William Boyd (minister)

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William Boyd (died 1772), was an Irish Presbyterian minister. He is known as the bearer of a petition to Samuel Shute, the governor of Province of Massachusetts Bay, embodying a proposal for an emigration from County Londonderry to that colony.[1] Boyd fulfilled his mission in 1718; the intended emigration did not take place. In the same year (without awaiting the issue of Boyd's negotiation), James McGregor (minister of Aghadowey, County Londonderry, from 1701 to 1718), who had not signed the document, emigrated to New Hampshire with some of his people and founded a town to which was given the name of Londonderry.


Boyd was ordained minister of Macosquin, County Londonderry, by the Coleraine presbytery on 31 January 1710. In the non-subscription controversy, Boyd took a warm part. When the general synod of Ulster in 1721 permitted its members to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 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 Downpatrick from 1711 to 1744 and accused of impugning the deity of Christ), and probably drafted the document. The following year, Boyd moved from Macosquin to a congregation nearer Londonderry (formerly known as Taughboyne and later as Monreagh), where he was installed by the Derry presbytery on 25 April 1725 at a stipend of £50l. The congregation had been vacant since the removal of William Gray to Usher's Quay, Dublin, in 1721. In 1727, Gray (without ecclesiastical sanction) returned to Taughboyne and set up an opposition meeting in a disused corn-kiln at St. Johnston (within the boundary of his old parish). There arose defections, recriminations and the reduction of Boyd's stipend to £40l. The general synod elected him moderator at Dungannon in 1730. The sermon with which he concluded his term of office the following year at Antrim demonstrates his orthodoxy as a subscriber to the Westminster Confession, and perhaps also proves that the influence of a non-subscribing publication (more than 10 years old) was still great. His sermon was directed especially against a 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 December 1719 and published in 1720. Boyd decided that "conscience is not the supreme lawgiver" and that it has no judicial authority, except insofar as it administers "the law of God": an expression which (to him) was 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 the Armagh presbytery (who had scruples about some points of the Confession, and ultimately withdrew from the synod's jurisdiction). He was one of ten clergymen appointed by the synod at Magherafelt on 16 June 1747 to draw up a "serious warning" to be read from the pulpit against dangerous errors "creeping into our bounds". These "errors" referred to original sin, the "satisfaction of Christ", the Trinity and scriptural authority. The synod (despite its "serious warning") would not entertain a proposal to forbid the growing practice of inter-communion with nonsubscribers. Nothing more is known of Boyd until his death, which occurred at an advanced age on 2 May 1772.


Boyd published only "A Good Conscience, a Necessary Qualification of a Gospel Minister: a Sermon on Hebrews 13:18 Preached at Antrim on 15 June 1731 at a General Synod of the Protestants of the Presbyterian Persuasion in the North of Ireland" in Derry in 1731.


  1. ^ The petition is dated 26 March 1718, is signed by nine presbyterian ministers and 208 members of their parishes, 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.' Thomas Witherow reprints the document, with the signatures in full, from Edward Lutwyche Parker's History of Londonderry, New Hampshire, Boston, 1851.
  • "Boyd, William (d.1772)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Boyd, William (d.1772)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.