Agahadowey and the Session Book

The Presbyterian records of Ulster will in good time yield a great store of information, of interest alike to the student of religion and genealogy. The official minutes of the Synod of Ulster are in print and have been invaluable in the preparation of these pages. But the records of the smaller organization, the presbytery, and the accounts of local congrega tions have never been published. These, when gath ered together and made accessible to the student, will reveal, with a wealth of detail, the incidents of village life in Protestant Ireland at a period when out of almost every family group some member crossed the ocean to seek his fortune in America.

The records of the Presbytery of Coleraine, if they survive, will one day throw light on the migra tion to America. The most important town in certain respects of all those in the Presbytery was Aghadowey, the home of the Eev. James McGregor. In his day the people were, many of them, very poor. Today smoke curls from the same gable-end chim neys to tell of a more contented life within the an cient walls. The dark thatch of the cottages is in picturesque contrast to their white walls, and the white gates mark openings in the long, thrifty hedges. Sometimes bounds of field stone take the place of hedges ; and there are fine trees arching over excellent roads. An American, looking at the eager

young faces that crowd the cabin doorway, might ask if a torrent of rain must not send its flood over the slightly raised threshold onto the stone floor within. But there each generation has kept a fire upon the hearth and broth in the kettle. And are not these the best answers to any doubting traveller?

The importance of Aghadowey and the Eev. James McGregor in the history of Scotch Irish emigration gives prominence to the Aghadowey Session, .Book, recently presented by the Misses Thompson of Cullycapple, Aghadowey, to the Pres byterian Historical Society of Ireland, and pre served at Belfast. This long ledger-like book pre serves the records from the end of 1702 to the year 1733, covering the ministry of McGregor and the larger part of the troubled non-subscribing career of the Rev. John Elder. McGregor acted as clerk from 1704 to the time of his departure. He was quartered with one of the elders, and had a protracted strug gle to obtain from his poor flock a separate roof for his increasing family and bread for their maintenance.

The twenty-first session, and the first to be noticed in this book of records, was held December 1, 1702, with these members: "Mr. James McGregore, Da vid Miller, Hugh Eeed, John Shirila [Shirley], Dan iel McEelis, Eobert Archbold, Mosses Dillape [Dunlap], Arthur Bapti, David Cargill, and Hugh Ken nedy. " Dunlap and Cargill were absent. The next entry reads :

Directions from ye Presbtry { A letter from the presbtry to be comunicated concerning the payment of steipends & a farm & lodgings to our minister this session apoin[ts] the former colectors to use there utmost diligence to get in the Remainders of the steipends & Resolves upon another Method for the Holintyde steipends & that this allso to [be] mannaged wt all diligence. As to the farm they promise to use there endeavours to pro [cure] a farm as soone as possible & that they [are] agreed that his Quarters be where formerly."

More members of the session were needed, and the following who were "judged fitt for the work" were warned to be present : John Given, Thomas Willson, John Shirila, Junyr , John Browstr [Brewster], John Buy [Boyce?], John Thomson, John Gold [or Gould], Thomas Nickel, and Hugh Hendry [or Henry]."

At the twenty-second session, held January 26, 1702-3 "at the little house," the list of grants to the poor seems to justify a remark in Mr. J. W. Kernohan s description of the manuscript, written for the December number (1909) of the Irish Presbyterian. "At one point," he says, "a wail is uttered by the Session about the extraordinary number of poor, for at every meeting there was a regular distribution of charity. The records state that grants were made to

  S. D.
James Boyd for burial of daughter 1-6
Grany OCahan 1-6
Jenet Brown 8
William Anderson 6
Eobert Alison 3-0
John Gillmore 1-0
Nealy Cahan 1-0
Jean Kearns 8
Margaret Miller 8

To raise the money needed for these benefactions required collectors for each quarter, North, South, East and West." Those appointed were Kennedy, Cargill, Miller, Archbold, Nickel, Dunlap, Henry, William Wallace and Eobert Hunter.

At the Session held December 19, 1715, the follow ing grants were recorded :

Silvanus Brooks 1-6
Marth McLevenny 1-0
Eliz Murch 1-0
George McFarland 1-0
Jent McElchiner 1-0
Will. Bouie 1-6
Jas. Gilmor 8
Hugh Millar 1-0
Isab. Porter 1-6
Alice Higins 8
Hellen Gilmor 1-0

The records which cover the period of Mr. Mc Gregor s ministry throw many side lights on social life. Complaint was made that Captain Hugh Blair, who moved into town in 1703-4, did not present a certificate of his membership elsewhere. He came to occupy, perhaps, the famous Aghadowey or Blair s House which stood near the church. Dr. Hugh S. Morrison, in a letter dated December 25, 1909, speaks of a visit to this house the day before, of its modern stone finish with bow windows, and its walls in parts six feet thick, showing marks of port holes which have been filled up. In the garret are two large chests or i arks, lined with tin, and bound with primitive wrought iron bands and hinges. Here meal was stored, perhaps for the defenders of Derry.

Lapses from the standards imposed by social life are the source of many entries in the records. In 1702-3 Mary Clark was ordered to appear publicly before the Congregation to confess her too free con duct with James Cochran, a soldier in the year 1689.

At the twenty-fourth session, in 1704, the old adage "the better the day the better the deed" seems to have been disregarded: "It haveing been evident to this session that John Boyd did Joyn in company wt David Lawson to bring away Mr William Hustown's daughter unknown to her parrents upon the sabath day in order to be Maryed to the said Lawson & being very Active in this Affair upon the sabath day, this being a general offence to this session and to all good people, this session apoints Hugh Hendry to cite John Boyd to our next session, the foresd Lawson not receeding in this congregation we cannot cite him."

During the spring of the year 1715 Hugh Mont gomery, the same Hugh who came to New England, was paying his court to Miss Jane Cargill, whose sis ters, Mrs. McGregor of Aghadowey, Mrs. Gregg of Macosquin, and Mrs. McKeen of Ballymoney (as suming that they all were married at this time) formed an influential family circle. Perhaps Hugh found some difficulty in getting within this circle. At any rate, he and Miss Jane got beyond the circle's outer bound and found themselves in far off Ballymena. There they were married on the 22d of May, not by a minister but by the faith s arch enemy Eobert Donald, " curate of Bellymenoch. " All of which is sworn to by John Freeland and William Hodge, as if Mr. Donald s certificate was not evi dence enough. The records state that Hugh "acknowledgth the disorder of his marriage & professeth his sorrow for it, glad we may be sure that this confession was permitted to be made before the Ses sion instead of to the Congregation.

Others mentioned the same year were Thomas Turner and Marion Hunter, and also Hugh Torrence.

Mr. McGregor s last appearance at a Session was on April 11, 1718. The next meeting was held April 29, 1719, when the business referred altogether to settlement of the accounts of the Congregation, showing a balance of Is. Od. remaining in David Millar s hands. "This is in his hand when all the Accounts are settled since our Minist. Left us as wittnes

The village street in Aghadowey is now called Ardreagh. Near it there is a tall chimney of a bleaching green. The thatched cottages along the road were built between 1690 and 1700, yet they are tidy and comfortable, and are still occupied by the heirs of the Scotch Irish who did not cross the At lantic. There are in Aghadowey several country mansions, including the residence of Dr. Hugh S. Morrison, near Two Bridges, and the seat of Charles E. S. Stronge, Esq., known as Lizard Manor, once the Manor House of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, of London.