Rev James Huey
1812 - 1862
Seventh Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church
Mr James Huey was born at Knockahollet, Co Antrim, in 1785, graduated MA at Glasgow in 1808, and in 1810 was licensed by the Route Presbytery. By the end of July a unanimous call to Mr Huey from the congregation of Ballywillan was in the hands of the Presbytery and he was ordained on 1st December of that year. It was stated that his stipend would be £70 per year, though apparently later he did not receive as much as this. At a visitation in May 1830, his yearly stipend was given as £50. In 1835 in the Ordnance Surveyor Memoirs his annual income is given as £119, i.e. £75 Regium Donum and £44 stipend.
During Mr Huey’s ministry a new church was built at Macilvennon West to replace the old one. The new church, built in 1828, cost £600 and the architect was Angus Cameron of Ballymoney. It was a bare whitewashed two-storey building with 16 windows, measuring inside 54ft by 30ft, with a gallery containing 37 pews, and was so plain that it was said to look more like a barn than a church!
Mr Huey married Miss Mary Ann Steen of Coleraine in 1825, and they had four sons. The name of the eldest is not known; the second son, James, died at Armagh in 1911, aged 82; the third son, Robert, died at Bath Street, Glasgow, in 1868, aged only 37 years (not thirty as stated on the Huey tombstone); and the fourth son, John, was a prosperous merchant who lived at Cloonavin (where the Borough Council used to have their offices until 2001) in Coleraine. John was an elder in New Row and Superintendent of the Sabbath School from 1862 to 1897, but he always returned to Ballywillan to assist in the communion services. When Ballywillan church was rebuily in 1889 John presented a three-light stained glass window in memory of his father and mother, and Mrs Catherine Huey (his second wife) presented communion plates and linen.
The Rev Huey lived at Lower Islandmore where he was a tenant of a farm, the area of which is given in the Griffith Valuation (1859) as 39 acres 1 rood and 30 perches. The value of the land was given as £43 15s 0d and the buildings £6. The leasor was James Hannay. He also had land in East Ballymaclevennon from Benjamin Ball, the area of this being 25 acres 2 roods 30 perches. This land was valued at £20 and the buildings at 15/-d. Early church records are said to have been destroyed in a fire at Mr Huey’s farm. As well as being a minister and a farmer, he is also said to have had medical ability.
The Ordance Survey Memoirs of 1835 give some general information about the district. There were three main roads running through the parish – one from Coleraine to Portrush, one from Ballymoney to Portrush, and the third from Coleraine to Bushmills. The road from Coleraine to Portrush is described as ‘bad being much destroyed by the constant passage of cars laden with Iron and other heavy merchandise’. The other road to Portrush was also bad, but the road to Bushmills and the numerous crossroads were generally in a good state. The road from Portrush to Portstewart through Ballyreagh had been completed in 1834 at the expense of the county.
In Mr Huey’s time two new congregations were started in the district formerly covered by Ballywillan – Portstewart and Portrush. In May 1824 the Presbytery decided that a ‘chapel of ease be built at Portstewart under the control of Mr Huey, or the clergyman of Ballywillan for the time being and the Presbytery of Route’. In May 1829 the congregation of Portstewart presented a unanimous call to Mr John Stewart, who was ordained on 1st September 1829. In May 1836, a memorial was presented from certain Presbyterians residing at or holding property in Portrush asking for services to be held there ‘ at least during the summer months’. Mr Huey pledged himself to take an evening service there ‘during the bathing season’. In 1841 Portrush became a congregation, and Mr Jonathan Simpson was insstalled there on 27th December 1842. As there was no church, the services were held in the Methodist Chapel, but a new church was completed in September 1844.
Some details of population are available for this period. In 1832 the Presbytery of Route made up a census of the Presbyterian population – Ballywillan congregation consisted of 230 families (1,150 persons). Apparently 163 of the families contributed to the church.
The Coleraine Chronicle published reports of some of the 1859 Revival meetings, which concerned Ballywillan. At the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper in thanksgiving for the revival, reported in the Chronicle on 9th July 1859, there was a congregation present estimated at not less than 1,200 people. A prayer meeting held on a Thursday evening, reported in the Chronicle on 16th July 1859, packed every available space in the building. It was addressed by young men from Coleraine, and was presided over by Mr Huey. The meeting continued until an early hour on Friday morning. At a subsequent prayer meeting on Tuesday, 19th July 1859, at which 400 people were present, three or four individuals were prostrated in a way common during the revival, and had to be removed from the church.
Mr Huey died on Monday, 20th January1862. The previous day he had officiated at Ballywillan, and had spent the greater part of Monday visiting the sick members of the congregation. He was buried at Ballywillan on 23rd January. The Rev J.A. Canning conducted the services at the grave, at which, according to the Chronicle report, the large assemblage listened with deep earnestness and feeling as he spoke with much warmth and evident affection of the venerable father whose earthly remains were about to be committed to the tomb. Mr Huey was buried at Ballywillan. The Huey tombstone is a large double one built into the east wall of the graveyard and bears the date 1883.
This information compiled from:
The Kirk of Ballywillan since the Scottish Settlement (Julia E Mullin)
The Presbytery of Coleraine (J E Mullin)
Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church 1613-1840 (Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast )
Coleraine Chronicle Microfilm Records, Irish Library, County Hall, Coleraine.
Minutes of the Presbytery of Route 1811-1834, (Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast )