[Rev.] Henry Cooke

Life
1788-1868 [Henry Cooke, D.D.; orig. Macoook]; b. 11 May, Grillagh, Co. Derry; ed. hedge-school and later Glasgow College (Arts & Div.), followed by chemistry, Geology, anatomy and medicine in winter sessions of 1815-17; completed education at Royal College of Surgeons and TCD; ord. 10 Nov. 1808; minister at Randalstown, Co. Antrim; Killelagh, Co. Down; minster at Donegore, 1811; humiliated Smethurst, the English Unitarian, 1821; forced the Unitarians to secede from Synod of Ulster after addresses at synods in Strabane (1827), Cookstown (1828), and Lurgan (1829); debated publically with Henry Montgomery, the liberal Presbyterian whom he saw as a proponent of Arianism; led anti-Repeal movement in Ulster; views enunciated in Orthodox Presbyterians, estb. 1829, in which year May St. Church was built for him; organised Hillsborough meeting (30 Oct. 1834) at which he published banns between Presbyterian and Anglican communions in opposition to Catholicism; dominated General Assembly from 1840; opposed ‘godless colleges’ from Prestbyterian standpoint, and gained recognition for separate Presbyterian colleges from the Board of National Education, 1840; challenging Daniel O’Connell to a debate, 1841, and was denied, O’Connell dismissing him as ‘Bully Cooke’ and ‘boxing buffoon of the Divine’; Presbyterian Dean of Residence at Queen’s College, Belfast, 1849; urged establishment of a Presbyterian Theological College with government endowment, becoming Prof. of Rhetoric, 1855; retired from active ministry, 1867; opposed disestabishment of Church of Ireland; he was a leading officer of the Orange Order; d. Ormeau Rd., 13 Dec.; statue erected in Belfast (“The Black Man”), 1875; published Family Bible, and Concordance of Scripture; a life was written by Francis Davis; also J. L. Porter, Life and Times of Henry Cooke, DD (1871). CAB ODNB DIB DIH DUB OCIL FDA

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Criticism
J. L. Porter, The Life and Times of Henry Cooke (Lon. 1871); R. F[inlay] Holmes, Henry Cooke (Belfast 1981) [called ‘painstaking’ by Terence Brown]; and ‘Henry Cooke, D.D.’, in Robert Johnstone, Images of Belfast (1983); W. T. Latimer, Life of Dr. Cooke (n.d.); also Fergus O’Ferrall, ‘Daniel O’Connell and Henry Cooke, the conflict of civil and religious liberty in Ireland’, Irish Review No. 1 (1986), pp.20-27; Fergus O'Ferrall, ‘Daniel O'Connell and Henry Cooke: the conflict of civil and religious liberty in modern Ireland’, in Irish Review, No. 3 (1988), pp.20-27.

See also Andrew Boyd, Montgomery and the Black Man (Dublin: Columba Press 2006), 88pp.

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Commentary
Fergus O’Ferrall, ‘Liberty and Catholic Politics 1790-1990’, in Daniel O’Connell, Political Pioneer, ed. Maurice R O’Connell, 1991, pp.35-56, O’Ferrall notes that the conflict over perceptions of civil liberty personalised in the clash between O’Connell and Henry Cooke, whose concept was based in the Protestant rejection of the inherently authoritarian bias of Catholicism. Cooke had a religiously informed view of liberty as enshrined in the Westminster Confession in contrast to O’Connell’s secular and Enlightenment concept. (See O’Ferrall, ‘Daniel O’Connell and Henry Cook, the conflict of civil and religious liberty in modern Ireland’, in The Irish Review, No. 1, 1986, pp.20-27.) [46, and ibid., n.18.]

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Quotations
Address to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (May 1836): ‘Our Scottish forefathers were planted in the wildest and most barren portions of our lands … the most rude and lawless of the provinces … Scottish industry has drained its bogs and cultivated its barren wastes, has filled its ports with shipping, substituted towns and cities for its hovels and clachans and given peace and good order to a land of confusion and blood.’ (Quoted Finlay Holmes, Henry Cooke, 1981; quoted in Terence Brown, The Whole Protestant Community: The Making of a Historical Myth [Field Day Pamphlets, No. 7], Derry: Field Day 1985), p.21.) Brown goes on to quote a speech in answer to Cooke, making sport of his pretensions as a defender of liberty, and styling him a ‘cock of the walk’ who will not allow anyone else to ‘wallop his nigger’; ibid.)

On Castle Rackrent (Maria Edgeworth): ‘an individual picture too true to the original, but, as a general description of the landlords of Down and Antrim, at once a fictitious and a libellous caricature.’ (From speech quoted in Cabinet of Irish Literature.)

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References
Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988): He is ‘The Black Man’, Belfast statue [?err]; leader of Church of Ireland and Presbyterian alliance against the Catholics, 1835, Hillsborough Meeting;

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: b. father’s farm, near Maghera, Co. Derry; descended from Devon puritans; family slept in the fields in 1798; ord. 1808, Glasgow; minister at Killyleagh, Co. Down; the landlord was Archibald Hamilton Rowan (United Irishman), whose son Sydney secured his election and encouraged him against liberal theologians (the Arian or New Light ministers). Moderator of Synod of Ulster, 1824; mobilised opinion against Catholic emancipation; forced Arians to secede, 1829; minister at May St., 1829-67; presiding spirit of Ulster Presbyterianism and leading protestant political force, linking evangelism with Orangism and linking the Church of Ireland Landlord interest with the low church Protestant populace against the political influence of Catholics ALSO under Henry Montgomery (1788-1865), Montgomery was a professed Arian (The Creed of an Arian, 1830), defeated in synod by Cooke and his party; they withdrew in 1828 and set up a remonstrant synod that met on 25 May 1830.

Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), p.303, b. Londonderry, ed. Glasgow, ord. 1818; held ministry for life at church built for him at May St., Belfast, 1829; drove Unitarians from Synod, 1829; opposed national education system, 1831; secured State aid for Synod’s scheme; architect of Protestant union; challenged O’Connell to debate, 1841. Biography by Francis Davis; Life and Times of Henry Cooke, D.D., J. L. Porter (London 1871) [idem. pp.15, 504. Long notice in DIH.

Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Blackstaff 1992), Henry Cooke, champion of Presbyterian orthodoxy, declared Catholics to be ‘greatly inferior in point of education [&] farming ... they put up with far less comfort, both in point of dress and food.’ [248]; in Newry, 1822, Cooke launched virulent attack on Belfast Academical Institute declaring that the teachers held Arian beliefs in direct opposition to scripture; originally Henry Macook of Maghera; Dr Henry Montgomery successfully defended New Light teacher, but at synods in Coleraine, 1825, and Strabane, 1827, he failed to convince the members to tolerate a range of beliefs, and formed the rump synod of 1830 which became Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church; the great majority of Presbyterians united to form General Assembly in 1840, with Cooke as dominant figure. [250] Cooke, dubbed ‘the American doctor’ in view of a degree awarded by Jefferson Coll.,; principal speaker at the great Conservative demonstration at Hillsborough, 30 Oct 1834, called by Lord Roden to unite all Protestant sects, spoke against the O’Connell-Whig alliance as ‘this close-compacted phalanx of infidelity and Popery’ and called Repeal ‘just a discreet word for Romish ascendancy and Protestant extermination’; he ‘published’ banns of marriage between Presbyterianism and the Established religion, ‘a sacred marriage of Christian forbearance where they differ, of Christian love where they agree, and of Christian cooperation in all matters where their common safety is concerned’. When O’Connell accepted an invitation, in Jan 1841, to speak to the Loyal National Repeal Assoc. in Belfast, Cooke challenged him to a debate, ‘When you invade Ulster and unfurl the flag of Repeal, you will find yourself in a new climate ... I believe you are a great bad man, engaged in a great bad cause – and as easily foiled by a weak man, armed with a good cause, as Goliath &c’ (Repealer Repulsed, pamph. in Linen Hall Library) [255] In Dublin O’Connell said ‘My friend Bully Cooke, the cock of the North has written a most insulting letter’, but did not accept the challenge. On coming north, his sojourn in Belfast was marked by riots; indoors, O’Connell scoffed at the ‘boxing buffoon of the Divine’; on 21 and 22 Jan. 1841, Cooke orated on ‘the numerous and solid advantages which have accrued to Ireland’ from the Union. He sketched the industrial prosperity of Belf, ‘All this we owe to the Union. no, not all - for throned above our fair town, and looking serenely from our mountain’s brow, I behold the genii of Protestantism and Liberty, sitting inseparable in their power, while the genius of Industry which nightly reclines at their feet, starts with every morning in renovated might ... showers down his blessings in the fair and smiling lands of a Chicester, a Conway, a Hill. ... we will guard the Union as we guard our liberty ... &c.’ The following day he put forward what would be the Unionist case for decades to come, that Protestant liberties would be imperilled by a Catholic majority in Dublin; Ulster’s prosperity was due to Protestant enterprise; and Ulster’s future lay in supplying the markets of the empire. [257]

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Notes
Black Man
: Unknown sources states that the “Black Man” statue in Belfast is a portrait-memorial to Richard Chicester, 1823-57.

Thomas Witherow gives personal account of Cooke, sitting in his accustomed place’ in May St. Church at the General Assembly ostentateously marking the names of those who voted for or against his son-in-law J L Porter as Professor of Biblical Criticism (see Autobiography of Thomas Witherow, quoted by J W Nelson, in Linenhall Review (Sept. 1991).

Terence Brown writes of the epic personal battles of Presbyterian schismatics ‘that in the nineteenth century between Henry Cooke and Henry Montgomery [were] being conducted as a clash of Titans’, and later remarks that ‘there is no twentieth-century Montgomery to oppose the twentieth-century Cooke’ - a reference to Ian Paisley. (The Whole Protestant Community: The Making of a Historical Myth [Field Day Pamphlets, No. 7], Derry: Field Day 1985, pp.15, 17.)

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