Speaker for 27th November 2018

President Des Moore greets Alison McCaughan, with club Treasurer Nigel Semple (L) and club member Mike Turner (R)

Probus take a step back in time to 1718

Guest speaker at a recent Coleraine Probus meeting was the ever popular local historian Alison McCaughan, who took the club members onto “The 1718 Bann Valley Migration”. This was a migration that not only changed the face of the area we live in, but also helped shape and make the America we know today.

The migration of three hundred years ago, was particularly relevant to the people of Dunboe Parish, and remains so today. It was an intergenerational experience worth commemorating, and Alison began her talk explaining how earlier in the year the 1st Dunboe Church staged a four-day exhibition in the Church, that was visited by over 2,000 people. With the help of the workshops at Magilligan, the exhibition featured a replica of the migration ship 'Maccullum', 20 feet wide by 16 feet high (see below). This was assembled in the Church, together with Emigration Tapestries on loan from the museum; documents and lists of the families that took passage on the ship; artwork from the local schools and hardboard cut-outs of the 160 men, women and children that left the village on that voyage.


Alison explained how the migration itself was strongly associated with the Presbyterian element of the Bann Valley community, who wanted to establish a society that recognised their views on how people should organise themselves and worship. In Ireland Presbyterians in the early 1700’s, felt they had much to complain about. They suffered religious discrimination and legal hindrances and also were excluded from aspects of governance and public life. Added to this, there were economic difficulties with increasing rents, control over exports, crop failure and a decline in the manufacture of linen. Tithes also had to be paid to the Established Church of Ireland, which seemed more than unfair. In March 1718 a Petition with 319 signatories, including nine ministers, were taken by the Rev. William Boyd to Samuel Shute, the Governor of New England seeking his patronage for a planned emigration from the Bann Valley, this they received.

Later in 1718 the Maccullum and four other ships arrived in Boston to an uncertain welcome. The puritan leaders sympathised with their fellow Protestants, but they were in such poor condition after the sea journey it was questioned if they could support themselves. Expectations were shattered when the colonial government moved the settlers to the frontiers, to act as a human barrier between the Abenaki Indians and the French Canadians, to protect the English settlers. The Abenaki attacked the frontier settlers, killing, burning and kidnapping, forcing a withdrawal to Nova Scotia, New Hampshire or Connecticut. The Scots Irish were finding that the New World was much like the Old World.

Throughout her talk Alison illustrated the history of events through the lives of people, their descendants and, in many cases, their links still with families in the parish and further afield around the Coleraine area. This made history more than a series of dates and events; it made 'People' the centre of the story and gave real meaning to Probus members, for this thoroughly engaging and enjoyable talk.

(Many thanks to Graham for the help with this write-up)

For a video of the 1st Dunboe Church, 1718 Exhibition, 'Click' the image below (this will open in a new window).