Tag Archives: Ireland

Derry and the Giant’s Causeway

Today I spent the morning in Londonderry or Derry as the Irish call it. I came specifically to see First Derry Presbyterian Church. My ancestor, Robert Craighead was minister here from 1690 until his death in 1711. The church is not usually open on a Thursday, but I called over and the caretaker agreed to meet me. He spent an hour walking me through the church, talking about the history and recent renovations to the church.
Derry is a city still trying to recover from the violence and death prevalent in Northern Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s. The song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2 was written about the killing of 12 protesters.
The church suffered numerous attacks during the violence including arson that left significant fire damage. For a time the church was barricaded behind barbed wire fencing and cinder blocks.
Derry is much more peaceful now. I walked around on top of the city walls which date from the 17th century and across the Peace Bridge which was completed this year and is a symbol of the new Derry.
In the afternoon I drove up the north coast of Ireland. My first stop was Dunluce Castle and then it was on to Carrick-a-Rede swinging bridge. The bridge, used by local fisherman, hangs precariously over the sea between the headland an a nearby island. (My brother, Scott, would love it- not! Typically you can cross it, but it was too windy and rainy today.
Finally it was on to the Giant’s Causeway, a World Heritage Site. The basalt columns look like poured concrete pages. Local Irish tradition says that va Giant, Finn McCool built a causeway between here and Stars, Scotland. The ends, here and in Stars are all that remain.

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Rev. John Hart

Today was brilliant. It rained all day, but I did not care. After a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, bacon, sausage, and potatoe bread I headed over to Monreagh. I expected to spend maybe an hour looking about the church and visiting the Heritage Center. I eventually left after nearly 8 hours.
I went to Monreagh because it was home to my ancestor, the Rev. John Hart. A couple of years ago on trip to Scotland I had visited St Andrews where he went to University as well as Crail and Dunkeld where he ministered.
As soon as I walked through the door of the heritage center I spotted a reference to John Hart on the wall display that greets you upon entering. It discussed his tenure and how he had spent six years in jail for holding a day of fasting and prayer. Seconds later I met Margaret and Colm. They took immediate interest in me and my family history and gave me a personal tour of the center. Colm took me across the street to see the inside of the Monreagh church, which is the oldest Presbyterian congregation in the Republic of Ireland. Inside was a plaque commemorating all the ministers including John Hart who ministered from 1655 – 1685.
Kieran, the manager of center soon arrived and took me under his wing. He basked if he could interview me for a YouTube video which we did. We then found a church history that indicated that Hart was buried down the road at Taughboyne Church and that his headstone had been cracked when the church bell fell during a violent storm. Off we went in search of the grave. Sure enough there behind the church under the bell tower was his gravestone. Kieren proceeded to drive me about the area showing me several historical sites. Somewhere in the mix they also fed me lunch. I remain overwhelmed by their hospitality and enthusiasm.

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