Clones (correctly pronounced as two syllables) is a market town and former railway junction in Co. Monaghan, Ireland. A Methodist society was formed in 1766 by John Smith. John Wesley visited the town five times between 1775 and 1789. Clones Circuit was formed in 1776 and it became the head of a District in 1791. The Rev. James Creighton was influential in the early years. Conferences held there in 1816 and 1817 protested against the administration of the Sacrament as sanctioned by the WM Conference and this led to the formation of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society, which established its headquarters in Dublin. Adam Averell, life President of the PMW Conference, lived at Clones from 1813 to his death in 1847 and is buried in the Church of Ireland parish churchyard.
The WM and the PWM circuits suffered more severely than any others in the Great Irish Famine of 1846-49, losing 50% of their membership by death or emigration. After the reunion in 1878 the two congregations united in the former PWM chapel. The partition of the country in 1923 divided Clones, in the Irish Free State (now the Irish Republic), from its natural hinterland of south Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. The town's prosperity declined and in 1961 the Methodist Chapel was replaced by a smaller building in the grounds of the manse. Decline continued, the minister was withdrawn in 1970 and the chapel closed and was sold in 1983.
John Wesley's Journal:
May 1775: 'It is a pleasant town, finely situated on a rising ground, in the midst of fruitful hills, and has a larger market-place than any I have sen in England, not excepting Norwich or Yarmouth. At six I preached in the old Danish fort, to the largest congregation I have had in the kingdom. The nest morning I preached to a great part of them again; and again the word sank "as the rain into the tender herb".'
May 1778: 'After dinner we went on to Clones,… and the people seemed as sprightly as the place. I preached in the Green Fort near the town to abundance of people, but no triflers.
[Sunday] 'I preached there again at nine, to a still larger congregation; but the far largest of all was in the evening, the people coming in from all parts of the country.'
May 1785: '… I found such a society as I had hardly seen in Ireland, making it a point of conscience to conform to all our Rules, great and small. The new preaching-house was exceeding neat, but far too small to contain the congregation.
[Next day, Sunday] 'The morning service, so called, began between twelve and one. At five the storm was so high that I could not preach in the market-place, as I first designed. At length we pitched upon a sloping meadow near the town, where we were perfectly sheltered by the hill… We had several showers; but the people regarded them not, being wholly taken up with better things.'
May 1787: 'I needed not to have been in such haste, for the church service did not begin till twelve. Such a number of communicants, I suppose, was never seen at this church before. The service ended about half-past three. The question then was, where I should preach. The furious wind and violent rain made it impracticable to preach (where I intended) at the head of the market-place; but I made shift to stand on one side of it in a doorway, where I was pretty well sheltered. Although the poor people were exposed to heavy rain during the whole sermon, none of them seemed to regard it; and God did indeed send a gracious rain upon their souls so that many rejoiced with joy unspeakable…
[Next day] 'The spirit of peace and love descended on them all at the evening preaching, while I was explainingn the "fruit of the Spirit." They were again filled with consolation at the Lord's Supper.'
May 1789 [Sunday]: 'I expected, being a fair morning, to see a huge congregation at Clones; but while we were at church the rain came on, so all I could do in the evening was to let Joseph Bradford preach to as many as the house would contain, and to administer the Lord's Supper to our own society..
[Next day] 'I preached to a multitude of people in the Old Camp on "All things are ready; come ye to the marriage." The congregation seemed ready to receive every word. I hardly saw, since I left Cork, such congregations, either for number or seriousness, as this at Clones.'