Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

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

Chapter 10
Revised January 24, 2018

Who was R. R. TODD?  Todd's Mission aka the Evangelistic and Missionary Alliance
Who was WALTER DUFF?  Irish Christian Workers Union aka ICWU
When did Irvine Part Ways with the Faith Mission (1897-1901)?

Why Did Irvine Leave Faith Mission?

The Faith Mission reported in 1900: "Since we started in Ireland some seven or eight years ago, several agencies have followed suit on somewhat similar lines. A Mr. Duff has a mission in the north with a number of workers, and in the south there is the mission conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Todd, formerly workers with us" (BW, March 1900, pp. 56-57).

WHO WAS ROBERT R. TODD?  He was born in Newmilns, Ayreshire, Scotland on Feb. 24, 1866 and died March 27, 1950, aged 84 years. R. R. Todd became a Faith Mission Pilgrim on July 12, 1888 (BW, June 1950). Jeanne (Jane) Moodie Mitchell was born in Kincardine, Perthshire, Scotland on May 12, 1868 and died in June, 1932, aged 64 years (BW, June 1932). They are buried in Leominster, Herefordshire, England. Jeanne became a Faith Mission Pilgrim in June, 1888 or August 28, 1895. They were married in Edinburgh, Scotland on August 28, 1895. At the time, Robert Todd was District Superintendent of the Irish work, with headquarters at Ballymena, Ireland.

Their daughter Margaret B. (Todd) Davis wrote: "He was a native of Newmilns, Ayrshire and was enrolled as a Queen's Scholar at Glasgow Training College, entering the teaching profession. In 1888, however, he joined the Faith Mission and was one of the first band of Pilgrims, whose pioneer work must be an inspiration to those who carry on the work today" (BW, June 1950 p. 117).  Mr. and Mrs. Todd are shown on the 1888 Faith Mission group picture on page 55 of the book Spirit of Revival by I. R. Govan. Their photo is also in the TTT Photo Gallery.

1897, NOVEMBER: For two years after they married, Mr. and Mrs. Todd preached together with Faith Mission. Then in the Fall of 1897, "After nine years' service in the Mission, during which time they have been much used of God in many different parts (the latter as Pilgrim Mitchell for seven years), have retired from among us. They intend going out on independent work in Ireland, unconnected with any mission..." (Bright Words, Nov. 1897, p. 266). Possibly the reason they resigned was because their son Matthew Thomas was born in 1897, the first of their six children. William Irvine was with the Faith Mission for the last 2-1/2 years that the Todds were FM Pilgrims.

Wm. Irvine and Robert Todd remained on good terms and kept in contact. Todd was a speaker at the conventions/conferences held in July, 1900 at Rathmolyon and in 1901 at Dublin, attended by John Long and Wm. Irvine (Journal, July 1900 and June 1901). Goodhand Pattison wrote:

A Mr. and Mrs. Todd, who had been Faith Mission pilgrims, had started a similar line of things to Mr. Govan's with their headquarters in Enniscorthy, having (I presume) Ireland before them as their first and chiefest field of activity. I cannot say now what it was that really led up to this move on their part, whether it was a sort of revolt from John Govan's authority and setting up a "rival show" or not, as Mr. Govan had just then a fairly good hold on Ireland, but anyhow it was really an imitation, and I fear not an improvement at that, because to start off with, they did not seem to have any of their own converts to go forth as workers, and so getting in touch with Mr. Irvine, who was having quite a number willing and anxious to go, they took on the direction and oversight of such, and in a short time had a pretty nice number in the field, including Tom Turner, John Hardie [Footnote 39], Emma Gill, Annie Holland and Sarah Sullivan, and I dare say several others, probably Alex Givan, etc.

Anyhow, the connection didn't last very long as I believe the workers jointly and individually felt Mr. Todd was not the man to superintend and direct such an important movement, and probably pressed Mr. Irvine himself into acceptance of responsibility...'Todd's Mission' as it was then called, shortly became a thing of the past, and I believe I heard later on that Mr. Todd himself had become a sort of a secretary in Liverpool or elsewhere for some foreign mission work (G. P. Accounts of Early Days).

Todd's Mission was also called the "Evangelistic and Missionary Alliance." When it closed after 4-5 years, in 1901, at least eight of Todd's workers came over to Irvine's mission while some others joined the Faith Mission.

In the village of Camolin, Co. Wexford, Ireland, (Todd's headquarter county) a crowd of men destroyed the wooden hut, stove and utensils of the Evangelistic and Missionary Alliance (aka Todd's Mission), as well as four bicycles of workers Andy Robb, Wm. Jackson and George Buttimer:

"On Friday evening last, a wooden Gospel hall was erected at Camolin, Co. Wexford, by Mr. A. H. Robb, of the Evangelistic and Missionary Alliance, 72, Marlborough Road, Dublin, for the purpose of holding services therein.

"At about half-past nine the same evening a crowd of about 400 persons gathered and attacked the hall with stones. Two police constables who arrived on the scene were utterly powerless. One man in the crowd gave the order, 'Line up,' and a rush was made, the hall was knocked down, and the woodwork smashed up. Four cycles, cooking utensils that belonged to the Evangelists were also smashed, the men themselves having to take refuge in the police barracks. One of them was knocked down by the mob when on his way...The fact that the outrage was perpetrated in the actual presence of the police, and at the given signal, 'Line up' indicates that the attack was concerted (Kildare Observer"
(June 29, 1901).

On another occasion: "A claim was made by Robert Todd, £63 12s for the destruction of an Evangelistic hut, also a stove and household utensils.  Claims were also made by John Stanley, Alexander Givan and James Henderson for their bicycles; and by Andrew Robb £4 13s for destroying his bicycle, articles of clothing and a Gladstone bag. The outcome of these claims is not known, as a newspaper reporting the court's ruling has not been located(Freeman's Journal, Sept. 5, 1901, p. 5).

In the August 17, 1901 Freeman's Journal newspaper, Andrew Robb stated he was an evangelist and a member of the Evangelistic and Missionary Alliance.

1901: TODD'S MISSION DISBANDS: After Todd’s Mission had been in existence for 4 to 5 years, Todd accepted a position with the South American Evangelical Mission and disbanded his Mission.  Read more about this in Chapter 13.

WHO WAS WALTER DUFF? Walter Duff was with “another association, founded about 1898, and known as the Irish Christian and Missionary Workers' Union…managed on the same principles [as Faith Mission], and aims at leaving behind a permanent organization wherever it has held a successful mission” (A History of the Irish Presbyterians by William Thomas Latimer, p. 496; book is online in Google books).

Mr. Govan of Faith Mission later wrote: “The organisation under the superintendence of Mr. Duff, also, in the north of Ireland, is to be recognised as quite distinct from our own. While we aim at loving fellowship with all who serve the 'one Lord' in the 'one Spirit,' it is due to our workers and subscribers that we should make these explanations” (BW, May 1903, p. 102).

Seeking a way to more effectively reach people, Walter Duff organized the Irish Christian Workers Union (ICWU) in 1898. This was the Christian Workers Union for Irish people in Ireland. The name was further abbreviated to CWU. Later Walter Duff organized the American Christian Workers Union. He instructed and trained hundreds of young people to become evangelists and gave them the opportunity to preach throughout the world. He preached in Northern Ireland for 20 years before moving to America where he was a minister until his death.

The CWU members met together in halls they built or bought located predominantly in Protestant towns and cities in Northern Ireland. They were not a church or sect, but an inter-denominational evangelical Christian mission that wanted to convert souls and deepen the faith of Christians. Like the Faith Mission, the CWU did not take the place of a church affiliation. It was a CWU requirement for their members to be members of a local church.

From the information currently available, it appears that Govan was correct in stating the Todds were “unconnected with any other mission.” Research shows that the Irish Christian Workers Union (ICWU) was just getting started by Mr. Walter Duff in 1898. Since the Todd’s resigned from Faith Mission that same year, it was possible that the Todds were associated with the ICWU, but no evidence has been found that they were. 

In 1924, the ICWU mission group and some other independent missions merged into the Irish Alliance of Christian Workers, which Rev. William P. Nicholson was instrumental in uniting. See Appendix D for further details about Walter Duff, the Irish Christian Workers Union (ICWU), Wm. P. Nicholson and the merger of CWU.

1897-1901: IRVINE PARTS WAYS WITH THE FAITH MISSION. The exact year Wm. Irvine separated from the Faith Mission has not been determined. There are several dates given. Reports exist that Irvine resigned and also that he was expelled from the Faith Mission. Irvine declared on several occasions that he was "put out" of the Faith Mission in September, 1897, 1898 and 1899, although, FM did not drop his name from their rolls until January, 1901.

It should be taken into consideration that Irvine's almost illegible handwritten letters were typed and retyped numerous times, giving many opportunities for errors to be made. Also, typed letters were sometimes made from blurry carbon, ditto or stencil mimeograph copies. Typographical errors in numbers are very easy to make. See example of Irvine's handwriting.

1897, SEPTEMBER:  "I was put out of Faith Mission September, 1897...I was put out because I was not of them and (not) willing for all their discipline, which I felt was not of God or according to the Book" (letter to Kerrs, Dec. 4, 1921).  NOTE:  It's possible the year 1897 is a typographical error and the year should have been 1899.

1898: Wilson McClung (early worker) stated in a newspaper interview that the year was 1898 when Irvine "left Faith Mission to work as an independent “Go Preacher” (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb 3, 1907).  Irvine told the same reporter: "1898. Left Faith Mission to work as an independent Go Preacher...It was whilst I was working in the South of Ireland that I came to the conclusion that my position was still inconsistent with the example set by Christ, and I left the mission to preach alone."

In the same letter Irvine gave two different dates for his departure: 1898 and 1899:
“In September, 1898, I was put out of the Faith Mission for not being willing to conform to all their piccadilly discipline, etc.” Also in the same letter he wrote, “Was put out of the Faith Mission and had first convention in Ireland in 1899 [Rathmolyon]....I started preaching with them [Faith Mission] in 1895--and it was good for here I found out a little more of myself and a little of the iniquity and bondage of being associated with a holy set of hypocrites who had more devil in them than where I had been--who would make any man a sinner for a word or for a trifle--though I did not see it was devilry then" (letter to Dunbars, Oct. 13, 1920).  It is not clear if one of the years stated is a typographical error or if the date 1899 refers to the year he held the "first convention in Ireland."

In 1898, two months before Irvine wrote that he was “put out,” Mr. Govan wrote about his brief visit in Co. Tipperary in which he appeared well satisfied: "With Pilgrims Pendreigh and M'Lean, I attended five meetings at Nenagh...It was a see so much satisfactory fruit remaining from the missions held by Pilgrim Irvine and the sisters during the past twelve months" (BW, Aug. 15, 1898, reporting about events of July, 1898). Apparently Govan was pleased enough with Irvine's performance that he promoted him the next month, August 1898, and Irvine's name shows up on the FM Pilgrim lists as Superintendent of South Ireland for the first time. 

Mr. Govan made plans to include Irvine in their mission work for 1899, for he wrote in October 1898: “The missions in our location list are those that closed the past month. For our new year which begins with 1st October, the missions are not fully arranged, but we expect the pilgrims will be somewhat located as follows… Ireland South: W. Irvine, E. Pendreigh and E. Nesbitt” (BW, Oct. 1898). For the two remaining months of 1898, Irvine held missions in Parsonstown (aka Birr) and Roscrea, according to Bright Words

Beginning in June 1899, Wm Irvine's name was not shown on the FM monthly Location of Pilgrims List. Govan complained they weren't receiving reports from the South of Ireland where Irvine was the Superintendent. His name remained on their List of Superintendents. Irvine wrote: “Was put out of the Faith Mission and had first convention in Ireland in 1899. 

1899, SEPTEMBER: The Faith Mission Convention at Rothesay, Scotland began around the third weekend of September each year and lasted about a week. All Pilgrims, Prayer Union leaders and auxiliaries were expected to attend. It's not known if Irvine attended. He may have held the first convention in September 1899, the location of which is unknown.   

It's possible Irvine and Govan had a confrontation at that convention which Irvine interpreted as  being "put out" of FM. Perhaps Govan saw it as issuing a warning or putting Irvine on notice or probation. Certainly, Govan would have disapproved if Irvine had let him know he had arranged for several young men who were not approved FM Pilgrims to go on a bicycle mission trip in Scotland. If the young men had attended the Rothesay convention, they would already be in Scotland and it would have been convenient to leave from there to begin their mission. Or perhaps Irvine arranged the convention and trip soon after he was "put out." The trip was made the October after this Rothesay convention was held in the last week in September.

1899, OCTOBER:  Irvine Weir said, "Then in October 1899 Wm. Irvine, still in the Faith Mission, but not satisfied, got seven men and with himself we toured Scotland using the Faith Mission converts to entertain us." Referring to the photograph taken of the young men on their bicycles, Irvine Weir said that this "in my mind was the start of the work of Wm. Irvine outside the Faith Mission" (Secret Sect, Doug Parker's Personal communications with Irvine Weir, Jan. 7, 1955; Nov. 23, 1954, p. 37 Fn 23).

The Author believes there is sufficient reason to conclude that Irvine parted ways with Faith Mission around September-October 1899, and began preaching independently on Faith Lines from that time. 

By 1900,
Wm. Irvine had preached for about five years with FM, beginning on June 14, 1895. He wrote: "My studies finished, I joined the Faith Mission, which was controlled by J. G. Govan, and I preached in various parts of the kingdom for something like five years" (Lloyd's Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).   He also stated that he preached for five years in the Faith Mission in his Statement for Court Proceedings.  John Long does not give an actual date when Irvine left; however, he wrote: “About that time William Irvine left the Faith Mission” (Journal, Dec. 1900). About "five years" from 1895 calculates to 1899 or 1900. 

1901: The Secret Sect book states: "In 1901, Irvine resigned officially from the Faith Mission. George Walker and Matthew Wilson witnessed his formal resignation" (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 6). This information was given to Parker in a private communication from Irvine Weir. The Author has not been able to confirm from independent sources the statement that Irvine “resigned officially” with witnesses. John G. Eberstein, Principal of FM, wrote that “Faith Mission has no copy of Irvine's resignation,” and that his "personal opinion is that he was simply dropped. His whole attitude would indicate that" (letter by John G. Eberstein to Jim Vail, Dec. 24, 1988*).

NOTE: Goodhand Pattison does not give a date: “I may now mention as belonging to the same time (roughly speaking) that William Irvine and his chief [Govan of Faith Mission] were beginning not to see eye to eye in certain things, which no doubt made matters very unpleasant for both and which ended in complete separation” (G. P. Account of the Early Days).


1898-1899:  During the two year period from January, 1899 to December, 1900, Faith Mission records do not show any Missions were being held by Irvine, nor was he listed on their Monthly Location of Pilgrims lists. This is highly irregular as the FM Superintendents also worked missions.  However, by this time, Irvine had stopped sending in regular reports of his Mission work to Faith Mission. Pilgrim Pendreigh and her companion who preached under Irvine’s supervision turned in some information about Irvine's activities, which was printed in Bright Words. Without Irvine's monthly reports, the Faith Mission was unable to report details of his work in their monthly periodicals for Nov/Dec 1899,  March 1900; or  Nov-Dec. 1900.  However, FM continued to show his name on the Annual Staff of Workers list for the years 1899 and 1900 as Superintendent in South Ireland. 

1900, MARCH: John Govan wrote: "Pilgrim Irvine is in the South of Ireland. We have not had regular reports from him lately, but he has been building two MOVABLE WOODEN HALLS, and has also had meetings at Cloughjordan, Roscrea, Moneygall, Kildare and other places, attended with a good deal of blessing. The wooden halls are cheaply put up, and he writes of them as a great success, proposing that we should have some for Scottish counties. This we will consider. The friends at Rathmolyon, Co. Meath, are also building one to be used in that county" (BW, March 1900). 

1900, DECEMBER:  Bright Words carried this comment: "We should mention that work in South of Ireland has not been reported, and thus is not included in our statistics, much of the time pilgrim in charge [Wm. Irvine] having been taken up with building movable wooden halls, nearly all of which are worked on independent lines by workers unconnected with, and not under the direction of the Faith Mission" (BW, Nov-Dec. 1900).

1900, DECEMBER: The last time Wm. Irvine's name appears on the Faith Mission Annual Staff of Workers List was Dec. 1900, when he was listed as the Superintendent in the South of Ireland (BW, Nov-Dec 1900).  Beginning Jan. 1901 his name was dropped from all their Workers Lists.

1901: The Official List of All Faith Mission Workers shows Wm. Irvine left in 1901 with the notation: “founded Cooneyites in S. Ireland.” Mr. Percival, the General Director of FM who retired in 2004 provided a copy of the Official List of All Faith Mission Workers for the years 1895 through 1902, and gave his permission to use the list with the following statement: "This list was compiled by Mr. John Eberstein, former president of Faith Mission, who through research has produced a list of the early workers in the Faith Mission; giving details of when they joined the Mission, the date they left, and giving notes as to what happened to them after that." In other words, the list was not an on-going record or journal that was posted as each person joined and/or left the mission, but was reconstructed afterwards. As such, it is not totally reliable, and not a source of primary evidence. Mr. Percival made a disclaimer and was not certifying to the accuracy of the list.

When William Irvine left the Faith Mission, he left alone.  It is not true that he walked out with a number of Faith Mission workers. More about this in Chapter 14.


Wm. Irvine's reason: "My studies finished I joined the Faith Mission, which was controlled by J. G. Govan, and I preached in various parts of the kingdom for something like five years. It was whilst I was working in the South of Ireland that I came to the conclusion that my position was still inconsistent with the example set by Christ, and I left the mission to preach alone"  (Lloyds Weekly, Feb. 3, 1907).

John G. Eberstein, former President of Faith Mission wrote: “I know that the founder of the Faith Mission, J. G. Govan, had a LITTLE private means, and did not himself look to Faith Mission Funds for support, which was one of Irvine’s objections to him” (letter to Jim Vail, March 22, 1989*).

John Long wrote: "William Irvine left the Faith Mission. All who knew the man was acquainted with the fact that he did not covet or desire to start a new sect or Mission; and his leaving the Faith Mission was not without feeling the risk and responsibility of doing so; but circumstances and events rendered it necessary. Some workers who gave up their situations to go fully in the Lord’s work were not accepted by the Faith Mission; others did not feel led to join it; and others believed in being more like the pattern as seen in Jesus, and reforming according to the ideal church in the Acts of the Apostles; among the latter was Edward Cooney, who had newly started out, became a strenuous advocate. Most of these workers were either young converts or disciples of William Irvine; and it became impossible for him to be true to the rules of the Faith Mission and to them; so he resigned the one and entered enthusiastically into the other" (Journal, Dec. 1900).

G. Pattison wrote: "What exactly were the things with which William found fault and probably testified against, I do not consider myself an authority, but believe it was something he had seen more particularly at convention times, in Rothesay, such as giving place to outsiders, who while very able and attractive speakers were not the principle doers, and making such very prominent to the exclusion of others who had faced the music and bore the brunt of the battle. This would naturally meet with disapproval. More especially would this be the case when the persons concerned were the clergymen class which even then had been receiving unfavorable attention at his hands.

"This, together with a certain favoritism or partiality which he probably noticed in regards to Mr. Govan's arrangement for sister workers
(Pilgrims), making distinctions, etc., which William probably thought insidious and unnecessary and would consequently say some things about having seen or thought he saw failure along these lines and protesting, he would naturally grow lax in his dealing with and fidelity to Mr. Govan's authority and arrangements, becoming irregular in his reports, thereby making it difficult for Mr. Govan to carry on; and so little by little relations were becoming more strained until they reached breaking point, and Mr. Irvine got the distinction of unfavorable notice in 'Bright Words,' and some correspondence took place also about him between Mr. Govan and two or three persons, or probably more, on this side" (G. P. Account of the Early Days).

The Impartial Reporter Newspaper reported:
 "William Irvine gave up his connection with that sect (Faith Mission) for two reasons...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...and about a dozen stood by Wm. Irvine..." (IR, Aug. 25, 1910).

John G. Eberstein, former President of Faith Mission wrote: “I know that the founder of the Faith Mission, J. G. Govan, had a little private means, and did not himself look to Faith Mission Funds for support, which was one of Irvine’s objections to him” (Letter to Jim Vail March 22, 1989*).

AUTHOR’S OPINION:  There is sufficient reason to conclude that Irvine parted ways with Faith Mission around September-Octpber 1899, and began preaching independently on Faith Lines at that time. 

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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