The first society was formed in the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland in 1767. John Wesley came seven times between 1767 and 1778 and was forbidden by the sovereign of the city to preach in any public place. William McGeough offered him the use of his private avenue and it is on this site the present Methodist Church stands. The McGeough family later built a mansion, The Argory (now National Trust). Charles Wesley's son Samuel Wesley advised on the installation of an organ in its upper hall.
John Wesley's Journal:
April 1767: 'Half an hour before the time of preaching, an officer came and said, "Sir, the sovereign (or mayor) orders me to inform you, you shall not preach in his town." In order to make the trial, I walked to the market-house at six. I had just begun when the sovereign came. I was informed his name was Harcourt. He was talking very loud, and tolerably fast, when a gentleman came and said, "Sir, if you are not allowed to preach here, you are welcome to preach in Mr. M'Geough's avenue." Mr. M'Geough, one of the chief merchants in the town, himself showed us the way. I suppose thrice as many people flocked together there as would have hear me in the market-house. So did the wise providence of God draw good out of evil! And His word had indeed free course.'
April 1769: 'In the evvening and twice on Tuesday I preached to a genteel yet serious audience in Mr. M'Geough's avenue at Armagh. But God only can reach the heart.
[Next day] 'As it rained, I chose rather to preach in Mr. M'Geough's yard. The rain increasing, we retired into one of his buildings. This was the first time that I preached in a stable, and I believe more good was done by this than all the other sermons I have preached in Armagh.'
June 1773: 'The evening congregation in the avenue was very large, and exceeding serious, rich and poor kneeling down on the grass when I went to prayer…
[Trinity Sunday] 'At nine I explained the great text of St. John to an exceeding large congregation… The congregation in the evening was the largest I have seen in Ulster; and I believe, for the present, all were convinced that nothing will avail without humble, gentle, patient love.'
June 1775: '9being Trinity Sunday) I preached at nine on "So God created man in His own image," and in the evening to a huge congregation; but I could not find the way to their hearts.'
June 1778: 'I preached at nine in the avenue at Armagh, to a large and serious congregation. It was increased fourfold at six in the evening; but many were there who behaved as if they had been in a bear-garden.'
May 1785: 'When we came to Armagh … the wind was extremely high, and thair as cold as it used to be in December. However, we had no place that could contain the congregation but Mr. M'Geough's avenue. And here the people, crowding close together, did not seem to regard either cold or wind.
[Next day] 'At eleven I preached in the avenue again. It rained all the time, yet the congregation was large and attentive.'
June 1787: 'We knew not what to do at Armagh. The rain would not suffer us ro preach in the avenue; and our house would not contain half the congregation, many of whom came from afar. The best shift we could make was to squeeze into the house as many as possible, and keep both the windows and doors open, by which means many more could hear.
'In the evening the Seceders (who would think it?) freely gave me the use of their large meeting-house. Itr was filled from end to end. But a wise young gentleman observed that I had quite mistook my subject, my sermon being calculated for the vulgar, not for gentlefolks. I permitted as many as our house would contain to stay at the meeting of the society; and gave them a plain account of the Methodists, both as to their rise, principles, and practice.
[Next day] '… In the evening I preached once more in Mr. M'Geough's avenue, and a listening multitude seriously attended. Surely there will be a harvest here also by and by, although hitherto we see but little fruit.'