Rev James Thompson


Third Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church

Mr James Thompson was born c 1685, and was educated at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities.  He was attending classes at Glasgow in 1702 when he is described as Scots-Irish – four years later he graduated MA at Edinburgh.  He was licensed to preach by the Route Presbytery in 1713 and was without a charge for some years.  He was appointed by the General Synod to supply the congregation of Monaghan in October 1714, and in March 1717, and to supply Strabane for the month of December 1716.

Mr Thompson was one of the nine ministers who signed the commission to Mr William Boyd, minister of Macosquin, authorising him to go to New England to find out what encouragement the Colonial Government would give to ministers who wished to emigrate with their people to America.  However, Mr Thompson decided to remain in Ireland, and was ordained at Ballywillan on 5th May 1718, remaining there until his death.  He died on 25th January 1747 aged 61.

Very little is known of Mr Thompson’s life and ministry.  He married when middle-aged, and as his wife Alice died in 1741, aged only 49, the children were left orphans at an early age.  The eldest child, Mary, was very capable and brought up the other children although not much more than a child herself.  As well as three sons, the Rev James Thompson had at least three daughters – Mary married her father’s successor in Ballywillan.  Ellen married the Rev George Murray (minister in Cookstown) and Matty, the unmarried daughter, lived to the age of 96.

James, the eldest son, became a well-known doctor in Coleraine and lived where Mark & Spencers now is, in the Diamond.  He married Eleanor Smith, daughter of a Belfast merchant and had ten children.  The youngest of his sons, Dr Samuel Smith Thompson, was one of the doctors interested in founding the Belfast Fever Hospital.  Alicia, the only one of the seven daughters to marry, was the wife of Lieut. Skeffington Bristow, son of the rector of Rasharkin, but he died leaving her with a young family to educate.  Alicia’s sisters undertook the education of her two little girls and soon were asked to add other relatives to their class.  From this small beginning the Misses Thompsons boarding school in the Diamond developed.

Both Mr James Thompson and his wife Alice were buried in Ballywillan Old Graveyard.

This information compiled from:

The Kirk of Ballywillan since the Scottish Settlement.  (Julia E Mullin)
The Presbytery of Coleraine.  (Julia E Mullin)
Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church 1613-1840  (Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast.)