Richard G. Boyd


                                     Petition of Ulstermen, 1718

In  the  beginning  of the seventeenth-century, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England, (1603) a concerted effort was made to settle the province  of Ulster in N. Ireland with Scots. While they were  not  aware of  the fact, many of them were returning to the home of their  ancestors.  King  James  thought  of  this  as  one way to cure the "Irish problem".

Most  of the  large estates from  this  time  have long since passed  into  other hands. Some of the Undertakers (a man who undertook to plant the land with settlers) did not adhere to the  conditions  of  the  grants  and,  therefore, lost their estates. Others sold the land once they  had  obtained title. Many more estates were  created  by  land grants between 1641 and 1703, after the 1641  rebellion. The Scottish Undertakers as part of their land grants undertook to plant the land with settlers  (or undertenants)  whom  they  brought  over from Scotland.   It  was  mainly  these  tennants  who  became the ancestors  of  the ethic group known today as Scotch-Irish, a term  virtually  unknown  in  Ireland where they are known as Ulster-Scots.

Very little  documentation  survives on the Undertenants, but the  Undertakers are a different story. It must be remembered that, in  those  times land was considered more valuable than people. Because large  tracts of  land are involved there is far more information on the Undertakers.  As the undertenants were brought to Ireland by the Undertakers it is obvious that many of them came from the same area in Scotland and were his near relatives. One such undertaker was:

Sir Thomas Boyd of Bedlay: second son of  the sixth Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock, Scotland.  He  married  Grizel Cunningham, the daughter  of  Alexander Cunningham on 22 October 1603. Ulster patent  dated  29  August  1610:  Shean 1,500 acres, Strabane Barony, County Tyrone.

Marion,  the  sister  of  Thomas Boyd, married James Hamilton, Earl of Abercorn and eventually  acquired Sir Thomas Boyd's estate. It can be  assumed that Thomas Boyd brought over many settlers by  the  name  of  Boyd  since the surname is quite common  in  Northern Ireland.  Many  of the Boyd's in America are  descended  from these Ulster-Scots but tracing them down is another thing altogether. Many records have been destroyed during the centuries of civil strife in the country.

The Petition of Ulstermen

Three hundred people signed the memorial  (Petition of Ulstermen 1718) to Governor  Shute, March 6, 1718 asking encourgement to obtain land in "that  very  excellant and renowned  plantation called New England.  Five heads of the Boyd family;  John,  Robert,  Thomas,  William and another Thomas signed the Petition.  Captain William Boyd came to this country fourteen times bringing Scottish pioneers  from  the  north of Ireland, and finally located at Londonderry.  There  is  reason  to  believe that many of the Scottish Boyds who came between  the years 1718 and 1750 from Ulster were his near  kin.  A number of them located at Bristol, Maine and Londonderry, NH.  The Petition begins:

"We whose  names are the  underwritteninhabitants of ye north of  Ireland  doe  in  our  own names and in the names of many others,  our neighbors,  gentlemen,  ministers,  farmers, and tradesmen,  commisionate and appoint our trusty and well beloved  friend the Reverand William Macasky to repair to His Excellancy the  Right Honorable Colonel Samuel Suitte (Shute) Governor of New  England, and to insure His Excellancy of our sincere and hearty  inclinations  to transport ourselves to that  excellant  and  renowned  Plantation upon our obtaining from  his  Excellancy  suitable  encouragement".........

The original copy of the Petition of Ulstermen hangs in the rooms of the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord.


William Boyd


William Boyd Irish Presbyterian minister, was ordained minister of Macosquin, County Derry, by the Coleraine Presbytery, on 31 January 1710.  He is memorable as the bearer of a commission to Colonel Samuel Suitte, governor of New England, embodying a proposal for an extensive emigration from County Derry to that colony.  The commission is dated 26 March 1718, is signed by nine Presbyterian minsters and 208 members of their flocks, who declare their sincere and hearty inclination to transport ourselves to that very excellent and renowned plantation, upon our obtaining from His Excellency suitable encouragement.'  Witherow reprints the document, with the signatures in full, from Edward Lutwyche Parker's History of Londonderry, New Hampshire, Boston, 1851.  Boyd fulfilled his mission in 1718.  How he was received is not known; the intended emigration did not, however, take place.  But in the same year, without awaiting the issue of Boyd's negotiation, James M'Gregor (minister of Aghadowey, Co. Derry, from 1701to 1718), who had not signed the document, emigrated to New Hampshire with some of his people, and there founded a town to which was given the name of Londonderry.  In the non-subscription controversy Boyd took a warm part.  When the general synod of Ulster in 1721 permitted those of its members to subscribe the Westminster Confession who thought fit, Boyd was one of the signatories.  He was on the committee of six appointed in 1724 to draw up articles against Thomas Nevin, M.A. (minister of Downpatick from 1711 to 1744; accused of impugning the deity of Christ), and probably drafted
the document.  Next year Boyd moved from Macosquin to a congregation nearer Londonderry,
anciently known as Taughboyne, subsequently as Monreagh, where he was installed by Derry
presbytery on 25 April 1725.  The stipend promised was 50 pound.  The congregation had been
vacant since the removal of William Gray to Usher's Quay, Dublin, in 1721.  In 1727 Gray,
without ecclesiastical sanction, came back to Taughboyne and set up an opposition meeting in a
disused corn-kiln at St. Johnston, within the bounds of his old congregation.  Hence arose defections, recrimination, and the diminution of Boyd's stipend to 40 pound.  The general synod
elected him moderator at Dungannon in 1730.  The sermon with which he concluded his term of
office in the following year at Antrim proves his orthodoxy as a subscriber to the Westminster
Confession, and perhaps also proves that the influence of a non-subscibing publication, above ten
years old, was by no means spent.  It is directed specially against a famous discourse by the non-
subscribing minister of the town in which it was delivered, John Abernethy, M.A., whose
'Religious Obedience founded on Personal Persuasion' was preached at Belfast on 9 Dec. 1719,
and printed in 1720 [see Abernethy, John, 1680-1740].  Boyd decides that 'conscience is not the
supreme lawgiver,' and that it has no judicial authority except in so far as it administers 'the law of god,' an expression which with him is synonymous with the interpretation of Scripture accepted
by his church.  In 1734 Boyd was an unsuccessful candidate for the clerkship of the general
synod.  His zeal for the faith was again shown in 1739, when he took the lead against Richard
Aprichard, a probationer of Armagh presbytery, who had scruples about some points of the
Confession, and ultimately withdrew from the synod's jurisdiction.  He was one of the ten divines
appointed by the synod at Magherafelt on 16 June 1747 to draw up a 'Serious Warning' to be read
from the pulpits against dangerous errors 'creeping into our bounds.'  these errors were in
reference to such doctrines as original sin, the 'satisfaction of Christ,' the Trinity, and the authority of Scripture.  The synod, in spite of its 'Serious Warning,' would not entertain a proposal to forbid the growing practice of intercommunion with the non-subscribers.  We hear nothing more of Boyd till his death, which occurred at an advanced age on 2 May 1772.  He published only 'A Good Conscience a Necessary Qualification of a Gospel Minister.  A Sermon (Heb. xiii. 18) preached at Antrim June 15th 1731, at a General Synod of the Protestants of the Presbyterian Persuasion in the North of Ireland,' Derry, 1731, 18mo. 

[Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Mem. of Presb. in Ireland, 2nd ser. 1880, p. 1;  Armstrong's appendix 
to Ordination Service, James Martineau, 1829, p. 102; Manuscript Extracts from Minutes of  General Synod.]

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