CROGHAN: The Presbyterian Congregation at Killeshandra|
(based on an article by Lindsay T. Brown, M.Sc., Ph.D.)
In 1607 Lord Chichester, the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, undertook
an extensive tour through Ulster. As a result it was decided
that six of the Ulster counties should be planted. In 1609, the
Co. Cavan barony of Tullyhunco, which included Killeshandra, was
allocated to Scottish settlers. Many Scots Presbyterians, wanting
to escape from the difficulties facing Presbyterians in their
native land, were keen to accept the possibility of settling in
places like Killeshandra. We read in the Carew Survey of 1611
that Claude Hamilton had brought servants and a minister with
him to Killeshandra. This is the first mention of a minister
in the region.
Sometime after the Rebellion had been suppressed a Presbyterian
congregation was established in the vicinity of Killeshandra.
The precise date is unknown, but it is known that the Rev Samuel
Kelso, the local minister, left Killeshandra in 1688 fearing another
rebellion. The revolution that followed under William of Orange
ended with the Williamite forces marching through the area on
their way southwards from Enniskillen. Throughout the 1690's
a whole new wave of Scottish settlers seems to have settled in
the area. In 1697 they appealed to the Ulster Synod for a regular
supply of preaching for Killeshandra. However, apart from this
group around Killeshandra, it seems that the number of Presbyterian
congregations in this part of the country were thinly scattered
indeed. Pictured here is a Baptismal font that was used by those early congregations and which dates back to the late 1600's.
A Time of Growth: 1701 - 1834
The next minister, Rev James Hamilton, did not arrive until 1732 and he left the following year.
Life for the settlers was not easy during these times. Evictions
were common, as was emigration. It was quite common to evict
one group of tenants if others were willing to pay a higher rent.
An advert in the Belfast Newsletter in 1764 offered tenements
and parcels of land to anyone who would be willing to settle in
the Killeshandra area. Tenants of many years standing were evicted
to make way for these new settlers who were willing to pay higher
The linen industry was well developed in Co. Cavan and much of
it was in the hands of local Presbyterians. Looms were to be
found in many of their homes. By 1760 a linen market had developed
in Killeshandra. The town also had a bleach yard. Looms were
also made in the town.
It was at this time that John Wesley visited the county and appointed
a William Smith to be a missionary to the county. Smith established
a Methodist Society in Killeshandra. During his ministry hundreds
were converted, so much so that a minister horsewhipped him near
Killeshandra, accusing him of emptying his church.
Rev Carson retired 1780 after nearly 45 years ministry at Killeshandra.
He died in 1782. One of his more noted successors was Rev Joseph
Denham who was installed in Killeshandra in 1799. The number
of Presbyterian families in connection with Killeshandra in 1800
was about 180, about 1100 people in all. In 1808 Rev Denham was
elected as Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster. In 1809
he was appointed as a member of a committee to 'draw up a code
of laws for the future government of the church'. His work on
that committee still survives to this day in what is known to
all Presbyterians as 'The Code'.
At this time there were many soldiers stationed in the Killeshandra
area. The little church at Croghan could not accommodate all
who came on Sunday. So a new wing, known as 'Soldiers' Wing',
was added to the church. Rev Denham was also very involved in
the missionary activity of the wider church. He helped establish
a new mission station in Mullingar, and assisted congregations
and churches in Cavan town and in Turlough, Co. Mayo. Local Presbyterians
were actively missioning in Arva, Ballyhaise, Belturbet, Cavan
and around Virginia as well as around Carrigallen in Co. Leitrim.
Rev Denham was a member of a deputation appointed to meet King
George IV in 1832. He died in 1834. His son James had also entered
the ministry (1826) and was a minister in Derry. He too would
Years of Decline.
In the world of politics the early 1920's were also troubled times.
Many members of the Killeshandra congregation felt that there
was no future in this troubled, poor land and decided to emigrate.
Their departure left the Killeshandra congregation all the poorer.
When Rev Whitsitt died in 1930 Killeshandra was amalgamated with
Carrigallen and Belturbet under the Rev James McClean. He retired
in 1934 and the following year Drumkeeran was also brought into
the union. After the war the congregation received a new minister
in July 1946, Rev Samuel Rutherford Watt . During his ministry
Cavan presbytery, including Killeshandra, was united with the
Monaghan presbytery under the name 'The Presbytery of Monaghan'.
Rev Watt stayed in Killeshandra until 1964 when he moved to Clontibret.
The process of amalgamation continued for all the congregations
in West Cavan. Killeshandra was now linked with Drumkeeran, Cavan
and the Bellasis under the care of Rev Jean Mackeral who was installed
in 1985. She is the first lady minister in the Monaghan Presbytery.
Today, the congregation around Killeshandra is very small, consisting of just a few families. Their church at Croghan is the oldest church in the presbytery. It has been recently renovated and a service of thanksgiving to celebrate it's re-opening was held on 5 May 1997. The Moderator, Dr Harry Allen was the guest preacher for the occasion.