Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750: with their early history in Ireland

THE converts to Quakerism in Ireland were drawn almost exclusively from the English and Scotch Protestants. Most of them had previously been in membership with other non- conforming denominations, such as the Baptists, Independents, and Presbyterians, although some few had been members of the Church of England.
The principles of Friends in early days found The little acceptance with the Celtic-Irish, nor has the Society acquired much increase in after years from that source. For, aside from race differences and antipathies, arising from the English plantation system, the Irish almost to a man were Catholics, and as Beck says: "It seems to need the passing through the various stages of non-conformity, before a Catholic can appreciate the doctrinal views of Friends."1 During the early period, at least prior to 1700, I have been unable to find in Stockdale, Rutty, Besse, Sewell, Leadbeater, or in the journals of ministers, any instance of a Celtic-Irishman becoming a Quaker. Of Besse's two hundred and ninety-one names of representative Quaker sufferers in Ireland, from the rise of the Society to 1689, there is not one Mc or other Celtic prefix; all are old English names.2
Although the statement of Joyce3 and Prendergast, that the Cromwellian settlers were absorbed by the Irish in two generations, may be true to a large extent of the other Protestants, it is, I believe, by reason of the strict church discipline which obtained, but slightly true of those who remained in the Society of Friends.4 Apropos of this, John Grubb Richardson (1813-1890), a prominent and representative Irish Friend, says of his family: " We were members of the Society of Friends, our forefathers having been convinced by the preaching of William Edmundson in 1660. All our ancestors came from the north of England in Cromwell's army, and received grants of land from him to settle in Ireland."5
In the migration of the Irish Quakers to Pennsylvania, there were represented only five surnames with the Celtic prefix Mc—McCool, McMollin, or McMillan, McClum, McNabb, and McNice; but, as this prefix is common to both Irish and Scotch surnames, it is unsafe to use it as a means of distinction. The McCool and McMollin families were from Ballinacree Meeting, near Ballymoncy, County Antrim, in the midst of the "Scotch country," hence if any distinction can be made, it lies in favor of the Scotch or Scotch-Irish descent. The McClums were from County West Meath; the McNabbs from County Meath, and the NcNices from County Cavan, localities in which the Scotch had also settled, although not in such o^reat numbers as in the more northern counties. The only Quaker family with a distinctively Irish name, that came over to Pennsylvania, was that of the O'Mooneys, who came from Ballinacree Meeting, and settled at Sadsbury, Lancaster County.
In a letter of 1898,6 John Bewley Beale, an Irish Friend, writes: "There were additions from the pure Irish stock to the Society, but much fewer in number than from the Protestant settlers and their descendants. We have some Irish names amongst us still, such as Murphy, Macquillan, etc." This view is confirmed still further by Joseph Radley, until recently Headmaster of Ulster Provincial School, the Friends' School, at Prospect Hill, Lisburn, Ireland. He writes (May 7, 189S) : "The Quaker character found little on which it could be grafted in the Celtic population. This was almost entirely Roman Catholic. Consequently, but few names of the old Celtic families occur now amongst Friends. A few O'Heils, McQuillans, etc., still are to found." During my travels in Ireland, in the summer of 1900, I heard similar views expressed by many other Irish Friends, notable among whom were John Pim, J. P., of Belfast, for many years a student of the history of Irish Friends, and Jane M. Richardson, of Moyallon House, Gilford, County Down, the author of Six Generation of Friends in Ireland. My own conclusion is, that the increase from the Celtic or Hibernian stock was very slight indeed, and that such converts as were made were obtained after the great migration to Pennsylvania.
The Scotch Presbyterians had come over in great numbers to the north of Ireland during the spread of the plantation system, and at the time of the Cromwellian Settlement constituted the largest part of the Protestant population of Antrim, Down, and some other counties of Ulster. The early traveling preachers of the Friends report in their journals that the meetings in the "Scotch country" were well attended by the Presbyterians. There is no evidence, however, that any considerable number became Friends. J. Bewley Beale says in his letter: " There were also some Ulster Scotch amongst the early Friends, but I think the proportion was also small."
Quite early, meetings were established at Coleraine, Ballynacree, Lisburn and other places in Antrim, but they were not as large as other meetings without the pale of the Scotch. Thomas Story,7 in his account of a religious visit to Ireland in 1716, relates that at Grange in Antrim great numbers of the Presbyterians came to hear him, and that one of their ministers, Moses Cleck, educated at Glasgow, Scotland, had been convinced of the Quaker principles. Prominent among Scotch-Irish Quakers were John Chambers, a minister of Dublin; Alexander Seaton, of Hillsborough, County Down; Archibald Bell, of Shankill, County Armagh; Patrick Logan, of Lurgan, County Armagh, and his son, James Logan, later one of the most distinguished statesmen of colonial Pennsylvania.
We may safely say that the great majority of the Quakers in Ireland were English, or of English Anglo-Irish descent. Long after the Cromwellian Settlement, and well into the first half of the eighteenth century, Quaker colonists continued to come from England. Some of these were members when they arrived, and others became members after their settlement.8 The certificates of removal which the Irish Friends brought to Pennsylvania show that many of the emigrants were natives of England and had lived but a few years in Ireland. It is especially interesting to note that so many of these early Irish Friends had been officers and soldiers in Cromwell's "New Model," and that the same splendid zeal and courage shown at Naseby and Worcester, but now directed in a peaceful cause, contributed so largely to the upbuilding of Quakerism in the nation.

Grange Meeting House
Grange Meeting House near Charlemont, County Armagh, Ireland
Built About 1750
  1. The friends, 88.
  2. Besse, II., 457-493.
  3. Traill, IV., 343.
  4. Rutty states in his table of meetings in Ireland [Rise and Progress, page 350) that between 1714 and 1739 a small meeting was established at Connaught, the province to which the Irish were expelled in the Cromwellian Settlement, and it is possible that the members of this meeting were of Celtic-Irish stock, but unfortunately I have been unable to find any data bearing on the point. I am able to state, however, from my examination of Friends' records of Pennsylvania, that no members from this meeting came over during the emigration period, 16S2-1750.
  5. Richardson, 217-218.
  6. From Dublin, dated 3 mo. 5, 1S9S. Kor many years J. Bewley Beale has had charge of the Friends' records collected at Friends' Meeting House, 6 Eustace Street, Dublin.
  7. Journal, 537.
  8. See Mary Leadbeater's "Biographical Notices" of the most prominent Irish Friends, from the rise of the Society to 1828. This excellent work was carefully compiled from printed and manuscript sources.
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Part Two
Immigration of Irish Quakers