Religious History, — September 9, 2009 10:48 — 0 Comments

Quakers of Bessbrook

The Society, known as Quakers, is a branch of the Christian Church and has been active in Ireland since the 1650s.


Bessbrook Town Hall

The Society stresses the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, dismissing the need for clergy, outward sacraments and consecrated buildings. 

 

In a search for simplicity, purity and truth, Friends quietly gather in Meeting for Worship to seek Divine guidance and inspiration.

 

Though never very numerous, the Society has had a deep influence on local events in various parts of the country. It was particularly active in the West of Ireland in the early years of the Famine, especially on Achill Island. Friends School Lisburn is a famous and acclaimed academic institution, for example.

 

John Grubb Richardson

 

In 1845 this well-endowed young man, along with his brothers, bought the nucleus of Bessbrook and set to work developing a large linen enterprise. They were determined that their workers would have better facilities and care than elsewhere. 

 

Being Quakers they attracted like-minded men from other parts of Ireland and from England to take up positions of responsibility.

 

Friends were meeting in the village from 1858 and by 1864 the present Meeting House on the Derramore Road was opened by direstion of John G Richardson at a time when the village was being developed rapidly. Numbers of members quickly rose to about two hundred, with many adherents.

 

Meeting House

 

The Meeting House is a formidable structure built of local granite and presenting a solid appearance inside and out. This lack of adornment stems from the Puritan root of Quakerism which is nourished by an inward faith and shuns elaborate symbolism. The building is designed to be serviceable rather than a holy place. It aims towards having communion with others through Christian worship.

 

The secluded location beyond the streets of the village and surrounded by the great oakwood of Derrymore serves as another aid to worship. A sense of tranquillity and serenity enables people to feel reverence and thankfulness for the glories of Creation.

 

Inside the building has large and small meeting-rooms which can be united by the removal of sliding shutters, and also a kitchen, cloakrooms and a caretaker’s flat upstairs. 

 

There is a picture in the entrance hall of some eminent English Quakers who were present at the opening in 1864. 

 

Not alone did John G Richardson have the building erected but he paid also for its repairs and maintenance. Derrymore Terrace, a row of ten houses nearby was built by him, the rental income forming a fund for Meeting House upkeep.

 

Burial Ground

 

Adjacent to the Meeting House there are about three hundred graves of which only about fifty have gravestones. There is a register of burials, which along with a map keeps a record of the names of those interred since the first one in 1865. The regulations of the Society insist that headstones be of uniform height with a simple inscription. 

 

Surnames which appear frequently in early records include:

 

BALLIE

 

FISHER

KANE

PRICHARD

BARCROFT

 

FLYNN

LAMB

REYNOLDS

DALE

 

GREEN

LITTLE

RICHARDSON

DAVIES

 

HARDING

McCULLOUGH

RODGERS

DAVIS

 

HARRIS

MOSES

SHANNON

DOYLE

 

HAYDOCK

NICHOLSON

SINTON

ENGLAND

 

HOBSON

PEARSON

WEIR

FENNELL

 

HONEYFORD

PEDLOW

WILSON

FERGUSON

 

JOWLE

 

 

 

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