The Origins of Quakerism in Ireland

      During the reign of Queen Mary, there was devised a plan of clearing
off the native Irish from whole districts of Ireland, and making room for
English and Scottish settlers.  This took place in the mid 1500s, and the
Irish were forced from their lands in Queen's Ulster and Antrim
counties.....the land was confiscated and given to those brought in by the
English crown.  Then, during the English Civil war, Cromwell went to Ireland
to again put down the  Irish Catholics and Royalists, in mid 1600.  His
troops, the New Model Army, were successful in subduing the native Irish,
and there were terrible massacres and widespread  terror.  Finally, Cromwell
returned to England, but left his son-in-law to finish the work, and the
conquest of Ireland was completed by him.    The English Parliament
confiscated millions of acres of Ireland and ordered all the Irish in
Ulster, Leinster and Munster, to move across the river Shannon into the
Province of Connaught, where they were given small allotments of waste
ground.    The land vacated by the Irish gentry was given to Cromwell's
officers and soldiers.  Many stayed, and some sold their lands to incoming
Protestants from England and Scotland, with the poor Irish class staying in
their natural homes, as under-tenants or farm servants to the settlers.
    This, then, was the climate that brought about the beginnings of
Quakerism in Ireland. It spread  from England, and the founder of Irish
Quakerism  was actually one of Cromwell's soldiers, William Edmundson.
There then followed a  steady stream of Quaker missionaries from England..  Then,
when King Charles II was restored to the throne, the Roman Catholic Church
was once more the state church, and all protestants, and especially the
nonconforming Friends and Scots Irish Presbyterians felt the wrath of the
King.  When things became too difficult in England, many Quakers moved to
Ireland, to escape persecution.  But, the Irish peoples were no longer the
underdogs, and allied with the throne by a common,  the
Quakers and Presbyterians in Ireland began to be persecuted by their Roman
Catholic neighbors;  forced to pay tithes and  to take oaths ( something not
allowed by the Quaker faith), and in general at the mercy of the ire of the
Irish Catholics, who well remembered their treatment at the hands of a
Protestant ruler......thus, the exodus to the new world, for both the
Quakers and the Scots Irish

This page updated on January 2, 2011