Posted by: the watchmen | November 26, 2008

1859 Revival in Ireland_______courtesy

                                     1859 Revival Hist0ry                                                                               Nothing at all approaching the 1859 Revival has ever before visited our country.  The whole of Ulster was caught up in the movement of God which began in the parish of Connor in County Antrim.  It began amongst Presbyterians and it was largely through the zeal and devotion of Ministers of the Presbyterian Church that Christ’s Kingdom was advanced.  However the Revival was not limited to Presbyterians.  Many ministers of the Established church and smaller denominations played no small part in the great movement.

In the mid 1850’s the villages of Kells and Connor were rough godless places.  There are many historical accounts of frequent brawls in the streets, of wild drunkenness even at funerals and of the general low spiritual condition of the majority of the people.  Something dramatic was needed to transform the situation and the Lord did not disappoint.
In November 1856, a Mrs Colville, an English lady from Gateshead, arrived in Ballymena on a door-to-door crusade to bring the Gospel to the homes. She was fixed with zeal for her mission and rejoicing is seeing lost souls saved. As a missionary of the Baptist Missionary Society her mission brought her to County Antrim. She walked many miles and talked of salvation to many without seeing much outward fruit. However the Lord used her to plant a seed which would reap a harvest. One day she was visiting a home in Mill Street, Ballymena where she found two ladies who were involved in spiritual conversation with a young man, James McQuilken, who came from the townland of Connor about five miles from Ballymena.  Whatever was said about salvation and conversion had a profound effect on McQuilken.  He could not rest until he had sought Mrs Colville for further discussion.  His conscience was pricked and he felt a heavy conviction of sin. However he was a proud man and it was only after weeks of struggling under great agony of soul that he at last found peace and rest through trusting Jesus.
HistoryShortly after this a meeting was held in the national School, Kells. Its purpose was to discuss repairing the building, but at the end of the meeting, three men, Jeremiah Meneely, the schoolmaster, and Robert Carlisle walked home together.  Carlisle spoke about the great change that had come over James McQuilken and how Mr McQuilken had changed so much that he had got rid of the fighting cocks for which he was notorious in the area. All three decided that this was just a passing fad for McQuilken. However Jeremiah Meneely remarked “I would give the world to know my sins forgiven”, and the others agreed.
Shortly afterwards Meneely sought out McQuilken and after a long conversation became convinced that something genuine and miraculous had truly transformed him.  Meneely now wanted to get right with God and one day as he sat in the kitchen of his home in Jerry’s-town, Ferniskey, Kells he was reading John 6 v37:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever
comes to me I will never drive away.”
Slapping his knee he jumped up exclaiming: “I see it now”. God had spoken and he was wondrously converted.  Soon Robert Carlise and John Wallace were also drawn to Christ. This was the beginning of the Revival.  Encouraged by Rev J.H. Moore, minister of their church, Connor Presbyterian, the four young converts began to meet weekly for prayer and Bible study. They met in the old national schoolhouse. These meetings, which were on Friday evenings, continued from September throughout the winter of 1857 and into 1858.  Each man took an armful of peat for the fire and in the other carried his Bible.  It was from this little group that the fire was kindled which blazed through Ulster and carried the Gospel message to save 100,000 souls.  The cornerstone of their theology was simple and threefold. They believed in the Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture and the secret of Holy Supplication.
On New Year’s Day 1858, the first conversion that could be directly related to the prayer meeting took place, but after that there were conversions every night. At the end of 1858 some fifty young men were taking part in the prayer meeting.
Soon the prayer meeting was thronged and many new ones were established. So many in the district were converted that by spring 1859 there were an average of sixteen prayer meetings every night of the week in Connor parish alone.  Soon the Spirit of God spread His wind to Kellswater, Ahoghill, Dramaul, Portglenone, Ballymena, Broughshane and Ballyclare. Before long almost the whole of Ulster was caught up in the fire fanned by that wind.
Meneely became the great evangelist of the Revival. He was a truly great preacher. He preached with great zeal and carried the gospel throughout the towns and villages of Ulster, into the whole of Ireland and across the sea to Great Britain.  He was called home on 24th March 1917 and was buried close to the little schoolhouse in Kells.
The impact of the Revival was tremendous and one of the results was that churches were overcrowded on Sundays.  Dead formal ritualism was replaced by powerful direct preaching and fervent praise.  Connor Presbyterian Meeting House became too small to meet the needs of the congregation. Only 1,000 could be accommodated and that was not enough for the 900 families who now claimed connection to the congregation. As a result Ballymena Presbytery received a deputation on 4th February 1873 from “the intended New Congregation of Kells”.  Following on from this on 8th August 1873 the Presbytery decided to erect Kells as a new congregation that duly called its first minister, Rev Thomas Eaton, on 24th March 1874.
(Adapted from George Carson’s account of the Revival in “The First One Hundred Years”)


  1. Indeed, God only needs a few dedicated followers, willing to be used to do amazing things. Jesus himself said, “and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Things in this old world are rapidly coming to a head. Indees, there is a Gran’ time coming when Jesus will say to those who have faithfully followed him, “welcome home, good job!”

  2. hi, i was wondering what the form of worship was in1874 kells presbyterian church under rev t eaton? for eg , did they sing psalms only, did they baptise their infants and could any saved person men and women pray in the prayer meeting also did they believe in the doctrine of original sin. yours in christ desy.

  3. Desy, I understand that they sang Psalms only in church. But they may have used hymns at cottage or house meetings.

    I don’t know what the position then was in relation to paedobaptism, women praying or tgheir view of original sin

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