Presbyterian Exodus, Co. Longford, 1729

Thomas J. Barron.

Published in Breifne.

As far back as 1675, when South Ulster had not even one Presbyterian Congregation in either Fermanagh, Monaghan, or Cavan, there was a minister, Rev. ??? Jacques in charge of the Corboy church. Rev. John Mairs of Loughbrickland was ‘transplanted’ to Longford in 1697, where he complained about his work and the extent of his charge, ‘being at least ten miles over, and the two places in his charge (Corboy and Tully or Clongish) for preaching in each other Sabbath, being five miles distant’ He desired to return to Ulster, but his synod did not give him permission till 1706, when it released him ‘from his intolerable grievances, his wife losing her health, his own craziness (ill-health) and the greatness of his charge.’ He was succeeded by Rev. William Hare, who was ordained in Corboy in 1708, and resigned in 1720. The next, minister was Rev. James Bond who was ordained in 1722.

It was during Mr Bond’s ministry in, Corboy that an exodus from the district was organised by a Col. Charles Clinton, a copy of whose diary of the journey across the Atlantic to America is preserved in the New York State Library. I am much indebted to Mr Victor Murphy, a member of the Corboy Church, for the loan of this very interesting document.

First we must find the reasons why there was such great unrest amongst the Presbyterians in Ireland at this time which forced thousands of them to flee from the country in spite of the great hardships encountered in crossing the Atlantic and settling in untamed and undeveloped country. In the later part of 1728 Primate Boulter transmitted to the secretary of state in: England the following ‘melancholy account’ as he called it, of the state of the North and of the extensive emigration which was taking place to America:
“We have had for several years some agents from the colonies in America, and several masters of ships, that have gone about the country and deluded the people with stories of great plenty and estates to be had for going for, in those parts of the world; and they have been the better able to seduce people by reason of the necessities of the poor of late, The people that go from hence make great complaints of the oppressions they suffer here, not from the government, but from their fellow subjects of one kind or another, as well as the dearness of provisions, and say these oppressions are one reason for their going. But whatever occasions their going, it is certain that 4,200 men women, and children have been shipped off from hence to the West Indies within three years; and of these about 3,100 this last summer. The whole North is in a ferment at present and people every day engaging one another to go next year to the West Indies. The humour has spread like contageous distemper and the people, will hardly hear anyone that will cure them of their madness. The worst is that it affects only Protestants and reigns chiefly in the North, which is the seat of our linen manufacture.”

The Dublin authorities alarmed by the extensive emigration from Ulster consulted Presbyterian ministers on the subject. The answer of one of the presbyteries has been preserved. They specify the discouragements under which they lay, by the Sacramental Test excluding them from all places of public trust and honour as among the chief causes of driving them to other parts of the of the empire where no such discouragements existed. But they also state that :the bad seasons for three years past, together with the high price of lands and tithes, have all contributed to the general run to America, and to the ruin of many families, who are leaving their houses and lands desolate.

This, then, is the background of the tragic story contained in the diary of Colonel Charles Clinton, who led the exodus from County Longford. The company included a Mr Cruise, evidently the owner of the ship, who was accompanied by at least eight un-named ‘servants’ who died on the journey. These ‘servants’ were men who had contracted with the master of the ship for four years’ servitude and release after their arrival in America. As a native Irishman, Cruise would have been glad to encourage and facilitate the settlers in their exit from his country.

From Primate Boulter’s statement to the secretary of state in England we learn that there were in March 1729, seven ships at Belfast carrying off about 1,000 passengers to America; which enables us to arrive at about an average of 150 passengers to each ship. According to Clinton’s diary 83 passengers died during the 23 weeks’ journey; so at least half of the pilgrims going to a freer life than what they had known in Ireland, perished at sea. Strange to say little clue is given as to the cause of the deaths, except that it is stated that Clinton’s daughter, Katherine, and his son James were the first to become ill with measles on2 June; Katherine dying on 2 August, and, James on 28 August.

T. Witherow in his Memorials of Presbyterianism has an interesting note on the origin of the Delap family in Ireland, four of whom perished in the ill-fated enterprise. Hugh Delap appears to have been the first of the family who settled in Ireland, He married a Miss Aikin, and after his marriage he left Scotland, made his way across the Channel and set up business in ,the town of Sligo. In due time when he had a home fit for her reception, his wife, who is described as a woman of very small stature, followed him to Ireland, but in making her way over the Donegal mountains was robbed in passing through the Gap of Barnesmor. The Delaps were amongst the first Protestants who settled in Sligo; For years their children remained unbaptized, there being no Protestant minister in the place; but at last one named Roecroft arrived, by whom the rite, was administered. Two days before the Irish rebellion of 1641 LordTaffe sent for the family and brought them to Ballymote – an event which, in all probability, was the means of preserving their lives. Hugh Delap left a son Robert, who lived as a merchant successively in Sligo, Manorhamilton and Ballyshannon. Doubtless Tom Delap, mentioned in the diary, was another descendant of the dauntless little Scotswoman, who about a hundred years previously, had ventured through the wilds of Donegal to find her man in Sligo, What-ever Tories or Rapparees relieved her of her property must have had sufficient respect for her to leave her her life. This fact is all the more remarkable when we remember that these Irish, were living in an area hitherto unpopulated, until the Scottish settlers in East Donegal drove them into the mountains.

The Bonds: Rev James Bond’s ministry was the longest in the history of the congregation, viz. 39 years. He was grandfather of Captain Willoughby Bond of Faragh, County Longford, who was an elder in the church. Captain Bond was one of the largest landed, proprietors in the county. He was a generous contributor to the support of Corboy, as well as other Presbyterian churches.

After the Revolution (1689), the landed proprietors, anxious to induce persons to occupy their waste lands, granted very favourable leases, under which the Presbyterian tenantry had been stimulated to improve their holdings ,and to extend their cultivation, But as these leases, usually for thirty-one years, expired, the gentry raised their rents to such an amount that farmers were exceedingly discouraged, and began to thinkof relinquishing their farms, and of either returning to Scotland or emigrating to America. The rise of their rents brought along with it also a still more galling discouragement. It was almost always invariably accompanied by a proportionate increase of the tithe, which was felt to be more burdensome than the rent, being paid to a clergy from whom they derived no spiritual benefit, and who were often bitterly opposed to their civil and religious liberties. In 1718 a minister in Ulster wrote to a friend in Scotland that no less that six ministers had left their congregations and gone off to the American plantations taking great numbers of their people along with them…………In 1729, the year the Longford people set off, the Irish were coming to Philadelphia in such large numbers as to alarm the Quaker and English inhabitants, for, in a statement to the Council in that year the Deputy Governor of the Province said:
“It looks as if Ireland is to send all its inhabitants hither, for last week, no less that six ships arrived, and every day two or three arrive also. The common fear is that if they continue to come they will make themselves masters of the province.”

It-should also be noted that not the least of Presbyterian grievances was that marriages’ performed by a Presbyterian minister were not marriages by law nor were they valid till 1782.

A Journal of my voyage and travels from the county of Longford in the Kingdom of Ireland to Pensilvania in America – Anno Dom’ 1729.

I took my journey from the County of Longford on Friday The 9th,day of may, Came to Dublin ye 12th Ditto. Enter’d on Ship Board The Ship Call’d The George and Ann ye 18th Sett Sail the 20th.

Came to Anchor at Glanarm on The 24th where matt’w mcClaughry and his wife and 2 of his family went on Shoar and quit Their voyage. Sett Sail from Glanarm on ye 25th and Came to Apchor at Green Castle in the Lough of oern (seems to have been Lough Foyle ed’s note) The 26th where we Stay’d till ye 29th then Sett Sail in Company with The John of Dublin, bound for new castle’ (New Castle in Delaware, in 1728 4,500 persons most of whom came from Ireland landed cf. Maginniss The Irish Contributon to America’s Independence)in The Same Country.

Ditto Came in Sight of Loughsuly (Lough Swilly) ye 30th Sail’d by Torry & hornhead on the 30th at night a Strong winde arose it Continued to ye first of June at Evening which Loosened our bowsprint with Hazard of our masts.

June,ye 2d ‘we had a fair breese on our westerly Course. on the 3d ditto my Daughter Katt’n and son James fell Sick of the measels.

A strong Gale of westerly wind Continues to ye l0th ditto.

James Willan’s Child Died ye 5th on the 7th met ye Mary from pensilvania from w’e she sailed to us in 5 weeks and 5 days. On The 8th ditto a Child of James mc Dowel’s died and was thrown over board.

(Editor’s Note: The Mary from Pensylvania, it seems, had crossed the Atlantic in 5 weeks and 5 days or roughly six weeks, According to the diary the George and Ann Were off the Swilly on 30 May and sighted America on 4 October, giving us exactly 23 weeks for the passage from east to west; in other words because of adverse winds the passage from east to west could take almost four times as long as the passage from west to east, in the days of the sailing ships. )

on the Tenth ye winde Came to East and be South.
on ye 11th Changed more Easterly and Continues fair and seasonable
on the12th the wind Blew north & be East, a fresh Gale by which we sail’d 40 Leagues in 20 hours and found we were in 49° 20’ north Latitude by observation the wind Changed on ye 13th do to ye South and so Continues to ye 15th being Sunday morning one of ye Serv’ts a board belonging to one Gerald Cruise threw himself over Deck & was drown’d
on ye 15th my Daughter Katt’n fell sick of ye measels a Serv’t of mr Cruise’s Dyed on ye 17th and was Thrown over Deck the wind Came to w b s & Continues a violent fresh Gale to ye 18th. the 19th and 20th we had a South & be west wind. on the 21st being Sunday ‘we had a perfect Calm in La,tt 27° 30’

a Serv’t of mr Cruise’s Died on monday a Child of James Thompson’s Died on Tuesday ye 23 a Child of John Brooks Died we had a fair wind on ye 22d 23d then another Child of Jam’s Thompson’s died. on The 28th a Child of James majore Died and one of Robt. Frazer’s

We now have w:n:w: wind Tuesday ye 1st of July a fair wind. July ye 3d a Child of John Brooks Died. a Child or Daughter of Will mcCutchan’s Died Do a Child of John Brooks Died. July ye 5th came in Sight of the Island of Curvo and flores (Ed’s note – must have been the Azores) which belongs to the portegees they Lye in the Latt’d of 40° : 09 north and 32 : 23 west Longitude

a Child of James mcDowels Died July ye 7th.
Ditto Robt Todd Died.
Mr. Ephram Covell
Quintin Crimbell
Robert Brown-merch’t
will Caldwell
a Brother of will hamilton’s
Will Gray
my own Daughter on 2 of agust at night.
a child of James majore’s
a Daughter of widow hamilton ,
James majore’s wife
Thorn Delap’s wife
Alex’d mitchel
a Child of James Thompson’s
Walter Davis his wife
widdow Hamilton
Robt Gray
a Child of widow Hamilton
Walter Davis
Jane Armstrong
A Child of Jam majore’s
an other servant of Cruise’s
william Gordon
Isabel mc cutchan
my son James on ye 28th of agust: 1729 at 7 in ye morning
a Son of James majore’s
a brother of And’w mc Dowell’s
a Daughter of Walter Davis’s
Robert frazer
Patt mc Came Serv’t to Tho: Armstrong

Will Hamilton
James Greer ser’t to Alex. Mitchell
Widdow Gordon’s daughter
James Morray died Thursday 11th 7br (September)
A serv’t of Mr. Cruise’s
A Son of John Beatty’s
Two of Mr Cruise’s men Ser’ts
James Thompson’s wife
James Brown
A Daughter of James Mc Dowell’s
A Daughter of Thom. Delap’s
A Serv’t of Mr. Cruise’s
John Oliver’s wife
James majores Eldest Daughter
John Crook a Sailor
Jos. Stafford
John mc Dowell’s sister
James Wilson’s wife
Sarah Hamilton will Ham’ns Sister
Thomas Armstrong died Monday ye 29th of 7br (September)
John Beatty’s wife
Isabella Johnston
Edw’d Morris
Marg’t mc Claughry
Widow Frazer’s Daughter
And’w mc Dowell’s Brother
Jos mc Claughry
A young Sister of And’w McDowell’s
Tom Delap – and his daughter Katherine
James Barkly
Discovered Land on ye Continent of America ye 4th day of 8br 1729 (8th October 1729)