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The Kirk & Other Presbyterian Churches in Mayo
24, Aug 2011 - 16:42

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"The congregation of Castlebar thus originated: The Rev. Mr. Brown, upon his settlement in Turlough in 1854, commenced to preach in Castlebar, for a time in the courthouse, and afterwards in a schoolroom, every Sabbath evening.

The building of a church was contemplated, but the impossibility of procuring a site retarded efforts in this direction for several years. When hope was on the brink of expiring, help came providentially from an unexpected quarter. Dr. Christie proposed, through his agent, Mr. John C. Lawrence, to dispose of his property in Charles Street, which was held by lease in perpetuity.

The purchase was completed by the transfer of the lease to three trustees, of whom one was the late Rev. John Edgar, D.D., LL.D. Thus the property was acquired for the General Assembly in November, 1861. The purchase was for £300, of which Dr. Edgar paid £200. In November, 1863, the church was built, and opened for public worship by the apostle of temperance. The church of Castlebar was made a joint-cliarge with Turlough by the General Assembly, and is now known by the name of " Turlough and Castlebar."

"History of congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and biographical notices of eminent Presbyterian ministers and laymen, with the signification of names of places".1886


The origin of the Presbyterian congregation at Turlough is somewhat interesting. Towards the close of the eighteenth century a number of Ulster families settled on the estate of Colonel Robert Fitzgerald.

They found, after coming there, that there was no Protestant place of worship in the immediate neighbourhood. A deputation accordingly waited on Colonel Fitzgerald and requested his counsel and assistance in obtaining a minister to labour amongst them. As the colonists consisted of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, each party wished for a minister of their own denomination. The colonel said that, as one minister would be sufficient for both, he would put it to the vote, and give his vote with the majority. On the vote being taken the Presbyterians had the majority.

The first minister who preached to them was the Rev. Henry. Henry, a licentiate. After he had been there for some time, the people of Turlough called him to be their minister. But he accepted a call to Garvagh, Co. Derry, where he was ordained, May 13th, 1788.

In the same year he removed to Connor, Co. Antrim, where he remained till his death in 1840. Mr. Henry was a man of much ability. He took a prominent part in the Synod of Ulster in opposing the system of classification in the distribution of the Regium Donum. He was one of those who obtained a hearing for the Rev. Dr. Waugh of the London Missionary Society, at the meeting of the Synod in 1 8 12, when missions to the heathen were in their infancy, and there was strong opposition to hearing a deputation on that subject. He sympathised with the United Irishmen, and was imprisoned for his opinions. 1 Professor Croskery says " he was one of the finest spirits in the Synod, with a truly patriarchal influence."

After Mr. Henry's removal to Garvagh, the Rev. Alexander Marshall became minister of Turlough. He removed to Killala in 1795. He was succeeded by Rev. James Hall, who laboured there from 1795 until his death in 1824. The next minister was the Rev. John Hamilton, who was ordained there in 1824.

At a visitation of Presbytery held in 1825, the commissioners from the congregation were James Leister and John McAdam. There were then about thirty families connected with Turlough. In 1834 the congregation was represented at a visitation by Samuel McAdam and John McClean, elders, and by John Mulloy, James Keenan, Matthew Cochrane, and Joseph Rankin, commissioners. There were then forty families, forty communicants, and seven elders in connection with the congregation. At this meeting the thanks of the Presbytery were given to St. Clair O'Malley, Esq., of Castlebar, for his kind services in securing for the Rev. Mr. Hamilton of Turlough, as chaplain of the jail in Castlebar, a salary equal to that of the other chaplains. Mr. Hamilton died in May, 1854.

The next minister was the Rev. Andrew Brown, who was ordained at Turlough, September, 1854. Soon after his coming to Turlough, he commenced to hold a service in Castlebar every Sabbath evening. The service was first held in the court-house and afterwards in a schoolroom; in 1861 a site was acquired for the erection of a church.

Mr. Brown removed to Hollymount, in the same Presbytery, in 1863, and was succeeded by the Rev. John Cairns, who was ordained at Turlough, June 2nd, 1863. During his ministry a church and manse were erected at Castlebar.

The church at Castlebar was opened in November, 1863, by the Rev. Dr. Edgar of Belfast. The congregations of Turlough and Castlebar have since then been united as a joint-charge. Mr. Cairns removed to Ballina in 1879, and was succeeded by the Rev. James Steen, previously of Drum, who was installed as minister of Turlough and Castlebar in May, 1880. Mr. Steen removed to Wexford in May, 1888, and was succeeded by the present minister, Rev. Joseph Northey, previously of Ballymote, who was installed as minister of Turlough and Castlebar, July 19th, 1888.


Towards the close of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the present century, occasional services were held in Westport by the Presbyterian minister of Turlough. In 1 821 a deputation from the Presbytery of Dublin, consisting of the Rev. James Horner and John Birch, visited Westport. As the result of their inquiries the Rev. Henry Cooke, afterwards the celebrated Dr. Cooke, was sent to officiate for a few Sabbaths. The service was held in a room in the market-house, granted by George Glendinning, Esq.

After Mr. Cooke left, the congregation was favoured with the services of such men as Rev. John Bleckley of Monaghan, Rev. John Johnston of Tullylish, and Rev. Henry Dobbin of Lurgan. In 1823 the congregation was formally organised by the Synod of Ulster.

The first minister was the Rev. Robert Creighton, licentiate of the Tyrone Presbytery, who was ordained at Westport by the Presbytery of Dublin, December 23rd, 1823. The officiating ministers were Rev. James Horner (Dublin), James Morgan (Carlow), and James Hall (Turlough). The oath of allegiance was administered to Mr. Creighton by the Marquis of Sligo and George Glendinning, Esq. The report made to the Dublin Presbytery states that the Marquis and Marchioness of Sligo and family were attentive auditors at the ordination, and expressed their satisfaction with every part of the solemn service. The Presbytery resolved to send letters of thanks to the Marquis of Sligo and George Glendinning, Esq., for their great kindness and attention to the congregation of Westport and the ministers who had visited it on the business of the Presbytery.

In 1830 the Marquis of Sligo granted a site for the erection of church and manse, and these buildings were completed soon after.

Mr. Creighton died October 31st, 1834. In the interval between his death and the settlement of his successor, the congregation enjoyed once more the services of some ministers who afterwards became well known. Among
these were Rev. William Graham of Dundonald, afterwards missionary to the Jews at Damascus and at Bonn, D.D., and author of Commentary on the Ephesians and other works ; Rev. John Dill, Rev. Richard Dill, and Rev. J. K. Leslie (now of Cookstown).

The next stated minister was the Rev. James Smith, who was ordained at Westport, June 4th, 1837. At a visitation held in 1838 the elders of Westport were James Pinkerton and Joseph McCreery, and the commissioners from the congregation were Joseph McCreery, jun., and Patrick Louth. Mr. Smith removed to Scotland in 1845. He was succeeded by Rev. David Adair, who was ordained there May, 1846, and died of smallpox in 1854.

The next minister was one who afterwards took a high place in the Irish Presbyterian Church Rev. Richard Smyth. He was ordained at Westport, June 20th, 1855. He removed to the pastorate of 1st Derry in 1857, an d was subsequently D.D., Professor of Theology in Magee College, and Member of Parliament for County Derry. He took an active part, along with the late A. M. Sullivan, Esq., M.P., in promoting the Irish Sunday Closing Act. He died in 1878.

Mr. Smyth was succeeded by the Rev. John James Black (now LL.D.), who was ordained at Westport, September 8th, 1857. Mr. Black accepted a call to Ormond Quay Church, Dublin, in 1859, whence he afterwards removed to his present pastorate, the Free High Church of Inverness, Scotland.

The Rev. William F. White was the next minister. He was installed at Westport, August 2nd, 1859. During his pastorate schoolhouses were built at Leenane, on Killery Harbour, and at Clogher. In the latter building a school is still maintained, and in the former a mission service is held once a month by the minister of Westport. The manse was also enlarged, and the church fenced in. Mr. White resigned in 1874, and became minister of Lucan, near Dublin, where he died in June, 1887.

The next minister was the Rev. Joseph McKinstry, who was ordained at Westport, January 6th, 1875. Mr. McKinstry removed to Randalstown, Co. Antrim, in 1 88 1, and was succeeded by the Rev. S. G. Crawford, who was ordained at Westport, October 5th, 188 1. Mr. Crawford was appointed on the colonial mission in 1887, and was succeeded by the Rev. Samuel Andrews. After a brief pastorate Mr. Andrews removed to America, and was succeeded by the present minister, Rev. David Wark, M.A., who was ordained at Westport, November 27th,1888.


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