Revised January 24, 2018
WHO WAS EDWARD (EDDIE) COONEY?? He was one of the two most prominent
of the new Sect in the Early Days. He joined Irvine's movement in June 1901, nearly four years after Wm. Irvine started it with his 1897 Revival Mission in Nenagh. The nickname "Cooneyites," is an
derived from Edward's surname Cooney.
EDWARD COONEY'S FAMILY. Edward Cooney was born on February 11, 1867, in Enniskillen, N. Ireland, to Wm. Rutherford and Emily (Carson) Cooney of Lakeview House. Edward's father was from Cootehill, Co. Cavan. His mother was the only child of Wm. and Mary (Quinton) Carson (1816-1900). They were married August 31, 1863 by Dr. William Connor Magee. Edward was the third of eight children–six boys and two girls. Edward's four brothers were Wm. Effer, Henry (Harry), Frederick (Fred) George, Alfred Carson and James Ernest; his two sisters were Edith Emily and Mary Elizabeth. Edward's middle name is unknown.
Ed Cooney's parents were members of the Church of Ireland, and when he was a child, Edward was baptized by sprinkling. He said: "since
he had been sprinkled in the Episcopal Church he had been a child of the devil.
Sprinkling was no good, ‘You must be born again’ " (IR, June 9, 1904). As
a boy, he attended Sunday school with his siblings at the Enniskillen parish
church, now St. Macartin's Cathedral where they were all christened.
Edward Cooney and his five brothers received their primary education at the Enniskillen Model School under the Catholic headmaster, Charles Morris. All the Cooney brothers received their higher education at the Enniskillen Portora Royal School under Rev. William Steele. See school photo. The records of the Portora school from its foundation to circa 1936 are sketchy. They were only able to verify that H. Cooney and F. Cooney attended the school but no dates were available for their attendance. When Edward was 14, he was sent to Armagh as an apprentice to learn the family business.
Mr. W. R. Cooney (1836-1924) was a prominent citizen and a successful if not wealthy merchant. His card described his business as: W. R. Cooney, Woollen & Linen Draper, Silk Mercer Haberdasher &c., Military & Merchant Tailor and General Outfitter. The location of his drapery store was No. 4 High Street, Enniskillen, and the name of the building was the Hibernian House. In the 1970s, a large clothes emporium store occupied the same location and was destroyed by a bomb and fire. The store was rebuilt and in 2014, Grahams Menswear was the occupant.
Edward's eldest brother, William (Willie) Mackever Cooney, was about 19 when he contracted tuberculosis. Edward was impressed with his brother's Christian life. In 1884, at the age of 17, Edward became a Christian while praying above his master's shop in Armagh. From that time on, he claimed, "I was born anew in the city of Armagh, Ireland, some time during 1884." He told the Christian housekeeper what he had done, and she advised him to confess what he had done before all the other employees. This he did, without the assistance of a clergyman or church, and long before he met Wm. Irvine.
For his health, his brother William went to stay with an uncle in Australia. Edward also contracted tuberculosis and went to Australia in 1887. William returned to Ireland and died a week later on May 29, 1887, aged 22 (Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960, 1990 by P. Roberts). After he recovered, Edward returned to Ireland in 1890 and worked as a commercial traveler in his father's business. Edward's younger brother, James Ernest Cooney, died in 1898, aged 24. His brother Alfred Carson Cooney, who was a very successful solicitor, had one of the largest law practices in Co. Fermanagh. In September, 1909...
"On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Alfred Carson Cooney, a well known Enniskillen solicitor was found dead in his room at Lakeview, the residence of his parents, under tragic circumstances. A member of the family on entering his room found the unfortunate gentlemen lying in a large pool of blood with a deep gash in his throat and a razor beside the body...blood flowed freely from a wound in the throat....He was then dead....No reason can be assigned for the tragic occurrence....The deceased gentlemen, who was a brother of Mr. Edward Cooney, one of the leaders of the religious sect known as the Tramp Pilgrims....He appeared in the best of health and spirits and no cause whatever can be assigned for the dreadful occurrence....W. R. Cooney, the deceased's father, said his son who was 38 and unmarried..." (Anglo-Celt, Sept. 4, 1909). No suicide note was mentioned. Read Alfred Cooney's Will.
Ed Cooney's father, Wm. Rutherford Cooney, died Sept. 12, 1924, aged 88 and his mother, Emily Maria (Carson) Cooney, died Dec. 18, 1917, aged 75.
Edward Cooney, John West, Tom Betty and others of like mind spiritually occasionally met together. John West's wife Sara wrote: "I grew up in the same town [Enniskillen] as Edward Cooney and knew that he with Tom Betty, and my husband John West (deceased) held evangelical meetings together in connection with the different churches" (Statement of Sara West, Aug. 31, 1954). John West was a leader and local preacher for the Ballinamallard Methodist Church. Ed Cooney wrote:
"... a number of us who had been through the same experience, met in a room from time to time, to encourage one another to follow Jesus, still attending the same denominations we belonged to. After a few years I got to see I should be a continuing disciple of Jesus. I ceased to belong to any denomination, and with progressive light pressed on in the path of discipleship, preached in the open air and in the synagogues when permitted. Some got won to Christ, during this my ministry. In Enniskillen, my native town, we met in a Presbyterian man's home Sunday afternoons, and preached in the slums, in a schoolhouse granted the use of by the Methodists" (letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930).
1898, JANUARY - COONEY AND IRVINE MEET: John Long wrote in Jan. 1898 "...a
Christian Commercial Traveller, from Enniskillen named Edward Cooney....was a
low, levelheaded, educated, aggressive Christian young man of about 32
at that time. During his business tours, he met some of the young
and being impressed with the genuineness of their Testimony was
to meet the Evangelist, William Irvine, and have an
with him. That meeting was an eventful one, and meant much for
of God" (Journal, Jan. 1898).
G. Pattison wrote, "I believe it was while conducting the Borrisokane mission that Wm. Irvine first met E. Cooney, who prior to that event had done a pretty considerable amount of preaching up and down through Ireland as he went about as a commercial traveller for his father's tailoring business. In private conversations with his customers also, E. C. made a habit of speaking about eternal things and in his own way was very successful" (G. P., Account of the Early Days). Click Here to view Methodist Church where the Borrisokane mission was held. John Long confirmed that the Borrisokane Mission was held Jan. 1898. Cooney stated:
"I travelled for my father's business and preached inside and outside, as occasion offered, with some persecution. Whilst doing so, I met William Irvine through whom George Walker, Jack Carroll, William Carroll, Willie Gill and a number of the present leaders professed, including James Jardine. Wm. Irvine and I were drawn together as brothers in Christ, each of us claiming liberty to follow Jesus as we received progressive light from God by the Spirit....He was at that time Pilgrim Irvine, a preacher in The Faith Mission....At that time we believed that all who were born anew, including ourselves, in the denominations were children of God, needing to become continuing disciples" (letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930).
1901: COONEY PARTNERS WITH WM. IRVINE. John Long wrote: "It was a very remarkable coincident that Edward Cooney turned up next day, for he very soon after gave up a very good situation, and distributed thirteen hundred pounds to the poor, and went fully on the Lord's work, and became a great advocate of preachers going without a stated salary" (Journal, July 1898). G. Pattison recounts the night Wm. Irvine convinced Eddie Cooney to join him:
"Then one night while on his travels he [Cooney] and William arranged to meet at our house and ...the two men discussed so fully the subject of preachers and preaching of Matthew 10. Wm. pointing out the need, etc. in the face of the greatness of the harvest and fewness of laborers; Eddie seeking to escape the issue in one way or another, even to the extent of offering all he could make out of his job as traveller, to be used by Wm. as he thought fit, for evangelistic purposes. Wm. would meet such an offer with, 'It isn't your money the Lord wants, but yourself.' So about 2:00 A.M. he had won, and Eddie had decided to give up his job and go forth. It is to our knowledge that after this discussion on Matthew 10 that they came to the decision to live and go as Jesus taught in that chapter" (G. P. Pattison, Accounts of the Early Days).
John Coles stated: “Here...are Irwin’s [Wm. Irvine's] own words spoken, with Cooney, in this very room. ‘When,’ said Irwin, ‘I came across Cooney first he was a professed Christian man, and said he would work in business with all the zeal that he could command, and give the money that he could earn to help to carry on the work.’ “Irwin [Irvine] replied, ‘I don’t want your money. I want you.’ And from that time, Cooney felt, ‘Well, here’s a man of God. In that conviction, continued Mr. Coles, Cooney gave up his business, fell out with his family, and began preaching" (Morning Leader, June 15, 1906).
Patricia Roberts wrote: "Edward, however, having found the pearl of great price, gladly gave up both his inheritance and fine business prospects. His own personal wealth, which was considerable, he gave to the poor. And so, in 1901, at the age of 34, in fellowship with Irvine and his associates, Edward too forsook all and went forth to preach depending on God to move the hearts of others to minister to his needs..." (Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney by Roberts, p. 19).
The Impartial Reporter stated: "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, etc.' 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" (IR, Aug. 25, 1910, p. 8).
When Edward Cooney entered the work in June 1901, it "...left a gulf fixed between my father and mother, sisters, and brother, whom I love dearly" (IR, August 12, 1909, p. 8). Cooney's sister Mary Elizabeth (Cooney) Boyton-Smith started following his beliefs after her husband, an Episcopalian rector, died in 1922 –23. It appears his brother Fred also espoused Cooney's beliefs, from his 1930 letter to Wilson McClung in defense of Edward.
Edward's father left a conditional provision in his will for him. "He spurned wealth and property and although he was left a large fortune on condition that he returned to the Church of Ireland, he resisted this temptation and never accepted a penny from the extensive Cooney Estate, which was placed in trust" (Obituary of W. R. Cooney, IR, June 23, 1960). A Dublin newspaper clipping carried the following heading: $500 a Year to Stop Preaching. A novel bequest and ban on preaching appears in the will of Mr. William Rutherford Cooney...who left £8,915. He directs that in the event his son Edward stating in writing that he has ceased to preach and has returned to allegiance to the Church of Ireland, thereby abandoning his means of living, £100 per annum shall be paid to him so long as he adheres faithfully to his decision (Dec. 12 [probably 1924]). View: Wm. R. Cooney's Will.
Ed Cooney is shown on the 1905 Workers' List, and is pictured as No. 69 on the 1921 Dimsdale, Staffordshire, England Workers' convention photograph. Well known for his place in the ministry, Ed Cooney was often quoted by reporters and was sometimes called its co-leader, co-founder or a chief pioneer. Occasionally, the press erroneously called Cooney the founder, especially around Enniskillen, N. Ireland, his native hometown.
However, while Cooney was under oath in a 1913 court case, he emphatically stated that he was not the founder of the Sect to Mr. Justice Darling who asked him: "Were you the founder of this sect? Cooney replied: 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 " (IR, Dec.18, 1913, p. 3). He was discussed and quoted in numerous Impartial Reporter articles:
"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. The meeting opened with the singing of hymns and prayer…Mr. Irwin is a forcible speaker, and has a very convincing manner" (IR, July 18, 1907, p. 8).
"The speakers at this service were the two leaders of the movement, Mr. Wm. Irwin [Irvine] and Mr. Edward Cooney. Both speakers denounced the various churches and the clergy in no unmeasured words" (IR, July 23, 1908, p. 8).
"The Two Tramp Leaders, Messrs Wm. Irwin [Irvine]& 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 [Irvine], the leaders of the movement" (IR, Aug. 6, 1908, p. 8).
Edward Cooney’s last appointment before he entered the work full time was to attend the wedding of Bill Carroll and Margaret Hastings held in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary on June 6, 1901. They later entered the work in 1903 as married couple. View their Wedding Photo.
1901, JUNE 6: COONEY BECOMES A WORKER: In 1901, Cooney gave up his business interests, donated the funds (reportedly 1,300 pounds, a small fortune in those days) and became a Worker in Irvine's movement. Reports vary as to how he donated his money. Some say it went "to the cause," or to Wm. Irvine or "to the poor." The Impartial Reporter stated:
"One of Enniskillen’s most remarkable men, Edward Cooney, who turned his back on wealth to become a wandering preacher and the founder of a new religious sect, the Cooneyites, has died in Australia at the age of 93. The second son of Mr. William Rutherford Cooney, who owned an extensive drapery business in High Street, Enniskillen, and who resided at Lakeview, Edward Cooney was a commercial traveller for his father’s business. His parents were members of the Church of Ireland and Edward was baptized and brought up in that faith, but becoming very serious minded early in life, and through diligent reading of the Scriptures, he arrived at variance with the views of the churches" (IR, June 23, 1960).
Cooney worked his first mission in Edenderry, Ireland in 1901. Irvine Weir said "I met Jack [Jackson] in 1901 when he came to a meeting Edward Cooney had in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, Ireland. Wm. Gill and I went to visit Edward Cooney at this, his first mission" (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 86).
In June 1901, John Long and John Hardy sailed from Scotland to Dublin to a Conference arranged by Edward Cooney who had put up about 40 persons up at his expense. They "found the Workers all in confusion among themselves. It was a very unwise thing of Edward Cooney to bring them together at that particular time…Irvine refused to attend the Conference…Owing to the trouble among the Workers, Wm. Irvine did not write to any of them for six months but…he had an extra good mission near Edinburgh in Scotland, when seventy persons got converted" (Long, June, Oct. 1901).
OCTOBER, 1901: About that month we had a mission in the home of Sister Corcoran, Finnoe. While there we attended the marriage feast of Brother Swanton, Nenagh. Marriage should be no jest. The pair requires prayer and sympathy; not criticism and severity. Marriage is honourable in all and sanctioned in our Saviour's presence at Cana of Galilee; John 2:2; Heb. 13:4. It is the ideal life, “Forbid it not.”
We cannot forget the kindness shown to us at that time by the Falkiners, Dennisons and my aunts, Roseanna Long, and others. We did much at that time by way of getting Bibles, hymn books, Wall texts, books, tracts; besides Bible readings, prayer meetings, house to house visitation, personal dealing, Etc.
The group began to experience rapid growth after Edward Cooney joined their ranks. His bold, sincere, earnest style of preaching attracted large crowds and won many converts to the ministry. "Mr. Cooney, in the course of his remarks, described himself as ‘A Tramp Preacher' " (IR, Sept. 29, 1904).
"As to the evangelist himself, [Edward Cooney] it is admitted on all hands by those who know him best that he is an exceedingly earnest and devoted man who has relinquished fine business prospects to occupy his whole time and energies with Christian work. He is an attractable and forcible speaker, well-educated, and gentlemanly in his manners, overflowing with zeal and enthusiasm. Indeed, one is tempted to fear that his zeal and ardour in a good cause are at times greater than his prudence and discretion. Being naturally a man of strong will and considerable mental gifts, he exercises a great influence over those whose minds are weaker than his own, and over those who have not hitherto had any very definite or settled religious convictions" (Irish Presbyterian, March 1905); (IR, March 23, 1905).
"Mr. Cooney can talk: by dint of practice he can
pitch his voice without shouting: he can reason: he can enforce
his argument with chapter and verse; and therefore, he is listened to, and his
reasoning has power and force" (IR, Oct. 20, 1904).
"Cooney could preach to the dead" (comment by Wm. Irvine to Alfred Magowan).
1902 JULY: Some view Cooney as one of the prime founders of the 2x2 church, and view Irvine as the prime founder of the 2x2 ministry, which two together evolved into the 2x2 Sect. Irvine was four years into his movement when Cooney joined him. For Ed Cooney, "the man who finally moved me to go to preach was William Irvine" (Patricia Roberts, Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, p. 18). Alfred Magowan wrote:
"My memory takes me back to the time when we appeared to be at a crossroads or at a junction of roads, when Wm Irvine and E. Cooney, under a variety of influences pulled in different directions, and finally came to agreement about the lines our witness should take. Wm. spoke of it as 'giving the testimony of Jesus'; and Edward put emphasis on getting people baptized and following Paul's example in 'forming churches.' Wm. appeared to think that we were called and sent to be a savour or influence of Christ in a Christendom that had gone badly wrong under the evil influences of Clericalism and Mammonism. Edward was strong on separation; and his view prevailed apparently–unto this day" (letter to John Hardie, Sept. 18, 1956*).
Cooney started baptizing and setting up Sunday meetings in the Saints' homes. Long wrote: "About that time, Edward Cooney began to baptize his converts and form assemblies according to the model in the Acts, namely meeting together on the first day of the week for fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers" (Journal, July 1902).
1909 AUGUST 14 - COONEY BEGAN TRAVELLING ABROAD: In 1909, when Cooney was 42 years old, he sailed from England to Canada. The ship passenger lists shows Evangelist for his occupation. He also sailed to Canada the two following years, 1910 and 1911. Like Irvine, Cooney left the country shortly after the Crocknacrieve convention ended; however, they didn't travel together. David Christie, age 26, Evangelist, travelled with Cooney in 1910. View complete list of Ed Cooney's trips 1909-1959.
COONEY, THE UNACKNOWLEDGED HYMN AUTHOR: Ed Cooney wrote five very well known hymns printed in Hymns Old & New: As We Gather (179); Lord, We Are Met Together (182); Our God, Our Father (183); Here We Come (184), and Jesus Died for Sinners (not included in the 1987 Edition).
The first 2x2 hymn book printed was the "Go-Preacher's Hymn Book." It contained 130 hymns (words only–no music), had no date and no publisher or authors' names. However, 12 hymns contain the initials E. C, which the author believes stands for Edward Cooney for the following reason. A poem written by E. Cooney is reprinted in Patricia Roberts' book "The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney," on page 118. This same poem is also Hymn No. 130 in the Go-Preacher's Hymn Book with the "E. C." notation. Cooney's hymns are Nos. 14, 16, 57, 91, 92, 95, 98, 99, 100, 110, 115 and 130. Click Here to read hymns by E. C. None of his hymns in the Go-Preacher Hymn Book are contained in the 1987 edition of Hymns Old & New, except for the five listed above. Four of hise twelve hymns in the "Go-Preacher's Hymn Book" mention Matthew Ten (Nos. 91, 95, 99, 100), illustrating the importance he gave to following Jesus' instructions in that passage.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is interesting that on both the 1951 and 1987 Lists of Hymn Authors to Editions of "Hymns Old & New," the hymns Cooney wrote are the ONLY hymns with the author's name left off completely. See 1951 Hymn Author List. See Photo of 1987 Hymn Author List. Attention was called to this noticeable omission which was posted publicly on the internet. Later lists printed have designated Cooney as the author of his hymns.
1914: After Wm. Irvine was ousted from the
group in 1914, he spent some time in Scotland before going to Jerusalem where he lived until his death. When Cooney visited Irvine, Cooney wrote: "In the year 1914 when we became aware of William's defeat,
the writer was moved to go to see him personally and try and help him
had been such a help to him and others and now needed help
himself...[I] went to Scotland to see the
man of God who had lost the power he once had. The writer is glad
ever since that he did this, and believes he was of some help to his
brother" (Edward Cooney's Testimony).
1928: Edward Cooney was excommunicated from the 2x2 church. This is discussed in Chapter 28.
More in Appendix C about Edward Cooney
Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).
Go to Chapter 15