Posted by: jrirish | June 16, 2016

A halfpenny for a harmonium

This story is told of  Miss Hill of Woodlands whose family were the principal Methodists in Tarbert, County Kerry, during the 1920’s / 30’s.

One day, as she was walking through the town, Miss Hill found a halfpenny lying on the ground. She picked it up but her piety prohibited her from spending it on herself as she had neither earned it nor been given it as a gift …… and so she chose to use it for the work of the Lord.

She bought a halfpenny spool of sewing cotton and used this to crochet a piece of lace which she then sold for two shillings and sixpence (60 times the cost of the cotton). With the proceeds she purchased wool and knitted stockings. The money she received for them was sufficient to buy a new-born calf which she put out to graze for a year in the field behind the house. By that time the calf had grown into a cow and it was sold.

Miss Hill had sufficient funds to secure a small harmonium which she gave to the Methodist Church in Tarbert where it accompanied the worship for many years.

(Source : This plain, artless, serious people – D L Cooney)


Posted by: jrirish | February 15, 2016

Christmas by gaslight

Whilst researching through the early newspapers I came across this interesting article in Saunders’s News-Letter, (02.01.1822):

We have been informed that the neat and beautiful house of worship, the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Lower Abbey Street [Dublin], was for the first time lighted with gas, on Christmas morning, and that the heat it afforded, independent of two fires, contributed much to make the house comfortable, and of a proper temperature, for the congregation assembled there.

As, no doubt, the Chapel will continue to be lighted in the same manner, on the evenings of Divine worship there, such of the public as feel disposed to attend on those occasions, will have an opportunity of seeing and judging for themselves.

We deem it, however, but justice to state, that we have heard the gas was of the best and purest description; and that, consequently, it emitted no unpleasant effluvia.



Posted by: jrirish | January 28, 2016

Creative Methodist fundraising in County Cork (1834)

The Primitive (Wesleyan) Methodists of Middleton, being anxious to build a chapel, but not having funds, have formed a shaving club among themselves, where the ‘tonsorial’ operations will be performed at a penny per head, the proceeds to go towards the fund in question. A night-school is also being established for the same purpose.

Shaving clubs have had a long existence in Middleton and the proceeds hitherto have been spent in liquor at the wakes.

(Belfast Commercial Chronicle : 13th October 1834)

Alas there is no record of the Methodists of Middleton ever achieving their aim of building a chapel in the town.

Posted by: jrirish | January 26, 2016

Christmas Day for Methodist children in 1826

Read recently in the Belfast Commercial Gazette:

“On Christmas day, the annual examination of the Donegall-square Sunday scholars, took place in the Methodist Chapel [Belfast], and a considerable number of highly respectable individuals attended. The children in many instances acquitted themselves exceedingly well, and discovered a knowledge of Scripture that reflected the highest honour on the exertions of the Teachers, and gave a great degree of satisfaction to the Examinators (sic). After the business of the day had ended, an appropriate address was delivered to the Teachers and Children, by the Rev W Reilly, in which the relative duties of each were clearly pointed out. It is very pleasing to observe the progress of this Institution; the average number of children at present on the list is 330, and is rapidly on the increase. Much has been done for their comfort in a pecuniary way, as the Teachers and Committee have gratuitously supplied the necessitous with abundance of comfortable clothing for the winter season.”

Posted by: jrirish | January 8, 2016

His first appointment in 1860 was a quick learning curve

Rev Alexander Fullerton was sen by the Conference of 1860 to Brookeborough and, aged 20, he set out by train to take up his appointment … full of life and enthusiasm. He was met at Maguiresbridge station by Mr Henderson, an old gentleman, who enquired ‘Are you the young preacher and where is your horse?’ Fullerton looked at him with open eyes and responded ‘What do I want with a horse?’ He was soon to find out both in cost terms and in the bruising of flesh and bones.

On his arrival at the manse he was interviewed by a very old-fashioned official who asked the usual questions and then said ‘Have you brought Christ with you? The response ‘I hope so’ was not well received. Fullerton was informed that he might expect a salary of £16 for the year out of which he was supposed to buy a horse and pay £5 into the Annuitant Society. He did both. A horse was bought for £9, Mr Thomas Anderson of Belfast sent him a saddle and bridle, and he learned to ride.

His superintendent, Rev Francis Morrow, then explained about the circuit which included Maguiresbridge, Lisnaskea, Fivemiletown, Tempo, Clogher, etc. ‘You have a full plan. You will be in a strange house every day, preach every night, and three times on tomorrow, Sunday.’ When Fullerton asked to go to his rooms he was told ‘You have no rooms.’ During his stay, however, he was looked after by Mrs Gregston in Brookeborough who was very kind to him.


Posted by: jrirish | January 6, 2016

What a Methodist preacher apparently wore in the 1830’s

Recently I came across a letter relating to the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland in the 1830’s. It concerned the progress of the field work being carried out in County Cavan but began with an interesting insight.

Virginia (County Cavan) May 25th 1836

Dear Sir

Is it not a most extraordinary thing that I should be taken for a Methodist? I wear a black coat, a black waistcoat and black trousers and most generally a black shirt, a very appropriate colour to represent the dark designs of one who intends to make protestants of the townlands* and yet the friary who were holy men belonging to God wore very black clothes. I assure you that I was refused lodgings in several places in consequence of looking so like a swaddling (Methodist) preacher……

  • Irish townland names were being anglicised for the purposes of the Survey.
Posted by: jrirish | October 1, 2015

Life in an early Irish Methodist society – Bandon.

The Life of Rev John Murray provided insights into the development of an early Irish Methodist society. ‘The Methodists in this [Bandon], as in every other place where they sojourned, by degrees established a permanent residence. They first preached in the streets, practised much self-denial, and mortification, inveighed against the standing religion of the country, as impious and hypocritical, declaring the new birth only to be found among them.’ ‘They gained many proselytes; it became the fashion for multitudes to become religious; and it is in religion as in everything else, where once it is followed by a multitude, multitudes will follow. A meeting-house was speedily obtained, a society was formed, and classes of every description regularly arranged.’

‘Three classes [types] of the people were denominated Methodist: the congregation, who, as outer court worshippers, were only hearers and seekers; members of the society, who were classed; and members of the band society who were genuine believers. The two latter met every Sunday evening after meeting, and no individual, who was not furnished with a ticket, could gain admittance. This ticket was a badge of distinction; it gave the possessor entrance; all others were shut out, and the door was locked.’

Sunday was a busy day for Murray. He rose with the sun, washed and dressed, and had a period of private devotion before family prayers and breakfast. The Methodist meeting was at 8.30 and the church service, which they then attended, was at 10.00. The afternoon was spent in study and interrogation by his father relative to the sermon before returning to the Methodist church at 5.00 for a meeting and the classes which followed. Every weekday there were meetings held early in the morning and each evening.

At this time [c 1756] he was just entering his teenage years but Wesley saw fit to put him in charge of a class of 40 boys which he met twice each week in a private apartment. Having checked that all were present Murray began by singing a hymn and extemporary prayer followed. Every individual was examined respecting the work of God upon his heart. A word of general advice then followed, a second hymn was sung, and the class concluded with prayer.

Posted by: jrirish | September 29, 2015

Fermanagh representation in the first Legal Hundred

When John Wesley drew up the Deed of Declaration in 1784 to provide for his succession the ‘Legal Hundred’ contained four Fermanagh men:

William Thompson – Cornabrass (The first English President after Wesley)

Andrew Blair – Old Cleens

Thomas Barber – Ballinamallard

Nehemiah Price – Toneyloman

The ‘Hundred’ included eleven preachers serving in Ireland and an additional three Irishmen serving in England

Posted by: jrirish | September 12, 2015

John Wesley’s comments on the workings of the law

Wesley’s journal entry for 27th December 1745 reads as follows :-

“I called on the solicitor whom I had employed in the suit lately commenced in chancery; and here I first saw that foul monster, a chancery bill! A scroll it was of forty-two pages in large folio, to tell a story which need not have taken up forty lines! And stuffed with such stupid, senseless, improbable lies (many of them, too, quite foreign to the question) as, I believe, would have cost the compiler his life, in any heathen court either of Greece or Rome. And this is equity in a Christian country! This is the English method of redressing grievances.”

His description of the legal process sounds all too familiar in the twenty first century. It would be fascinating to have also had his thoughts on the legal fees involved.

Posted by: jrirish | September 1, 2015

Alexander Sturgeon Byrne -‘The Stripling Preacher’

The son of Rev Claudius Byrne, Alexander was born in Dungannon on 20th June 1832. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Rev Alexander Sturgeon, who had been a highly esteemed Irish Wesleyan minister. A few hours after his birth the venerable Gideon Ouseley happened to be passing through the town, called in to see the family, and dedicated the baby.

Alexander recorded that he was ‘Justified in Dundalk … on 15th February, 1846’ and wrote to his sister ‘My dear Mary, it is with feelings of holy joy I inform you that on last Sunday night … I found joy and peace through believing.’ A few weeks later he addressed the Sunday School teachers and soon began to preach. He was quickly made a class leader and soon after was accredited as a local preacher. On 20th March 1848, whilst still only 15, he was recommended by the District Meeting as a probationer for the regular ministry. However, before that could proceed, Claudius and his family left Ireland in July, landing at New York, and continuing on to Toronto.

It did not take long for Alexander’s itinerant labours to begin. On 18th November he was sent to supply the place of the minister on the Yonge Street circuit who had fallen ill. In the following May the Quarterly Meeting recommended him as a candidate for the ministry – now aged 16. He was sent to the London circuit and, at the following Conference, to the Toronto East circuit. His final sermon was delivered in Yorkville on 10th October 1850.

From Toronto he went, for the benefit of his health (his illness was probably caused by sleeping in a damp bed whilst on Missionary Deputation) to Brantford, where he died on 11th February 1851 aged 18 years and 8 months.

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