John McLellan of Kirkcudbright, Newtonards, Ireland, and passenger on the emigrant ship “Eagle Wing.”

Elsewhere on this website mention is made of the sailing of the ship “The Planter” from Kirkcudbright which was heading for the’ Nova Scotia’ coast of Canada in 1622. This was the first ship to sail from Scotland with settlers to North America. A few years later, in 1636, the very early attempt to leave from Ireland with settlers from that country, left from Lough Fergus. This ship had a Kirkcudbright connection too. On board was the Rev. John McLellan, a native of Kirkcudbright who had gone to Ireland and become a minister. As recounted below, the journey was filled with misadventure and the ship had to run back to Ireland from mid-Atlantic because of seaworthiness problems. In 1638 John returned to Kirkcudbright and was appointed minister there. He wrote the Description of Galloway in Bleau’s Atlas of Scotland published in 1662.

Reproduced below are three articles about John McLellan.

Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America

In 1636 a desire to emigrate took firm hold upon the people in the towns near Belfast. Their leaders were four able men: the Rev. Robert Blair of Bangor, county Down; the Rev. James Hamilton who preached at Ballywalter, a little village a few miles east of Belfast; the Rev. John McLellan of the neighboring town of Newtownards; and the Rev. John Livingston who had been deposed from the church at Killinchy in the diocese of Down.

These earnest clergymen, living within the radius of a few miles of Bangor, became more and more dissatisfied with the Established Church and its order of service. Blair was their leader, a man of "majestic, awful, yet amiable countenance,” who gradually drew into his circle the clergymen of eight or nine adjoining parishes. He was suspended from his charge, and by the varying authorities reinstated and twice deposed for non-conformity, and finally his followers suffered a like fate. They found it difficult to preach in Ireland, and asked Livingston, a very eloquent speaker, to visit Boston in company with William Wallace, to obtain favorable terms from the Governor living there for a settlement in New England.

Mr. Wallace delayed so long to bid farewell to his family that the two agents lost the desired ships then sailing from London. Meeting Mr. John Humphrey they agreed to go in his ship, and so were unable to accept Mr. Bellingham’s later offer of passage in a larger ship. At Dorchester, England, they tarried to listen to the Rev. John White, a promoter of the colony of the Massachusetts Bay; at last setting sail they encountered head winds and were forced to put in at Plymouth. There Wallace fell ill, and they decided to abandon the voyage. Livingston never became an emigrant, but his son Robert settled later upon the Hudson, and the soil of Livingston manor nurtured a race of American statesmen and soldiers.

Persecution still continued in Ireland, and a kindly invitation from the Governor and Council in New England determined the leaders to order a ship to be built for them near Belfast, of about one hundred and fifty tons burden. Full of hope they named her the "Eagle Wing," from that beautiful passage in Exodus where the Lord said to Moses: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.

One cannot but wonder, recalling the little settlement at Boston, what would have been the effect of the arrival of four or five very able Presbyterian ministers at that time. Blair and Livingston, McLellan and Hamilton were men of education, property, and family. Hamilton’s uncle, Lord Clandeboye, had befriended them; McLellan and Livingston were by ties of marriage or descent closely allied with the Scottish aristocracy. Blair was a prince among leaders, and rose to be moderator of the General Assembly in Scotland; in 1648 he represented it in an endeavor to have Cromwell impose Presbyterianism upon England.

The "Eagle Wing" set sail September 9, 1636, from Lough Fergus, but was soon compelled to put in at Lough Ryan in Scotland to stop dangerous leaks; she then turned her prow westward. Tempestuous weather during the three or four hundred leagues which the ship covered weakened and at last crushed the rudder, "brake much of our gallion-head, our fore-cross-tree, and tare our fore-sail; five or six of our chainplaitts made up; ane great beam under the gunner-roome door brake; seas came in over the round-house, and brake ane plank or two in the deck, and wett all them that were between decks." Thus Livingston tells of those trying days when men worked incessantly at the pumps, and repaired the damage from wave and wind as rapidly as they could find opportunity. Meanwhile their leader Blair lay ill in the cabin; some of the company of one hundred and forty passengers died, and a baby came into that storm-tossed world of water. When the captain, who did not dare to face another hurricane off the New England coast, turned the little ship toward Ireland the courageous Blair fell in a swoon, unable to think of failure after so much distress. Through it all Blair’s infant son, who had been ill at departure, lived and even grew stronger, so that, in the quaint language of the chronicle, "it pleesed the only wise God to twist in this small ply in Mr. Blair’s rod." *

*Autobiographies of Blair and Livingston, published by the Wodrow Society; also Dictionary of National Biography.

Montgomery Manuscripts p126

Among the first (probably the first) teachers in this school (Newtonards), was one John Maclellan, son of Michael Maclellan, an inhabitant and burgess of Kirkcudbright. Livingstone says of him that he “was first schoolmaster at Newtownards in Ireland, where he bred several hopeful youths for the college." As Maclellan came originally from Kirkcudbright, he was probably a family connexion of Sir Robert Maclellan, who married Elizabeth, elder daughter of the first viscount, about the year 1620. The date of this marriage was probably the time of John Maclellan's coming to teach at Newtown. During his employment as a teacher, he occasionally officiated in the pulpits of Presbyterian ministers in the district. "Being first tried and approved," says Livingstone, "by the honest ministers in the county of Down, he often preached in their churches. He was a most streight and zealous man; he knew not what it was to be afraid in the cause of God, and was early aquainted with God and his ways."

He was appointed minister of Kirkcudbright in 1638. Sir Robert Maclellan, then lord Kirkcudbright, applied to the magistrates to grant the new pastor the sum of 200 marks, for vicarage tiends, which had been enjoyed by Mr. Glendonynge, the former minister. They refused, however, alleging that they had only paid Glendonynge 50 marks, and that the other 150 marks were conferred upon him as a token of their esteem and respect. Probably this refusal had some effect in shaping the rebukes for which Mr. Mclellan’s pulpit orations were remarkable. In 1639, one Gilbert Reid threatened to shoot him with "a pair of bullets," for which he was punished by imprisonment and fine; and in 1642 Janet Creichton spoke “misrepecttfully" to him while in the kirk, and when he was actually engaged in the discharge of his ministerial duties. Janet was compelled to expiate this offence by standing at the kirk door from the time the bell rang till the text was given out, with a paper on her head setting forth the nature of her sin! The pastor of Kirkcudbright, together with Mr. Samuel Rutherford and Mr John Livingstone were denounced by a commissioner from Galloway at the meeting of Assembly in 1640, as being great encouragers of private gatherings at night for the purpose of reading scripture and engaging in prayer. "At their own hands without the allowance of minister or elders, the people had begun to convene themselves confusedly about bed-time in private houses, where for the greater part of the night they would expound scriptures pray and sing psalms. . . . . A short time before Mr Mclellan’s death in 1650 he wrote his own epitaph. 

Dictionary of National Biography

MACLELLAN, JOHN (1609 P-1651), of Kirkcudbright, covenanting minister, was the son of Michael Maclellan. a burgess of Kirkcudbright. He was educated at the university of Glasgow, where he graduated M.A. in 1629. Shortly afterwards he was appointed schoolmaster at Newtownards, co.Down, where he had also several pupils whom he prepared for the university. Ultimately be obtained license to preach from the ministers of county Down, but for his ‘adherence to the purity of church discipline,’ and for refusal to conform to the ceremonial of the church (GORDON, Scots Affairs, ii. 28), he was excommunicated by the bishop. Nevertheless he continued for some time to preach privately in the counties of Down, Tyrone, and Donegal until 1638, when on receiving a call from the congregation of his native town, Kirkcudbright, he returned to Scotland.

He was a member of the general assembly of that year; and in reference to a desire of the king that certain assessors named by himself should have a vote, he in a sermon shortly afterwards 'stated that the king had no more to do with their general assemblies than they had to do with his parliament'. Livingstone mentions that ‘it was thought by many that he had somewhat of the spirit of Prophecy ' (Characters in vol. i. of the Wodrow Society's Select Biographies, p. 331). The opportunity having fallen to him to preach before James Hamilton, first duke of Hamilton, on the eve of the expedition to England in 1648, he took upon himself to predict that the enterprise would result in failure, affirming that 'in a short time after going to England they should be affrayed at the shaking of the leaf of a tree'

This prophecy was reported to have been literally fulfilled, owing to the fact that it was by the sudden rustling of some trees at Preston, caused by a strong gust of wind, that the Scottish cavalry took fright, and, galloping from the field, carried confusion also among the infantry. Maclellan was a member of the assemblies' commissions of 1642, 1645, and 1649. By the assembly of 1642 he was appointed for four months on a mission to Ireland, and by that of 1643 for three months. Maclellan’s strictness as a disciplinarian led one of his parishioners to fire a gun at him, but the shot miscarried. He died early in 1651, according to Livingstone 'not without suspicion of being wronged by a witch' He was married to Marion, daughter of Bartholomew Fleming, merchant, Edinburgh, and a younger sister of the wife of John Livingstone. To Bleau's 'Atlas Scotiiae' he contributed the 'Description of Galloway.’

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