BREAKEY, now ERVEY
An Excerpt from
THE HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANISM
And a small portion of Meath and Monaghan
Member of the Royal Society of Antiquarians, Ireland
This manuscript, written with pen and ink by Thomas Hall, was in the Library of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast, when we (Nettie C. Breakey & Edward P. Breakey) visited the Library, 14th May to 17th May 1968. Mrs. McMordie, the Librarian, gave us permission to have the Title Page, Preface, Section 1 of Chapter VI, Appendix D and the author’s List of Books Consulted photocopied by Xerox. Section 1 of Chapter VI reviews more than 200 years of the Congregational History of Breakey Church. Appendix D lists the Elders in so far as they were known.
Two photocopies were made, one for our file at home and one for the Breakey file that is being created in the Library of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, which is presently, located at 82 Eaton Square, London, S.W.1. Each is an excellent reproduction.
Our photocopies have been transcribed on the typewriter for further reproduction. We have made a sincere effort to reproduce Thomas Hall’s manuscript as he wrote it, avoiding the natural urge to correct misspellings and to improve sentence structure.
We had learned of the presence of Breakeys in the northwest part of County Meath when studying the Ordnance Survey Maps. In this way, we had learned of a Bawnbreakey Townland, a Breakey Lough, a Breakey Lough Little, a Breakey Cross Roads and a Breakey Bridge, all landmarks in that area.
The Rev. Philip J. C. Breakey, son of the very Rev. Dr. J. C. Breakey of Belfast, was ordained as minister of the Presbyterian Church at Taughmonagh near Belfast in June 1961. A short time later, he was called to Kells where he is presently minister of Kells and Ervey Presbyterian Churches. In 1966, he wrote under date of 29th November:
"You mentioned in an earlier letter, Bawnbreaky and other landmarks with our name in Co. Meath. You will be interested to know that by coincidence, I happen to be the Minister of Bawnbreakey. It seems that at one time there was a Church on the Breakey lands known as the Breakey Church. I have not been able to find the remains of it but there is no doubt that it did exist. Ervey Church, at a distance of about one mile replaced it more than 100 years ago but I receive annually a small legacy which was left to “The Minister of Bawnbreakey and the Poles.” ‘The Poles” is another Townland in the district.
The Breakey lakes, bridge, cross-roads are all in the same district and I hope to send you photographs of them. I have not yet been able to find out anything about the history of Bawnbreakey but I hope to make further enquiries."
With the Rev. Philip Breakey as our host and guide, we visited this area in 1968 and photographed the Breakey lakes, Breakey Bridge, Ash Field House, part of the Bawn (a fort); it is presently being used as a barn, and the old cemetery. There wasn’t much to photograph in the old cemetery. Nearly all memorial stones were down and the lettering on many was so badly weathered it was unreadable. The Rev. Breakey told us the cemetery is still being used for he has had two funerals there since he came to serve that Congregation as minister. The cemetery is across the road to the east of Bawnbreakey.
Seeing the decay in this old cemetery reminded us of how ephemeral in point of time are the records we try to preserve by cutting them into stone. The written record will often survive long after the other has perished. Perhaps we can find solace in the thought expressed in this bit of poetry by an unknown author with the title:
The still sad glory of their name
Hallows no mountain into flame;
No, not a tree the record bears
Of their deep thoughts and lonely prayers.
So let it be! Like him whose clay
Deep buried by his maker lay;
They sleep in secret, but their sod,
Unknown to man, is marked by God.
What of the Breakeys who lived in this area and whose family name is still linked with these land marks? Unfortunately, we know very little about them Thomas Hall has shown that the Congregation bearing the name Breakey was in existence by 1700, only ten years after the Battle of the Boyne. Fortunately, we do know something of the Huguenot Breakeys (De Brequet), founders of the family in Ireland. Two brothers and a cousin fled France soon after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) when Louis XIV vowed to exterminate the Protestant Christians. They escaped into Holland where they joined the army of William of Orange and came to England with that army in 1688. In 1689, they were enrolled in Schomberg’s regiment of cavalry. According to Smiles, this regiment of cavalry “was composed entirely of French gentlemen, officers and privates.” Schomberg’s French Horse was ordered into Ireland in 1689 when James II attempted to establish himself at Dublin. On arriving in Ireland, each man had to buy his own horse and furnish his own equipment. Only gentlemen with some wealth could have done that.
This regiment was heavily engaged at the Battle of the Boyne, 1st July 1690 (Old Style), one of the brothers falling there. The cousins, John de Brequet, a non-commissioned officer, and James William de Brequet were mustered soon after this battle and settled near Ballybay in County Monaghan. James William de Brequet and his English wife settled at Lisgillan late in 1690. John de Brequet built the house at Balladian the winter of 1692, his French wife remaining in Dublin to improve his English.
Each was given several Townlands in Ulster by the Trustees for Forfeited Estates. When the De Brequets became subjects of William and Mary, they anglicised (sic) the spelling of their name to Breakey. That the Huguenot Breakeys were energetic men and men of considerable ability is generally accepted by knowledgable (sic) members of the family. Tradition credits each with a large family. What a challenge these present the genealogical researcher – to search them out and learn of their activities and achievements.
Edward P. Breakey, PhD
1. More recent Breakey research documented by Breakey descendants Dr. John Hall of Canada and Mr. Kenneth Breakey of Portadown, Ireland indicates the names of our Huguenot ancestors may have been other than “de Brequet.” Further, there is no documentation that our Huguenot ancestors, by name, were John de Brequet and James William de Brequet.
2. No documentation has been found to support the tradition that our early Breakey ancestors were given townlands by the Trustees for Forfeited Estates. (McElroy to M. J. Breakey, 3 March 1981: "I looked at the Forfeited Estates Books for all Ireland & could find no mention of the name Breakey in Monaghan. I also looked at the Books of Survey & Distribution for Co. Monahgan which recorded land being taken off Catholics & being given to Protestants but it only records the details between wealthy people.")
3. Within the following transcription there will appear underlined numbers. These refer to the pagination of Thomas Hall’s manuscript.
Marilyn J. Breakey
THE HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANISM
and a small portion of Meath and Monaghan
Member of the Royal Society of Antiquarians, Ireland
Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
The History of Presbyterianism
and a small portion of Meath and Monaghan
This little book has no pretensions. It is a plain matter-of-fact recital, perhaps in some particulars too minute. But this very amount of detail may be somewhere of practical service, and can add to the historical value of the subject under consideration. It is therefore necessarily a compilation of materials, not taken at random, but carefully gathered from many sources – political, social and ecclesiastical; from state papers, historical calendars, church records, old manuscripts and books of reference stored in our great public libraries. Indeed, whatever might help to make clear, under judicious selection, the story of Presbyterianism in East Cavan, has been drawn upon – as far as has been available.
I have been largely assisted by the ready and hearty access given to me by the Presbyteries of Monaghan and Bailieborough to examine, and take notes from, the old minute books of those respective Presbyteries, to whom I now tender my best thanks. With these, I desire to couple the names of a few gentlemen who kindly strengthened me in similar ways: Rev. Dr. W. J. Lowe, Assembly Hall, Belfast; Mr. J. W. Kernohan, Presbyterian Historical Society; Rev. Wm Auld, Coraneary; Rev. W. P. Lowe, the Rectory, Bailieborough; The Librarians of Trinity College, Dublin, of the Royal Irish Academy, and of the Armagh Library; and also to Dr. P. W. Joyce, for permission to make use of Roots, Prefixes and Affixes from his “Irish Names of Places;” to all of these I give my thanks.
If this venture should assist in giving our people generally a better and a more systematic knowledge of our past history, it would be a clear gain, from whatever aspect viewed. If it should also help to inspire those who are the national guardians of our Presbyterian records – local and general – to take a greater interest in their preservation, and leave them not to the tender mercies of a possibly unsympathetic future generation, which might eventually, throw them into the hands of the spoiler, which often follows from want of judgement, (sic) then no one will be more pleased than
January 20th, 1912
BREAKEY, now ERVEY
This congregation takes its place in the very first rank of the post-revolution (52) erections in the midland and southern counties of Ulster. The story of the grant and settlement in the Parish of Enniskeen and the neighborhood of Kingscourt has already been stated. The following additions may be of interest.
When Gerald Fleming got his first grant in Clankee, it was by virtue of his position as a servitor to Queen Elizabeth, and so held it under the ordinary conditions of Knight-Service. Consequently, under James I, a renewal of his tenure became necessary, and was made under somewhat modified Plantation conditions, without very much disarranging the state of affairs in which Chichester found him. He is given credit for what he had already performed; and apparently there was no desire to disturb his well begun settlement on the basis of a ‘civil plantation.’ This did not then consist of very much more than the encouragement of an orderly growth of opinion and settled life among the natives themselves, who gladly accepted the new advantages held out to them. Fleming’s own position thus became more like that of a ‘Lord of the Pale’ than that of a ‘Plantation’ undertaker. Thus his fealty was the real determining point of his grant, according to the imposed conditions since in 1641 his son, Thomas, had no individual scruples of conscience in the alliance of himself with the other Anglo-Irish gentlemen of the Pale in their endeavours in the great Rebellion, under pretence of aiding King Charles I. While his family relations and social interest brought him thus in contact with the most restless of the disquieted abettors of the disturbers of the Pale, his matrimonial alliances linked him with the fortunes (53) of Lord Maguire, one of the chief conspirators. No wonder then that we find Thomas Fleming taking his position in the secondary rank of the disaffected, and so risked his name and property in the advancement of a popular insurrection. The struggles of two generations were thus lost in one blow, and Cromwell scattered nearly all that those two generations had gathered.
Every disturbance of national or social progress is sure to act unfavourably on many private and individual interests. The great Civil War was no exception. The clash of arms was scarcely over, when property, titles and rank became dependent upon the will and the word of the ‘Lawgiver.’ The lands of Thomas Fleming were divided among some of the officers of Cromwell’s army; and in the books of “Settlement and Distribution,” we find their names with their townland attached. Among them was Thomas Cooch, who received Cabragh, Cormey, Cortobber and others. His name is also found in King James’ “Act of Attainder’ in 1689, and as of Cabragh. We also find him listed as Sheriff in 1664, and ‘Justice of the Peace’ in 1684. With these Cromwellians as owners, some of the soldiers of inferior rank may have settled here, and who laid the foundation of a Puritan settlement in Enniskeen. How far this had progressed, or in what special directions a Presbyterian or Puritan colony developed, we are unable to decide. But there are certain forward and patent facts that we do know. When the Revolution had been accomplished, and the commotions incident thereto, had subsided, there is a decisive evidence forthcoming to show that a rising spirit of self-assertion in religious matters here came into operation. What were the special sources of this movement, or what the influences by which it was guided, or its extent, we can only point to a reasonable probability. But whatever scattered settlers there were, much have been numerous enough to act, and so came to a common understanding as to the possibility of carrying out their ideas in this respect. They must have furthermore considered themselves warranted to endeavour, with feeling of love strong enough, to have a preacher after their own mind.
But among those who held a rather more prominent position in the social scale in this part of the country, at this very time, we distinguish at least two. The first of these is Mr. Thomas Ask, who appears to be a grandson of Sir Thomas Ash who got large grants of land round Mullagh in the time of the Plantation, and whose (54) family seat was at Ashfield, Co. Meath, and from whom no doubt it receive its name. This Thomas Ash was M. P. for the county of Cavan in the years 1661, 1692, 1695 and 1703 –and in each of which years he is named as ‘of Ashfield, Co. Meath.’1 It is therefore probable that he was instrumental in not only encouraging settlers in that direction, but also that he interested himself in the erection of a Presbyterian congregation at BREAKEY on his own lands and almost at his own door. The second gentleman was Mr. Andrew Kerr, second son of John Kerr, a Scotchman that came to this country in 1688, and settled in County Monaghan, in the parish of Aghnamullen, in a place called ‘The Eight Tates.’ His second son was the above Andrew, who is name as of Newcastle in the County of Meath, and which lies along the railway line between Kingscourt and Kilmainham Wood. He died in 1720 and left a son named William, also ‘of Newcastle.’ The presumption, therefore, is that these two gentlemen had used their influence for the increase and comfort of Scottish and northern tenants on their lands. The Kerr family, for a long time, took a material interest in the progress of Presbyterianism. Another branch of the family bought a large estate in the neighbourhood of Newbliss. His name occurs in Dr. Reid’s History.2
We must here premise that early histories of the congregations of Bailieborough, Coraneary, Carrickmaclim, and to a smaller extent, that of Shercock, are intimately bound up with that of BREAKEY. For about twelve years, all these are more or less inseparably linked together. When BREAKEY is first heard of in Presbyterian history, it is in connection will Kells, as ‘Brechy and Kells.’ The probable reason of this, may be that a number of Presbyterian families had settled in the direction of Moynalty and Kells, and that for a time they desired to join with the people of Kingscourt for a minister of their own. This idea was successful but for a while; for very shortly after, we find them drawing off from the arranged compact, (55) most probably through some powerful pressure, either political or religious or a mixture of both. There was thus a decided flank movement made upon the little army of Presbyterianism. The ranks must be broken by all and every means; and a combination of united forces were bound to achieve what they were unable to accomplish with a fair front and a forward movement. The people of Kells, therefore, drew off their adhesion and betrayed the friends they had promised to support. The remainder had to stand alone or proceed with the assistance of others in another direction. Their trouble began early. The infant congregation, as the first-born child of the Presbyterian interest in East Cavan, had a hard struggle to pull through. But among them were some good men –Kerr, Nesbit, Boyd, Fleming, McFerran, McWherter etc., and these kept the flame alive, as a light in a dark place; and the little building in ‘old BREAKEY’ became the centre of spiritual edification for a century. Surely a “little one became a thousand, and a small one, a strong nation.”3
The erection in BREAKEY was almost on the boundary line between Meath and Cavan, but in the former. It lies on the old road between Kells and Kingscourt, and about three miles from the latter. It was a scattered congregation at best. Cavan and a little of Meath contributed their respective portions. When records have been lost, when old families have disappeared, and when the Presbyterian centre has somewhat shifted, it is very difficult to find local information for the case in hand. But these were early colonists who, like many others, came to make the best of present opportunities. If they came, they brought their Presbyterianism along with them; but it was hard for them to hold it; yet their social wants and their every day necessities did not wholly set aside their religious principles.
We first hear of this congregation on 1700, only ten years after the Revolution, when ‘Brechy’ and Dartry or Drum are to be supplied by the Presbytery of Tyrone. They had supplicated to be taken under the care of the Synod until such time as a minister should be allowed them. At the next Synod in 1701 ‘Brechy and Kells’ earnestly desired a minister; but this, for some reason, the Synod (56) could not grant, but recommended them to the Presbytery of Tyrone for supplies; and this, for so far, they had with them, the sympathies of the Synod. In 1702, Mr. Hugh Grier was their Commissioner, declaring their great want and their desire that the gospel should be planted among them in an orderly way. Their services and ordinances had been irregular owing to sundry circumstances common to young congregations. Their petition was successful; for the committee to which it was referred, recommended that ‘Brechy and Kells’ should be ‘planted’ with Mr. John Lee, and “appoints the Presbytery of Stonebridge (Monaghan) to install him so soon as they possibly can in and orderly way.” Mr. Hugh Grier had been authorized to promise, for his support, £ 20 for the first year, £ 25 for the 2nd; and £ 30 for the 3rd year; but as this was not considered sufficient for his maintenance, the Committee recommended that such portion should be given Mr. Lee out of the Regium Donum as would make a competent stipend until ‘BREAKEY’S ability should improve. They also desire Mr. Lee to visit that people as soon as convenient. He had been minister of Lame, Co. Antrim. At this meeting also there was a rearrangement of Presbyteries, whereby a new one was erected, to be called the Presbytery of Monaghan, and to which BREAKEY was to be attached. There were now nine presbyteries: Down, Belfast, Antrim, Tyrone, Ardmagh, Monahgan, Coleraine, Londonderry, and Convoy. It is remarkable that the attendance of elders at these early Synods, very nearly equaled that of the ministers, so great an interest did they all take in the work of the church and their obligation to it. No man seems to have questioned his duty, nor grumbled at the dangers, fatigues, or expenses incurred therein.4
In pursuance of this arrangement of the Synod, the Monaghan Presbytery at its meeting in Killeshandra on August 25th, the same year, received as Commissioners from BREAKEY, Hugh Grier, John Nesbit and Patrick McFerran, who gave their bonds for the amount specified in the Synod for the stipend of Mr. Lee. They also reported that they expected a “farm of 60 plantation acres at 2/6 per acre, and to plow and sow the farm for the first year, and other necessary accommodation” for Mr. Lee’s encouragement amongst them. On Oct. the 7th, Mr. McFerran again met the Presbytery in Monaghan, who told him they were willing to install Mr. Lee as soon (57) as the Congregation gave them intimation of their readiness; Mr. Humphrey Thompson of Ballibay to perform the service.5
The matter remained thus until May 11th. 1703, when Mr. Thomas Rea appeared before the Presbytery in Longford from BREAKEY and presented a supplication from the congregation, and complained that they were not ware that they should have to give notice to Mr. Thompson. The Presbytery now heard the offers of encouragement presented, not only from BREAKEY, but also from Coraneary, which latter now comes in as a separate factor to be taken into consideration. They also deferred their action till next meeting, and appointed Mr. Thompson to “go to Coraneary and take an account of their affairs and take bonds for their performances, and Mr. Lee should preach a Sabbath to the people of Coraneary before next meeting.” Although the Presbytery does not register the fact, yet from the records of the Synod, we find that Mr. Lee was installed on 12th May, 1703, the day after the meeting in Longford.
At the meeting in ‘Inniskillin’ on July 27th, 1703, we have the following remarkable entry, which we give in full. “Mr. Thompson was at Coraneary and took bonds for securing £ 10 and 25 barrels of oats yearly to Mr. Lee; and Mr. Lee was there and preached a Sabbath since that meeting. Commissioner now from ‘BREGHY’ is John Hathorn praying that Mr. Lee’s family may be brought up, and that Coraneary may be joined with them and do their proportion in repairing housed and drawing turf for Mr. Lee. Also from Coraneary, James Moore supplicating that Mr. Lee may be allowed to them every third Sabbath. Mr. Lee desired to think the matter, submits to Presbytery. The Presbytery allows BREAKEY one half Mr. Lee’s time, and one fourth part to Coraneary, the other fourth to be applied as the Presbytery think fit. Two thirds of the amount of transport charges to be paid by BREAKEY and one third by Coraneary -- bonds to be brought in from BREAKEY as Coraneary had done.”
Here, therefore, we have the formation of the congregation of BREAKEY; but to it there is another appended and to receive a portion of the services of the same minister, and who contribute their share to his stipend and other necessary expenses. The district comprehended in the latter, Coraneary, roughly speaking, (58) would lie between the Lougharleagh mountains on the one side, and Drumgood river on the other, and from Shercock to Killinkern, with Bailieborough in the centre – Coraneary itself being near the western side. That well-known ‘Plantation’ name was evidently taken as suitable to define the whole district over which the second portion was distributed.
But troubles soon come. In one month after the installation of Mr. Lee, the congregation sent Mr. John Nesbitt to the Synod, who complained that the promises of £ 10 made by the ‘people of Kells,’ would not be contributed at all, and that therefore they were unable to pay the promised stipend, and desired the Synod to take the matter into consideration. This having been done, they judged the case as very sorrowful, and considered the only thing they could do was to loose Mr. Lee again from the Congregation, through the Monaghan Presbytery, and that Mr. John Nesbitt should inform that people of the Synod’s judgment.
But that order did not take effect. The Presbytery met in Kinnaird (Caledon) in October of the same year; and although there was no Commissioner from ‘BREAGHY,’ yet Mr. Lee informed them that “his family is brought up to ‘BREAGHY’ and they are repairing the house for him.” The Presbytery express themselves satisfied with his account, and appoints that congregation to go on with their reparations and finish the work before the next meeting, and bring in their ‘bonds’ for securing Mr. Lee’s maintenance.
In February, 1704, Mr. Patrick McFerran, ‘Elder from ‘BREAGHY’ says they “are in arrears £ 13 at Candlemas last, and Coraneary £ 3 in arrears.’ The Presbytery desires a list of their people and their payments.
When the next Synod met in June, there was a much more favorable aspect on all these matters. The Presbytery reported on the present appearances and what had been done, saying they formed good reasons for not carrying out the Synod’s order, “that people being brought upon some better times, and therefore they continue his relations provided the Synod performs what it promised to him.” The Synod approves their conduct. This seems to have been the great deciding point. Perhaps having now to face the loss of their minister, so recently placed over them. They were evidently moved to preserve those relations in time, by special promises of encouragement, and thus warranting the Presbytery to act in their (59) favor.
At a meeting in Cavan on August 15th, 1704, Mr. Hugh Grier was a commissioner from BREAKEY, and Mr. Andrew Anderson from Coraneary, promising the payment of arrears due. The Presbytery appoints them to give in their ‘bonds’ to Mr. Thompson for the maintenance of their minister for the ensuing year, and all arrears to be discharge before next meeting. But their difficulties are not yet over. In August, 1705, we find Mr. John Nesbitt, junior, from BREAKEY declaring the illness of Mr. Lee, and bearing a letter from himself, desiring “supplies for Coraneary, by reason of his indisposition.” Mr. Kelso of Drum was appointed “to preach there one Sabbath, and to convene the people on a week-day and take an account of their affairs, and to stir them up to duty to their minister.”
We hear no more until October, 1706, when a letter was sent to the Presbytery from Mr. Lee, desiring to be freed from attending the Coraneary portion of his charge, owing to ill-health. But the cause was not thus lost. The greatest extremities are only opportunities for special blessings. Messrs. Thompson of Ballibay and Fleming of Stonebridge had been commissioned by the Presbytery to visit and report upon the state of BREAKEY and Coraneary and their present positions and relations. Accordingly, at a Presbytery meeting on July 1st, 1707, the deputies say that BREAKEY had got into much arrears; but as to Coraneary “that one Mr. Hamilton proposed for Mr. Lee’s ease, that a meeting-house be built at ‘Bailyborrow” – to which he promises his liberal assistance, also to contribute to his salary in that place 40 shillings per annum above what Coraneary has promised.” Here therefore, is a big move made my Mr. James Hamilton, son of Henry, for the building up of a congregation at Bailieborough. The offer was accepted; for at the Presbytery meeting on August 12th at Monaghan, Mr. Thomas Ferguson being the commissioner from Coraneary, it is recorded that “the Presbytery considering the proposal of Mr. Hamilton as to a meeting-house at ‘Bealyborough’ for the use of Mr. Lee do consent with the major parts of the people of Coraneary, and appoint them to settle a meeting-house at ‘Bailyborrow,’ and that they bring a discharge for stipend due to Mr. Lee.’6
At the meeting in Monaghan on July 6th, 1708, a new feature is introduced. (60) Mr. Joe Park is commissioner form BREAKEY, and declares “their diligence in the Presbyteries’ orders,” and saying they expect the people of “Carrick (Carrickmacross) to join with them according to ability.” That they also think it hard that the Presbytery should keep them strictly to their bonds. The Presbytery arranges that a member is to preach at Carrick on Sabbath, and also meet with that people on a “week-day to receive their promises of support, and to exhort them to join with ‘BRAIKI’.” The member deputed was Mr. Baptist Boyd of Aughnacloy, who reported to their meeting in Drum on August 17 that he had “preached as desired at Carrick” and advised them to join with BREAKEY. He refers the further account to Mr. Robert Richey who appears from Coraneary and who desires supplies etc. and who hopes “that in a little time, they’ll be capable to give subscriptions to the Presbytery in some measure encouraging.” The Presbytery is pleased and grants supplies: -- Mr. Lee, Mr. McGachin of Drum and Mr. Humphrey Thompson of Ballibay. The deputies from BREAKEY were Messrs. Hugh Grier and John Wilson, elder.
In October, 1708, Mr. Michael McCleary comes to the Presbytery as commissioner from Carrick desiring supplies. Mr. Thompson reported that he had preached there and had a considerable auditory. Further supplies granted. In the April meeting, 1709, Mr. John McCleary is commissioner producing lists of the promises which amount to £ 14 and that they have given Mr. Higinbotham one pound for his four last Sabbaths’ work. At the June meeting, from Shercock and Carrick appeared Mr. John Gibson supplicating frequent supplies. He says they gave Mr. Higinbotham 20 shillings, and Mr. Wilson, 20 shillings. At this meeting a committee was appointed to get funds for supplies etc. They were John McCleary, Thomas Clements, William Pollock and John Allen. The Presbytery adds the name of John Gibson, “provided these men have certificates from the congregation to which they belonged formerly, otherwise, other men be chosen in their room.” This is a striking commentary upon the truth of the progress that is being made at this time in the settlement of the country, and the accession of fresh additions to their numbers. In the collection of these funds, certain names are put forward, with the proviso that they possess certificates from their former congregations. Mr. John Gibson (61) is not one of those comparative strangers, but added, no doubt, on account of his being well-known in the district represented.
At another meeting in August, John Nesbit and Patrick McFerran appear from BREAKEY, but without clear discharges as to arrears. As to Carrick, John Wilson appears for them. Mr. Humphrey Thompson reported “he had convened these people on a week-day and that they had agreed upon a place for building their meetinghouse, called Tonnadrool. They have paid supplies. Mr. McGachin to write to the people of Shercock to carry on the work in conjunction with Carrick.” John Bell comes in October and John Oliver in November requesting supplies, and also for an ordained minister to baptize children. In February, 1710, John Richey made a similar request. Mr. Fleming of Stonebridge, is desired to give them a wee-day. It would appear, therefore, that strong movement was now around Shercock and Carrickmacross.
On April 4th, same year, 1710, a Visitation Presbytery met in BREAKEY, the first of the kind ever held in East Cavan. At this meeting, long statements were made as to their inability to meet the demands of the Presbytery for payments to Mr. Lee. Mr. Nesbit, senr., said he had given the Synod a full account and they now looked upon themselves as no longer obliged to pay more than £ 10 per annum for the future. At this Visitation, Mr. Lee preached “on ye 3rd Chapr of ye Canticles, 1st part of ye Chapr. His discourse was considered and approven and his being called in ye usuall questions were proposed to him to all whch he gave satisfying answers except as to his support whch he referrs to ye peoples’ account of this. Ye session were called in and ye ordinary questions put to ym gave satisfying answers as to ye minister’s doctrine, life and conversation,” but not to some other things. The Presbytery was not satisfied regarding their account books and enjoin them to be more careful for the future. “The Presbytery enjoyns ym to gett ym drawn up more fully and better order and put ym into a book and admonished ym for ye taking more care in this matter.” Other details, too numerous to mention, were gone into, regarding the inability of the congregation to increase their payments. The whole matter is now referred to the Synod. At the Synod, it was reported that Mr. Lee’s (62) health was failing. The Monaghan Presbytery is desired to assist Mr. lee as much as possible. Next year his case is again renewed; and his inability to labour among a “people so scattered” caused them now to supplicate the Synod’s assistance for the support of a minister. The synod determines that under all the circumstances, Mr. Lee should “be loosed from BREAKEY by the Presby. of Monaghan at their first sedt; his great craziness rendering him incapable to undergo the fatigue of all ministerial dutys there.” They also arrange that Mr. lee should get a double portion of Regium Donum for life.
From the year 1707, when the offer of Mr. Hamilton was made regarding a meeting-house for the Bailieborough and Coraneary section of Mr. Lee’s charge, and accepted by the Presbytery, we find no further mention of his connection with that people. From henceforward, supplies are provided for them.
Following this, we have a series of applications made to the Presbytery from Carrick, Shercock and BREAKEY, all wanting supplies –the commissioners being John Ritchie, John Newell, John Park and Alexander Davidson. The Presbytery desires that the people of Shercock do make provision for the entertainment of supplies and also to attend to the payment of their promises. At the Presbytery meeting in Clogher on May 22nd, 1711, the whole business concerning BREAKEY is transferred to the Synod. John Ritchie desires supplies for Carrickmacross, and stating they had paid and lodged their supplies. Mr. Thompson is to supply Bailieborough once. At the next meeting in July, Mr. Plunket is appointed to supply Shercock and BREAKEY. At another meeting, Shercock is to have five supplies and BREAKEY six. At another, Shercock to have six and BREAKEY one. In August, 1711, Michael McCleary was from Carrick showing their desire to unite with Bailieborough. The Presbytery said that “nothing can be done in that way until there be a perambulation; and that BREAKEY and Bailieborough do take lists of all their people with their promises, which they are to bring in as soon as may be; which when they do, the Presbytery will give both congregations all due encouragement.” Here therefore, we find Bailieborough coming in as a recognized, established congregation; and that the people of Shercock and Carrickmacross are considering to which of them (63) they should unite themselves.
In the September meeting, 1711, Coraneary and Shercock have become united in one petition, presented by Mr. Edward Sharpe, desiring supplies. Mr. Wilson is to give them two Sabbaths. In October, Mr. John Ritchie again represents Carrick; and the Presbytery desires that they should put the former appointment as to perambulation into operation between them and BREAKEY; and they appoint Mr. Wilson to supply Shercock two Sabbaths; Mr. Magachin, one; Mr. Plunket, two; Mr. Fleming one and Mr. Lee, two. In the February meeting, 1712, Shercock is again to be supplied. Messrs. Hugh Hudson and Rowland Chambers came from BREAKEY, asking a commissioner to perambulate their bocealls. Messrs. Humphry Thompson and Samuel Magachin are appointed to meet at Shercock on Tuesday come a fortnight, being the 3rd of June, and to adjourn to time and place as they shall see cause. Mr. Magachin to preach at Shercock, and Mr. Thompson at Cabragh when they go there. This appointment was not carried through. On enquiry by the Presbytery, it appears that Mr. Thompson met the BREAKEY commissioners at Shercock, but Mr. Magachin had not. His reason now given was that he had received an express from ‘that people,’ meaning Bailieborough, that “Mr. Hamilton was not come home, without whom they would do no business.” The people of Shercock gave the same excuse. This Mr. Hamilton was evidently their appointed commissioner, and was Mr. Hamilton of the Castle, Bailieborough. The Presbytery admonishes Mr. Magachin for not attending to the appointment. In June, 1712, Mr. Hudson brought the whole case concerning BREAKEY before the Synod, whereby he showed that owing to the falling off of them from Kells, they felt themselves unable to hold their original agreement with Mr. Lee, thereby becoming in arrears towards him. The Synod advised that Mr. Lee should take the sum of £ 20 as a full discharge of all that might be due to him. At the Presbytery meeting in Drum, the commissioners from BREAKEY were Messrs. Andrew Kerr and Hugh Grier, who desired assistance in getting up the £ 20 to be paid to Mr. Lee. They are told that this must be paid before anything could be done towards this settlement. (64) From Shercock came John Meneely and John Francis supplicating supplies, and that advice may be given them in order for their planting. On October 12th, there was a Presbytery meeting at Caledon, when Mr. Alexander Davidson came from Shercock praying for an ordained minister to baptize children, and asking the Presbytery to draw up a call to Mr. Robert Thompson, as also that every third supply should be at Carrickmacross. The Presbytery considered the several proposals submitted; but as they had not yet provided a farm or accommodation for a minister “they think they are not in readiness for that affair; but that when they take care to have these things done, the Presbytery will cheerfully encourage them.”8
At the Synod of 1713, Mr. Humphrey Thompson and some other members of the Monaghan Presbytery desired the Synod’s opinion of “Mr. David Sim, a probationer whom, they say, one of their vacant congregations had a mind to call.” The character given him was “he is a man of prudence and learning.” This refers to the rising congregation of Bailieborough and its connection with Mr. Sim.
At the Synod of 1714, Mr. Patrick McFerran was again from BREAKEY and strongly pleaded for the renewal of the gospel ordinances, promising a stipend of £ 20 and 10 barrels of oats, and desiring to have a call made out for Mr. Patrick Plunket, and the settlement to be made speedily, as some of their people were threatening to leave them. This no doubt refers to those who were about to join the congregation of Bailieborough. The Presbytery was desired to look up the matter, and that every assistance should be given them. Mr. Plunket did not come to BREAKEY, but was ordained in Glennan, May 11th, 1714.
Mr. Lee died October 29th, 1717, and his tombstone lies in old BREAKEY churchyard. Its inscription is written in Latin, and is now scarcely legible. The hand of decay is making rapid progress in defacing its lettering. If some good friend would have another, more in keeping, erected in its place, with the original inscription renewed, if possible, it might prove a source of interest to some future historian and Presbyterian antiquarian; if not, the changes indicated are but preparing the way for a total loss of identity, and tend to obliterate (65) every trace of Presbyterian occupation.9
In 1718, Mr. Patrick McFerran and Nathan Nesbitt were commissioners from Banbreaky (transcriber’s note: Bawnbreakey) representing the weak condition of that congregation, and desiring assistance to support a minister. The Synod promises a double portion of Regium Donum; and Mr. Arthur Maxwell, a gentleman connected with Drumbo, Co. Down, promised to give them a guinea a year to assist them. But it was not till 1721 that they got again settled. Mr. William Patton was ordained there on Dec. 7th. We hear very little of the congregation of Mr. Patton until 1736, when he got a call from Lisburn. The BREAKEY people seem to have been unwilling to part with him, and sent Mr. Henry Cooke to the Synod in Dungannon to plead their cause. Mr. Patton seems to have been well liked, even outside of his own communion, as a letter was presented to the Synod signed my several magistrates and gentlemen of the Established Church in the county of Meath, desiring that he might not be removed. The case occupied a good deal of time in debate, but the call was sustained. BREAKEY is once more without a minister. In 1737 the congregation is referred to as “BANBREAKEY and the Poles;” this showing the connection between these two districts.
At the December meeting of the Presbytery in 1738, Mr. Henry Cooke appeared and asked for supplies, particularly naming Mr. David Hutcheson; granted. William Cooke again appears in Feb. 1739, desiring a call to be drawn up in favor of Mr. Hutcheson, promising a stipend £ 20 and 20 barrels of oats per annum; granted. In April, Messrs. Henry Jackson, Abel McClure, and Adam McCabe appear, producing a call regularly drawn up and signed, and desired its formal presentation. They also say they have a farm in view; and that the gentleman who owns it offers to abate £ 5 per annum from the rent, if taken by the minister. In the meantime, they will provide accommodation for Mr. Hutcheson. The Presbytery commend their zeal, and bid them bring in their lists of their people and their promises. This is done in 1739 by their deputies, Messrs. Adam McKibben and William Shields, and who say they hope that in a few years, they will be self-supporting. They further say they expect £ 5 per annum from Carrickmaclim, but that they cannot promise more that 25 barrels of oats; and also that they expect a farm of 50 acres for £ 14 per annum, -- Mr. Hutcheson to supply for the present. The matter is again forward in the Synod in June by Messrs. Boyd and Armstrong, commissioners. The Synod grants their request, promising a double portion of Regium Donum.
In the Presbytery meeting in Killishandra on Oct. 2nd, 1739, Messrs. John Boyd, John Greer, Roger Cox and James McK-----y were deputies from “BREAGHEY and the Poles” desiring the ordination of Mr. Hutcheson as soon as possible. Mr. John Oliver came from Carrickmaclim district wishing the Presbytery to give them at least the one-third of Mr. Hutcheson’s labours, as they had joined with their brethren in the call to BREAKEY, and promising £ 8 and 8 barrels of oats per annum; and also supplicating that Shercock be their place of meeting within their own bounds. Mr. Hutcheson accepts the call; and the Presbytery determine that with respect to the application concerning Shercock that it is inexpedient, as that place is within the bounds of any other congregation -- this refers to Bailieborough. At the meeting in November Messrs. William Kerr and John Boyd promise to pay the full amount promised Mr. Hutcheson, if not otherwise done. Mr. Hutcheson was ordained in the same November.
Mr. Hutcheson was only a few years with them; he removed to Monaghan in 1744. They were again some time without a minister until Mr. William Fleming was ordained in 1748. He also was a licentiate of the Monaghan Presbytery and remained in BREAKEY until 1767, when he removed to Carboy in Lonford. Mr. Fleming lived at Ashfield during at least part of his ministry. After him they seem to have had no difficulty in getting a pastor, as Mr. William Moore was ordained June 22nd, 1768, at “BANBREAKEY.’ In the Synod of 1783 there is an allusion made to a bequest of £ 100 to the Widow’s Fund by the late Mr. Kerr of Newcastle, Co. Meath, but not paid. When inquired into, it was found that the Executor of Mr. Kerr seemed to be unwilling to do so. The Trustees were to be made acquainted with it. This was Mr. William Kerr, son of Andrew, who died in 1777. In 1804 we find the congregation registered as “Ervey and Carrickmaclim.” Perhaps it was about this time that the site was changed from BREAKEY to Ervey, as it would also correspond with the date of the buildings of the present meeting-house. Mr. Moore was minister (67) of both places. For a time he lived near Kingscourt, and died in 1811. There is now no trace of the old BREAKEY church-building.
On the death of Mr. Moore, the united congregations sent deputies to meeting of Presbytery in Ballibay, in July, 1811. They were from Ervey, Messrs, James Dyas and Joseph Armstrong; and from Carrickmaclim Messrs. David Hunter and Joseph McKee; and requesting the congregations to be supplied in the usual manner. At the next meeting, it is desired to have Mr. R. Winning on trial for four Lord’s days, and that a member may be appointed to take the minds of the people concerning him. At the meeting in February, 1812, Mr. Sheils attended from Ervey and reported that a unanimous call had been drawn up for Mr. Winning, and desired that he might be their constant supplier. In June, Messrs. James Dyas, James Sheils and John Fleming, came as commissioners from Ervey and Mr. David Hunter from Carrickmaclim to ask the Presbytery to proceed with the ordination of Mr. Robert Winning.
He was ordained June 9th, 1812, over the united charges. Mr. Winning continued as minister of Ervey until he resigned 13th December, 1842.
But Ervey was not long vacant. Mr. James Armstrong, a member of a family that had long enjoyed the confidence of the Presbyterians of East Cavan, received a call and was ordained, 22nd June, 1843. Mr. Armstrong resigned through ill-health, and died July 20th, 1868. Mr. Joseph Armstrong granted a lease in perpetuity of the premises on which the Presbyterian Church of Ervey stands, and defrayed all the costs himself connected with the same. It should have been stated that we find there was a further bequest by the above Mr. William Kerr of £ 5 as a perpetual annuity, and made payable as a first charge on the lands of Leiter, then the property of the Nesbit family, and secured by the Encumbered Estates Court, and which goes to the stipend.
The next minister was the Rev. John Wilson, who was installed here, 4th June, 1862, and who had been ordained by the presbytery of Athlone in 1858. Mr. Wilson was a good minister, a zealous worker, manly in form and in speech, fervent in prayer, careful in exposition, and devoted to his work through his whole life. He died in April, 1892. The following short extract of the Presbytery’s minute of sympathy to Mrs. Wilson, speaks for itself, “We mourn not for him who is only (68) gone before, but we mourn for you, who have lost an affectionate husband, for his congregation which has lost a faithful and devoted pastor, and for ourselves who have lost a warm, kind-hearted and obliging brother.”
On the death of Mr. Wilson, a call was presented to Mr. Samuel J. Bennett, a licentiate of the Belfast presbytery, which Mr. Bennett accepted, and was ordained April 5th, 1893. Mr. Bennett is a great favourite; kind-hearted and considerate to young and old, a pleasing preacher, attractive in delivery, and filled to over-flowing with the gospel. Cheerful and gentle in disposition, he ever tries to make prominent the happy side of every subject.
The history of the congregation of BREAKEY or Ervey has thus been traced through a period of 211 years; not that it may be set forth as an example of all that is great and good, but as one where the early puritan principles, united with the Presbyterian policy and discipline, were found in full strength in E. Cavan settlers. It has grown up almost distinct from the usual course of new erections – and that in a far-away corner of a lowly land. There was here, an isolated people, simple in manner, social life and fortunes, almost entirely unknown to the rest of the world, without the training required to achieve great things, and without the keen sagacity that can see mighty things in the distance. Scattered here and there through a large area, few in number, and without the accompaniment of any great wealth to command attention, they could feel that their lonely life in E. Cavan had one great want, and that, they determined to have rectified. When we think of the spirit that influenced Hugh Grier to ride to the town of Antrim in 1702 to lay the case of their necessities before the Synod, we must certainly admire the bravery of the man and the anxiety of the people who sent him there. They were evidently men, earnest for what they considered right, and energetic to have it done.
But as to their own particular religious outlook, some examples had been already set them -- and all quite recently; as Killeshandra, 26 miles; Stonebridge, 28 miles; and Ballibay 20 miles distant; BREAKEY was determined not to remain behind. With these people nearer the centre of motion, those of the members of Bailieborough, Coraneary and Pierscourt were also closely allied in kindred, (69) companionship and religious sentiments. Discouragements and allurements no doubt crowded round all of them but the cause of right principle, and integrity, must over-triumph. The influence of the Hamilton family on the side of the latter, like that of Ash and Kerr on the former, was found to be a powerful lever to break down obstructions, and to help to raise materials for a rapid progress.
The thanks of the Church as a whole, is largely due to the careful preservation of some of the old Minutes of the Presbytery of Monahgan and for the privilege extended for their examination -- especially of those early years, whereby we become acquainted with so many of the names of those good men of BREAKEY.
But beyond this little register, we know nothing of these people. Of where they severally lived, how they fared, what were their social positions, we are alike ignorant. We only know they were men liable to like troubles as we have, but without the delicacies of living, the conveniences of traveling, or the dwellings, the ornamental, special or the grand, to which their representatives in these later generations have become accustomed. Some person of local knowledge and research, perhaps might be able to pick out from among the intricacies of modern civilization, some definite traces of the older inhabitants. But had they failed, the Presbyterianism of E. Cavan would have been thrown back for many a year. Such men, humble though they may have been, deserve not be left “unwept, unhonoured and unsung.”
This, therefore, is the dawn of that Presbyterian organization of E. Cavan that was afterwards to extend itself almost indefinitely. The threatening clouds, that portended times of wrath and fruitful storms, became scattered by degrees, and a genial day broke forth in all its brightness. All honour to old BREAKEY!
Names of the Elders of the several congregations of East Cavan, so far as they can be known, with the townlands in which they lived, and the date of ordination, or the year when we first find their names recorded.
BREAKEY or Ervey
John Nesbitt, 1703; Patrick McFerran, 1704; John Wilson, 1708; John Hutcheson, 1710; Hugh Grier, 1710; Thos. McDowell, 1749; Samuel McCarter (McWherter), Losset, 1780; James Dyas, Clonturen, 1821; Wm. Fleming, BREAKEY, 1823; James Sheils, The Poles, 1832; Joseph Armstrong, Ervey, 1833; Richard Cox, Corcar, 1843; John Fleming, BREAKEY, 1843; James McWherter, Boggan, 1843; George Archibald, Descart, 1888; Joseph W. McMurray, Kingscourt, 1888; Edward Clifford, Boynagh, 1888; John Wm Armstrong, Corrakeeran, 1888; William Clisdell, Moyer, 1888.
John Maneely, 1715; Hugh Dobbin, 1716; James Scott, 1717; John Francis, 1718; John Gibson, 1719; Samuel Ferguson, 1720; Alexander Davidson, 1721; John Archibald, 1723; John Davidson, 1724; Robert Thompson, 1732; Richard Sharpe, 1735; Robert Elliot, 1783; James Simpson, Drumkeery, 1786; John Gibson, Lisball, 1787; Alexander Ferguson, 1791; Andrew McElwain, Cleffin, 1791; George McChesney, 1791; Patrick Gibson, Lisball, 1791; Robert James, Bailieborough, 1791; John Jones, Cavansekldragh, 1791; Samuel Davidson, Drumad, 1790; Samuel Aikins, Drumad, 1794; James Gibson, 1801; Robert Smyth, 1802; Robert Rusk, 1821; James hall, Corravilla, 1828; Moses Cox, Lisball, 1839; William White, Pottle; John Kelly, Derrynure, 1803; Joseph Burns, Cleffin, 1833; William Kelly, Cappoge, 1833; Alex Kelly, Derrynure, 1833; Robert Gilmer, Lear, 1833; Henry Gibson, Lisball, 1833; Hugh White, Drumad, 1865; Thos. Gibson, Lisball, 1875; William Jones, Cavanskeldra, 1875; David Eakins, Drumad, 1875; John Eakins, Drumkeery, 1875; William Kelly, Derrynure, 1875.
Annals of the four Masters
Harris’s Hibernica, 1747
Burnet’s History of his own Times
Calendar of Patent Rolls
Calendar of State Papers - Ultonea
Calendar of Cavan Manuscripts
Killen’s Ecclesiastical History of Ireland
Reed’s History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Latimer’s History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Hamilton’s History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Macaulay’s’ History of England
Clogy’s Life of Bishop Bedell
Neal’s History of the Puritans
Shirley’s History of Monaghan
Depositions – Ms. After the Rebellion of 1641
Adair’s True Narrative
Ingram’s Two Chapters in Irish History
Records of Synod of Ulster
Ulster Visitation Book – Mc. 1622
Gilbert’s History of Affairs in Ireland
Temple’s History of the Great Rebellion
Erek’s Ecclesiastical Register
Ireland under Elizabeth and James I – Spenser and Davies
Witherow’s Memorials of Presbyterianism
Loyalty of Presbyterians - Kirkpatrick
and numerous others
 See the Ordnance Survey Maps (Ireland), 6 inches to 1 mile, Sheets 2 and 5, County Meath.
 A poem found in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, No. 9, January, 1855, p. 219. EPB
 The Huguenots by Samuel Smiles, London, 1868, p. 211.
 Protestant Exiles from France by the Rev. David C. A. Agnew, London, 1871, p. 188.
 See the Ordnance Survey Map, 6 inches to 1 mile, Monaghan, Sheet 8, 1910. The house at Balladian, a Breakey homestead, was still standing in 1968.
 John James Byrans Breakey stated, when we visited him in his home in Belfast the evening of May 14, 1968, that the Breakeys were given seven townlands by the Trustees for Forfeited Estates.
1 Harris, p. 75.
2 Shirley’s History.
3 R. S. M. Minutes of Monaghan Presbytery, etc.
4 Records of Synod of Ulster.
5 Minutes of Monaghan Presbytery. 1702 – 1712.
6 Monaghan Presbytery Minutes, 1702-12.
8 Minutes of Monaghan Presbytery, Vol. I.
9 See Appendix E. (Transcriber’s notes: this was not included by Dr. E. P. Breakey).