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First Presbyterian Church Cookstown.
A Short History: Scottish settlers established their first place of worship in this area at Coolreaghs near the northern end of the present town during days when there was much opposition from the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of Ireland. At this time the Westminster Confession of Faith was drawn up (1646) owing much to the influence of Archbishop James Usher of the Irish Anglican Church, who had been trained, educated and influenced by Walter Travers, Provost of Trinity College Dublin and a great Presbyterian. In 1701 the congregation was forced, by opposition from the Anglican Church of Ireland, to move from Coolreaghs to the southern end of the present town, Scotstown ,now in the centre of Killymoon Golf Club. Here they erected their new building inside three months using materials transported from the previous site. In 1996 cairns were erected on both Coolreaghs and Killymoon sites with some of the above historical detail. In 1764, as the planned town of Cookstown (designed by an ecclesiastical lawyer, Dr Allen Cooke) was developing, the congregation bought the present site on Loy Hill overlooking the main shopping area of the town.Here the new church building was opened on 4 January 1764. The present building on Loy Hill was erected in 1841. The minister of First Congregation today The Rev Dr J Isaac Thompson, TD, BSc, CertEd, BD, MTh, HCF, was formerly a school teacher and a part time member of The Royal Army Chaplains' Department (1987-2005). Rev Dr Thompson is the sixteenth minister of the congregation. The second minister of the congregation, The Rev John McKenzie (1673-1696) was one of eight Presbyterian ministers who took refuge in Derry in 1688 during the famous siege and he took part regularly in Presbyterian services held in St Columb's Cathedral. Up until a few years ago the small communion table of 1673, made of bog oak, was the only one in use in the congregation and is now in the sanctuary beside the new organ console. In 1828 The General Synod met in Loy Hill.This was memorable because The Revd Dr Henry Cooke proposed to set up a committee to examine candidates for the ministry. The committee agreed to do so, and thus our denomination became established officially in the doctrine of the Trinity. From 1835 all ministers and elders have had to subscribe to ‘The Westminster Confession of Faith’. The eighth minister was Dr Hamilton Brown Wilson (1846-1892) (like the present minister a native of the Garvagh district),he was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1883. The present pipe organ, one of the finest church organs west of the Bann, was installed in his memory in 1910. The most recent organ renovation was in 1993 when a new trumpet stop was installed. In 2012, during renovations to the church buildings, the two manual organ console was moved to the north wall from the centre of the sanctuary just in front of the choir area. Choir Leader: Mark Dickson Mobile No. 07809487828
Statue of Dr Henry Cooke in Belfast.
Archbishop Usher
Memorial to old Church at Killymoon...
..the present day view from the site.
(Founded 1646)
Two church histories have been written.The earliest by Rev W.J McKinstry Wallace in 1946. A story of 300 years of Presbyterianism in ‘First Cookstown’ 1646-1946 The second was compiled by George Shannon in 1989 .This one has an online version. ’Down the Years 1646-1989’ The Story of Presbyterianism in First Cookstown.
An Introduction to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland                       Raising awareness of the history of Presbyterianism in Ireland and overseas, and the heritage associated with congregations is a key element of the Society's work How did we get here? What is Presbyterianism? Who were our forbearers and what were they like?   We all want to know something of our past and where we have come from. If you would like to learn more of where Presbyterians come from and how they came to Ireland:  Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland (founded in 1907) can help. The Society explores and promotes an understanding of the history of Presbyterianism in Ireland by various means, including collection and preservation of printed material, archives and artefacts, the production of publications and an annual programme of talks and outings.There has been a Presbyterian presence in Ireland since the early 17th century, mainly in the north, due to successive waves of immigration from Scotland. Restrictions on Presbyterian worship, and bad harvests coupled with rising rents resulted in Presbyterians emigrating in large numbers in the 18th century to colonial America where they were largely responsible for the establishment and development of American Presbyterianism.  For over 400 years Presbyterians have played a major role in the political, economic and social life of Ireland, especially in Ulster, as well as in U.S.A. You  can ask for a free copy of ‘The Story of Presbyterians in Ulster: A pocket History and Heritage Trail’ Obtainable either from:Presbyterian Historical Society or The Ulster Historical Foundation, 31 Gordon Street, Belfast, BT1 2LG.  Postage is extra.Would you like to find out more about:The history of Presbyterianism. The history of a congregation. Details of the career of a Presbyterian minister. Would you like to write a history of your congregation?Are you exploring family and local history? Maybe you are a student needing information for a dissertation on some aspect of Presbyterianism in Ireland, Go to our website:  or contact us personally.   The Society can also offer to give talks to church groups.You are very welcome to visit us at: 26 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN.  Our opening hours are: Tuesday  and Wednesday : 9.30am - 1.00pm and 1.30pm - 4.30pm Thursday:   9.30am - 1.00pm26 College Green is off  Botanic Avenue and runs alongside Union Theological CollegeBy car: There are limited parking facilities in the vicinity but parking is free in any of the adjoining streets.By rail:  Botanic station is on Botanic Avenue and is a quarter of a mile from College Green. By bus: From the city centre take Metro 7A or 7B service and alight at College Green stop on University St. Contact: Valerie Adams PHSI Librarian and Archivist  (90) 727330 Email: 26 College Green, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT7 1LN Valerie AdamsPHSI Librarian and Archivist Presbyterian Historical Society. Presbyterian Historical Society. Presbyterian Historical Society Presbyterian Historical Society