The project of publishing the manuscript Minutes of the Proceedings of the General Synod of Ulster originated in a suggestion of the late Rev. Thomas Witherow, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History and Pastoral Theology in Magee College, Londonderry. Professor Witherow, in 1871, on the recommendation of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland—of which the Synod of Ulster since 1840 has been a constituent part—obtained from the Synod the loan of its unprinted records, then in the keeping of the Rev. Robert Park, Clerk of the Synod and First Clerk of the Assembly; and also received permission to make extracts from them for historical and literary purposes.
A similar use of the records had been previously enjoyed by Professor James Seaton Reid, D.J)., M.R.I. A., former Clerk of the Synod and of the Assembly, and by Professor "W. D. Killen, D.D., President of the Assembly's College, Belfast. In 1872, when returning the minutes and thanking by letter the Synod for their use, Dr. Witherow suggested that the official records from 1691 to 1803 should be printed, lest an accident might lead to their destruction. This communication was referred to the Assembly then in session, with the recommendation that steps should be taken to have the suggestion carried out ; but though a committee was nominated to inquire and report on the expediency of the undertaking, and this committee had the subject before it for two years, at the end of that time it was thought unwise to proceed, until a more prosperous condition of the fund of the Church which is available for such purposes, and a livelier interest of the members in the publication, would warrant the necessary outlay.