Thursday 2 January 2014

The French Settlers in Ireland - No 3 (pt 2)


The Guillots were officers in the navy of Louis XIV., but, being driven from France by the religious persecutions, escaped into Holland, where they were kindly received by the Prince of Orange, and presented with commissions in his navy. On more than one occasion they performed important services. Some members of the family settled in Lisburn, and two of the ladies married sons of Samuel Crommelin, brother of Louis.

Another family, named Jellett, which resided for many years near Moira, (a few miles from Lisburn,) is also of French extraction, but of different origin from the Guillot family above mentioned having settled in Ireland previous to 1685. The first of the name of whom the present representatives have any record is William Jellett, who was born in England about 1632, and settled at Dromore Co. Down, before 1687; in which year he married the daughter of Captain James Morgan, one of Cromwell's aides-de-camp, a Welsh settler from Garth, in the parish of Llandovery, in Caermarthenshire, and proprietor of Tully-ard, in the County of Down. It is thought possible that he may have been a relative of the Protestant clergyman of the same name who preached in the Cathedral of Durham in 1656, on which occasion there appears a charge in the Church Books of three shillings "for saek for Mr. Jellett." [See Quarterly Review, January, 1829, p. 386.] A little incident which occurred while King William III. was at Hillsborough, may be mentioned in connection with the Jellett family settled at Moira. Being Protestants living in a district surrounded by Roman Catholics, Mr. Jellett the elder being then in feeble health, and his son probably serving in the army under Sir George Rawdon, his wife presented herself to King William., and requested him to leave her two soldiers as a protection to her house. The King received her graciously; but, perceiving a great tankard, of fully a quart measure, attached to her girdle, he humorously asked for an explanation. He was informed that this vessel was one highly prized in her family, and handed down as an heir-loom, being formed of "blood-stone," mounted in silver-gilt, and believed to be of great efficacy in curing haemorrage; and that she was afraid to leave so valuable an article behind during her absence. His Majesty thereupon called for wine, filled the tankard, and drank the lady's health: then presented it to her to drink to his success, and afterwards kindly granted her request. The two soldiers accompanied her home, with orders to remain until required; but, as they never were called on, they eventually became settlers on the property, and were long the only Protestants there. The tankard is still preserved, and in the possession of the Rev. John H. Jellett, F.T.C.D. -- it had no doubt been brought from Wales along with the Morgan family. A Captain Henry Jellett served in General Monk's army in Ireland, in 1642, and was one of three who were deputed by the General Officers of the army to demand from Monk his reasons for not signing promptly the "Solemn League of Covenant" which had already been signed by all the officers but himself. One of the originals of this League and Covenant, now in the Belfast Museum with a number of signatures attached, was presented to that institution by the late Morgan Jellett, Esq.,h and was believed by him to have come into the possession of his family through this Captain Jellett.

In England there are numerous families who write their name Gillett, and Gillot, all of French extraction: the former at Glastonbury, Exeter, and Banbury, the latter at Birmingham and Sheffield. It is probable that these names, as well as Jellett and Guillot, have all been originally the same, namely, Gillot, the diminutive of Gilles, the French form of Giles.


The family of De Saurin resided in Languedoc, and was strongly attached to the Reformed church, ranking among its members many individuals distinguished for their piety and learning. At an early period we find them taking a prominent part in the affairs of the church, the names of two appearing in the Synod Roll of Alençon, viz., -- Saurin, pastor of Aymarques, and Peter Saurin, pastor of Uxeaux. The branch of the family settled in Ireland derives its origin from the noble Charles de Saurin, of Calvission, in the Diocese of Nismes, who served for a long time in the army. He had two sons, John and James.i The eldest, John, was page to the Constable de Montmorency, Maitre de Camp of a regiment of Infantry, and subsequently appointed Governor of the Castle of Sommières by Letters Patent dated at St. Germain's, the end of October, 1597. He left three sons, Antoine,  N--------- , and Daniel.j The eldest succeeded his uncle, James, in the governorship of the town of Sommières, and his appointment was accompanied by a letter from the Constable and the Duc de Vandadour, expressing their high sense of his father's merits. He left two sons who embraced the military profession, and died without issue: and three daughters, two of whom became nuns, and the third married. N--------- de Saurin became Captain of the Guard to the Duc de Royan, and was killed in the service, leaving a very young son who settled at Nismes, and went to the Bar. He became an advocate of great reputation, and a member of the Royal Academy of Nismes. He had three sons Jacques, Louis, and a third (name unknown) who became Captain of Cavalry, in the service of England. The father, notwithstanding his high position in Nismes, retired to Geneva at the first outbreak of the "Revocation," where he died. Jacques Saurin, his eldest son (born at Nismes 1677) entered, at the age of fifteen, a regiment raised by the Marquis De Ruvigny, for the service of the Duke of Savoy, then engaged in the European coalition against Louis XIV., and on that prince's defection retired to Geneva; where, having resigned a profession for which he never was designed, he resumed his theological studies, under the direction of the celebrated Turretin Pictet and others, he soon became distinguished for his oratorical powers. Numbers flocked to hear him and on one occasion it was found necessary to throw open the cathedral to accommodate the crowd that pressed for admission. On receiving orders, he was nominated Minister to the French Protestant Church in London, and here, taking the celebrated Tillotson as his model, he perfected the admirable talents bestowed on him by nature. It was then perhaps, that Abbadiek having heard him for the first time, exclaimed:-- "Is this a man or an angel who speaks!" -- After five years' residence in England he was summoned to the Hague with the title of "Minister Extraordinary" to the French community of nobles, and preached there with immense success, in the chapel belonging to the Prince of Orange. He possessed all the qualifications of a great orator and preacher, extensive knowledge, fervour of imagination, powerful argument, and luminous arrangement of thoughts, with a purity of style, which, combined with the physical advantages of a noble countenance, and a sonorous and thrilling voice, rendered him one of the most remarkable men of his time, and attracted crowds of enraptured auditors. His sermons, some of which have been published, abound with the noblest specimens of modern eloquence. Among his admiring hearers were the Prince of Orange, and the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline. So deeply impressed was the latter with his character and his abilities that on her return to England she ordered Dr. Boulter (preceptor of Prince Frederick, father of George III.) to write to him, with a request that he would draw up a treatise on "the Education of Princes." This work was prepared, though never printed; but the author received a handsome donation from the Princess, and afterwards a pension from George II., to whom he dedicated a volume of sermons. He died in 1730.

Louis Saurin, second son of N. de Saurin, and brother of the celebrated Jacques, also entered the church. He became Dean of St. Patrick's, Ardagh, in March 1726, and also Chanter of Christ's Church, Dublin. Previous to his leaving France he had married a daughter of the Comte de la Bretonnière, a Norman Baron, and had a son and four daughters. He died in 1749, in Dublin.

James Saurin, his son, became a Minister of the established church, and was appointed Vicar of Belfast in June 1747, where he continued for 26 years. His memory was so respected that, 50 years afterwards, when St. George's Church, (Belfast) was being built,l the workmen engaged in making the foundations, on meeting with their former pastor's grave, arched over his remains, which now rest under the communion-table. He married a Mrs. Duff, and left four sons, Louis, Mark Anthony, William and James: of these only the two latter have left issue, viz., the Right Hon. William Saurin, and James, late Lord Bishop of Dromore.

The Right Hon. William Saurin was born in 1758, received his early education at the school of the Rev. Mr. Dubourdieu (in Lisburn), and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1775, where he obtained the highest academic distinctions. In 1780 he was called to the Irish Bar; but for several years experienced the fortune of many able men whose "moral and intellectual tendencies being strictly professional withheld them from all irregular and indiscreet short cuts to notice." It was during this interval that he married Mary, relict of Sir Richard Cox, Bart., niece of the late, and sister of the present, Marquis of Thomond, by whom he had a large family. The marriage took place in 1786. He was engaged in the election contest in the County of Down, in 1790, when Lord Castlereagh was one of the candidates; and he made his debut on behalf of Mr. Ward, another candidate, in so successful a manner as to obtain at once a reputation for ability. He was soon extensively employed, and he rose steadily to the highest professional distinction. In 1796 he was elected, by the members of the Bar, Captain-Commandant of their corps, which affords ample proof of the estimation in which he was held. In 1798 the office of Solicitor-General was pressed upon him with much earnestness, but declined; as it was his determination to oppose the measure of the Union, then in agitation. In 1803 he was again urgently solicited to take the same office, but peremptorily refused. In 1807 he was once more applied to by the Government, and at length yielded to the influence of his attached friend, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Downes, and accepted the office of Attorney-General for Ireland, which he held for 14 years. Previous to this he had been elected a member of the House of Commons, and soon became distinguished as a speaker. On the retirement of Lord Downes from the Bench, the Government wished to raise Mr. Saurin to the vacant seat, but he refused the promotion. A peerage was added to the offer but it was still declined. He continued "in great Chancery practice, till at length having become father of the Bar, and beginning to feel the weight of years, he took leave of the profession in 1831." His death took place on the 11th January, 1839.

The Right Rev. James Saurin, Lord Bishop of Dromore, was born in Belfast, 18th December, 1759. He was the fourth son of the Rev. James Saurin, rector of St. Ann's; and in early life was for a short time at the school of the Rev. Mr. Dubourdieu, in Lisburn. On the death of his father he left Belfast, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of 14; unusually early in those days. He was a distinguished classical scholar, obtained a scholarship, and read for fellowships; but the close application necessary for this having injured his health, he was obliged to relinquish the pursuit, and was ordained in 1783 to the curacy of St. Doughlass, where he continued 17 years. In 1800 he was nominated to the rectory of Rosenallis, in Queen's County, and in 1807 to that of Donaghmore. He was appointed Dean of Cork in 1812, Archdeacon of Dublin, in 1813, and Dean of Derry in 1817. In 1819, when about 60 years of age, he was consecrated Bishop of Dromore. He presided over that diocese for 22 years, and died the 19th April, 1842, in his 83d year. He had thirteen children, of whom twelve are living. On leaving each of his preferments, he received complimentary addresses; and, when resigning the Archdeaconry of Dublin, he was presented with a service of plate. During his residence in the Diocese of Dromore he maintained a cordial intercourse with all denominations of Protestants. He was one of the Irish prelates deputed to wait upon George IV., at the period of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, in 1829, and voted against that measure in the House of Lords. It is creditable to his memory that he evinced a strong desire to sacrifice a portion of his income, in order that the Rectorial titles of four parishes appropriate to the Bishopric might be transferred to their respective incumbents. For this purpose a bill was to have been introduced into parliament, and he was willing to bind himself never again to renew the leases of the aforesaid tithes; but unforeseen obstacles, over which he had no controul, baffled the design. -- A monument to him is erected in the cathedral church of Dromore.

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Of the other French families who joined the settlement at Lisburn all that can now be ascertained is their names. The following have been collected from various authorities, chiefly from the old Vestry-books, and the lists of deaths, marriages, and baptisms at Lisburn. The dates subjoined to some of the names are those at which they appear in these Registers.

Brethet, De Berniere Foguy Nebur
Bulroy Druet (1723) Gornal Nois
Birrel Drewet (1723) Garran Noblet
Bonace Drued (1723) Gothard Prorié
Burto Druid (1723) Higuet Petticrew, (1722)
Bourto Drufan Labady (L'Abbadie?) Purdee, (Purdue) (1662)
Blosset Defou Lefevre Rothell, (1718
Bonley Darele La Briol Réné
Comière Dufore Labrel, (1727) Stalliard
Colbert Dela Hyde Ledrue Touchamp, (1723)
Covart, (1728) Deluze Languel Trimullete
Quavert, (1727) Driffet Lascelles, (1698) Tremmule
Chartres, (1703) Treufet Leroy, (1676) Treufet
Chaters, (1799) De Armine Maskue Taverner (1723)
Duliez (1718) Marret Vandas
Duard Merret Vagieux
Denmar, (1738) Morrell Valentin
Dalton, (1722) Merron
Domville, (1758) Martine (1698)
Dumvill, (1662) Maslin
Dumbill, (1664)
De Lap, (1698)
Dulap, (1671)
De Vanny

[There is a possibility that several of the above names may not be French.]

The foregoing particulars, relative to the French Protestant families settled at Lisburn, scanty as they may appear, are all that can be now collected, and have not been obtained without much trouble; so completely have the descendants of these settlers become incorporated with the population of the district, or disappeared amidst the eventful changes of the last hundred and fifty years. That their settlement, however, exercised a powerful influence on the character of the locality, there can be no question. They added one energetic element to a population already strongly Protestant in its tendency; and, as many of the original colonists were of high family and liberal education, and all of them of industrious and peaceful habits, they contributed in no small degree to the respectability for which the neighbourhood of Lisburn is now so deservedly noted. From the time of their arrival the Linen Trade began to assume a new importance. Its elements had of course existed in a crude form for a long time previous; but the improvements and systematic arrangements introduced by them led the way to that wonderful expansion of the manufacture which has since rendered the Province of Ulster celebrated throughout the world. The factories and bleach-works of the present day are no doubt infinitely superior to the infant establishments of Crommelin and his colonists; but we must remember their own French proverb, "C'est le premier pas qui coute," and acknowledge that, if political events had not driven these unfortunate men into exile, our Linen Trade might still have been rude and unimportant, or might even have been extinguished by the competition of other countries.

Many of the Huguenots of Lisburn long cherished hopes of recovering their properties in France, and of returning to reside in their native country; but their expectations gradually declined, and their descendants, losing the amor patrice of the first settlers, intermarried by degrees with the natives. They joined the Established Church in numbers, so that by this means, as well as by the removal of many to other districts, the French Chapel, which was at one time numerously attended, became almost deserted. Finally, the Rev. Saumarez Dubourdieu, the last of the French pastors, was appointed to the neighbouring parish of Lambeg, and the Chapel was closed. It continued so until the year 1798, when it was converted into a guard-house. After the country became quiet its occupancy was again changed, and it became, what it still is, the Court-house of Lisburn. The only memorials that now remain of this colony are some tomb-stones in the church-yard, and a few vague traditions and kindly recollections among the old inhabitants.

Additional Notes.

The ardent desire felt by the Huguenots to return to their own country, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for that purpose are illustrated by the following incident, the account of which we transcribe from the Belfast News-Letter, January, 1707. It is there given on the authority of the Count de Maisonville who, thirty years before, had been Plenipotentiary and Envoy from the Elector of Treves to the Court of France and elsewhere, and was intimate with the Dukes of Bellisle, Estrées, and Choiseul, Ministers at Versailles.

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In the reign of the late French King, when France was groaning under the weight of taxes, and the people struggling against the complicated horrors of tyranny and heavy exactions, Mareschal de Bellisle, then Minister, was one day informed that a person solicited the favour of an audience with all possible eagerness. The request was acceded to. A man wrapped up in a cloak appeared before the Minister, whom he thus addressed:-- "My lord, deign to listen to me. I am a Protestant and a preacher, nor am I ignorant of the danger to which the latter quality exposes me; but I own it because I know that your closet must be an asylum for those who are admitted to it." -- "Your confidence pleases me," answered the Mareschal, "and it shall not be deceived: speak to me candidly, and tell me what you want" -- "Deputed by my brethren, the Refugees, who, notwithstanding the rigorous edict of Louis XIV., still regret their banishment from France, I come in their name to offer you the pecuniary assistance of which the country stands so much in need." -- He then opened a pocket-book, and showed the Minister notes, to the amount of 40 millions of Livres, on the best banking-houses in Europe; and then continued his address:-- "This is only an earnest of the sacrifices we are ready to make to France, if she consent to re-admit us into her bosom, and annihilate the "Revocation of the Edict of Nantes," which hypocrisy and avarice extorted from the King. Seventy years of exile have not been able to eradicate from our hearts an affection for this country which our fathers ordered us ever to cherish. There are still alive some venerable witnesses of those days of horror and desolation, when wives were torn from their husbands arms; when tender infants were snatched from their mother's breasts; when methods equally repugnant to nature and reason were employed to force them to abandon the religious tenets of their ancestors. These evils, the work of barbarous prejudices, have not effaced from our hearts the desire of returning to France. We were obliged to export our industry and talents along with us: we now petition to bring them back improved by the assiduous exertions of seventy years. All we want is liberty of conscience, and a civil existence. Deign, my lord, to lay our proposal at the foot of the throne and become our protector."

The minister, astonished and flattered, answered the deputy with much kindness, and left him alone in his closet, while he went to acquaint the King with what had taken place. An Extraordinary Cabinet Council was summoned immediately, where the subject was debated with much warmth. Pride and Hatred were opposed by Reason and Humanity; but Pride and Hatred triumphed. The Minister was scouted for having even listened to a proposition which, according to the apostles of intolerance, was a crime against religion. They alleged that to grant such a request would be the signal for a civil war and all its attendant horrors, and that it would be selling France to heresy. Louis XV. signed the decision: and then for the first time, in an affair of importance, did he exhibit proofs of a weakness which served as a pledge for the other evils he afterwards hurled on his wretched subjects. The Mareschal, having returned, answered the preacher:-- "The King does not consent to the proposal of his refractory subjects. He will never grant a residence in France to those who stubbornly profess and propagate error. Go away; and be grateful for the King's clemency, which allows you 48 hours to quit the kingdom." -- The honest man retired without a murmur; for the "Bastille" was then in existence, and so were "lettres de cachet."

This occurrence, which is little known, took place about 40 years ago. What a progress has reason made since that period! -- [Belfast News-Letter, January, 1797.]

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In the old Vestry-book of Lisburn, at I8th June, 1699, there is a sum of £24 10s voted for the relief of the distressed Vaudois.

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The following is a copy of a certificate to two Huguenot ladies (who afterwards joined the Lisburn colony) from the minister and elders of a church in Holland, on the occasion of their leaving the place; a precaution probably usual in those times:-- "Nous soussignéz, Pasteurs et Anciens de L'Eglise Walonne de Lejde, certifions, que Mesdemoiselles Judith et Louise de la Cherois, natifues de la Ville de Ham en Picardie, après avoir abandonné en France toutes choses pour la cause de l'Eglise, et avoir passé quelques années a Boisleduc, d'où elles ont remporté un avantageux témoignage, se sont rétirées a Lejde, où elles demeurent depuis quatre ans; pendant lesquels elles se sont conduites d'une manière très-chrétienne et très-édifiante, donnant des marques de leur piéte et de leur zèle en fréquentant avec assiduité vos saintes assembleés, participant á toutes les occasions au sacrement de la Sainte Cène du Seigneur, et faisant paroistre, dans tonte leur conversation, une sagesse, une humilité, et une modestie, qui leur ont acquis l'estime de tout le monde.

"C'est le témoignage que nous rendons á la vérité, afin qu'elles puissent s'en seruir en temps et lieu. Fait au Consistoire le 5 de Juillet, 1693. Et pour tous.

"GUERIN, Pasteur.


"We the undersigned, Pastors and Elders of the Walloon Church of Leyden, certify that the ladies Judith and Louisa De la Charois, natives of the town of Ham, in Picardy, after having given up everything in France for the sake of the Gospel, and having passed several years at Bois-le-Duc, from whence they brought a favourable certificate, retired to Leyden where they have lived these four years; during which period they have conducted themselves in a most Christian and edifying manner, giving proof of their piety and zeal by frequenting assiduously our holy assemblies, participating on all occasions in the Sacrament of the Lord's Holy Supper, and exhibiting in all their conversation a degree of wisdom, humility, and modesty, which have won for them the esteem of every one.

"This testimony we give in all truth, in order that they may be able to make use of it in due time and place.

"Done at the Consistory, the 5th July, 1693; and in the name of all."

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Among the few relics preserved by the descendants of the Lisburn Huguenots is a little portable spinning-wheel, of which we annex a wood-cut, one third of the actual size. It is neatly made of polished brass, and was worn at a lady's girdle, who could thus, without inconvenience, spin while superintending other domestic matters. The little machine consists of a pair of multiplying wheels (contained in the oval case shown in the outline) moved by a handle, and giving considerable velocity to the "spool" round which the spun yarn is wound. The "rock" carrying the unspun flax is also shown, but stood at right angles to the position in which it appears in the sketch. This article was brought from France by one of the ladies of the De la Cherois family, and is still preserved as a relic of old times.

[ERRATA. -- Owing to the difficulty of reading the M.S. documents which contained some of the foregoing particulars, several names of places, &c., have been erroneously printed. In page 167, for "Godefrey" read "Godefroy," for "Sanoctal," read "Sauvetal," and for "Blangar," read "Blanzac." In page 168 for "Londure" read "Loudure."]h In a MS. autobiography of this gentleman he mentions a little trait of his youthful days, illustrative of the manners of the time. When he went to serve his apprenticeship in 1785 to a solicitor in Lisburn, the boys wore hair-powder and a cue!

[i] James, after the death of his brother, was appointed in 1601 to the same offices which he had held. On resigning the Governorship he retired into Lorraine, and there occupied several offices of distinction. He was deputed by the Duke on a mission to the Court of France to negotiate some important matters. He had two sons, who were both captains of cavalry, and lost their lives at the battle of Seness. His widow inherited all his property, and subsequently married the Marquis of Courcelles.

[j] Daniel de Saurin was a Minister, and it is probably his name that appears in the Synod of Alençon. He had two sons and a daughter, who were educated in the Reformed faith. Louis, the eldest, received his education at the Academy of Saumur: but, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, having occasion in his flight from France to pass through Moulins, he could not resist the desire of calling to see his relations there, two of whom had become nuns, and at the same time of visiting the Duchess de Montmoreney; and he was so influenced by their solicitations to change his religion that he subsequently returned to France from Lausanne and embraced the Roman Catholic faith. He performed the duties of an Abbé for some time, but was obliged by weak health to relinquish the office. He went to Paris "where his bright parts, and his great skill in Natural Philosophy and Mathematics procured him a pension from the King, and a place in the Royal Academy of Sciences. He is partly the author of the elegant and learned Journal of Paris." [Dubourdieu's Appeal, p. 144.] He was frequently employed by the King in secret negotiations with the Princes of Germany during one of his journies in Italy he was received into the Academy of Padua: he was also a member of the Royal Academy of Nismes. He wrote several French poems, among the rest one addressed to the Dauphin on the Campaign of 1690.

[k] James Abbadie was born at Nay, in Béarn, in 1654. He was educated by the distinguished La Plucette, and afterwards studied at the University of Sedan, whence he went to Holland and Germany, where his fame as a divine led to his appointment as Minister of the French Church at Berlin. In 1690 he came to England, and after officiating for some time in London, was appointed Dean of Killaloe, in Ireland. He afterwards returned to London, and died in 1727, at Mary-le-bone, at the age of 75.

[l] St George's church was built on the site of the old parish church of Belfast, which was taken down in 1775, as being unfit for public worship; the ground on which it stood had been converted into a burying-place.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 2, 1854.

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