Brice, Edward (DNB00)

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BRICE or BRYCE, EDWARD (1569?–1636), first presbyterian minister in Ireland, was born at Airth, Stirlingshire, about 1569. He is called Bryce in the Scottish, Brice in the Irish records. His descendants claim that he was a younger son of Bruce, the laird of Airth, but there is no confirmation of this story in M. E. Cumming Bruce's elaborate pedigree of the Bruces of Airth, in 'The Bruces and the Cumyns,' 1870. He entered the Edinburgh University about 1589, and studied under Charles Ferme (or Fairholm). Brice laureated 12 Aug. 1593; Reid says he became a regent, but his name is not in the Edinburgh list; Hew Scott, probably following Reid, makes him regent of some university, but leaves the place blank. On 30 Dec. 1595 he was admitted by the Stirling presbytery to the parochial charge of Bothkenner. He was translated to Drymen on 14 May 1602, and admitted on 30 Sept. by the Dumbarton presbytery. At the synod of Glasgow on 18 Aug. 1607 he bitterly opposed the appointment of the archbishop as permanent moderator, in accordance with the king's recommendation, adopted by the general assembly at Linlithgow on 10 Dec. 1606. Persecution, and, as it may appear, another reason, drove him to Ulster. On 29 Dec. 1613 Archbishop Spottiswood and the presbytery of Glasgow deposed him for adultery. Robert Echlin, bishop of Down and Connor, probably believed him innocent, for he admitted him to the cure of Templecorran (otherwise known as Ballycarry or Broadisland), near the head of Lough Larne, co. Antrim. The date given is 1613; it was perhaps 1614, new style. Brice was attracted to this locality by the circumstance that William Edmunstone, laird of Duntreath, Stirlingshire, who had joined in the plantation of the Ards, co. Down, in 1606, was now at Broadisland, having obtained a perpetual lease of 'the lands of Braidenisland' on 28 May 1609. The tradition is that Brice preached alternately at Templecorran and Ballykeel, Islandmagee. In September 1619 Echlin conferred on him the prebend of Kilroot. The 'Ulster Visitation' of 1622 says that Brice 'serveth the cures of Templecorran and Kilroot—church at Kilroot decayed—that at Ballycarry has the walls newly erected, but not roofed.' In 1629 Brice, who had reached his sixtieth year, is described as 'an aged man, who comes not much abroad;' and in 1630, though present on a communion Sunday at Templepatrick, he was unable to preach as appointed. Accordingly Henry Calvert (or Colwort), an Englishman, was 'entertained by the godly and worthy Lady Duntreath, of Broadisland, as an helper' to Brice. But the engagement was of no long continuance, for in June 1630 Calvert became minister of Muckamore (or Oldstone), co. Antrim. Probably Brice's infirm state of health saved him from being deposed, with his neighbours of Larne and Templepatrick, in 1632, for non-subscription to the canons. On Echlin's death, 17 July 1635, Leslie was consecrated in his stead. He held his primary visitation at Lisburn in July 1636, and required subscription from all the clergy. Brice and Calvert were among the five who refused compliance. A private conference with the recreant five produced no result, and though on 11 Aug. Leslie made two concessions to the presbyterians, viz. that in reading the common prayer they might substitute for its renderings of scripture 'the best translation ye can find,' and might omit the lessons from the Apocrypha, and read from Chronicles, Solomon's Song, and Revelation, the subscription was still refused. Accordingly on 12 Aug. sentence of perpetual silence within the diocese was passed, Brice, probably as the oldest, being sentenced first. Brice survived the silencing sentence but a very short time. He does not seem to have joined the Antrim 'meeting' or presbytery, and the presbyterians appointed no regular successor to him till 1646. His tombstone at the ruined church of Ballycarry says that he 'began preaching of the gospel in this parish 1613, continuing with quiet success while 1636, in which he dyed, aged 67, and left two sons and two daughters.' His eldest son, Robert, acquired a fortune at Castlechester, then the point of departure for the Scottish mail; pennies are extant with his name, dated Castlechester, 1671. For his descendants, the Brices of Kilroot, see Reid, and Burke's 'Landed Gentry,' 1863, p. 169. Within this century his lineal descendant resumed by royal license the name of Bruce.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot.; Edin. Univ. Calendar, 1862, p. 17; Grub's Eccl. Hist. of Scotland, 1861, ii. 290; Reid's Hist. Presb. Ch. in Ireland (ed. Killen), 1867, i. 98, 115, 188, 196 seq., 521 seq.; Ware's Works (ed. Harris), 1764, i. 208; Adair's True Narrative (ed. Killen), 1866, pp. 1, 20, 58; Porter, in Christian Unitarian, 1863, p. 16 seq.; Bruce, in Christian Moderator, 1826, p. 312.]

A. G.