Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blakely, Fletcher

BLAKELY, FLETCHER (1783–1862), Irish remonstrant minister, was born on 13 May 1783 at Ballyroney, county Down. He was the youngest son of Joseph Bleakly, a farmer, and was named after the Rev. William Fletcher, presbyterian minister of Ballyroney (d. 1824), who gave him his early training; both his parents died when he was very young. In 1799 he entered Glasgow College (at which time he spelled his name Bleakly), where he graduated. On 19 Sept. 1809 he was ordained by Bangor presbytery as minister of Moneyrea, county Down, in succession to Samuel Patton. Fletcher had trained him in Calvinism, but he did not long retain this form of theology. He became by degrees a Unitarian of what was then a very advanced type in Ireland, being the first avowed humanitarian preacher in Ulster (after 1813; see Mon. Rep. 1813. p.515). Under his influence Moneyrea was so marked a home of heterodox opinion that it passed into a proverb, 'Moneyrea, where there is one God and no Devil.' When, in 1821, the English unitarians sent John Smethurst (1792-1859) on a mission to Ulster, the Moneyrea meeting-house was the first that was opened to him; the Arian pulpits were (with five exceptions) refused to him. In 1829 Blakely, with his whole congregation, joined the remonstrant secession from the synod of Ulster; he had throughout the previous synodical debates been one of the most powerful coadjutors of Henry Montgomery, the leader of the New Light party, and assisted him in forming the remonstrant synod. On 27 April 1836 a public testimonial bore witness to his successful advocacy of the rights of conscience and human freedom.' In his own neighbourhood he did much for popular education, for the cause of tenant right, and for the promotion of the flax industry. He was a joint-editor (1830-3) of the 'Bible Christian,' and published two or three tracts and sermons, especially: 1. 'A Dialogue,' Belf. 1817, 8vo (anon.), on the bible and other standards of faith (not seen; it was answered by a covenanting minister, not Paul). 2. 'The Battle of the Two Dialogues, being a conversation between a Rev. Covenanter and a Rev. Presbyterian on the impropriety of adhering to any standard of faith except the Bible,’ Belf. 1818, 8vo (also anon.; in reply to it John Paul, then covenanting minister of Loughmourne, afterwards of Carrickfergus and D.D. (died 17 March 1848, aged 71), published his first work, ‘Creeds and Confessions defended,’ &c., Belf. 1819, 8vo, which is one of the most caustic pieces of satire ever contributed on the orthodox side of the religious controversies in Ulster). 3. ‘The Doctrine of the Trinity not comprised in the Faith which was once delivered unto the Saints’ (Jude 1–3), London, 1846, 8vo. 4. ‘An Explicit Avowal of Truth the best mode of teaching it’ (Romans i. 16), Belfast, 1853, 8vo (preached as president of the Association of Irish Nonsubscribing Presbyterians). He resigned his charge on 22 Sept. 1857, but continued to preach till the installation of his successor, John Jellie, on 27 Sept. 1859. He died on 25 Feb. 1862 at Cradley, Worcestershire, the residence of the Rev. William Cochrane, who had married his eldest child. He was buried at Moneyrea. He married Margaret Lindsay (1783–1825), and had four children: Jane, as above; Sarah (1814–1844); David Lindsay, inspector of Irish National Schools (1816–1854); and William Joseph (born 17 April 1818), unitarian minister at Billingshurst, Sussex, in 1839, ordained on 15 Dec. 1840 by Bangor remonstrant presbytery as minister of York Street, Belfast, and died on 19 March 1842.

[Glasgow Matriculation Register; Chr. Reformer, 1822, p. 218, 1859, p. 474; Min. Gen. Synod, 1824; Synodical Portraits in Northern Whig, 1829; Northern Whig, 28 April, 1838; Inquirer, 15 March 1862; Chr. Unitarian, 1862, p. 123; Min. Rem. Synod, 1841, 1858, 1860, 1862; tombstones at Moneyrea.]

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