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One of the features of the Unitarian ministry, across the centuries, was the tendency for dynasties of ministerial families to develop. Successions of ministers emerged, often intermarried across the generations with prominent Unitarian families, often also producing significant lay figures who reached great heights in industry, law, politics or other activities, and frequently giving leadership to the various Unitarian academies and colleges of each era. Many of these ministerial families also spanned the Irish Sea and examples would include families such as Porter, Orr, Drummond, Mellone, Weatherall, and Armstrong.

The video below looks at one such family whose ministries spanned from 1790 to 1869. A family with roots in Cheshire but who flourished in Cork and Belfast and who served in places including Dublin, Warrington, Exeter, Liverpool and Leeds as well as moving across the Atlantic to Canada where one son became the first professor of natural history at University College, Toronto and another served as Premier of Canada.

The video also looks at the religious background in Killyleagh, county Down, where Rev Thomas Dix Hincks and his wife Anne are buried in the Anglican parish graveyard. Of their four children two became Unitarian clergymen and two entered the Anglican ministry. To some extent Edward, who was rector of Killyleagh from 1825 to 1866, overshadows the others because of his great eminence as an Egyptologist, and the fact that he was a minister of the Church of Ireland diverts attention away from the Unitarianism of most of his family. Almost certainly his education at Trinity College, Dublin led him to conform to the Established Church although he always remained liberal in his principles and blamed this for his failure to achieve preferment in the Church.

Rev Thomas Dix Hincks

Rev Thomas Dix Hincks

Grave of Thomas and Anne Hincks, Killyleagh

Grave of Thomas and Anne Hincks, Killyleagh

Rev Thomas Dix Hincks Memorial Window, First Church, Belfast

Memorial window in First Church, Belfast. The inscription reads ‘In affectionate remembrance of the Rev Thomas Dix Hincks, LLD, MRIA, Professor of Oriental Languages in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution Belfast, of Ann (sic) his wife and their daughter Hannah this window was erected AD 1873’

Thomas and Anne Hincks had seven children, two girls and five boys:

Hannah Hincks (d.c.1873)
Anne Hincks (d.1877)
Rev Edward Hincks (1792-1866)
Rev William Hincks c.1793-1871
Rev Thomas Hincks (1796-1882)
Rev John Hincks (1804-1831)
Sir Francis Hincks (1807-1885)
William’s son Rev Thomas Hincks (1819-1899) served in the ministry on both sides of the Irish Sea.

As ministers, educationalists, scientists, hymnwriters and authors (and in one case as a politician) the family excelled, a story that can be traced from a simple grave in a parish churchyard in Killyleagh overlooking Strangford Lough.

David Steers