John Edgar (minister)

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John Edgar (13 June 1798 – 26 August 1866) was a minister, professor of theology, moderator of the Secession Synod in 1828[1] and moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in 1842. He was Honorary Secretary to the Presbyterian Home Mission during the Famine in 1847.[2]


He was born near Ballynahinch on 13 June 1798, the eldest son of Samuel Edgar (1766-1826) and Elizabeth McKee (1771-1839).[3] He attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution where he excelled as a student, and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian church in 1820. He became D.D. of Hamilton, USA in 1836, was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland for 1842–3, and obtained LL.D. of New York in 1860.[2]

Edgar died aged 68 on 26 August 1866, in Rathgar, Dublin, where he had gone to get medical treatment.[3] He was survived by his wife Susanna, and was buried in Balmoral Cemetery, Belfast.

Temperance Movement[edit]

Edgar is known as the origin of the Temperance Movement because he poured alcohol out his window in 1829.[4] On 14 August 1829 he wrote a letter in the Belfast Telegraph advocating temperance.

He formed the Ulster Temperance Movement .[5] In 1834, Edgar told a parliamentary committee inquiring into the causes and consequences of drunkenness in the United Kingdom that there were 550 "dram shops" in Belfast and 1,700 shops selling intoxicants in Dublin as well as numerous illicit distillers "even in the most civilised districts of Ulster".[2] [6]

He was also the founder of the Ulster Penitentiary for ladies which was a residential home for prostitutes; and was instrumental in getting the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute set up in Belfast.[3]

Home mission and famine relief in Connaught[edit]

Edgar was also involved in the relief effort by the presbyterian church in Connaught during the Irish famine. The church was accused of proselytizing[7] during the famine period.[8] In the May Street Presbyterian Church he said, "I hope soon to have an opportunity of directing public attention to spiritual famine in Connaught, but our effort now is to save the perishing body ... Our brother is starving, and, till we have satisfied his hunger, we have no time to inquire whether he is Protestant or Romanist".[8]

Edgar was interested in Gaelic language and culture, and was critical of other Protestant faiths particularly the Church of Ireland (Anglican) for not preaching in the Irish language.[2]


  1. ^ Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland - Moderators of the Secession Synod from its formation in 1818
  2. ^ a b c d Presbyterians and the Irish language by Roger Blaney, Ulster Historical Foundation, 1996.
  3. ^ a b c Rev John Edgar D.D, LL.D (1798-1866)
  4. ^ Peter Fryer (1965) Mrs Grundy: Studies in English Prudery: 141-44. Corgi
  5. ^ Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster society 1740-1890 By David Hempton, Myrtle Hill (1992)
  6. ^ An Irishman's Diary The Irish Times - Thursday, October 28, 2010.
  7. ^ History of Protestant Gaelic Speakers Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine. by Gordon McCoy, 2009
  8. ^ a b Memoir of John Edgar, D.D., LL.D. by William Dool Killen, Belfast (1867)

Further reading[edit]

Select works of John Edgar, D.D., LL. D: Professor of systematic theology for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, edited by William Dool Killen, 1869

Academic offices
Preceded by
Samuel Edgar
Professor of Theology of the Secession Synod
Succeeded by
Himself and Samuel Hanna as joint Professors of Theology of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Preceded by
Himself as Professor of Theology
of the Secession Synod
Samuel Hanna as Professor of Theology
of the Synod of Ulster
Professor of Theology
of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

With: Samuel Hanna, 1840-1852
Succeeded by
Robert Watts
Presbyterian Church titles
Preceded by
Henry Cooke (1841)
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Succeeded by
Robert Stewart (1843)