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The Neilsons of Rademon and Down: Educators and Gaelic Scholars

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 04, 1988


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by John Magee

The Education of Dissenters in 18th Century Ulster

"In the 18th century the Ulster countryside was studded with small schools, or 'academies' as they were frequently called, many of them conducted by Presbyterian ministers in their own homes.

Apart from the fact that there was traditionally a strong relationship between Scottish Presbyterianism and education, and that this had been transferred to Ulster with the settlement of the new colonists during the century which followed the plantation of the province, it should be remembered that the profession of clergyman was more respectable than lucrative, and ministers frequently had to supplement their inadequate stipends by the pennies and shillings of the poor scholars whom they taught.

The situation was put tersely but probably accurately by an old minister who wrote in his diary: 'Providence has cast my lot amongst a peculiar people. They promised me little. They pay me less.'"

This article looks at the Nelson/Neilson family, especially the members who were pastors, educators and Gaelic scholars, namely Moses of Rademon, James of Downpatrick and William of Dundalk and Belfast.

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