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Aughnacloy & Dungannon Church of the Volunteers

Medal of the Aughnacloy Volunteers


The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, ever interesting and always admirably presented, is, in its current number, of particular attractiveness to readers of the North-West district. In a carefully prepared series of short illustrated papers on “Medals of the Ulster Volunteers” by Robert DAY F.S.A. The “silver reward” of the Aughnacloy corps, a pretty piece of the silver-smith’s art. it is of two-and-a-quarter inches in diameter, engraved and enclosed within a struck rim of chased work, representing a continuous chain of shamrocks, with a ring of gold forming the suspender. The obverse bears the title and date, harp crowned, bordered on a powdered groundwork with the triple-leaf. The reverse tells of how the medal was adjudged to P.W M’DERMOTT, in the encouragement of merit by Captain Thomas FORSYTHE. There is also, a cut of another medal of plainer design, bearing the rim impress, within a wreath of laurel, “Aughnacloy battalion” and again, “The gift of Colonel P. ALEXANDER T.K.” (Derry Journal)

1 Sept. 1781 Monaghan Review

Saturday last, marched through this town to Camla, the feat of Colonel John MONTGOMERY, the Castleblayney Rangers, Donamine Volunteers, Cremourn Volunteers, and Castleblayney Grenadiers, where they encamped and remained until the Wednesday following and were most elegantly entertained during the time. Sunday, the whole of the other companies marched in, and were received in proper military form by a guard of the Monaghan Volunteers, when those patriotic heroes were furnished with billets on inhabitants, who provided accommodarions for those valiant sons and saviours of their country. It is needless to remark with what cheerfulness and hospitality they were received by all ranks of people.
The companies reviewed were Monaghan Volunteers, Calledon Volunteers, Castleblayney Rangers,Farney Volunteers, Trough Rangers, Aughnacloy Volunteers, Loyal Fintona Volunteers, Trough do., Clogher do.,Clones do., Ballyleck Rangers, Killiven Volunteers, Lisnavin Light Infantry, Stone- Bridge Volunteers, Monaghan Rangers, Castleshane Forresters, Donamine Volunteers, Cremorn do.,Castleblayney Grenadiers, Ballibay Volunteers, and Magheraveely volunteers. in all 1,206 men.

Monday morning, nothing was heard but the sound of fifes, drums and bands of music. At ten o’clock the different corps assembled in the Diamond, from whence they marched to the review ground, at twelve with the coming of the General with his aids -decamps, and a grand retinue was announced by a salute from the artillery; after passing the line the General took his stand, when each of the corps passed him, after which they went through the manual exercise, evolutions, manueuvres, &c. to the approbation and satisfaction of the General and many thousands of spectators. (Dublin Evening Post)

The Church of the Volunteers, Dungannon


Author of “A History of Irish Presbyterians”

In Scotch Street, Dungannon about thirty yards back from the public thoroughfare, and half concealed by a manse built in a line with the street, stands all that remains of the celebrated Church of the Volunteers. Neither the original building, nor even the congregation, is remarkable for antiquity. The first Presbyterian settlers who came to the neighbourhood worshipped at Donaghmore, where the Rev. Thomas KENNEDY, a nephew of the sixth Earl of Cassilis had in 1646* been appointed parish minister. A few years afterwards, the Dungannon Presbyterians, finding it inconvenient to walk so far, established a congregation for themselves, and the Rev. George KEITH was appointed minister. Mr KEITH’s name, is given by Wodrow ** among the list of those, who after the Restoration, refused to conform. It is, therefore, probable that he was a parish minister in 1661, but whether he then occupied the parish of Drumglas, Dungannon, or whether, being ejected from some other parish, he afterwards became pastor of the Dungannon Nonconformists. I am unable now to ascertain. At any rate, he was badly supported by his people, and in 1673, the Presbytery recommended them to furnish their minister with a proper maintenance. These efforts being fruitless, Mr KEITH, resigned his charge and the Dungannon Presbyterians went again to worship with Mr KENNEDY who was now at Carland.

page notes * inscription in church ** Wodrow calls him Robert Keith

In 1661 he had refused to conform. Afterwards, he was confined in Dungannon jail for persisting to preach to his people. Liberated by the influence of some of his noble relatives, he settled for a time in Glasgow, but when the heat of the persecution was past, he returned to Tyrone, and established a congregation at Carland, two miles from Dungannon. The Dungannon Presbyterians continued to worship with Mr KENNEDY till his death in 1716, at a patriarchal age. A few months afterwards, Mr John BROWN, appeared before the Synod to request supplies for Dungannon, with the object of establishing a new congregation. The case, being duly considered, the petition was granted. Dungannon now became a separate charge and on the 30th of April 1718, Mr Nathaniel COCHRANE was ordained its minister.

The succeeding clergymen have been

Adam DUFFIN 1744 -1770

Alexander MERCER 1772 -1776

William STITT 1777- 1803

Thomas WAUGHOPE 1804 -1805

David BENNETT 1806 -1847

Charles L MORELL D.D. 1844

Dr Morell still lives and has the Rev. Samuel LINDSAY, B.A. for his assistant.

Dungannon Meeting house was formerly the favourite assembly place of the Synod of Ulster, then the supreme ecclesiastical court of the Irish Presbyterians. During the last century no less than twenty five yearly, and two special meetings were held in that building. Colonel Clotworthy Upton was present as a ruling elder in 1723, when the Synod met there and he led the Old light majority in a nine days conflict with the New light minority. There too, in 1726, the Presbytery of Antrim became a distinct denomination. In the same building, the Synod passed a strict law, forbidding their ministers, under pain of severe censure, to attend the representation of stage plays, and Presbyteries were ordered to inquire if any of their members had been guilty in this respect. But the most celebrated of all the meetings held in Dungannon Presbyterian Church took place on the 15 February 1782, when representatives of 143 corps of Irish Volunteers assembled to demand the Independence of the Irish Parliament.

Great Britain, being then at war with her American Colonies, the Government feared to refuse the request of so large a body of armed citizen,s and granted Legislative Independence. The Volunteers then proceeded to demand Parliamentary reform, and for this purpose on the 8 September 1783, a meeting of delegates, representing 278 companies, was held in the same building. But the war was now over, many of the leaders, like Lord Charlemont, had got all they wanted, and the Government, sure of being supported by the army, refused the reform requested by a body, whom they had always hated and no longer feared. Still, the agitation for Parliamentary reform continued, and on the 15 February 1793 an Ulster convention of county delegates, promoted by the United Irishmen, was held in the same edifice, under the presidency of William Sharman.

The Rev William S Dickson D.D.was present, and we learn from a letter in the Northern Star, that so great was the impression made by his eloquence, a number of the principal people assembled, and in order to have their curiosity gratified, sent a deputation to request that he would oblige them with a sermon at five in the evening. This request, presented by the Rev. Mr Stitt, was granted and the writer of the letter, from which the above quotation is extracted, goes on to say,

“Before the hour, the house was crowded with the principal people of the place of all religious persuasions among whom were the Established and Catholic clergy”

The Doctor happily took as his text Joseph’s advice to his brethren. ‘See that ye fall not out by the way’. Had there been a want of unanimity here on the subjects, now in agitation, the Doctor’s arguments would certainly have united us. United as we are, he has strengthened our union. It is distinctly stated by the News Letter that the Volunteer assembly of 1783 was held in the Meeting house, and the Northern Star, no less distinctly, states that in 1793 the United Irishmen met in the same edifice, but the News Letter, while giving the resolutions passed in 1783, does not mention the building in which the meeting took place and some people have very strangely imagined that it was held in the Parish Church. There is no doubt, however, but all these assemblies were held in the Dissenting Meetinghouse. It is very unlikely that the Church would have been lent for such a purpose and there is no allusion in its congregational records, still fortunately preserved, to such a loan having ever been made. The Sessional records of that date, belonging to the Dungannon Presbyterians, have been lost, but notwithstanding this, there is conclusive proof of the statements I have made. When Dr Morell was ordained in 1844, several persons were alive who remembered the three meetings. These witnesses, without exception, stated that all had been held in the Presbyterian Church. One of these old people, a man named Ben Brown, who, when a boy had been present at the first meeting, could point out the very pews in which had sat the more distinguished of the delegates. When Tom Steel visited Dungannon in 1843, he was taken by Brown to see this edifice as the place, where in 1782 ,the Volunteers held their first meeting and nobody then ventured to gainsay his statement. I have, myself, conversed with several persons who remember old men state they had attended the gatherings in the Meeting house, but I never met one who conversed with anybody that asserted he had attended such a meeting in the Church. Besides, in 1793, the Anthologia Hibernica published a woodcut of Dungannon Meeting house as the place, where in 1782, the Volunteers met. In an article it dwelt on the fact that three great political gatherings had been held in that building and stated that besides it, had been lent to the Friends for their meetings and to the Episcopalians, when their Church was re-building. Besides the parochial records of this denomination prove that they had the use of the Dissenting Meeting house for several years before the time, that the county delegates met, and this fact may have given rise to the report that the first Volunteer assembly was held in the Parish Church.

Dr Morell states that the view of his old Meeting house, published in the Anthologia Hibernica, is a remarkably good one. There was a door in each gable and the pulpit stood at the side wall, next Scotch Street, between two windows that were much higher than the others. The three galleries, which in 1783 contained such an amazing crowd of ladies and gentlemen, were placed one at each gable, and one at the side wall, facing the pulpit. The spout which ran down the gable in front was to take away the water that fell between the slopes, of the strange double roof that covered the building, while the gable itself was raised to a level with the two ridges. In 1858, Dr Morell got a new church erected. The walls of the old one were preserved, but a facing of dark stone was added on the outside, and a tower erected. In 1870 transepts were added on the side, where the entrance is seen in the picture, and the gable, had of course, to be removed. Some of the old pews were placed in the lecture hall, but they have been lately taken away, and the only remaining part of the former woodwork is the wainscoting of the session room. However, when a person enters the present building, he is within three of the four walls that once surrounded the historic Volunteers of Ireland.

Page compiled, extracted & transcribed by Teena from the noted resources

Medal Photograph from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1901 & Meeting House sketch from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1894

1782 “A Compleat Collection of the Resolutions of the Volunteers, Grand Juries, & C of Ireland, which Followed the Celebrated Resolves of the First Dungannon Diet” Vol. 1 By C. H. Wilson

The history of the volunteers of 1782 by Thomas MacNevin