Friday, June 12, 2009

William Moore, Preacher at Newtown, 1617

Sometimes too much emphasis is given to "official" things - implying that "unofficial" things don't count. For example, the first "official" Presbytery in Ulster was at Carrickfergus in 1642 and this tends to be the date that is most commemorated. But right back in the previous generation there were ministers, congregations and preachers working away among the earliest Ulster-Scots communities. So 1642 is a convenient date but not the earliest - and fixating on it means that people miss a whole other, earlier chapter in the story. It's just like in the USA where they mark the arrival of the English Puritan "Pilgrim Fathers" on the Mayflower in 1620 - whereas it was 13 years earlier in 1607 when the first English settlement had been founded at Jamestown.

Newtownards 1607: The old ruined Priory was rebuilt and ready for use as a place of worship. So who was the minister? Well, in 1617, "William Moore, preacher at Newtown" was recorded as a tenant on the Montgomery estate - but like the other tenants he may well have come across with the first waves of settlers in 1606 / 1607. On the other hand, Moore might have been "freelancer", a lone evangelist who preached among the new settlers, with no connection with the restored Priory at all.

Bangor 1609: Rev John Gibson was brought over from Scotland by James Hamilton, to become (as his memorial says "sence Reformacion from Popary") the first Dean of Down and the curate of Bangor Abbey.

Ballycarry 1613: Edward Brice arrived from Duntreath to become (we think) the first Presbyterian minister in Ulster.

Mind you, outside of "officialdom" of Priories, Abbeys, Presbyteries and Curates, I like the idea of William Moore the preacher at Newtown, doing his own thing amongst his own people.