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Covenanter Stories – No 16, John Welsh



The name of Welsh or Welch is engraved throughout the period of the Reformation in Scotland. Three generations of Welshes proclaimed the Gospel as Presbyterian ministers. John Welsh of Ayr (1570 – 1623) was the son in law of John Knox. His son, Josias Welch was the minister of the Presbyterian congregation at Templepatrick, Co. Antrim, and Josiah’s son, another John Welch, was the Covenanter minister of Irongrey Kirk. He was banished from his pulpit in 1662, having refused to take the oath. The younger John Welch took his leave of his congregation by a riverside, but when he departed on horseback, the members of his flock followed him along the bank of the river, with great tears and sadness. ( Moore, Edwin N., Our Covenant Heritage, CFP, Pg. 53-54)

This latter John Welch was a frequent preacher at conventicles, where he preached and presided at the Lord’s Supper with John Blackader, among others. He was one of the leaders of the ‘moderate’ party among the Covenanters. At Bothwell Bridge, Welch was the cause of dissent among the Covenanter battalions, for he believed in having some measure of tolerance for the Indulged Presbyterians, although he would never have taken the step which they had taken, in accepting the government’s proffered indulgence. Welch would have allowed in the forces of the Covenanter army, soldiers who had once belonged to Indulged Kirks, a position opposed with vigour by Hamilton, Hackston and others. During the time at Hamilton prior to the battle, Welch’s party would have preferred raising a petition of grievances for presentation to the king, while Hamilton was in favour of preparing for battle. Welch eventually deserted the field, in despair at the attitudes of the commanders.

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