Rev William Houston


Second Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church

The second minister of Ballywillan, Mr William Houston, was not ordained until some years after Mr Cornwall's death. Mr Houston was born at Clough, Co. Antrim, and was educated at Glasgow University . In the records of the General Synod held on 2 nd June 1697, it is mentioned that Mr Houston has been licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Route. According to the Fasti records, he was ordained at Ballywillan, circa 1698. Like his predecessor, Mr Houston lived at Maddybenny, which he leased from the Earl of Antrim.

Ballywillan, like many other Presbyterian churches at this time, had difficulty in providing for their minister and there are frequent entries in the early Route Presbyterian minutesconcerning the arrears of stipend; indeed in 1705 the Presbytery was ashamed to mention that Ballywillan was ' ye worst account in this Presbytery'. As there was no Presbyterian Church in the parish of Ballyachran (Agherton) the Presbyterians in that parish had to attend the church in Ballywillan, and apparently the Agherton people were unwilling to pay their share of Mr Houston's stipend. Eventually in 1704, when two years' stipend was unpaid, Mr Houston was suspended for a time from preaching at Ballywillan. The Fasti records mention that he disobeyed the act of Presbytery and was rebuked. In 1705 he was paid some arrears in money and corn but by 1706 when the Presbytery held a visitation at Ballywillan he was owed three full years stipend plus £7 (yearly stipend was £34). The Route minutes ends here, so no further information is available.

On 5 th May 1718 Mr James Thompson was ordained as assistant and successor to Mr Houston, and on 6th May 1721 Mr Houston died. Some extracts from his will have survived – he mentions his sons James, Matthew, John, William and Robert and daughters and grandchildren. He leaves a book (a valued possession in the early 18th century) to his son Robert. This is an interesting point, for in the records of the General Synod in 1712 the Route Presbytery reported that they had Robert Howston on trials in order to licensing. Robert Houston V.D.M. was one of the nine ministers signing the commission to Rev William Boyd to go to America to find what encouragement the Colonial Government would give to the people of the people of the Bann valley if they emigrated. Unfortunately nothing is known about this licentiate of the route Presbytery, but the fact that Rev William Houston left a book to his son leads Mrs Mullin to believe that Robert Houston, the licentiate, mat well have been his son. Robert probably went to America for there is no record of his having a church either in Ireland or Scotland . Some years ago Mrs Mullin was in touch with a family in America who claimed to be descended from a Robert Houston who had emigrated from Ireland at about this period. One further interesting point in connection with William Houston's family – it is recorded in an old session book of Aghadowey that one of his daughters was abducted on a Sabbath day by David Lawson, who subsequently married her.

This information compiled from:

The Kirk of Ballywillan. (Julia E Mullin)
The Presbytery of Coleraine. (Julia E Mullin)
Fasti Records: Records of the General Synod of Ulster 1691-1820 vol 1