~~~ Loving God and Loving our Neighbour ~~~


The Church of Ireland parishes of Desertlyn and Ballyeglish, Diocese of Armagh

Desertlyn enjoys a rich history.  On this page we trace the history of just one of its families.  Annette Miller (4x great granddaugher of John Miller, living in Melbourne, Australia) provides a history of her family as they lived in Moneymore and attended St John's Church. 


In the latter part of the eighteenth century and for a large part of the nineteenth century, it would be unlikely to speak of Moneymore or the Desertlyn parish without the mention of the name Miller.  Moneymore was part of the estate of the Draper's Company in London. The initial plantation of the seventeenth century by the Drapers had struggled and the Company leased the land to the Rowley family.  In 1779 Sir William Rowley appointed John Miller as his Agent at Moneymore.  AFter 37 ears as Agent in 1817, The Rowley lease expired, and the Drapers' Company took back direct management.  John Miller was appointed as the Agent for the Drapers' Company and remained in this position until his death in 1820.  He was succeeded as Agent by his sixth son Rowley Miller, born at Moneymore in 1781.  Rowley Miller was the Agent at Moneymore until his death in 1866, assisted firstly by his son John Rowley Miller in a joint Agency and then with his grandson Henry Rowley Miller as assistant agent.  In addition to the Agency, he was a Major in the Londonderry Light Infantry which resulting in him being known as Major Miller.  He was High Sheriff of the City and County of Londonderry (1861-1862), Deputy Lieutenant, Justice of the Peace and Magistrate.  According to Slater's Directory of Ulster (1846), he was joint Manager with his son John Rowley Miller of the Moneymore branch of the Northern Banking Company and also Agent for the Alliance Fire and Insurance Company.  He was on the committees that promoted and raised capital for the building of the railway lines to Armagh, Coleraine, Portrush, Moneymore and Londonderry.

It was during Rowley Miller's Agency that the buildings that now form the preservation areas of Moneymore were built.  The family of Rowley Miller lived in the Manor House in High Street.  Rowley Miller married firstly, Margaret Torrens, the daughter of Rev. Thomas Torrens and Jane Maxwell.  Three sons and a daughter were born at Moneymore: John Rowley Miller, who became joint Agent with his father; Rev. Alexander Rowley Miller, Rector at Heynestown and Lissan; Thomas Torrens Rowley Miller, a barrister in Dublin; and Mary Miller who married William Saurin Cox.  Following the death of h is first wife in 1839, Rowley Miller married Elizabeth Frances Vesey, the daughter of Rev. Thomas Agmondisham Vesey and Anna Maria Murray in 1841.

Three Miller vaults in the Old Desertlyn graveyard attest ot he family link to the parish.  It was also during Rowley's Agency that the Drapers' Company provided the funds for the construction of St John's.  The church design, like other buildings in High Street, was designed by the Drapers' Company's architect, John Booth.  The building, constructed at a cost of £6,000 was overseen by the architect, Mr Boyd.  In June 1830, Rowley Miller laid the foundation stone of St John's.  Workers on the construction of the church were paid on a Tuesday rather than the more traditional day of Saturday.  This was to prevent excessive drinking on Saturday night and possibly the Sabbath.

On completion of the church in 1832, St John's was the parish church of the Miller family.  A memorial stone was erected in the church by Rowley Miller, in memory of his parents.  Teh stone was removed during reparis to the church and is currently located in storage in the bell tower.

The moments of great happiness and sorrow in the Miller family are recorded within the parish baptismal, marriage and burial registers.  John Rowley Miller buried his eldest son,Rowley Miller aged 10.  Another child, named in this child's honour, died at three months.  John Rowley' Miller's three daughters, baptised at the font in St John's, were all married in the church.

Rowley Miller's son John Rowley Miller predeceased his father and is buried in the grave that stands prominently near the church entrance. This grave is also the final resting place of Rowley Miller who died in 1866 and two of John Rowley Miller's sons, John Rowley Miller Jr. and Henry Rowley Miller.  When Rowley Miller died, the stain glass windows of St John's were erected as a memorial to Rowley Miller.  The central window was presented by his family and the two side windows by his friends.  A stone plaque recording this event was once located in the church.  It was taken down when repairs were made to the church and remains in storage in the bell tower. 

Henry Rowley Miller succeeded his grandfather as Agent of the Drapers' Company.  Henry Rowley Miller who was baptised on 24th March 1839 at St John's, married Elizabeth Sawyer, only daughter of William Henry Sawyer, Secretary of the Drapers' Company, London at St Peter Le Poer, London, on January 14th 1865.  Henry Rowley Miller died on 18th July 1873, at the young age of 34 years.  His death ended the Miller Family's almost 100 years of connection to the Drapers' Company and Moneymore.    Descendants of John Miller, Rowley Miller and John Rowley Miller can be found across the world from Australia and New Zealand to Canada and the United States.