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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

The Scots Church


Part 1

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 committee.

“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, Clonmel.
Drawn by J. R. Scott, 12 November 1894
(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 was £129-2s-2d.

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 day.

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 the occasion:


Whither haste ye, friends in Jesus,

Wherefore leave your native land?

Tempting winds and foaming billows

Wherefore seek a foreign strand?


Is it earth’s gay phantoms lure you,

Thus to part from all you love?

Riches - pleasures to secure you,

Thus to distant shores remove?


No! a nobler motive urges,

Je’sus beckons from afar -

Fear ye not ‘mid storms and surges,

He will be your guiding star.


Bear glad tidings to the heathen

Of a blessed Saviour’s name;

Glorious grace and free salvation

To the distant Isles proclaim.


What tho’for a while ye sever.

From the friends you dearly prize,

Should it be on earth for ever,

You will meet above the skies.


Fare ye well; then peace be with you,

Grace and mercy from on high;

God will still direct and keep you

With his 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:

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: Carloviana 1993/94

Part 2


Source: Pat Purcell Papers provided by his nephew Michael Purcell

The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 County Carlow Genealogy IGP