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The Reverend William Boyd, 1685-1772: Petitioner to Gov. Shute of Massachusetts and Presbyterian Minister of Monreagh, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Researched and Submitted by
Boyd Gray, Lifford, Co. Donegal, Ireland
West Ulster Genealogy Services


1685 - Date of birth, calculated from the Reverend William Boyd’s gravestone in Taughboyne Parish Church, County Donegal.

Here lyeth the body of the late Rev Mr William Boyd, who departed this life May 2nd 1772 aged 87.
He had been Presbyterian Minister in Taughboyn 47 years. Here also lyeth the body of his wife who died June 21st 1764 aged 68

31st January 1710 - The Reverend William Boyd was ordained minister of Macosquin Presbyterian Church by the Coleraine Presbytery.  There is no solid information on whether he was born in or near Macosquin but he may have been the son of the Reverend Thomas Boyd, who was an Episcopalian minister in neighbouring Aghadowey.  The Reverend Thomas Boyd was deposed in 1661 for non-conformity (the year after the restoration of Charles II) but continued to preach in Aghadowey until his death in 1699.  According to the Clan Boyd site, which appears to be using Bolton, and the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland’s History of Congregations, he also preached at Macosquin.

25th July 1718 - The Reverend William Boyd arrived in Boston on board the “William and Mary”.  Acting as their agent, he presented a petition signed by 319 people, including nine other Presbyterian ministers, from the Bann Valley area of Counties Londonderry and Antrim to Governor Shute of Massachussetts, requesting his support for a mass emigration to New England.  These Ulster Scots Presbyterians were eager to leave their homes because of the high rents charged by the local landowner, Richard Jackson, the collapse of the linen trade around Coleraine and increasing persecution by the Established Church after the death of King William III.
The petition reads, "We whose names are underwritten, Inhabitants of ye North of Ireland, Doe in our own names, and in the names of many others, our Neighbors, Gentlemen, Ministers, Farmers, and Tradesmen, Commissionate and appoint our trusty and well beloved friend, the Reverend Mr. William Boyd, of Macasky, to His Excellency, the Right Honorable Collonel Samuel Suitte, Governour of New England, and to assure His Excellency of our sincere and hearty Inclination to Transport ourselves to that very excellant and renowned Plantation upon our obtaining from His Excellency suitable incouragement. And further to act and Doe in our Names as his prudence shall direct. Given under our hands this 26th day of March, Anno Dom. 1718."
 “The Petition of Ulstermen”, as it has become known, is now hanging in the rooms of the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.
On 4th August 1718, without waiting for Governor Shute’s approval, 600 to 800 Scotch-Irish arrived in Boston in the famous “Five Ships”, led by the Reverend James McGregor of Aghadowey.  He was probably married to a Mary Boyd and later founded, amongst others, the township of Londonderry in New Hampshire.
Although preceded by other Presbyterian ministers, such as the Reverend Francis Makemie of Ramelton, County Donegal, this was the first large-scale migration of Scotch-Irish to America.


1718/19 - The Reverend Boyd spent the winter in Charleston, living at Captain John Long’s hotel.  He frequented the religious bookshop of a Benjamin Gray and became a prominent figure in Boston.

19th March 1719 - The Reverend Boyd delivered a farewell sermon before returning to Ireland.

1721 - Subscribed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which laid down the doctrine to be followed by ministers of the Presbyterian Church.

1724 - Drew up the papers for the Presbyterian Church Synod, prosecuting the Non-subscriber, Thomas Nevin.  These “Non-subscribers” were often known as the “New Light” and eventually as “Seceders” when they formed their own “Associate Presbytery”, now known as the United Presbyterian Church.

25th April 1725 - Appointed by the Derry Presbytery as the minister of Taughboyne, which later became known as Monreagh Presbyterian Church, near St Johnston, in County Donegal.  There may be a connection with the fact that a Sir Thomas Boyd had acquired 1500 acres of land in the nearby Barony of Strabane, Co. Tyrone, in 1610 and Sir Thomas’ sister, Marion Boyd, married James Hamilton, Earl of Abercorn, who owned land in East Donegal (and later acquired Sir Thomas Boyd’s land in Tyrone).  
The Reverend Boyd became involved in a bitter conflict with the previous incumbent of Monreagh, the Reverend William Gray, when the latter returned from Dublin to set up a rival congregation in nearby St Johnston.

1730 - The General Synod elected The Reverend Boyd Moderator at Dungannon.

1731 - Published “A Good Conscience A Necessary Qualification of a Gospel Minister. A Sermon (Heb. Xiii 18) preached at Antrim on 15th June 1731, at a General Synod of the Protestants of the Presbyterian Persuasion in the North of Ireland”, Derry 1731.  The sermon, with which he concluded his term of office, was directed specifically against a famous discourse by the non-subscribing minister, John Abernethy, M.A., whose “Religious Obedience founded on Personal Persuasion” was preached at Belfast in 1719.  Boyd decided that, “conscience is not the supreme lawgiver,” and that it had no judicial authority except in so far as it administered “the law of god,” an expression which, to him, was synonymous with the Presbyterian interpretation of scripture.

1734 - Unsuccessful candidate for the clerkship of the General Synod.

1739 - Preached against the Reverend Richard Aprichard, who had criticised the Westminster Confession and who subsequently became a Non-subscriber.

16th June 1747 - Appointed by the General Synod to draw up a “Serious Warning” to be read from the pulpits, condemning the teachings of the Non-subscribers.

15th May 1855 - This notice appeared in the Belfast Newsletter of 23rd May 1855, as recorded in the Louisiana University Archives, suggesting that the Reverend William Boyd had a son who was still a minor, "Whereas I have been in.....d (1) that lands of the Vow near Ballymoney in the County of Antrim have been advertised to be sold.  As I did once before, so I do once again, .........(2) all persons not to buy said lands on the insufficient Title the Sellers are able to give, or else to stand to their hazard; for as soon as my eldest son will be of Age, which is about a Year hence, he will put in his Claim and recover said Lands.    Dated at Taughboyne May 15 1755.  William Boyd"

1762 - Attended the synod for probably the last time – very frail.

2nd May 1772 - Died, his body buried in Taughboyne (Church of Ireland) Parish Church, St Johnston, County Donegal, where his gravestone has the inscription, “Here lyeth the body of the late Revd. Mr. William Boyd who departed this life May 2nd 1772.  Aged 87 He had been Presbyterian Minister in Taughboyne 47 years.  Here also lyes the body of his wife who died June 21st 1764 Aged 68.”
The Clan Boyd site claims that he died “in service, 2nd May 1772, leaving children.”

1796 - While there is no firm evidence that the Reverend William Boyd had any children, a Samuel Boyd is mentioned under Taughboyne in the “1796 Flax Seed Premium Lists” copied by a Gloria Baudouin from a microfilm in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.

1834 - Again, although is no real evidence that the Reverend William Boyd had any children, a Reverend William Boyd did hold land in the 1834 Tithe Applotment Book for Letterkenny.

James McConnell and S. G. McConnell, “FASTI of the Presbyterian Church”, Genealogical Magazine, 1936 – extract supplied by The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, Belfast.
The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland: “A History of Congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland” – extract supplied by the Society, Belfast.
Charles A Hanna, “The Scotch Irish” Vol. II – extracts supplied by Barbara Braswell, Austin, Texas.
The Reverend Thomas Hamilton, “History of Presbyterianism in Ulster”, Mourne Missionary Trust, 1982.
The Clan Boyd internet site at
Linda Merle, Dan Wilson, John McCutcheon, Roberta Fulton Hirth et al on the Scotch Irish list at, who quote from Hanna, Bolton and McCaughan.
Bertie Roulston, “A History of Monreagh Presbyterian Church 1644 - 1994”, loaned by Elizabeth Craig, Drumcrow, Co. Donegal.
The Reverend William Boyd’s gravestone in Taughboyne Parish Church, St Johnston, Co. Donegal.