William Edmundson & Friends Gathering Festival

William Edmundson & Friends Gathering Festival

William Edmundson and Friends Gathering is a wonderful event happening in Mountmellick and Rosenallis from July 22  until July 26, 2015. So who was Edmundson?

A charismatic preacher and talented organiser, William Edmundson was born in England in 1627.  After living for a few years in the Ulster, he settled at Rosenallis, three miles to the west of Mountmellick.  There he built a house, farmed and raised a large family,  Edmundson travelled throughout Ireland, sometimes alone sometimes with like-minded friends, proclaiming the new approach to Christianity first developed by the Quakers in England.  

 The central tenet of Quakerism is the direct connection between every individual and the Holy Spirit and the idea that human life itself is sacramental.  In practical terms this means worship without priests or specific sacraments.  The belief also led to ‘testimonies’ against violence and in favour of equality of all people, to an insistence on integrity at all times and to a refusal to subscribe to the established church.

 Many of these principles ran contrary to civil law and Edmundson and his fellow Quakers faced unending persecution and frequent imprisonment until the end of the 17th century.  In spite of that the movement flourished, attracted some thousands of adherents and established Meetings throughout Leinster, Munster and Ulster.  Edmundson also travelled to Bermuda and North America to preach to the settlers there – many of whom had fled from religious persecution in England and Ireland.

 He lived to a ripe old age and died in 1712, leaving two legacies: a physical one as the burial ground on his farm at Rosenallis and a mental one in the form of an amazing collection of archives.  At his instigation, written records have been kept from the start of births, marriages and deaths, of emigration and of the details of all the proceedings of the numerous committees that took care of the organisation.  These have been carefully preserved throughout the centuries and form a unique archive.  

 Mountmellick became a great centre for Quakers who in turn were amongst the leaders in the town’s industrial success in the 19th century.  Their memory is treasured to this day.

Text courtesy of Christopher Moriarty, Curator, Friends Historical Library, Dublin. Click here for more information on Edmundson and the Quakers in Laois.