Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends
CONTENTSThe Religious Society of Friends
First meeting of Quakers in Ireland
Local Quaker Meeting Houses
Lynastown Burial Ground
Quaker links with Pennsylvania
Quaker influence in Craigavon
George Fox, a weaver's son from Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, founded the Religious Society of Friends in the seventeenth century. This religious group was originally known as the 'Children of the Light' and 'Friends of the Truth'. However it was the Puritan magistrate Gervase Bannett at Derby in 1650 who first used the term 'Quakers' after witnessing their trembling under religious fervour, although the title 'Friends' was not adopted until 1652.
William Edmundson left Cromwell's army to settle in Ireland. He set up as a shopkeeper in Antrim, but such was the success of his business that he soon had to return to England to purchase more stock. Whilst in England he attended a meeting held by the Quaker Minister James Nayler and it was following this meeting that Edmundson adopted the Quaker faith. He moved from Antrim to Lurgan in 1654 where he set up in business again. It was in his new home town of Lurgan that Edmundson gathered with his wife, brother and four others for worship (this is formally recognised as the first meeting of the Society of Friends in Ireland).
Within a short time a small number of private houses in the Craigavon area became meeting places for Quaker worship and included the home of the Webb family in Aghacommon, the Wright family of Legahory and the Lynas family of Moyraverty.
original_quaker_building.jpg"The first Lurgan Meeting House was built in the town in 1696 as a result of subscriptions from 120 members of the Quaker congregation. The chief subscriber was Robert Hoope, a prominent local linen merchant who donated a quarter of the total expenses required for the build.
Alexander Christy, a Quaker from Scotland founded a branch of the Society of Friends in the Moyallen area in 1692 and a meeting house for this area was built in 1736. Today a meeting is held there for a small congregation on a monthly basis.
From the Province Meeting records of 1699 it can be seen that the Lurgan Meeting was one of the largest in Ulster and Moyallen one of the smallest. Today Lurgan continues to have an active Quaker community that gathers regularly in a newly built meeting house.
Portadown Meeting House is relatively modern in comparison to those at Lurgan and Moyallen. It was built in 1905 and is used today on a weekly basis for meetings of approximately thirty.
When William Lynas, one of the founding members died in 1658, Quaker principles would not allow for a Priest to conduct a burial service in the local Graveyard. Lynas therefore was buried in his own land at Moyraverty. This small plot of land became known as Lynastown and was used for the burial of 200 Quakers until 1967 when it transferred to the care of Craigavon Borough Council.
When William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 more Friends emigrated from County Armagh than from any other county in Ireland and Lurgan Meeting was well represented. Pennsylvanian settlements such as Lurgan (Franklin County) and Menallen, named after Moyallen, (Fayette County) emphasise local connections.
The most important Lurgan man in the development of Pennsylvania was James Logan, born in the town in 1674. He came to the attention of William Penn, after whom Pennsylvania State is named and Governor of the Friends school in Bristol where Logan taught, and accompanied Penn as his secretary to Pennsylvania in 1699. At various times over the next forty years Logan held the positions of Mayor of Philadelphia and Chief Judge of the Supreme Court.
Friends, although few in number have had a social and economic influence far beyond the proportion of their numbers. They were particularly significant in the linen industry and important early Lurgan Quaker linen families included the Turners, Bradshaws, Nicholsons, Christys and Greers. As industrialisation of the linen industry progressed, Quaker families such as the Richardsons and Bells developed large spinning and weaving factories in the area.
Always prominent in the field of education, local members of the Society of Friends were responsible for the building of a number of schools in the area. The Richardson family of Moyallen Meeting built the old Moyallen School in 1859 for the benefit of the entire community and the same Richardson family built a new school close to the original in 1932.
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