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The Journal of John Long
About the Early Days
Newspaper Articles
Read about the Early Days
1893 - 1965
1966 to Present

Letterhead used by workers titled Christian Conventions

Perry, Oklahoma Conv, 1942

Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

Introduction Index of Chapters
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Bio Truth?

Chapter 1
Revised January 24, 2018

At the Turn of the 20th Century in Ireland
Tramping for the Lord

"In cross-examination, witness said he had never known of a new sect being founded without opposition."
(Wm. Irvine)

New Religious Movement Formed in Ireland
Impartial Reporter & Farmers Journal
Primary Sources of History Information

It is a universally acknowledged truth that all things on earth have a beginning. A new religious movement received considerable attention at the turn of the 20th century in Ireland. This book explores the form or shape this movement took. In its early days, newspaper reporters avidly followed and reported on the movement's progress, founder, preachers, practices, conventions, court cases, as well as the reaction of the public. This new sect was described in the press:

“A few years ago a religious sect 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...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..." (Irish Presbyterian, March, 1905; Heading ‘A New Sect’).

Mr. Goodhand Pattison of Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, was a follower of the new sect and is a recognized historian who recorded his memories of the development of the new movement in Ireland in a letter to his son, titled: "Accounts of the Early Days.He wrote, “I use the words ‘New Movement’ in no bad sense, only to express what most people would have called it at that time...” Pattison's Account is a primary source of information about the events that took place at the beginning of the 2x2 Sect.

The new movement took no official name. Their unusual method of public baptisms by full immersion in natural waters drew crowds, attention and criticism. Their followers were easily recognized–the men by their unshaven beards, brown undershirts and rubber collars, earning them their nickname: "Tramp Preachers."  Men's shirts did not have collars attached to them for most of the 19th century and into the early 1920s. Separate collars were attached to the shirt with buttons. The reusable rubber collar did not require frequent washing. The women wore black dresses or skirts, plain blouses in sober shades, plain sailor hats, no makeup or jewelry and black stockings, earning them the nickname: "Black Stocking Religion." 

Their Preachers were also unusual in that they were itinerant, preached in pairs, did not ask for donations, and had only one set of clothing. Their frequent remarks ridiculing the clergy, churches and Christians of that time were met with protest and resentment from the public.

High feelings were expressed in newspapers, as well as in violent actions in Ireland and England. Some of the new Sect's itinerant Preachers used portable wooden huts and tents for living quarters and missions. In 1900 in Ireland, Robert Todd and Andrew Robb's wooden hut was destroyed, along with three bicycles, a stove and utensils in Co. Wexford. The same year, Irvine Weir's Meeting house and organ were maliciously destroyed in Co. Tipperary. In 1904, John Hardie's tent was set on fire in Co. Kilkenny. In 1906, Wilson McClung's wooden hall and organ were wrecked by W. D. Wilson in Co. Suffolk, England. Edward, and Cooney's wooden hall at Makeny, Co. Fermanagh was burned. Thomas Elliott's gospel hall was overturned once, and in 1907, his hall and furniture were burned in Co. Londonderry. Newspapers reported that compensation was granted for most of these losses, but not all.

Riots occurred in some locations in their Sect's Early Days: Newtownards, Ireland—June 9, 1904; Swords, Co. Dublin, Ireland—Oct. 22, 1908; Sudbury, England—July 13, 1917; Rural Suffolk, England—Impartial Reporter June 21, 1906; July 25, 1912.  In Trim, Ireland—Jan. 1899, "it took seven policemen to keep back a howling mob of upwards of two hundred men of Belial who pressed upon us throwing stones, missiles, and ugly language." In Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.—in Sept. 1908, convention tents were burned and shots fired.

In 1904, the new Sect created considerable interest when its first large annual convention was held on the property of John and Sarah West in Crocknacrieve, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which is near Enniskillen. William Irvine and Edward Cooney were recognized as the two prominent pioneers and leaders of the Sect.

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, [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" (Irish Independent, July 5, 1910).

In the Early Days, some nicknames commonly used to identify the movement were Cooneyites, Reidites, Irvinites, Gillites, Tramp Preachers, Pilgrims, Dippers, Two by Twos, The Jesus Way, Church without a Name, No-Secters, No Name Church and Go Preachers from Matthew 10:7, “And as ye go, preach.” They were also referred to as a new movement, sect or group. The followers refer to their Ministers as "Workers, Preachers, Servants" (males) and "Handmaidens" (females), and to the laity or followers as "Saints" and "Friends." In later years, among themselves, the followers commonly referred to their group/church as "the Truth," "the Way," "the Fellowship," and in some countries, as "the Fold." In this book, the Author most frequently refers to this movement as the "2x2 Sect," the "Church Without a Name," as well as the "2x2 Fellowship," which term includes both the Workers and Friends.

“And who are we? We have no name. . .but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on...Our mission was started by William Irvine, 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; Statement by early Worker, Wilson McClung).

" ' I am a tramp preacher,' said Mr. Edward Cooney, at Ballinamallard...and the two leaders are Mr. Wm. Irvine and Mr. Edward Cooney" (Impartial Reporter, Oct. 13, 1904, p. 8).

The Impartial Reporter not only firmly established Wm. Irvine as the Founder of the group, it also investigated his background, including his previous religious associations:

"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 known as the Faith Mission or Pilgrims, and was the manager of a coal mine under Baird & Co., Glasgow, and enjoyed a salary of £300 a year. William Irvine left this employment and joined the Faith Mission...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” (Impartial Reporter, Aug. 25, 1910, p. 8).

While under oath in court, Edward Cooney stated that Wm. Irvine was "the first" of this Sect. He was asked, "Were you the founder of this sect?" Cooney answered: "No, William Irvine was the first, about sixteen years ago. I cast in my lot with him as a fellow-preacher...others have nicknamed us ‘The Cooneyites.’ I do not like it myself” (Impartial Reporter, Dec. 18, 1913, p. 3). 

The newspaper also provided compelling evidence regarding Edward Cooney as Irvine's right-hand man as well as a prominent, well respected leader in the movement in the Early Days:

“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 [Irvine] and Mr. Edward Cooney” (Impartial Reporter, July 18, 1907, p. 8).

"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" (Irish Independent, p. 5, July 5, 1910).

About 17 years after Wm. Irvine started the Sect, he was forced out by his chief Workers who endeavored to erase his name from their history. Ed Cooney wrote, "An attempt has been made to give an account of God's dealings with us ignoring William Irvine. This is not honest." Fourteen years later in 1928, Ed Cooney suffered the same fate, and he too, was excommunicated by his co-Workers. The names of these two men became anathema and were banned. A memory hole existed until 1954 when Doug Parker published a tract which was distributed worldwide about the Sect's origins, early history and the roles of Wm. Irvine and Ed Cooney. Later, in 1982, he published a book about the 2x2 Sect, titled: The Secret Sect.

PRIMARY SOURCES OF HISTORICAL INFORMATION: Today, over a hundred years later, there are no witnesses alive to testify in person about the start of this new movement. Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic. They may be witnesses or recorders who were present and experienced the events being documented. Some types of primary materials include diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memoirs, manuscripts, photographs, autobiographies, recordings, published materials (books, magazines, newspaper articles), official records of the government or organizations, court cases, ship manifests, etc. Primary sources enable researchers to determine as closely as possible what actually took place during a historical time period. Until the excommunication of Wm. Irvine, no attempt had been made to conceal the new movement's recent start-up or Founder. 

This book uses data from the following primary sources, as well as many others: John Long's Journal, (Long was with Wm. Irvine at his first independent mission at Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ire. in 1897); Accounts of the Early Days by Goodhand Pattison; Impartial Reporter & Farmers Journal Newspaper, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland; Bright Words, the Faith Mission monthly magazine; writings by Alfred Magowan; letters by William Irvine, 1911-1947.

THE IMPARTIAL REPORTER & FARMERS JOURNAL is the local newspaper based in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. In 1900, when the new Sect began, they published a weekly newspaper each Thursday. It was owned and operated by the Trimble family from the time it was founded in 1825, and is the third oldest newspaper in Ireland. The earliest newspaper article found so far about the new Sect was dated Jan. 15, 1903. This article and many more are posted on the Telling The Truth Website

At this time, the editor-proprietor of the Impartial Reporter & Farmers Journal, was Wm. Copeland Trimble (1851-1941), known as W.C.T.  In Dublin on Oct. 3, 1881, Wm. C. Trimble married Letitia Jane Weir (1854-1892), and they had five children. Letitia was the daughter of John Weir who was related to the Wm. Weir family who owned Weirs Store on Baggot Street, in Dublin, where the first Sunday morning Meeting was held. W.C.T. published a booklet titled The Tramps or Go-Preachers, 1910, (Sometimes called Pilgrims). In June, 2006, the 181 year-old Northern Ireland weekly, The Impartial Reporter, was bought by Ulster News Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dunfermine Press Ltd. Visit their website.

Interested parties, including the Author in 2004, have made pilgrimages back to the “Old Country” (abbreviated as O. C.) and have visited the Impartial Reporter office. Reporters attended and wrote numerous newspaper articles about the early conventions, missions, Workers and Friends and traced the development of the movement from the turn of the 20th century. This newspaper office no longer allows the public access to their fragile archives; however, the articles are available at the British Library in London.

Earlier, British law set out punishments for defamatory statements. By the 17th century, statements in writing ("libelous") were dealt with more harshly than spoken ("slanderous") statements. British law increasingly expanded the definition of defamation beyond that of other nations by including not only physical and financial damages, but also to statements which damaged reputations. Because of the legal ramifications, newspapers in the early 20th century were careful to verify facts, connotations, implications and sources used for their statements. When they erred, typically, they hastily printed retractions.

The sheer magnitude of data available from this period, from a variety of sources, provides a comprehensive picture of the birth of this fledging Movement. The new Sect was big news and was covered by reporters from many other media organizations, resulting in articles in literally hundreds of newspapers worldwide during the first twenty years of the 2x2 Sect. Was the coverage unreasonably biased or skewed?  Some proponents of the Sect have asserted that newspapers such as the Impartial Reporter printed false statements and limited viewpoints. They scoff at the name of the newspaper, the Impartial Reporter, and claim it was actually the opposite; i.e. quite partial and biased against the 2x2 Sect. They were required to observe the British laws regarding their newspaper content or they risked being sued.

It is worth noting that some of the newspaper articles were quite complimentary. Furthermore, the early 2x2s were not shy about writing Letters to the Editor to express differing opinions or provide explanations, and some of these letters were published in the newspapers. Criticisms were often based upon the group's own claims and proclamations, with news articles including direct quotations from the preachers and their followers.

Although the new Movement in no small way owed its existence and origin to the early missions held by William Irvine in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, today few followers have ever heard the name of the man who founded their Church. This book was written to remedy this deficiency of public information.

Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted.

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Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the Truth?
Galatians 4:16

"Condemnation without Investigation is Ignorance."

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Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name
and its Founder, William Irvine

William Irvine

Founder of the
Church with No Name
aka 2x2 Church,
Friends & Workers Fellowship,
Cooneyites and "the truth"