Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Aghadowey, Northern Ireland Celebrates “The Moses of the Scots Irish” , Reverend James McGregor

The Aghadowey Presbyterian Church

From The Newsletter website, accessed 27 July 2014

An Ulster History Circle blue plaque is to be erected in Aghadowey, Co Londonderry, on July 28 to the Rev James MacGregor, a Presbyterian minister who led a convoy of Ulster Presbyterians from the Bann Valley region to America in 1718.

MacGregor, from Magilligan and who fought alongside his father at the Siege of Londonderry, was instrumental in the establishment of the Scots-Irish township of Londonderry in New Hampshire.
As well as their strong Presbyterian faith, the Bann Valley Presbyterians brought Irish potatoes to the American colonies, cultivating the crop at Nutfield, over a 144-square mile wilderness they had been given by the colonial authorities.

The MacGregor Presbyterians, who sailed from Londonderry to Boston, came from congregations in the Coleraine, Aghadowey, Macosquin, Garvagh and Ballymoney area.

The blue plaque ceremony on the night of July 28 will be conducted by Gregory S Burton, the US Consul General for Northern Ireland, and by Aghadowey Presbyterian minister, the Rev Robert Kane.
The blue plaque has been organised by the Ulster History Circle together with the Ulster Scots-Agency.
Chris Spur, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “James MacGregor was a man who saw and made history.

“In the Siege of 1689, he is believed to have signalled the relief of Derry; in 1718 he led the great Migration and in 1722 he founded Londonderry.

“The ‘Moses of the Scots-Irish’ brought his people to a new beginning, in a land where their mark is still firm.”

from The Newsletter website, accessed 29 July 2014

A Presbyterian minister dubbed the ‘Moses of the Scotch-Irish’ has been honoured at his former church in Co Londonderry with a Blue Plaque.

James McGregor was born in Tamlaghtard near Magilligan Point in 1677 and ordained as the clergyman at Aghadowey in 1701.

He preached in the Irish language for many years but in 1718 - when the effects of the religious persecution of non-Anglicans, bad harvests and soaring rents caused great hardship - he led up to 1,000 immigrants on to five ships bound for Boston, America.

The new arrivals were not welcomed by the English settlers already there so Rev McGregor led his flock to Nutfield, New Hampshire where they founded the first Ulster Presbyterian settlement on the continent.
The plaque commemorating the achievements of the pioneering minister was unveiled yesterday at Aghadowey Presbyterian by the US Consul General for Northern Ireland, Gregory S Burton, and the current clergyman Rev Robert Kane.

Rev McGregor is reputed to have brought the potato to America where it was cultivated by the new settlers and, having put down roots at Nutfield, the Ulster-born congregation members were granted permission in 1722 to change the town’s name to Londonderry.

The Blue Plaque tribute is the result of collaboration between the Ulster History Circle and the Ulster-Scots Agency.

Author and historian Rick Holmes and his wife travelled to Aghadowey from Londonderry, New Hampshire for the unveiling,

Ulster History Circle chairman Chris Spur described James McGregor as a “man who saw and made history”.

Mr Spur said: “In the Siege of 1689, he is believed to have signalled the relief of Derry; in 1718 he led the great migration, and in 1722 he founded Londonderry. The ‘Moses of the Scots-Irish’ brought his people to a new beginning.”

Ian Crozier, CEO of the Ulster-Scots Agency, said “The Ulster-Scots Agency is delighted to be able to highlight the contribution to another Ulster-Scot who has made a huge difference to the religious landscape of New England and global Ulster-Scots diaspora.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who ran against George W Bush for the presidency in 2004, is a descendant of Rev McGregor.

The Massachusetts senator, on his mother’s side of the family, is a 6th great grandson of the renowned clergyman with a sense of adventure.

To date, the Ulster History Circle - which is funded by donations from individuals and various organisations - has erected a total of 178 Blue Plaques across every county in Northern Ireland.


“Blue Plaques” are signs installed all over the United Kingdom and internationally to mark historical spots important in British history.  There are some in Paris, Dublin, Australia, Canada and the United States.  They were first introduced by the Royal Society of Arts in 1867 when a plaque was installed to commemorate Lord Byron’s birthplace.  These plaques are similar to the historical markers you can see in the United States by the National Register of Historic Places or other governmental agencies.


For the truly curious:

The July Bulletin of the Aghadowey Presbyterian Church, scroll down to page 2 for the Blue Plaque announcement for the ceremony and church supper celebration:  http://www.aghadoweypci.co.uk/assets/Announcements.pdf   

BBC News 28 July 2014
“Moses of Scotch Irish” Rev James McGregor to be honoured in Aghadowey

Links to Nutfield Genealogy blog posts about Rev. James McGregor:

16 May 2013 "Celebration in Northern Ireland"

27 Sept. 2012 "Aghadowey Session Book at NEHGS"

8 July 2012 "Nutfield is the scene of a BBC documentary"

1 Sept. 2011 "Original Nutfield Proprietors, 11 April 1719"

21 Dec. 2010  "Tombstone Tuesday - Rev. James and Mary MacGregor of Londonderry"

For more information on the Blue Plaques see this Wikipedia article:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_plaque   

Nutfield Rambles, by Richard Holmes is his fifth book on lthe ocal history of Derry, New Hampshire.  http://www.perpublisher.com/per112.html   

The image of the Aghadowey Presbyterian church is from wikimedia commons


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Aghadowey, Northern Ireland Celebrates “The Moses of the Scots Irish” , Reverend James McGregor", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 29, 2014, ( https://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2014/07/aghadowey-northern-ireland-celebrates.html: accessed [access date]).


  1. that's not the Presbyterian Church- it's St Guaire's Church of Ireland