Event recognising ‘Killinchy’s founding father’

Event recognising ‘Killinchy’s founding father’

10 October 2018

THE life of a 17th century clergyman described as the “founding father of Killinchy” was celebrated recently.

The inaugural Livingston Days Festival took place to celebrate the Rev John Livingston, a prominent Scottish Presbyterian minister who became the first rector of Killinchy Parish Church in 1630.

During a remarkable life he preached to Oliver Cromwell, was on speaking terms with King Charles II and suffered exile. His descendants emigrated to America and one of them signed the Declaration of Independence.

Two of those descendants returned to Killinchy for the festival last weekend.

His eleventh great grandchildren, Henry and Susan Livingston, presented the parish with the generous gift of a fully restored 1899 Harrison and Harrison pipe organ in memory of their celebrated ancestor.

The organ, which was installed by the Pipe Organ Preservation Company, was unveiled at a special civic service and dedicated by the Rev Dr Stanley Gamble, the current rector of Killinchy.

The Rev Livingston came to Co Down along with many Scottish people as part of the Plantation in Ulster in the early 1600s.

Rector of Killinchy for five years, in 1636 he was the brains behind ‘The Eagle Wing’ — the first attempt to sail to America from Ulster. The attempt, which began from Groomsport, failed owing to bad weather and Livingston returned to Co Down.

Following the English Civil War Livingston preached to Cromwell, but following the Lord Protector’s death he was part of a delegation which invited Charles II to take the English throne.

For his pains Livingston was exiled to Holland and died in Rotterdam. His family emigrated to America and became powerful and influential people. One of them, Philip Livingston, signed the Declaration of Independence.

Last weekend’s festival was sponsored by the Ulster Scots Agency and Ards and North Down Borough Council. The Queen was represented by Professor James Nixon, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of County Down.

Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick delivered a lecture at the event explaining how a Scottish Presbyterian minister ended up as a Church of Ireland rector and why Livingston attempted to sail to America from Ulster in 1636. 

Dancers from the Michelle Johnston School of Highland Dance performed at the service. CEO of Ulster Scots Agency Ian Crozier presented Susan and Henry Livingston with a commemorative poster of The Eagle Wing.

Henry Livingston unveiled a print of the famous painting of the Rev John Livingston by the Dutch Golden Age painter, Frans Hals.

The whole community enjoyed a family fun after the unveiling ceremony with Willie Drennan providing musical entertainment and Ian Burrows running pipe workshops for the children.

The Ulster Community Network provided free literature at the Festival, highlighting the links between Ulster and America.

In the evening, Mr Edwin Gray and the national choir of the year, the Miskelly Chorale, put on a special concert.

On the Sunday morning, there was a special church service to give thanks for Livignston’s life and ministry.

Dr Gamble announced that Ards and North Down Rural Development Fundshave awarded £155,000, 75% of the funding, for the creation of a new Community Hub at Killinchy Parish Church which will serve as a Livingston Interpretive Centre.

The site will be an official stop of the Ulster Scots Heritage Trail where tourists and visitors will be able to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and learn about the fascinating story of the Rev John Livingston and his impact on the world in the 17th century.