Industrial History, — November 30, 2005 10:14 — 0 Comments

William Kirk of Keady

The centre of the S Armagh village of Keady is dominated by a granite and freestone monument, executed in 1871, to the industrialist and politician William Kirk, to whom the village owes its early prosperity – if not indeed its very existence.

 

William Kirk was a native of Larne who acted as agent for one of the early Belfast Banks and who brought his knowledge of the linen trade to South Armagh, creating much-needed employment at the time. Keady quickly grew from a poor village to a town of considerable size. Some years before his death he purchased the 11,000 acre Keady Estate. 

Post-Union, considerable efforts were made to integrate the Presbyterian community into the Establishment. Kirk (as I suppose, befitted his name!) was the most prominent member of the local Presbyterian community of the area. He was patriarch of the Second Keady Presbyterian Church, taking pride of place in the pews among his tenantry each Lord’s Day. Among the other prominent public positions he held, he was Justice of the Peace, a member of the County Armagh Grand Jury and Deputy-Lieutenant of the County. 

William Kirk long represented the interests of Newry in Parliament, being returned for the third time in 1868. His many and frequent contributions to the Church and Manse Funds highlighted an era of Presbyterian liberality in Ireland. He was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Orphan Society and Chairman of the Bible and Colportage Society for Ireland. He was also a Trustee of the General Assembly’s College at Belfast and a liberal contributor to its funds.

William Kirk died 18th December 1970 and was laid to rest in the family vault in Second Keady graveyard. The proposal in 1871 to erect the fitting memorial in front of the Town Hall was proposed by the Rev Steen and seconded by the Very Rev P Kelly, P.P.

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