Friday, 24 December 2010

Scotch Church, Armagh

Rev Pooley Shuldam Henry was minister of First Presbyterian Church in Armagh from 1826 to 1846, when he was appointed first president of the new Queen's College in Belfast.  During his rather stormy ministry sixty families memorialised Armagh Presbytery to form another congregation and Third Armagh was recognised by the presbytery on 7 November 1837.  The first minister Rev John Richard McAlister, originally from Garvagh, was installed on 13 June 1838 and services were held for a time in the old Methodist Church in Abbey Street. 

The meeting-house on The Mall was opened for worship on 11 February 1840 by Rev Dr Henry Cooke and above the door is the inscription SCOTCH CHURCH MDCCCXXXVII.  The year 1837 refers to the formation of the congregation rather than the opening of the building and the word Scotch reflects the Scottish roots of Presbyterianism in Ulster.

McAlister was very active and much used of God during the great Ulster revival in 1859.  There were many converts at that time and the congregation flourished. 


  1. I'm the Assistant Minister there at the moment - my understanding is that the term 'Scotch Church' was also intended to advertise the theological orthodoxy of the congregation as opposed to the more liberal 1st Armagh up the road. The current congregation is known as 'The Mall' and is the result of a 20th century union between 2nd and 3rd.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Charles Brett made that comment in his description of the church but gave no evidence for it. The orthodox Presbyterian Church in Crumlin has ECCLESIA SCOTICA and I understand that the old church in Raphoe has SCOTCH CHURCH. I would be interested to know how many other churches have such an inscription.

    The use of the term in Crumlin might seem to support the view that it is a reflection of theological orthodoxy but both churches were built about the same time - the Crumlin church was 1839 - and it seems that at that time Presbyterian churches were often referred to as Scotch. For example the Ordnance Survey Memoir for the parish of Ardstraw in Tyrone was written in 1831 and states that, ‘The valleys are filled with Protestants, chiefly of the Scotch churches.’

    I wonder if there is a congregational history for the Mall and if it gives any evidence for the suggestion that it was a reflection of orthodoxy.

  3. You may well be right Nelson. There is a congregational history of 'The Mall', written by John Lockington who was at one time Minister here. The foundation of the congregation is also treated in the late Temple Lundie's history of First Armagh.

    'The Mall' was founded as Second Armagh but became Third at the union of the Synods. First met in Abbey Street and the new Second was meeting in the Shambles where the Old Presbyterian Graveyard still exists, bracketed by the Roman Catholic Cathedral and St. Patrick's hall. The two existing Presbyterian congregations now share the 'New' Presbyterian graveyard at Red Barns on the outskirts of the city.

    When First built it's impressive Meeting House on the Mall West, Second moved into it's old building. When Second and Third united to form 'The Mall' the new congregation held on to Second's old Meeting House as a hall and also to it's Manse. In the end, the building in Abbey Street was sold to Armagh City Council and it is now part of 'St. Patrick's Trian'. My boss still lives in the palatial Second Armagh manse on the Newry Road!

    I've always thought that in the circumstances, where there were two congregations with different theological outlooks in very close proximity, the inscription must have been intended to distinguish the one from the other but I have no primary evidence for that.

  4. The plaque on the front gable of Irvinestown Presbyterian Church in Fermanagh reads 'SCOTS CHURCH AD 1848' and a plaque on Castlederg Presbyterian Church reads 'SCOTS CHURCH 1858'. It seems that this term was used quite widely in the 19th century.

  5. Great James Street Presbyterian Church in Londonderry and Enniskillen Presbyterian Church are also known as Scots as well as Presbyterian.


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