfast Lough. Below are some photos of the boats. Please enjoy.
Two of the photos below are of a day trip to Portpatrick from Bangor.
The weather took a turn for the worse! Some of the party had to sleep in the local morgue due to a lack of money.
There was a whip round to send some home via the steamer, so they could “sign on”
If you wish to see a copy to place some names, (most are now known) call into McKeowns fish shop, High St.
“Ballad of Betsy Gray” If through Killinchy’s Woods and Dales You searched a summer’s day The fairest maiden to the found
Was bonnie Betsy Gray’ Betsy Gray was killed in battle of Ballynahinch defending her boy friend Willie Boal. It is said that she defended William and her brother by placing her arm in front of a soldiers sword, thus having her hand chopped off, she then had a shot to her head. It is reported Miss Betsy was a fine looking young girl aged 20 , no one was as pretty in the the County of Down
Her house still stands at the “Six Road Ends” , her boy friend William Boal came from “The Cotton”. Both areas just outside Bangor The story of Betsy Gray, a young Presbyterian woman, is so entangled with rumour and tradition that within the legend it is now almost impossible to identify the few facts from the mountain of myth which surrounds her. Nevertheless the heroine who rode onto the battlefield of Ballynahinch, as one of the “Hearts of Down” and was ruthlessly murdered while making her escape, is arguably the best-known figure of the 1798 rising in Co Down.
`The sodgers is cominq rin fast! rin fast! Wi’ guns an’ wi’ baynets! Rin fast! Rin fast! They’re lukinlur guns, an’ they’re lukin’ for pikes, They’ll show ya nae mercy, the blood thirsty tykes!’
The events of the period are enshrined in the folk memory. Numerous poems and ballads were written in the aftermath of the rebellion and pictures of Betsy leading the insurgents at Ballynahinch adorned the walls of cottages in her native county. However, it was the publication in 1896, of W G Lyttle’s book “Betsy Gray or the Hearts of Down”, which ensured her immortality. Such was its popularity that the novel occupied a prominent place on the bookshelves of local houses alongside the Bible and the poems of Robert Burns.
Lyttle’s account places Betsy Gray’s birthplace as Gransha, near the Six Road Ends, outside Newtownards, Co Down. The end of the eighteenth century was an eventful period in the history of Ulster. In 1791 the Society of United Irishmen was formed in Peggy Barclay’s tavern in Sugarhouse Entry, Belfast. Composed mainly of Presbyterians, the aims of the Society were initially constitutional – a union of all Irishmen to counter English influence, a radical reform of Parliament and the inclusion in that Parliament of people of all religious persuasions. The Society undoubtedly drew much of its inspiration from the revolutions which had recently taken place in America and France.
However by 1795 Government repression had changed a party of constitutional reformers into a society of determined revolutionaries. The introduction of the Insurrection Act in 1797 provided magistrates with extreme powers of search and arrest. The conduct of the King’s troops, commanded by the heavy handed General Lake, known as the “dragooning of Ulster” caused intense resentment among the local people.
However it was the execution of William Orr at Carrickfergus on 10 October 1797, which proved the fatal catalyst – the Presbyterians had their martyr and open rebellion became inevitable. Throughout the accounts of the 1798 rebellion there are numerous references made to those women who played a pivotal role in the uprising. The most famous of these was the 20 year old Elizabeth or “Betsy” Gray. W.G Lyttle’s account holds that she was raised by a doting father, who did not wish his only daughter to take part in working on a farm, or household chores and so he sent her to a ladies school where she received a formal education. Lyttle described Betsy as –
“..possessed of wondrous beauty, a beauty enriched and enhanced by a warm heart, an ardent temperament and lady-like accomplishments. Her beauty and her goodness formed a theme for every tongue wherever she went, and many a wealthy suitor sought her hand in marriage.” Her father, brother George and lover Willie Boal, were all members of the illegal United Irishmen. Although Betsy was not officially a member of the organisation, she was to play a significant role in events in 1798. In early June, George Gray and Willie Boal were involved in the rescue of Colonel Bryson from Newtownards Jail before moving on to the rising at Ballynahinch to take a stand against the King’s forces commanded by General George Nugent. On the 13th June 1798 it is said that Betsy, mounted on a white horse, dressed in green and brandishing her sword, led the Hearts of Down in a ferocious and, for a time, victorious charge on the King’s forces at Ballynahinch. The Monaghan Militia were repulsed from the town square and down Market Street. However, in the confusion of battle the insurgents mistook the bugle call of the retreating military for the arrival of Government reinforcements and themselves began to retreat. Having lost the initiative, the insurgent retreat rapidly developed into a rout and Betsy, George and Willie Boal fled in the direction of Lisburn. `Along the Lisburn road they fled Pursuing yeomen keeping watch Then Betsy took her gleaming sword And hid it in the farmhouse thatch’ Two members of the Hillsborough Yeomanry said to be Thomas Nelson and James Little from Annahilt captured them at the farm of Samuel Armstrong in Ballycreen. “She ran back a few hundred yards to find her lover dying upon the ground, and her brother struggling. He was about to be struck by a sword from behind when Betsy grabbed the blade in the bare hands to save him. She was set upon by three soldiers; one of them struck her upon the wrist with his sword cutting her hand completely of another (Nelson of Annahilt) put his pistol close to her eyes and sent a bullet crashing through her brain. In the same instant her brother was shot.” It is this version of the story that has been immortalised in traditional folk songs and poems, and the one which is most recounted. It is said the James Little’s wife was seen wearing the earrings of Betsy Gray after the murder and that the Little family suffered as a result of her husband’s hand in Betsy’s murder. One clergy man recalled that other families would not sit in the same pew as the Little’s in church and that the children were stoned as they made they way to school. Yet there exists a slightly different account of the murder which was published in “McComb’s Guide, 1861”, which was about 30 years before Lyttle’s own publication. It tells that Betsy Gray went into battle with her brother and lover determined to share their fate. She was mounted on a pony and bearing a green flag. After the defeat the three fled, and on their retreat they were overtaken by a detachment of the Hillsborough Yeomanry Infantry, within a mile and a half of Ballynahinch. “She was firstcome up with, the young men being at a little distance, seeking a place for her to cross a small river, and could easily have escaped. She refused to surrender; and when they saw her likely to fall into the hands of the yeomen, they rushed to her assistance and endeavoured to prevail on the captors to release her; offering themselves as prisoners in her stead. Their entreaties were in vain. Her brother and her lover were murdered on the spot. She still resisted; and it is said that a man called “Jack Gill”, one of the cavalry, cut her gloved hand off with his sword. She was then shot through the head by Thomas Nelson, of the parish of Annahilt, aided by James Little, of the same place”.
Local tradition recalls that the scene of the murder was the corner of Horner’s Road. The bodies were discovered on the evening of 131! June by yomtg Matthew Armstrong who, with local farmers Orr and Graham buried them, in the little vale of Ballycreen and marked the grave with a log of black oak.
In the nineteenth century a member of the Gray family erected a monument at Ballycreen with the simple inscription – “Elizabeth Gray, George Gray, William Boal, 13th June 1798”. However, on the eve of the centenary of the rebellion the monument was destroyed, ironically by Presbyterians, who objected to the site being exploited by Nationalists. Years later one of the participants to the destruction recalled, “We meant no disrespect to the memory of Betsy Gray, sure wasn’t she one of our own”.
Many historians have attempted to understand and explain the story of Betsy Gray. Some claim that she did not fight at Ballynahinch and that it is more likely that she was a camp follower from Waringsford or part of a large group of women who were posted at the insurgent camp on Ednavady Hill, or she may possibly have been trapped there while delivering supplies.
It is almost impossible at this distance in time from the events of 1798 to separate fact from fiction. Whatever future historical research may reveal, Betsy Gray and the brave hearts of Down have earned a place among the legends that will be forever unchanged.
`Like a shadow glimpsed disappearing around a corner, the ghost of Betsy glides on to succeeding generations’
Ship “EAGLE WING”- FIRST ATTEMPT AT EMIGRATION FROM IRELAND TO AMERICA, 1636. Departed Groomsport, Belfast Lough. Ireland
IN the spring of the year 1631, the Presbyterians of Ulster, wearied out by the intolerance of Charles I., and Archbishop Laud, and the consequent exactions of the ministers of the crown, particularly the Lord Deputy Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Stafford, by which their cup of bitterness was made to overflow, turned their eyes to the new settlements in the wilds of America. The Puritans of England, who were contending and suffering for the same rights of conscience, had planted colonies in Massachusetts, which cheered them with the expectation of a refuge from the ills they could neither be freed from, nor endure, in their native land. The flourishing colony had been planted at Salem, in the year 1628, and had been even more successful than Plymouth. These prosperous efforts to secure the enjoyment of liberty of conscience, turned the attention of the distressed congregations of Ireland to seek, in the deeper solitudes of distant America, what had been promised, and sought for in vain, in depopulated Ireland; or enjoyed only while they reclaimed the desolations of the previous rebellion.
The ministers that had come over from Scotland, whose names have been enumerated, had not attempted to form a Presbytery. The whole country had been laid off into parishes and bishoprics of the Church of England; and as the emigrants from England or Scotland found their residences, they were consequently included in some parish, and the ministers that came over to preach to them were admitted to occupy parish churches, and enjoy their own forms and ceremonies. Archbishop Usher was most mild and tolerant in his views of church order and government; and so, for a time at least, were some of his bishops; and in the different Dioceses of Ulster might be seen priests and deacons of the Established Church, and here and there intermingled a Presbyterian or Puritan minister, with a flock of their own peculiar creed and forms, under the bishop’s supervision. The great revival had broken up some of this quietness and order that had prevailed, by exciting jealousies between the favourers and composers of that blessed work: the bishops mostly withdrew their favour and protection, and were ready to carry into effect the rigid orders from Laud and the Deputy, and proceeded to silence those that would not conform strictly to the rites and ceremonies of the establishment, and began with Blair and Livingston: but by the good offices of Archbishop Usher these men were restored to their ministry. Their enemies, however, made representations at Court which resulted in shutting out from the exercise of the ministry, Blair, Welch, Livingston, and Dunbar.
These oppressed ministers, with many of their respective charges, began to make preparation for removal to America. Two persons were appointed delegates to visit New England, the Rev. John Livingston and Mr. William Wallace, and, if circumstances were favourable, to choose a place for their future residence. They proceeded to England to find a passage to America; but some unexpected difficulties caused their return to Ireland, and prospects in Ireland appearing more favourable, the project was for a time abandoned. In 1634, these ministers, who had been restored to their office, were three of them again suspended, and the next year the fourth, Livingston, shared the same fate; their only crime charged was their opposition to Episcopal forms. During the same year four other ministers were forbidden the exercise of their ministry on account of their adherence to Presbyterian forms; Brice, who was amongst the earliest that visited Ireland, and after a laborious ministry of twenty years, died the next year after his suspension, aged sixty-seven years,–Ridge, who went to Antrim in 1619, and had been most laborious and successful, and after his suspension returned to Scotland, and died 1637,–Cunningham, who had gone over in 1622, and returning to Scotland, after his suspension, died in 1637,–and Colwort, minister at Oldstone, where the great Revival began.
Once more preparations for emigration were commenced, and a correspondence opened with the colonies in New England. Cotton Mather, in his Magnolia, tells us, Book 1st–“That there were divers gentlemen in Scotland, who, being uneasy under the ecclesiastical burdens of the times, wrote on to New England the inquiries:–Whether they might be there suffered freely to exercise their Presbyterial church government? And it was freely answered–that they might. Thereupon they sent over an agent, who pitched upon a tract of land near the mouth of the Merrimac River, whither they intended to transplant themselves. But although they had so far proceeded in their voyage as to be half-seas through, the manifold crosses they met withal, made them give over their intentions; and the providence of God so ordered it that some of these very gentlemen were afterwards the revivers of that well-known Solemn League and Covenant, which had so great an influence upon the nation.” There is one error in this extract. The conclusion would naturally be, that the expedition was from Scotland; and very probably Mather understood it to be from that country,–whereas, the company sailed from the North of Ireland. The error arose undoubtedly from the fact, that the correspondence was carried on from Scotland, and the agent was a Scotchman, the ministers were from Scotland, and of no small eminence, and the colonists themselves were either Scotchmen by birth, or the children of Scotchmen reared in Ireland.
The deposition of their ministers, which took place August 12th, 1636, hastened the preparations for emigration, and on the 9th of the following September, the EAGLE WING, a vessel of one hundred and fifty tons, set sail from Lockfergus with one hundred and forty emigrants prepared for the voyage, and a settlement in a new country. The colonists took with them the necessary implements for carrying on fisheries, and also a considerable amount of merchandise to assist them by traffic to meet the expenses of the voyage and necessities of the new settlement. Among the emigrants were four noted preachers, ROBERT BLAIR, JOHN LIVINGSTON, JAMES HAMILTON, and JOHN McCLELLAND: all afterwards promoters of the cause of truth in Scotland and Ireland. Among the families that composed the company were the names Stuart, Agnew, Campbell, Summervil, and Brown. Many single persons united in the expedition, and with them sailed Andrew Brown, a deaf mute, from the parish of Larne, who during the revival had been deeply affected, and had given satisfactory evidence, by signs connected with a godly life, of having been truly converted. Like the voyagers in the MAY FLOWER, this devoted people met with difficulties. The New England Memorial traces them in the former case to the knavery of the shipmaster, first in springing the leak, then in landing them far north of the intended harbour; in the present case the parties concerned referred them to the providence of God.
“We had,” says the Rev. John Livingston in his account of the voyage, “much toil in our preparation, many hindrances in our out setting, and both sad and glad hearts in taking leave of our friends. At last, about the month of September, 1636, we loosed from Lockfergus, but were detained some time with contrary winds in Lock Regan in Scotland, and grounded the ship to search for some leaks in the keel of the boat. Yet thereafter, we set to sea, and for some space had fair winds, till we were between three and four hundred leagues from Ireland, and no nearer the banks of Newfoundland than any place in Europe. But if ever the Lord spoke by his winds and other dispensations, it was made evident to us, that it was not his will that we should go to New England. For we met with a mighty heavy rain from the northwest, which did break our rudder, which we got mended by the skill and courage of Captain Andrew Agnew, a godly passenger; and tore our foresail, five or six of our champlets, and a great beam under the gunner’s room door broke. Seas came in over the round house, and broke a plank or two on the deck, and wet all that were between the decks. We sprung a leak, that gave us seven hundred, in the two pumps, in the half hour glass. Yet we lay at hull a long time to beat out the storm, till the master and company came one morning and told us that it was impossible to hold out any longer, and although we beat out that storm, we might be sure in that season of the year, we would foregather with one or two more of that sort before we could reach New England.
“During all this time, amidst such fears and dangers, the most part of the passengers were very cheerful and confident; yea, some in prayer had expressed such hopes, that rather than the Lord would suffer such a company in such sort to perish, if the ship should break, he would put wings to our shoulders, and carry us safe ashore. I never in my life found the day so short, as at all that time, although I slept some nights not above two hours, and some not at all, but stood most part in the gallery astern the great cabin, where Mr. Blair and I and our families lay. For in the morning, by the time every one had been some time alone, and then at prayer in their several societies, and then at public prayer in the ship, it was time to go to dinner; after that we would visit our friends or any that were sick, and then public prayer would come, and after that, supper and family exercises. Mr. Blair was much of the time sickly, and lay in the time of storms. I was sometimes sick, and then brother McClelland only performed duty in the ship. Several of those between deck, being thronged, were sickly; an aged person and one child died, and were buried in the sea. One woman, the wife of Michael Calver, of Killinchy parish, brought forth a child in the ship. I baptized it on Sabbath following, and called him SEABORN.”
The report of the master and company filled them with distress,–the storm was upon them and before them;–oppression had driven them from Ireland, and waited their return. After prayer, and long and anxious consultation, they agreed to return; trusting in the good providence of God for their future welfare. The next morning as soon as the day dawned, the ship was turned, and they made for Ireland. On the third of November, after a prosperous sail, they came to anchor in Lockfergus, the place of their departure, after an absence of about eight weeks, cast down under this providence of God, and anticipating hostility, ridicule and suffering. Having sold their effects in preparation for the voyage, and having vested their property in provision and stock of merchandize, suitable for their expected residence, they experienced great loss in disposing of their cargo, and reinvesting the proceeds in things suitable to their emergency. The persons, they had hired to go with them to assist in fishing and building houses, demanded their wages, and were dismissed at great disadvantage to their employers.
Their reception by their friends, like their departure, was mingled with “gladness and sorrow;”–by their enemies with anxiety and disdain. Their friends commiserated their calamity, and rejoiced in their safety. Their enemies disliked their return, fearing the consequences, and were for a time divided in their opinion how they should be treated. Some were for exercising greater lenity; others poured out their ridicule in no measured terms, and in ballads, and notes to printed sermons, compared these oppressed and disheartened people to asses, which the same vessel had a little before brought from France,–and their religious ministrations to brayings so sad, that Neptune had stopped their voyage, and sent them back to Ireland to be improved.
The next year, 1637, the ministers finding no peace in Ireland, went over to Scotland, and met a most cordial reception from ministers and people. Mr. Blair was settled at Ayr; Mr. Livingston at Stranrear; Mr. Hamilton at Dumfries; Mr. Dunbar at Caldir in Lothian; Mr. McClelland in Kirkcudbright; Mr. Temple in Carsphain; Mr. Row at Dunfermline; and Mr. Robert Hamilton at Ballantises. These nine were zealous promoters of the National Covenant, which was renewed for the third time in Edinburgh, 1st March, 1638. Four of them were members of the famous assembly that met in Glasgow, in November of the same year, and took an active part in the doings of that body, by which Prelacy in Scotland was abolished,–the bishops deposed,–and Presbytery re-established. Those, who were settled on the western coast of Scotland, kept up their intercourse with Ulster, and many of their former hearers removed to Scotland to enjoy their ministrations. On the stated communions, great numbers would go over from Ireland to enjoy the privileges they could not have at home; on one occasion five hundred persons went over from Down to Stranrear, to receive the sacrament at the hands of Mr. Livingston. At another time, he baptized twenty children brought over to him, for that purpose, by their parents, who were unwilling to receive the ordinance from the Prelatical clergy.
The influence which this company of emigrants exercised on Ireland, and ultimately on America, is incalculable. It is scarcely possible to conceive, that any situation in New England could have afforded them such a theatre of action as the province of Ulster; perhaps none they might have occupied anywhere in America, even in founding a new State, could have afforded such ample exhibition of the power of their principles and godly lives. There had been a revival, a great revival in Ireland, among the emigrants from Scotland and their children; but as yet, no Presbytery had been formed; and the influence of the Presbyterian Protestants was circumscribed, and their principles not yet deep-rooted for permanency. Had this colony succeeded in finding an agreeable situation in America, in all probability so many of their friends and countrymen would have followed, that the North of Ireland would have been deserted to the native Irish, or the wild beasts, as in the times just preceding the emigration from Scotland. This company of men, as will be seen in the subsequent history, were the efficient instruments in the hands of God, of embodying the Presbyterians of Ireland, of spreading their principles far and wide, and marshalling congregation after congregation, whose industry made Ulster blossom as the rose. The Presbyterians became the balancing power of Ireland. “You need not”–said an intelligent physician of Petersburg, Va., who is familiar with Ireland, and does not claim to be a Presbyterian,–“You need not ask when you are to pass from the Catholic counties to those of the Protestants. You will see and feel the change in everything around you.”
Had the principles of Usher prevailed, and these men been permitted to labor in peace in their parishes, it would in all probability have been long before a Presbytery had been formed in Ireland; and when formed its influence and number of churches would have been really less than they were in 1642, the year the first Presbytery met. The intolerance of the Court and their obedient bishops drove these men out of the churches of the establishment. When the four set sail in 1636, for America, no faithful Presbyterian was left; the others were dead, or had retired to Scotland; all bonds were broken that might have held them in connection with the Episcopal church. The tempest brought them back to do a work in Scotland; and the rebellion and consequent massacre, by the native Irish, opened the way for their successful labors in Ireland, and for founding the Irish Presbyterian church. The wrath of man, and the tempests of the ocean, together work the wonderful counsels of Almighty God.
After the lapse of some two-thirds of a century, Ulster began to send out swarms to America; shipload after shipload of men trained to labor and habits of independence, sought the American shores; year after year the tide rolled on without once ebbing; and many thousands of these descendants of the emigrants from Scotland, disdaining to be called Irish, filled the upper country of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Ulster, in Ireland, has been an exhaustless hive, a perennial spring; and the form and fashion of its emigrants were moulded by these men, whom the storms baffled and sent back to do a work for Ireland and America. LIVINGSTON and BLAIR lived for Posterity.
In 1608, Jamestown, in Virginia, was founded by a small company from England; in 1620, the May Flower landed her little band of Puritans on Plymouth rock; in 1636, the Eaglewing relanded her company at Lochfergus; and some few years afterwards King Charles forbade the sailing of the vessel that should have carried away from England the Spirits of the Revolution. Napoleon, with all his immense hosts of savans and soldiers, did not, could not so change the condition of the world, as those four bands that, collectively, would scarce have formed a regiment in his immense army. Principles, not men, must govern the world under the Providence of God.
It was well that the distressed people of Ireland turned their thoughts to America for a resting place; it was better that they embarked for the wilderness, as it manifested an enterprise equal to the emergency; but it was better still that God’s wise providence sent them back to labor for Ireland, and shut them up to the work; and last, it was best of all, that they laid the foundation of that church which may claim to be the mother of the American Presbyterian Church, the worthy child of a worthy mother.