Historic Memorials of the First Presbyterian Church Belfast


1. JOHN BAIRD 1642-1646.

[Came to Ireland as chaplain to the Earl of Argyle's regiment. Reid thinks that in 1646 he was installed to the charge of the congregation of Dervock, in the Route.]

2. ANTHONY SHAW 1646-1649.

[A Scotch divine. Graduated at Edinburgh, 17th April, 1639. Licensed by Stranraer Presbytery, 12th March, 1645. Ordained at Belfast, Sept., 1646. Became minister of Colmonell, Scotland, in 1649, and was deprived for nonconformity, 1st Oct., 1662. He was indulged in 1672, and preached in the Abbey Church, Paisley. On 2nd Aug., 1683, and again on 10th Jan., 1684, he was imprisoned, and his indulgence declared void; he was soon released, on finding caution, but bound to exercise no ministry. He died before 20th September, 1687, aged about 68. ]

3. ------ READ about 1650.

[Nothing is definitely known of this minister. During the Commonwealth, the Presbyterian divines were superseded in Belfast by Independent and Baptist preachers. The regular succession of ministers begins with the next name.]

4. WILLIAM KEYES 1660-1673.

[A native of England. During the Commonwealth he held the rectory of Heswall, Cheshire. He is said to have removed to Dublin, and to have become minister at Glaslough, Co. Monaghan, before 1660. At the Restoration, he was one of the Presbyterian deputation sent with an Address to Charles II. Removed to Carrickfergus, and ministered there and at Belfast. Soon after this he was banished to Galway, but returned in 1664. The original meeting-house is believed to have been erected in his time (about 1668) in North Street, near the North Gate. On 19th February, 1672, he was ordered by the Antrim Meeting to fix his residence in Belfast. From July to December, 1673, he was sent to supply at Bull Alley, Dublin, and had a call to that congregation. His removal from Belfast was opposed by commissioners of our congregation -- viz., William Muir, Michael Briggart, and John Briggart. On 8th April, 1673, he was called to Plunket Street, Dublin, and this removal was confirmed by the Antrim Meeting, in spite of the opposition of the Belfast commissioners, Anderson and Chalmers. He died in Dublin about 1693. His son Jonathan was educated for the ministry.]

5. PATRICK ADAIR 1674-1694 .

[Third son of Rev. John Adair, of Genoch, Galloway. An eye-witness of the scene in the Edinburgh High Church, 23rd July, 1637, when stools were flung at the Dean and Bishop, on the introduction of the Service-book. Ordained minister of Cairncastle, 7th May, 1646, and demitted thence to Belfast, 13th Oct., 1647. Died 1694. Author of True Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Presbyterian Government in the North of Ireland. He married, first, his cousin Jean (d. 1675), second daughter of Sir R Adair, of Ballymena; second, Elizabeth Anderson (nee Martin). He left four sons -- William (ordained at Ballyeaston 1681, removed to Antrim 1690, and died 1698), Archibald, Alexander, and Patrick (minister at Carrickfergus, died June, 1717), and a daughter Helen. For further particulars of Adair, see Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Leslie Stephen, vol. i., 1885, and references there.]

N.B. -- At the time of Adair's appointment, SAMUEL BRYAN preached in Belfast as Presbyterian chaplain to the Donegal family. Bryan had been Fellow of Peterhouse, and Vicar of Allesley, Warwickshire; he was ejected in 1662, and had been imprisoned six months in Warwick gaol for preaching at Birmingham, before he obtained the post of household chaplain to Arthur, first Earl of Donegal, who, in his will (dated 17th March, 1674), left him 50 a-year for four years, besides his salary. From 1684 to 1688, THOMAS EMLYN, the English Presbyterian chaplain of the Countess of Donegal, preached on Sunday evenings in the Hall of the Castle, Belfast, and occasionally at other times in the Parish Church. Emlyn was not in communion with Adair; his patroness had been attached to Rev. W. Keyes, and was displeased at his removal.

6. JOHN M'BRIDE 1694-1718.

[A native of Ireland, born probably in 1651, and educated at Glasgow, where he entered in 1666 as "Johannes M'Bryd, Hybernus," and graduated, 15th July, 1673. Ordained, in 1680, minister of Clare, County Armagh. Having left Ireland, he became minister of Borgue, near Kirkcudbright, in 1688. He was called to Ayr in 1691, but the Presbytery would not translate him. In 1692, he was a member of the General Assembly of the Scottish Church. He was installed at Belfast, 3rd Oct., 1694. His influence obtained from the Donegal family the lease of the site in Rosemary Lane, on which the Meeting-house was built in the early part of his ministry. Moderator of Synod, 1697. Though no Jacobite, became a Non-abjuror in 1703, i.e., refused to make oath that the Pretender was not the son of James II. In 1704 he gifted some books to the Library of Glasgow College. Fled to Scotland in the winter of 1705-6, and preached in Glasgow. Returned to Belfast 1708, but was again obliged to fly in 1711, returning in 1714. Died 21st July (buried 23rd July), 1718. Author of a synodical Sermon, and three anonymous works in vindication of Presbyterians, including A Sample of jet-black Pr------tic Calumny, 1713. Prepared students for the ministry. Many stories of his caustic humour are current. His son, R M'Bride, was minister of Ballymoney. His grandson, Admiral John M'Bride, brought over Princess Charlotte in 1760, to marry George III. His greatgrandson, John David M'Bride, D.C.L., Principal of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, died 21st January, 1868, aet. ninety. The ill-starred genius, Edgar Allan Poe, was a descendant of M'Bride.

From a private manuscript, written early in this century, the following curious particulars of M'Bride's second flight (wrongly dated, however, in 1709) are extracted. "Being a Non-juror, an order was issued to seize his person. Of this he had private information, and made his escape in the night, disguised. The guard who was placed on the Long Bridge, being one of his parishioners, though he knew him, permitted him to pass. This was in the winter. The night being dark, and the weather tempestuous, he was obliged to shelter himself in a field in Ballymacarrett, not far from the bridge. On account of frequent watchings for many nights previous to this, he was overcome with fatigue; and, happy to escape from the grip of those who wished to imprison him, he went into an adjoining field, where he fell asleep. On awaking, he found himself benumbed with cold, and, rubbing his hands to promote circulation, he rubbed off his finger a valuable gold ring, which he never recovered. Next morning he proceeded to Donaghadee, and from thence to Glasgow, where he remained three years, and was offered the professorship of Divinity, which he refused, as he hoped and wished to return to his congregation in Belfast, which he did, immediately after the death of Queen Anne." "The morning after his escape, Mr. Warring, the Sovereign of the town [incorrect; William Warring was Sovereign in 1669 and 1670; the Sovereign in 1710 and 1711 was Roger Haddock], having received an order to apprehend him, came to his house, and after a very strict search, not finding him, was so zealous in the cause in which he was engaged, that from disappointment in not having it in his power to render the state a singular service, and to have his name recorded to posterity, on finding his picture only, hanging against a wall in his bedchamber, he thrust his rapier through the cambric band. N.B. -- At the time of Mr. M'Bride's residence in Glasgow, he gave orders for his furniture [in Belfast] to be sold by auction, and by mistake his picture [portrait] was sold, and purchased by one of his parishioners. Some years afterwards, it was exposed to sale at an auction of this parishioner, when, by accident, Mr. John Rainey, of Greenville, Co. Down, seeing and knowing it, purchased it, and presented it to Mrs. Dyatt, of Belfast, daughter to Mr. M'Bride." [This portrait is now the property of the congregation, and bears still the marks of the Sovereign's rapier.]

The manuscript further says: "The first account of the death of Queen Anne was brought to Belfast by express, on the morning when the doors of the meeting-houses were to be nayled up [Anne died on Sunday, 1st August, 1714, the very day on which the Schism Act was to come into effect; in Ireland, where there was no Toleration Act, the passing of the Schism Act led to fresh outrages on Presbyterian liberties; the Meeting-houses at Antrim, Downpatrick, and Rathfriland were actually nailed up], to Isaac M 'Cartney, merchant, who came to communicate it to Mr. Lenox, merchant, at a very early hour, daybreak. On hearing this news some hours after, R M' Bride, a youth living in Belfast, and son of the Rev. John [R] M'Bride, afterwards pastor in Ballymoney, and father of the late Admiral M'Bride, wishing to inform some of his friends of the pleasing news, mounted an old sorry-looking jade of his father's, and on his journey was met and accosted by a high churchman, thus, 'Hey, youngster, I suppose you and your mare are Presbyterians: she is so lean and meagre, and her ears hanging down, and you much in the same puritanical plight. Though I pity you, you deserve what you have got.' , I thank you, sir,' replied the boy; 'but my mare will prick up her ears anon, and fling at all rough riders, since we know that Queen Anne is dead.' 'From whence have you the news?' asked the other, aghast. ' Go,' said he, 'to Mr. M'Cartney and Mr. Lenox, and they can inform you.' "

The manuscript also states that John M'Bride's "remains are interred in the old churchyard of Belfast [? St. George's], under a red marble tombstone, whereon are his coat of arms [motto: "Scopus vita Christus "], and the following inscription [not now to be seen either at Shankill or St. George's] :--

Reverendi admodum Dni Johannis M'Bride, V.D.M., ossa suscipit hoc marmor; viri omnigena eruditione eximii. Anno 1680, Clarae sacris initiatus est; ecclesiam Christi tam Borgae quam Glasguae in Scotia, diligenter instituit. Ao 1694, ecclesiae presbyterali in hac urbe designatus est. Summa fidelitate ac utilitate pastorale officium peragens, pastorem evangelii omnibus exoptatissimum se praebuit. Lugente ecclesia tanti viri obitum, in Christo requievit Julii 21 Ao 1718, aetatis suae 68."

Perhaps "pastorem " is a mistranscription for "praeconem."]

7. JAMES KIRKPATRICK, D.D., 1706-1708.

[A native of Scotland. Son of Rev. Hugh Kirkpatrick, minister of Lurgan and Ballymoney. Educated at Glasgow. Ordained, 7th August, 1699, minister of Templepatrick; demitted thence to Belfast, 24th Sept, 1706, as colleague to the absent M'Bride, and with a view to form a new congregation. On 18th June, 1706, M' Bride had written from Stranraer that if there were 3,000 persons in the congregation, there must be two Meeting-houses, and two distinct congregations. The second Meeting-house was built 1708, and Kirkpatrick became its first minister. Kirkpatrick was the first Belfast minister who upheld the principle of Nonsubscription. In later life, he successfully combined a physician's practice with his pastoral duties, being M.D. as well as D.D. Died 1744. Author of three Sermons, and six anonymous works, including An Historical Essay upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians, 1713.]

8. THOMAS MILLING , 1714-1719 (?)

[Assistant to M'Bride.]

9. SAMUEL HALIDAY, M.A. 1720-1739.

[Son of Rev. Samuel Haliday of Raphoe and Ardstraw. Educated in Scotland and at Leyden. Licensed, after subscribing the Westminster Confession, 1706, at Rotterdam, and ordained 1708, without subscription, at Geneva. Present at Salters' Hall Conferences, 1719. Called to Belfast, 1719, and installed 28th July, 1720. The opposition to his installation, without subscription, led to the erection of the Third Congregation, Belfast, 1722 ; and to the formation of the Antrim Presbytery, 1725, which was excluded from the General Synod, 1726. Died 5th March, 1739. Author of a Sermon and four other works. His son Alexander became the most eminent physician in Ulster.]

10. THOMAS DRENNAN, M.A. 1736-1768.

[Born in Belfast, 25th Dec., 1696. Graduated at Glasgow, 1715. Licensed in Belfast, 1726. Ordained at Holywood, where he had pupils, June, 1731. Installed at Belfast, 1736. Died 14th February, 1768.]

11. ANDREW MILLAR, M.A. 1745 (?)-1749.

[Assistant to Drennan; removed to Summerhill, Co. Meath, where he was ordained, 1749.]

12. CLOTWORTHY BROWN 1749-1756 (?)

[Ordained minister of Ballinderry, Feb., 1746. Removed to Ballymore, 1747, where he was installed by the Antrim Presbytery. Assistant to Drennan.]

13. JAMES MACKAY 1756-1781.

[Ordained minister of Bangor, 15th Nov., 1732. Removed to Clonmel, 1740. Installed at Belfast, 1756. Died 22nd Jan, 1781, Author of Funeral Sermons for Drennan and for Gilbert Kennedy, minister of the Second Congregation.]

14. JOHN BEATTY 1768-1770.

[Minister of Holywood, but acted also as Mackay's assistant.]

15. JAMES CROMBIE, D.D., 1770-1790.

[Son of James Crombie, mason, of Perth, where he was born, 6th December, 1730. Educated at St. Andrews, and Glasgow. Licensed by Strathbogie Presbytery, 8th June,1757. Schoolmaster at Rothiemay. Ordained minister of Llanbryd, Co. Elgin, 11th Sept., 1760. Demitted thence to Belfast, 4th Dec., 1770. Made D.D. of St. Andrews, Sept., 1783. Founded the Belfast Academy, 1786. Died 1st March, 1790. He was married, 23rd July, 1774, to Elizabeth Simpson, who survived till 1824. See further particulars in Disciple, April, 1883 ]

16. WILLIAM BRUCE, D.D. 1798-1841.

[Born 30th July, 1757. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Glasgow, and Warrington. Ordained minister of Lisburn, 1775. Called to Strand Street, Dublin, 24th March, 1782. Called to Belfast, 11th March, 1790, where he succeeded Crombie as Principal of the Belfast Academy, 1st May, 1790. Retired from active duty, 21st Jan., 1831. Died 27th Feb., 1841. Author of five works, including Sermons on the Study of the Bible and the doctrines of Christianity, 1824. See further in Dict. of Nat. Biog. and Rev. Classon Porter's Seven Bruces.]

17. WILLIAM BRUCE, AB. 1812-1868.

[Son of the preceding. Born 16th Nov., 1790. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Edinburgh. Ordained at Belfast, 3rd March, 1812, as colleague to his father. Professor of Greek and Latin in the Belfast Academical Institution, 1822. Retired from active duty 21st April, 1867. Died 25th Oct., 1868. See further in Dict. of Nat. Biog. and Rev. Classon Porter's Seven Bruces.]

18. JOHN SCOTT PORTER 1832-1880.

[Son of Rev. William Porter, A.M., of Newtownlimavady, where he was born, 31st Dec., 1801. Educated in Belfast. Licensed October, 1825, by the Bangor Presbytery. Ordained minister of Carter Lane, London, 2nd March, 1826. Called to Belfast, 11th Sept., 1831, as assistant and successor to Dr. Bruce, and installed 2nd February, 1832. Professor of Theology, 1838; also of Hebrew, 1851. Died 5th July, 1880. Author of publications, including the Discussion with Dean Bagot, 1834, and the Principles of Textual Criticism, 1848. He was married, 8th Oct., 1833, to Margaret, eldest daughter of Andrew Marshall, M.D. His eldest son is the Right Hon. Andrew Marshall Porter, Master of the Rolls. For further particulars of Mr. Porter, see Memorial Addresses and Sermons, 1880.]

19. ALEXANDER GORDON, M.A. 1877- ----



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