The following articles are summaries of some of a more comprehensive book written by Rev. Ian Henderson called “Methodism in Bandon” first published in 1990, revised in 2005.
John Wesley came to Ireland twenty-one times and on seventeen of those occasions he visited Bandon. On three occasions he stayed in the capital, Dublin. And the first time he toured in Ireland Methodism had not reached Cork. Usually, he came to a place first at the invitation of someone who had heard his teaching and could supply a platform for preaching.
If there was a building large enough, he might preach there, especially in bad weather. If he could, he liked to preach in the open air, as this would accommodate more people. His audiences in Bandon could be 4,000 people, especially for evening services although even the 5am ones drew a crowd!!
The first preachers may have come to Bandon at the instigation of the Murray family who had moved there from Cork city in 1748. John Wesley’s first visit to the town was in September of that year and he stayed with the Hawes family who, we think, lived where Brookes’ pharmacy is today. He preached outside the Market house opposite.
On Wednesday 7th Sept. 1748 a Methodist society was officially started in Bandon. A Mrs. Needham was first to enrol. This is considered the official start of Methodism in Bandon!
Sometimes other clergy came to hear him, whether to criticise or learn varied! On his first visit to Bandon rumours were spread that he had been discharged from Oxford and that Methodists were being expelled from Ireland by government order and only a few remained in the Cork region! They were also accused of being simply Jesuits (a Roman Catholic order of monks) by another name. This kind of thing happened often enough, and John Wesley would have to explain himself. While slow to speak ill of anyone on principle he was heard to remark that many clergy were ironed and starched before ever being washed! We presume he was speaking of religious attitudes! He would often attend the local Anglican church on a Sunday anyway, for himself.
Usually he would get up at 4am for prayer and Bible study to be ready then to preach two or three times a day. When he came to Bandon he often preached there in the early morning, went to Kinsale or Innishannon for a mid day service and returned to preach again in the evening. Bandon was a linen spinning and weaving town and so workers could get to listen to Wesley early in the morning or late at night. Good daylight was valuable for weaving! He might spend up to a week in a place before moving on.