- The Scots Church, Athy Road, Carlow
- 'Carlow's oldest church'
- Photo: W. Ellis
The Scots Church
Presbyterian Church in Carlow
By Victor Gray
The earliest records would indicate an Independent Congregation in
the town around 1655, ministered to by the Rev. Roger Muckle. This
congregation joined the Synod of Munster, a part of the Presbyterian
Church in Ireland, and the Rev. Henry Butty, Rev. James Logan and Rev.
James Symes were the Ministers between 1724 and 1750, the congregation
ceased to exist around 1750.
The re-establishment of a Presbyterian congregation in 1816 was
brought about by the efforts of Mr. Thomas Cox, a native of Hampshire in
England, who resided in Barrow Cottage (Evergreen Lodge) and carried on
the business of a bacon and butter merchant in Northcote Avenue, now known
as Cox’s Lane, Carlow.
Guiding hand of Almighty God
A Mr. C. I. Hobson recorded the following in 1894: In order that
future generations may know something of the man who under the guiding
hand of Almighty God was instrumental in founding the Carlow Presbyterian
Church, I have with considerable difficulty gleaned from various sources
the following facts.
“Thomas Cox was a native of Hampshire and came to Carlow between the
years 1813 and 1816. He was converted to God (while yet a boy) under the
ministry of the Rev. David Bogue of Gosport, who was one of the founders
of the London Missionary Society.
“Soon after coming to Carlow, finding the service in the Episcopal
Church not to his taste, and the need of gospel preaching much felt in
town, he with some associates, made application to various Societies to
have this want remedied. His application to the Presbyterian body was
successful. After a lapse of some time a site for a church was secured and
the present edifice built thereon.
“Cox carried on business as Bacon and Butter merchant. His business
was of a most prosperous kind for many years. But everything did not
succeed, owing as some state to his employees trying by dishonest
practices to bring about its overthrow, others state his failure to be
traced to the loss of a ship, his own property, together with a cargo of
his own goods, shipped to some English port, which is most probably the
correct reason. One of his advertisements appears in The Carlow Post of
December 13th, 1819, and it is somewhat peculiar and not by any means
uninteresting. I give it here verbatim.
Fresh pigs heads
“At the request of many respectable persons, I purpose
retailing twice a week fresh pigs heads, griskins, feet and back bones
at wholesale prices. I do this to accommodate the public.
Thomas Cox, Carlow, December 13th, 1819.”
“Soon after the failure of his business he must have removed to
Clonmel, but I find it impossible to get the exact date. He, however,
joined himself to the Presbyterian Church there and became a member of the
“His death took place on 2nd of August, 1847, and he was interred in
St. Mary’s burying ground at Clonmel. Near the centre of the churchyard is
a headstone erected to his memory. (See illustration).
- Headstone in St. Mary's Church,
- Drawn by J. R. Scott, 12 November
- (North side of churchyard)
“His daughter, Miss Ellen Cox of London, in a letter in my
possession writes this of his death: ‘For sometime previous to his death
he suffered very much from rheumatism for many months, being confined to
his room, most of which time he had to lie in bed. At last when he was
completely exhausted, and his strength gone, the pain ceased. In reply to
the question, ‘are you looking .to Jesus?,’ he said, ‘I have been looking
to Jesus for the past fifty-six years.’
“The sketch of monument was supplied through the kindness of Mr.
John R. Scott, Clonmel, the monument marks the spot where sleeps all that
was mortal of Thomas Cox.”
Church built in 1818
The congregation, in the beginning, used the Methodist house of
worship, but decided in 1818 to erect a church of their own. For the
furtherance of this object, ground was taken from Mr. N. Proctor at the
rent of £15 per annum. A plan was given by Mr. Cobden, the estimate for
building was £800. The first stone was laid by Mr. E. Butler, Sovereign of
the town of Carlow on the 18th June, 1818. Following receipt of funds from
several sources a gallery was added, costing £120-15s-3d.
The church was opened for worship by the Rev. James Homer of Dublin
on the 12th September, 1819. The first Minister, the Rev. James Morgan,
was ordained for Carlow on the 21st June, 1820, his stipend for the year
Then followed 15 Ministers, the last being the Rev. James Henry
Black, who retired on the 31st December, 1936 to facilitate a union of the
congregation with that of Athy, this arrangement continues to the present
It is interesting to note that the Rev. Warrand Carlile resigned as
Minister in Carlow on the 1st November, 1842 to become a missionary in
Jamaica for the Scottish Missionary Society. The following verses recorded
TO MY MUCH VALUED FRIENDS (REV.
W. CARLILE AND FAMILY) ON THEIR LEAVING CARLOW FOR A MISSIONARY STATION IN
THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA
haste ye, friends in Jesus,
leave your native land?
winds and foaming billows
seek a foreign strand?
earth’s gay phantoms lure you,
part from all you love?
pleasures to secure you,
distant shores remove?
nobler motive urges,
beckons from afar -
not ‘mid storms and surges,
He will be
your guiding star.
tidings to the heathen
blessed Saviour’s name;
grace and free salvation
distant Isles proclaim.
tho’for a while ye sever.
friends you dearly prize,
be on earth for ever,
meet above the skies.
well; then peace be with you,
mercy from on high;
still direct and keep you
ever watchful eye.
Bagenalstown, October 26, 1842. E. C.
Building of a manse
On the 19th April, 1859 a statute acre or thereabouts of the lands
of Borlum was leased from Thomas James Rawson (medical doctor), of
Barrowville, Carlow for the erection thereon of a manse with suitable
‘office houses’ for the residence of Minister.
This land was bounded on the North by William Henderson holding, on
the South by Captain Tuckey’s and Dr O’Meara’s holding and on the West by
the road leading from Carlow to Kilkenny. The house now named ‘Garryowen’
an privately owned featured in Carlow Architectural Heritage by William
Garner, published by An Foras Forbartha. It was described as follows:
“Garryowen is an attractive small, three-bay, two-storey, U-plan
house, c1850. It has gables on the advanced bay rendered walls with raised
coigns, wide eaves and paired segmental-headed window with plain
dressings. The doorcase is in the narrow centre section and has a flat
segmental-headed light over the lintel. Over the doorcase on the first
floor, is a small granite shield.” *
* Reprinted with permission.
The source of this history is from T Scots Church Session Book,
dated 1820 kindly loaned by Rev. Champan, Athy
On the back cover of the Session Book is an advertisement stating
that it was supplied by Richard Price, Bookseller and Stationer, Dublin
Street, Carlow who also stocked English and Irish publications, Account
Books, Perfumery etc., etc., at Carlow Morning Post office
Associated with Thomas Cox in the foundation of a Presbyterian
Congregation in Carlow were: Mr. F. Montgomery, Mr. T. A. Cobden, Mr. J.
Mahary, Mr. S. Walker, Mr. H. Malcolmson, Mr. J. Lahie, Mr. S. Clarke, Mr.
N. Proctor and Mr. E. Butler.
Other surnames of members of the congregation include the following:
Source: Carloviana 1993/94
- Anderson, Bell, Campion,
- Carson, Coffey, Comerford,
- Cope, Donaldson, Davies,
- Elder, Finlay, Grey,
- Henderson, Jackson, Jones,
- Munay, Purvis, Pearson,
- Ross, Todd, Walker,
- Watson and Williams.
Source: Pat Purcell Papers provided by his
- The information contained in these
pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with
others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
- © 2001 County Carlow