Killinchy Parish Church

On top of Church Hill at the north end of Killinchy village with views over Strangford Lough.

The first Ulster-Scots settlers to arrive in this area would have found a ruined medieval church. Known as the ‘Visible Church’ because of its commanding position on top of the hill, it was repaired and became an important centre of Ulster-Scots religious life. The turbulent early history of Presbyterianism in Ulster is revealed in the fate of three of its ministers. The first, John Livingstone, was popular with his flock but, along with all other Presbyterian ministers in Ulster, was deposed from the pulpit by the bishops in 1636. Along with three other Presbyterian ministers he took members of his congregation on the ill-fated Eagle Wing, the first emigrant ship to leave Ulster for America.

Appointed rector in 1639, James Forsyth paid a price for his anti-Presbyterian views. Reading the burial service one day he was forced from the graveside by women ‘with their laps full of stones and men armed with swords’. In 1661, the Presbyterian rector Michael Bruce was also ejected from the pulpit by the bishops and forced on the run, becoming a famous field preacher in Scotland. Banished, he chose the ‘wild woods of Killinchy’ to end his days. You can see the gravestone of three of his children, Robert, Michael and Anna, in the churchyard, as well as several other graves of 17th century Ulster-Scots settlers. United Irishman James McCann is also buried here.

Access

Good, parking nearby. Visit www.downanddromore.org/parishes/killinchy.

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