Ulster Scots: Presbyterians in Ireland - So many Oaths to take.

By Brian Orr - Posted at The Reformation/ Ulster Scots Index:

Presbyterians were in Ireland before the Plantation period and, moreover, were in the south. The Rev Walter Travers, first Provost of Trinity College, Dublin was a Presbyterian minister as was his successor, the Rev. Henry Alvey who became the first Vice Chancellor. James Hamilton, later Lord Claneboye, was one of the first elected Fellows of the University along with James Fullerton. Thus there was a group of Presbyterians in places of power and influence from Elizabethan times.

Although the Presbyterian Covenanters were essentially Scottish and were bloodily persecuted in the later years of the 17th century, their Presbyterian brethren who migrated to Ireland were also subjected to persecution by those in authority and suffered their own " Killing Time " With hindsight it is quite remarkable just how many times successive governments cynically sought to use an Oath as a device for coercing the Presbyterians, surely knowing that it would be rejected on grounds of conscience and thereby give them the excuse to resort to force.

The Montgomery Manuscripts mentions that " Sir Hugh Montgomery brought with him from Scotland two or three chaplains " It was the settlers who came to Co Antrim and Co Down ca 1606 which gave cause for the ministry. These settlers were mainly from Ayrshire and would have sought a pastor of their choosing at an early date. The Hamilton Manuscripts record that the Viscount Claneboy settled ministers in all six Parishes within his estates. The first full time minister was Edward Brice who came to Broadisland in 1613 having been forced to flee persecution (and it is alleged, a charge of adultery) in Scotland.

Bearing in mind that one of the main objection of the Presbyterians was the rule of the Bishops, their early years in Ulster enjoyed the benign influence of Archbishop James Ussher who produced his Articles of Religion in 1615. The importance of Ussher`s contribution to the founding of Presbyterianism in Ireland is sometimes understated and undervalued. But there can be little doubt that his influence in the early days of the Plantation was critical because it fostered the first ministers and encouraged them to settle in the land.


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