Thursday 23 May 2013

The Clergy of Magheragall Parish


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON. 
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By Rev. W. H. DUNDAS, B.D.

John Wilkinson, M.A -- 1616 A.D.

The first vicar of whom a record has been found was John Wilkinson, who was appointed some time between 1616 and 1618. He was also vicar of Llanavye (Glenavy), which was then united with Magheragall. In 1622 the church was described as a ruin; he was resident, and served the cure. A John Wilkinson, possibly the same, was the vicar of Annaduff, in Ardagh Diocese, from 1634 to 1661, prebendary of Oran (Elphin) 1636-1669 and rector of Sligo in 1666.

Meredith Gwilliams (or Gwyilyms), M.A. 1623.

He, too, was vicar of Glenavy at the same time, and also of Ballinderry, a fairly large union of parishes! to which he was presented by Sir Ffulke Conway. He was, like many of his successors, a Scholar of T.C.D., was ordained by the Archbishop of Armagh in 1617, and had been rector of Baronstown and prebendary of Keene, in Co. Louth, before coming to Magheragall. In 1625 he was appointed by Edward Lord Chichester as his domestic chaplain. He and other clergy in Killultagh seem to have had difficulties in getting their tithes.  In 1634 Jenkin Conway writes that he is "in difficulties with the resident clergy about tithes. They are complaining to the Bishop." He hopes Lord Conway will support him by speaking to the Bishop. In 1635 one Hartwell writes to Rawdon, "The parson Gwilliams has got a process against those who keep the tithes from him"; and in 1636, "Parson Gwilliams has left Dublin with an order from the Deputy to receive the tithes in kind." In another letter of 1636 one Robert Ward says "he entertained old fat Parson Piers on the way up from Drogheda, and by talking to him and giving him wine found out that he and his son Gwilliams were going to try and recover a glebe held by Lord Conway." Gwilliams evidently made a fine fight for the interests of the Thomas Piers, whom Ward speaks of so contemptuously, was instituted vicar of Derriaghy and Annagallanogh (Aghagallon) in 1635.

William Chambers -- 1635.

William Chambers was appointed in 1635; at the Visitation of 1633 Chambers (no Christian name) is returned as curate of Lisnagarvy. The church at Lisnegarvy appears in those days to have been distinct from Blaris, as at the Visitation of 1661 Michael Mathews was curate of the church of Lisnegarvy, while Jerem Piddocke, archdeacon, was rector of Blaris.

In the State Papers there is an undated letter of the time of Charles I. from Wm. Chambers to Rawdon concerning a post or "conveniency" which the writer wants in Ireland. He discusses payment to be made for something he had bought from Rawdon, and protests his loyalty to Lord Conway, and he concludes with the curious postscript, "Mr. Tandy's flame is quenched."

Philip Tandy -- 1637.

No doubt he is the Mr. Tandy of the postscript referred to. He was appointed in 1637, and also became vicar of Glenavy in 1638. Probably he also held both parishes together. The right of nominating the vicars was still exercised by Lord Conway, through Rawdon, his agent, and it had been his intention to appoint another minister. In April, 1638 he writes: "I put Mr. Lawmouth into the parishes of Camlin and Glenavy, but he soon showed himself a true Scotchman, and began to wrangle about terms, so I presented someone else. The Lord Primate interfered, but I think we shall have our way." Further interesting particulars about Philip Tandy will be found in Nos. XCVI. and CXXXI. of this series of "Extracts from the Records of Lisburn and the Manor of Killultagh." He was not in actual possession of Magheragall during the Commonwealth, as appears from the inquisition held at Antrim in 1657, which says: "The parish is now claimed and possessed by the Bishop of Down. Of late Mr. Moore, a preaching minister in salary, hath supplied the same." The church was in ruins near the border of the south side of the parish -- no glebe -- and "since 1650 that the parish began to plant (i.e., to be supplied with ministers not of the Church of Ireland) Mr. Weeke, who preached in Lisnegarvy, had by order received the tithes until these two last years that Mr. Gellis, a preaching minister, supplied the core thereof, and received the vicarial tithes and George Rawdon. Esq., the rectorial tithes, having a lease yet in being of the same from the said Bishop and Chapter." These were all Independent or Cromwellian ministers, and during this period the services of the Church of Ireland were prohibited and suspended. It appears from letters of 1664 (State Papers, Ireland) that Tandy was then acting as agent in some matters for Lord Conway.

His wife was a sister of Sir George Rawdon, as stated in Archdall's Lodge's Peerage (1789) where, however, her name seems wrongly given as Elizabeth. Mrs. Mercy Tandy was buried on December 10th, 1708, aged 85.

Alexander M'Whidd-- About 1664.

After the Restoration of Charles II. (1660), affairs in Magheragall seem to have been in an unsatisfactory state for many years. The Bishop was the rector, and received the rectorial tithes, the resident minister, the vicar, receiving the vicarial tithes, only about a third of the whole. The Bishop usually leased his tithes to someone in the neighbourhood for a lump sum paid to him yearly. This arrangement continued until 1848. (See below.)

At the Visitation of 1664 Alexander M'Whidd appeared, and showed his title as "curate" (or vicar) of Magheragall. At the Visitation of 1679 he was still "curate," and "is expected at Dromore, where he will appear." This reference to Dromore is important, as it makes it practically certain that he is the Alexander M'Whidd who was vicar of Drumballyroney in 1674. An interesting certificate and letter of his are printed among the Hamilton papers in the Ulster Journal of Archæology, Old Series, Vol. III., p. 144. The certificate refers to a gift of six acres about the year 1632 by James Lord Viscount Clandeboye to John Boile, the reverend minister of Killyleagh, for his own and his daughter's lifetime, in exchange for some lands lying near the old church. He says: "I, being reader to Mr. John Boile. . . . This lease among his books and other papers I had charge of for the space of seven years in his house, where I waited on him, being his servant." In the letter to Jane Boal he says: "Preserve this certificate and take advice from surest friends, and may the God that commands to judge the fatherless and pleads for the widow assist you and help you in need. So wisheth your well-wisher and friend to his power."

With the best will in the world, Rev. Alexander M'Whidd could not adequately perform the duties in Drumballyroney (Rathfriland) and Magheragall at the same time. The care of Magheragall must largely have fallen to the clergy of Lisburn, judging by the number of baptisms from Magheragall recorded in the register of the Cathedral. Between 1665 and 1692 there were no less than 53 baptisms. A new church was probably built in his time, as the bell bears the date 1676.

John Leathes, M.A. -- About 1693.

At the Visitation of 1693 the Lord Bishop was returned as rector of Ardquin and Lambeg, where there were no "curates," and of Magheragall, where John Leathes was "curate." An order was made that "curates" should be placed in these three parishes, "especially in Magheragall." The Bishop was Thomas Hacket, an Englishman, appointed in 1672, who had been for twenty years notoriously negligent of his pastoral office, and for the most part resided in England. In 1694 he was deprived of his office.

John Leathes belonged to a family which is very prominent in the early history of Belfast, where several of the name were Sovereigns (a title corresponding to that of Lord Mayor). He was the son of Thomas Leathes, of Co. Down, and was a Scholar of T.C.D. in 1685, M.A. 1691. He became curate of Derry, and was appointed Rector of Tamlaght Ard (Magilligan) in in 1702, which he resigned shortly before his death in 1737, aged 70 years.

A mural tablet which was erected in the old Hillsborough Church, and is now behind the pulpit in the present church, speaks of him in the highest terms as "Exemplary for every virtue which can recommend a clergyman; every grace which can adorn a Christian. . . ." It continues: "Having never wronged any man he needed not to restore fourfold. But he really did bequeath half of his Goods to the Poor at his Death, to whom he had constantly given a fourth Part of his yearly Income in his life. Where the good man's heart always was there he laid up his Treasure also. Daniel Mussenden, of Belfast, Merchant, erected this Monument to preserve the Memory and Example of his Friend. Reader, live the life of this Righteous man, and thy last and shall be, like his -- Peace."

Edward Goldsmith, D.D. -- 1684.

This vicar was probably a cousin of the poet, Oliver Goldsmith. He was the son of George Goldsmith, and was a Scholar of T.C.D. 1680, D.D. 1699. He was ordained deacon in the church of Kilcock, Diocese Kildare, in 1682. He was appointed prebendary of Rasharkin in 1692 and vicar of Magheragall in 1694. The Diocesan Register gives a full account of his induction into real actual and corporal possession of Magheragall on May 6th by Rev. Jos. Wilkins, rector of Lisburn. Among those present were James Hamilton and John Clarke, churchwardens; Godfrey Walker, Edward Aynesworth, George Walker, Thos. Tomson, John Hadock, Isaiah Hadock, and Wm. Watson, parish clerk. He signed the following declaration: "I do declare that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take arms against the King and Queen (William and Mary), and that I do abhor that trayterous position of taking arms by their authority against their persons or those that are commissioned by them, and that I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of Ireland as by law established."

In 1700 he become Dean of Elphin, and died in 1722 or 1723.

George Thompson, B.A. -- 1706.

He was a son of George Thompson, born in Co. Down, and educated at Lisburn by Mr. Harvey. He entered T.C.D. as a sizar in 1686, aged 19, and graduated B.A. in 1691.

Robert Christian -- Before 1728.

The name of this vicar, like that of two of his successors, Reynett (de Reynet) and Fletcher (de la Flechere) is of French Huguenot origin. According to Gimlette the name Gwilliams is also of Huguenot origin. The name of this vicar does not appear on the books of T.C.D., nor is it known in what year he was appointed to Magheragall. He was certainly vicar in 1728, when he inducted John Smyth, M.A., into the parishes of Donegore and Killead. He seems to have been a clergyman of some local importance, for he also inducted Anthony Welsh into Ballinderry in 1730 "by delivering to him "wood, iron, and stone," and John Welsh into Magheramesk and Aghagallon, and Edward Higginson into Killead in the same year.

Local tradition states that Robert Christian lived opposite the church, on the lower side of the railway, in the house called Christian Hall, which is now known as Poplar Vale, the residence of Mr. R. Campbell. He married Huldah Leashes in 1695, and his son, Stanley Christian, succeeded him in Christian Hall. From his daughter Eleanor, the late Isaac Greer, of Moneybroom, was descended.

Thomas Johnson, B.A. -- 1742.

The next three vicars were connected with the Johnson family so long associated with Ballymacash, where the residence was built a few years after the Battle of the Boyne.

Thomas Johnson was son of John Johnson. He was born in 1700 in the city of Waterford. He was a Scholar of T.C.D. 1721, B.A. 1722, and appears as curate of Lisburn in 1740. His wife Mary was the daughter of Ralph Smyth, of Lisburn. One of his sons was the Rev. Philip Johnson, of Ballymacash, who died in 1833 after having been vicar of Derriaghy for 61 years. A family record states that Rev. Thomas Johnson died on Sunday, 27th October, 1757, in the 58th year of his age, and on Tuesday morning following was carried from his house in Lisburn to the Parish Church of Magheragall, and there interred in the aisle of said church opposite the pulpit.

(To be continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 23 May 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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