Founders, Leaders, Pioneers
Revised February 13, 2016
What did the newspapers say about Wm. Irvine?
[NOTE: His name is sometimes mispelled as: Ervin, Ervine, Irvin, Irwin, Irskine, etc.]
... containing the Word “FOUNDER,” ORIGINATOR, STARTER
... containing the Word “LEADER”
... indicating Irvine is "The Standard"
... containing the word "PIONEER"
... referring to Irvine as "The First"
... indicating the sect was Started Recently
...Faith Mission statements about the recent start of Wm. Irvine's movement...
Companion Article: Who was the Founder?
Early workers said that he was…1905 List
Early friends said that he was…
Later Workers that said he was…
Newspapers stated that he was…
Faith Mission said he was...
Wm. Irvine said that he was…
TTT Editor's Note: Following is a collection of quotes taken from all the newspaper articles in the TTT archive regarding Wm. Irvine's role in the 2x2 sect. He was called the founder and supreme authority, leader, one of the founders, co-founder, originator; leader, co-leader, recognized leader; chief pioneer. Some statements regarding Edward Cooney's role are also included.
This collection is provided to make it easier for the reader to analyze or study the actual words on record. These statements are taken from articles printed by the Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland. The full article is available by clicking the date of the quote.
NOTE: William Irvine's last name is sometimes mispelled as "Irwin."
Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Articles containing the Word “FOUNDER,” ORIGINATOR and STARTER
Wm. Irvine, the founder and supreme authority of what is known as Cooneyism, is a Scotchman. His native place is Kilsyth, a small town near Glasgow. Before he became a Tramp he had attached himself to the sect know an the Faith Mission or Pilgrims, and was the manager of a coal mine under Baird & Co., Glasgow, and enjoyed a salary of 300 pounds a year. William Irvine left this employment and joined the Faith Mission, under the control then of J. G. Govan, of Rothsay, who still holds conventions after the manner followed at Crocknacrieve, but on a much smaller scale. It is often addressed by evangelical Clergy. Wm. Irvine gave up his connection with that sect for two reasons, according to my information: 1st, because the leader was alleged to have been a 'hypocrite,' in that while teaching Pilgrims to live by faith he himself had over hundreds of pounds. 2nd, because Mr. Irvine's converts always lapsed and were lost among the clergy by going back to their own congregation or what is known as the churches. Consequently a small number of preachers and some from the Faith Mission, along with one named John Long who was rejected three years ago, because he would not maintain that John Wesley had gone to hell and about a dozen stood by Wm. Irvine...However, the chief motive power was latent until Edward Cooney heard Wm. Irvine, and offered him money and even a salary yearly, which was refused by Irvine. At all events, 1,300 pounds from Mr. Cooney alone was applied to the cause, and has been preached as having been 'given to the poor,' on the authority of, 'Sell all that ye have, &c' Yet as a matter of fact, this sum was mostly paid to transport preachers to places abroad, and not to the poor, as is sometimes understood, the fruit of which even yet in some measure returns annually to Crocknacrieve Convention. Edward Cooney soon made converts, and spoke of his relatives in a manner not after the style of the Gospel. But because of his sincerity and earnestness, many were influenced. Impartial Reporter August 25, 1910, p8
Cooneyite Convention. The Cooneyite "Dippers" or "Tramp Preachers" have just opened a Convention at Crocknacrieve, the residence of Mr. John West, near Enniskillen. This is a "record" assembly, as delegates come from all parts of the world, and elaborate preparations have been made for housing them and providing food supplies. The proceedings are to last six weeks, and during that time it is calculated 10,000 adherents will participate. Mr. Wm. Irvin the founder of the sect, is in attendance and Mr. Edmund Cooney, his chief Lieutenant, is returning from Canada to take part in the deliberations. The Irish Independent pg 5, July 5, 1910; and The Nenagh Guardian pg 6, July 9, 1910
A few years ago a religious movement was started in the North of Ireland by a few former members of the Scotch organisation—the Faith Mission. These 'Pilgrims, or 'Tramp Preachers, as they are commonly called, being dissatisfied with the quieter methods of Christian work advocated by the parent society, seceded from it, and developed what may best be described as a new sect, distinguished for its bitter hostility to all existing Churches, and to a regular paid ministry of any kind, reminding one not a little of the Plymouth Brethren on these and other points. It is believed that the originator of this somewhat erratic development was a Scotchman called Irwin, [Irvine] who at an early stage of this work enlisted the sympathy and help of an earnest young man, a native of Enniskillen, Mr. Edward Cooney, formerly an Episcopalian, who devoted himself to evangelistic work in various parts of Ireland, and member of a most respectable family, several of whom have long been distinguished for their zeal in many branches of religious and philanthropic work. March, 1905 issue of The Irish Presbyterian, Heading 'A New Sect
The founder of this sect, whose tenets are not defined is, it appears, a Mr. Irvine, a Scotchman, who resided for some time in Tipperary. According to Mr. Irvine, the "Tramp Pilgrims" number 150--50 in England, 30 in Scotland, 50 in Ireland, and 20 in the United States. (October 14, 1904 p4, Freeman's Journal)
A great stir has been created recently in East Anglia by a body of ‘No Sect’ people whose preachers have been holding meetings in that part of rural England for several years past. This sect, if we may call it such, was started in Scotland by a William Irwin, seven or eight years ago. It has grown gradually. Fifty men and women missionaries connected with it are now working in England. There are as many in Scotland, and more in Ireland...Alice Pipe, a pretty girl missioner, was the first of the sect to visit East Anglia. She was followed by William Irwin, the founder. Recently a Mr. M’Clung, one of the leaders--Mr. Cooney is now the other leader--has been holding meetings in Framlingham, Cretingham, Debenham, Needham, Stow, Upland, Stowmarket and Ipswich. Impartial Reporter, June 28, 1906
USA: Irvinites Pull Up Stakes. The Irvinites, whose two tents at Brooklyn, Anne Arundel county [Maryland USA] were burned by some of the villagers...The founder of the sect is W. Irvine, who is said to have traveled extensively endeavoring to gain recruits to his doctrine...Founder Irvine, it is alleged, used some offensive language toward the women of Brooklyn. Washington Post, Sept. 17, 1908
Mr. Wm. Irvin (Irvine) the founder of the sect, is in attendance, and Mr. Edmund [Edward] Cooney, his chief lieutenant, is returning from Canada to take part in the deliberations. (Nenagh Guardian, July 9, 1910, p. 6)
The annual Convention for the 'Pilgrim' community was opened on Sunday at Crocknacrieve, the residence of Mr. John West, near Ballinamallard. In the absence of Mr. Wm. Irvine, founder of the Pilgrims, the Convention was opened by Mr. Edward Cooney, formerly of Enniskillen. Impartial Reporter, July 3, 1913
William Irvine, one of the founders of the Go-Preachers' Society, said it was Protestant evangelical. Its tenets containing nothing relating to the sexes that was different from the teaching of other denominations. Impartial Reporter, July 17, 1913
A hard-faced Scotsman followed in about nine months. He was William Irwin, the founder of the Tramps, and Chief Baptiser. Alice, with her sweet voice and wily ways did the converting, and William lured the victims to the nearest brook or horsepond and completed the business.
Dublin Sunday Independent, June 10, 1906; same article printed in The Morning Leader.
Services are held daily and the principal preacher is Mr. Wm. Irvine, one of the founders of the sect, who was formerly an engineer in Scotland. Mr. Edward Cooney, the son of a wealthy Fermanagh merchant, who joined the sect some years ago, and who for the past four months has been preaching the non doctrine in Canada, is expected to arrive at Crocknacrieve before the convention closes. At each service two or three members of the sect relate the story of their "conversion" and renounce their former religious associations. The "Pilgrims" do not believe in any of the Christian churches and at the principal meetings clergymen of all denominations are vigorously denounced. Poverty Bay, NZ September 28, 1910; same article in The Freeman's Journal, July 7, 1910
The closing scene at the meeting in the gloaming was impressive. All the arrangements had been made for the departure of the 'preachers' to different parts of the world, and it only remained for the Go-Preachers' founder to give to all the last words of counsel and farewell. Mr. Irvine dealt mainly with the duty of those in fellowship towards one another and towards the outside world. Impartial Reporter, July 31, 1913, p. 8
They were both members of a community known as the 'Go-preachers, who took this name from Scripture, in which the apostles were exhorted to go forth and preach to all the world. Mr. Cooney was one of the pioneers or founders of the community, and the libel was headed 'The Cooneyites.' Mr. List complained that he was described as a 'Bishop' in the sect.
Mr. Edward Cooney also gave evidence that the statement complained of was untrue. Mr. Justice Darling: Were you the founder of this sect? No, William Irvine was the first, about sixteen years ago. I cast in my lot with him as a fellow-preacher, and preached a good deal in the north of Ireland. I recognise the name, but others have nicknamed us 'The Cooneyites.' I do not like it myself. Impartial Reporter, December 18, 1913, p. 3
Their founder was really a Mr. William Irvine, and his doctrines, of course, do not differ essentially from those of the various heretical millenarian sects which have arisen in the history of Christianity. Impartial Reporter, July 19, 1917, p. 6
[Following are 2 quotes of Wilson McClung early worker]
And who are ‘we?’
‘We have no name,’ he replied, ‘but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on. Well, we are Cooneyites. We are also McClungites, for Cooney is no greater than I. We have no established leader in this world. ‘Our mission was started by William Irwin, a Scotchman, seven or eight years ago. Others followed him. I myself was a Civil Servant in Dublin. I resigned my post, sold all that I had and gave to the poor, and went out to preach. Impartial Reporter, June 21, 1906, p. 3
How long has your sect been in existence? About eight or nine years.
Who started it?—A man named Irvine was the first to step out.
East Anglian Daily Times ( Ipswich), December 21, 1906, p9
The sect, continued McClung, had been in existence eight or nine years
, a man named Irvine being “the first to step out.” Lloyd's Weekly, December 23, 1906
. NOTE: "8-9 years ago" calculates back to the years 1897-1898
It is believed that the originator of this somewhat erratic development was a Scotchman called Irwin, who at an early state of this work enlisted the sympathy and help of an earnest young man, a native of Enniskillen, Mr. Edward Cooney, formerly an Episcopalian, who devoted himself to evangelistic work in various parts of Ireland, and a member of a most respectable family, several of whom have long been distinguished for their zeal in many branches of religious and philanthropic work. Impartial Reporter March 23, 1905
Their founder was really a Mr. William Irvine, who lived near Enniskillen, and his doctrines, of course, do not differ essentially from those of the various heretical millenarian sects which have arisen in the history of Christianity. Ideas July 13, 1917
New Zealand: "
...sect known as the Testimony of Jesus. Some little time afterwards his Worship received a letter from the founder of the faith. This letter showed how insincere the applicants had been. It stated that the founder was a true Briton, and was willing to shed his last drop of blood for his country, and that he was very annoyed to think that any of his followers should make their faith an excuse for trying to evade service." The Auckland Star March 18, 1924
"We have had a lot of these ‘ahead’ men from time to time, who have all obtained a following of some sort, but of all the uncharitable men we have ever heard of, there has been none to equal Mr. Irvine. The hall-mark of Christ-likeness is not there. He is no doubt, sincere, earnest, and full of enthusiasm in the cause which he has started, but as the tree is known by its fruit, as our correspondent says, so the uncharitableness and far fetched ideas of Irvineism are to be avoided as being un-Christ-like and not being authorised by Holy writ." Impartial Reporter September 23, 1909 p5
New Zealand: It would appear that the sect was started in Great Britain in 1898. Six years previously one William Irvine, a colliery manager at Kilsyth, Scotland, attended a mission service held by the "Rev." John McNeil, an Evangelist. Eight months later he resigned his position and went to the Bible Training Institute at Glasgow, and until 1898 he was attached to the "Faith Mission," which sent out preachers all over the United Kingdom. But while working in the South of Ireland Irvine came to the conclusion that his position was "inconsistent with the example of Christ," and he left the mission to preach alone. "Had I chosen the ordinary path that leads to the ministry, with its churches, chapels, congregations, and stipends, all would have been well," says Irvine. So he inaugurated the "Go-Preachers," who sometimes vary the name by calling themselves the "Tramp Preachers." The New Zealand Truth, Auckland, NZ May 18, 1907 p8
Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Articles containing the Word “LEADER”
The Irvinites, or Pilgrims, or Faith Healers, or Tramps,
as they are variously called, were to have left Enniskillen this week, after a stay of six weeks, but they are remaining somewhat longer. Mrs. Betty spoke of themselves as Pilgrims or Tramps on Monday night, but they are generally called Irvinites, after their leader
, though, on the other hand, they say they have no leader. Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903, p. 8
It is right to mention that for the last few weeks a conference of the Tramp fraternity has been held at Crocknacrieve, which has been converted into a huge hotel by Mr. John West for his numerous guests, over 120 are said to be accommodated in the house alone. Hither flocked Tramps from Scotland, England, and Ireland, and so far as the outside world can judge, Mr. Edward Cooney after whom they are generally called Cooneyites seems to be the accepted high priest or leader, a post at one time held by Mr. Irwin.
Impartial Reporter, September 29, 1904, p. 8
'I', said Mr. Edward Cooney, at Ballinamallard, 'am a tramp preacher.'
Therefore, if the writer describe the latest phase of religious enthusiasm, by the name given by one of themselves, it cannot be misunderstood. The Tramps have revived the interest taken in them some two years ago, by their convention at Ballinamallard and the baptism of new members in a river of running water. They gathered from Longford and Meath, from Derrygonnelly and Brookeborough, from Enniskillen and Dublin, from Scotland and England, till they mustered about 130, and the two leaders are Mr. Wm. Irvine and Mr. Edward Cooney
. Impartial Reporter, October 13, 1904, p. 8
The Tramps...are greatly in earnest, they are full of zeal. They do not play the hypocrite. No one can say that Mr. Edward Cooney
says one thing and practises another. Nay, the very thing which gives most force to his preaching is the fact that he has himself practised the self denial and abandonment of 'the world' which he preaches; that he gave up good commercial prospects to follow the Lord, and that in daily life he shares with his brethren in common, and gives of what he does possess to those more in need than himself...He practices self-denial as a virtue. Mr. Irvine, the co-leader,
it is said, has done the same. So that we have here two leaders
who have sacrificed worldly advantages to serve God, as they believe, by a life of following the Saviour's example. Impartial Reporter, October 13, 1904, p. 8
Mr. Coles was indignant at the allegation that Mr. Irwin—one of the leaders of the sect
—had declared himself to be “ St. Paul the Second.” Both Irwin and Irwin and his fellow leader Cooney had stayed with him at his house in Leytonstone alone and he had apparently formed a big opinion of them.
Morning Leader, June 15, 1906
The speakers at this service were the two leaders of the movement, Mr. Wm. Irwin and Mr. Edward Cooney.
Both speakers denounced the various churches and the clergy in no unmeasured words. Impartial Reporter, July 23, 1908, p. 8
THE TWO TRAMP LEADERS, MESSRS WM. IRWIN & ED. COONEY:
A large meeting was held in the tent from 3 to 5:30 o'clock...The principal speakers during the day were Mr. Edward Cooney and Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leaders of the movement
. Impartial Reporter, August 6, 1908, p. 8
Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leader of the movement,
has set sail for America, and is to open a convention in Halifax, on Sunday, 16th last. Altogether he has to attend nine conventions until he returns to Crocknacrieve again next year. Impartial Reporter, August 13, 1908, continued
An address was delivered by Mr. Wm. Irwin, the recognised leader of the sect,
who in his remarks criticised very strongly the work carried on by the workers, during the holding of mission services over all parts of the country and United Kingdom. Impartial Reporter, August 12, 1909, p. 8
The same absurd reasoning of the Tramps that nothing could be adopted unless it were mentioned in the Bible was urged against a Sunday school in Enniskillen for children. When it the Sunday School
was started, the recognized leader of the schism, Mr. W. Irwin
, sent word that it must be stopped, that there was no scriptural authority for it. No: no more than for his yapped-edged Bible; no more than for his use of a railway, or a bicycle. None of these things are mentioned in the Bible. Our Lord read the Law and the Prophets from scrolls. Why does not Mr. Irwin, on the same reasoning, read his Bible from scrolls and parchments? One reason is that he could not read Hebrew or Greek, even if he had the scrolls. Our Lord observed the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. Mr. Irwin does not follow 'the Jesus way' in this respect either. Nor does he go barefoot or wear sandals. Impartial Reporter, August 5, 1909, p. 8
For some weeks past a large party have been making preparations for the reception of their brethren, this year's convention eclipsing in anticipation all former conventions. Delegates will attend from all parts of the world, and before the convention close over 10,000 pilgrims, it is estimated, will visit Crocknacrieve. Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leader and originator of 'the work'
is there at present, also Mr. Geo. Walker, but Mr. Edward Cooney is, we are told, on his way, having left Canada last week. Impartial Reporter, July 7, 1910
Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Articles containing the phrase Mr. Wm. Irvine is the Standard
The Tramps do admit, however, that there are ‘hypocrites’ among themselves, according to their speeches at Crocknacrieve. But who is right in all those matters? They have no standard of interpretation of Scriptures, like the Churches. With the 29 Articles or Westminster Confession of Faith a man knows where he is: with the Tramps no one knows definitely what they believe. Mr. Wm. Irvine is the Standard. Even Mr. Edward Cooney has been declared not to be sound. I am now stating what several of the Tramps know to be fact, that Mr. William Irvine rebuked Mr. Cooney several times for ‘the balderdash’—those were the words—which Mr. Cooney had uttered during some public addresses. Now, since Mr. Edward Cooney, one leader, be wrong, who is right? Apparently, Mr. Irvine only. He is the only one who can interpret the will of God correctly! Poor Mr. Edward Cooney, even, is not right! Is not the whole thing absurd? Impartial Reporter, September 9, 1909
Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Articles containing the Word “PIONEER”
At last Sunday evening's service there were five men and two women on the platform, and of the former were two of the chief pioneers of the movement–Mr. Wm. Irwin and Mr. Edward Cooney
. The meeting opened with the singing of hymns and prayer...Mr. Irwin is a forcible speaker, and has a very convincing manner. Impartial Reporter July 18, 1907, p. 8
At the morning meeting, which continued for almost three hours, the principal speaker was George Walker
, a native of the Co. district of Fermanagh. 'George,' as he is called by everyone–not even the leaders get the courtesy title 'Mister'–is a polished speaker, of refined appearance. As a young man, when in the late Mr. W. R. Cooney's establishment in Enniskillen, he was a good looking youth and he has preserved his good looks. His address was learned, interesting, and full of force. He was in the place once occupied by Wm. Irvine, the pioneer of this great movement,
a man of magnetic power, rugged, a strong personality, a forceful speaker, and at one time worshipped as a leader of men and women. George Walker spends most of his time in America, but has not got the American twang. He will shortly visit the Continent. He has a charming manner. Impartial Reporter, July 9, 1931
Articles referring to Irvine as“The First"
Reporter's interview with a worker:
Q: “With whom did this movement originate?”
A: worker “The first man
to take up this work was Mr. Irvine, who was at one time mine manager for Messrs Baird & Company at Glasgow.”
from: The Courier,
Dundee, Scotland, February 13, 1907, p 5
Mr. Justice Darling to Edward Cooney:
"Were you the founder of this sect?—No, William Irvine was the first, about sixteen years ago. I cast in my lot with him as a fellow-preacher, and preached a good deal in the north of Ireland. I recognise the name, but others have nicknamed us ‘The Cooneyites.’ I do not like it myself."
Impartial Reporter, December 18, 1913, p. 3
Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Articles Indicating the Sect was Started Recently
We have had a lot of these 'ahead' men from time to time, who have all obtained a following of some sort, but of all the uncharitable men we have ever heard of, there has been none to equal Mr. Irvine. The hallmark of Christ-likeness is not there. He is no doubt, sincere, earnest, and full of enthusiasm in the cause which he has started, but as the tree is known by its fruit, as our correspondent says, so the uncharitableness and far fetched ideas of Irvineism are to be avoided as being un-Christlike and not being authorised by Holy writ. Impartial Reporter, September 16, 1909, Letter to Editor
Dear Brother Ferguson, I would like through the "Treasury" to call attention to what may be a danger, especially to small assemblies. Visiting such an assembly some time ago we were pained to see it still further weakened by some of their number walking no more with them. Some time previously two lady preachers belonging to a sect of recent origin came into the district to hold meetings. July 1907, New Zealand Treasury, Letter to Editor
On the first Sunday one missed the familiar face of Edward Cooney, the one whose personality is most inseparably associated with the new Church. Impartial Reporter, August 12, 1909, p3
They the Pilgrims had not started a sect because of their hatred of the clergy. They did not hate the clergy but they HATED THE CLERGY’S WAY because they had been shown the better and truer way. They had been led to know that God could not be worshipped in a building or with men’s hands. Impartial Reporter July 14, 1910
Faith Mission Official List of Workers shows Wm. Irvine left Faith Mission in 1901. The reason given was: "founded Cooneyites in S. Ireland."
John G. GOVAN, Founder and Director of FAITH MISSION wrote in the August 1901 issue of their monthly publication Bright Words: "When in Ireland I came into closer contact with a movement that has been going on for the past year or two. A number of young people are going out on quite independent lines, holding missions in various parts both of Ireland and Scotland. While there may be much that is good in the devotion and earnestness of those who thus leave all, believing that the Lord has called them thus to follow Him, a number of features of this movement do not commend themselves to us. There is no one to judge of the fitness of these workers except themselves; being independent, they are not able to profit from the experience of others older in the work, as they would if there was some organisation; and then some of them have not been long enough converted themselves before going out, and, wanting in Christian experience, are very apt to be unbalanced and one-sided. While we can quite believe that a few of those who have gone out have been truly called of God, we fear that a number of others have been more called of man, or moved by their own impulses, and are really not fitted for the work. As some have been mistaken for pilgrims, we think it necessary to say that the Faith Mission is not responsible for this movement." August 1901, pp. 175-6
JOHN G. GOVAN, Founder and Director of FAITH MISSION, wrote in the December, 1903 issue of Bright Words: "We regret that it seems necessary to again point out that missions are being held in various parts by persons who represent themselves to be "Faith Mission" workers, but who are not in any way under our control or direction. This movement which has almost no organisation and little method, was started by Mr. Wm. Irvine, at one time much used as a pilgrim in our Mission, and some of whose converts we are glad to have as efficient workers among us today. Though somewhat on our lines there are various points, both in method and teaching, that we do not approve of, and in which they widely differ from us. Then we hear of instances in which some of these irresponsible workers have misrepresented and spoken against the Faith Mission, while taking personal advantage of it by holding missions in places we have already worked, and seeking the support of our Prayer Unions." December 1903, p. 275
REV. C. N. PECKHAM, Principal, FAITH MISSION: "From these references, you can see that William Irvine definitely did not leave the Faith Mission to take over or become a part of an existing ministry. There certainly was no movement of that kind existing over here before Irvine's break-away movement. As William Irvine spent some time in the Faith Mission before leaving it, there is no possibility that he founded the Cooneyite sect before 1886 as it was in October 1886, that John George Govan began the Faith Mission." [See copy in TTT Photo Gallery - May 29, 1991 Letter to Cherie Kropp]
Edward Cooney is not the Founder
"The allegation was that plaintiffs carried on the White Slave traffic under the guise of a religious movement...Mr. Cooney was one of its pioneers or founders...Mr. Cooney...said he was not the founder of the sect." The Irish Independent, December 12, 1913
Mr. Cooney was one of the pioneers or founders of the community, and the libel was headed ‘The Cooneyites.' Mr. List complained that he was described as a ‘Bishop’ in the sect. Mr. Edward Cooney also gave evidence that the statement complained of was untrue. Mr. Justice Darling—Were you the founder of this sect?—No, William Irvine was the first, about sixteen years ago. I cast in my lot with him as a fellow-preacher, and preached a good deal in the north of Ireland. I recognise the name, but others have nicknamed us ‘The Cooneyites.’ I do not like it myself. Impartial Reporter, December 18, 1913, p. 3
Compiled by Cherie Kropp-Ehrig