We have a new First Minister here in Northern Ireland - Arlene Foster. I am sure she will do an excellent job in her new role(s). But there might be a different first minister, in a sense.
• Edward Brice (1613) and Patrick Anderson (1612)
The first Presbyterian minister in Ireland is known to have been Rev Edward Brice of Ballycarry. He arrived there in 1613 from Scotland. There was an earlier minister - Rev Patrick Anderson from Kirkoswald (see previous post here) - but whilst he was a minister in Scotland from 1607 there is no indication that he carried on when he came over here in 1612
• Patrick Hamilton (1609)
Recent research has indicated, that - on paper at least - another minister was appointed here, earlier than Brice, in 1609. His name was Patrick Hamilton (a namesake of the martyr of St Andrews who was burned at the stake in 1528) and he was given the pulpit of Ballyhalbert, where generations of my ancestors are buried. You can see him on the list below, with his nephew Rev James Hamilton taking over at Ballywalter seventeen years later in 1626.
This Patrick Hamilton was the youngest of six brothers, the oldest being Sir James Hamilton, originally from Dunlop in Ayrshire. Their father was the minister in Dunlop, Rev Hans Hamilton (1536–1608) who took over the ministry of Dunlop in 1563. As a man of the Scottish Reformation he would have certainly been a Presbyterian, and therefore so would his sons.
So, even though this Patrick seems to have been given Ballyhalbert by his big brother who had just acquired it as his negotiated share of the O'Neill estate, there is no firm evidence that Patrick ever settled in Ballyhalbert. Presumably he might have visited to admire his brother's land acquisition in the Ards and North Down - many of the other brothers certainly did come over. Patrick became minister at Innerwick / Enderwick 32 miles east of Edinburgh around that same time. He participated in the famous 'free' General Assembly of 1638, one of the ministers of the Presbytery of Dunbar. This followed the tumult of Scotland's National Covenant of 28 February that year, and which was known to have been signed by 1000 people in Newtownards.
Innerwick Kirk today, this building dates from 1784. The first church on the site was founded prior to 1165
From the Hamilton Manuscripts
– The sixth brother, Patrick, had his younger education at home in learning, wherein he became very hopeful, and was put to college for further improvement and [?]. He followed the study of Divinity, wherein his proficiency was so great that he was called to, and settled in, the ministry at Enderwick, in East Lothian in Scotland, where he lived all his lifetime, painfully and acceptable to all concerned, in a very staggering time.
The sixth brother, Patrick, married one [?] Glenn, daughter of a gent, of the neighbourhood where he was Minister, viz., Enderwick, a very frugal wife, but not altogether so prudent as his station and disposition required; and he had children by her, James, Alexander, Archd., and Elizabeth. He lived in very good esteem and usefullness in his Ministry, and among the gentry in that whole country, and left his family competently provided; died of middle age, and was buried with great regret at the church where he was Minister.
Interestingly, on 27 May 1628, big brother Sir James granted Patrick the townland of Granshaw outside Comber. Patrick and his wife Elspeth were granted rights of 'denization' in 1631. Three of their sons came to Ulster - James became COI rector at Dundonald and Holywood, Alexander settled at Granshaw and for a time Archibald was Presbyterian minister in Bangor.
Patrick Hamilton died in 1640 and was buried at Innerwick.
Ballyhalbert church today. It was restored by Sir James Hamilton in the 1620s but by the late 1600s was in disrepair. Materials from Ballyhalbert, Ballywalter and Inishargy churches were salvaged to build a new church at nearby Balligan. The original Ballyhalbert 1620s rooftimbers are still intact.
Balligan Church today