In Sean Dunne’s book ‘An Irish Anthology’, Gill and Macmillan, Dublin 1999, there is an excerpt from Ian Paisley’s book ‘What think Ye of Christ’, 1976.
This chapter is ‘Open Air Preaching’ and he describes his period of apprenticeship with Teddy Sherwood who, prior to being a preacher was once the champion welter weight boxing champion of Southern England. Ian Paisley was asked by him one evening to get into the ring and preach, he was only a lad of 16 and with a bible in hand as best he could he followed the great open air preacher. Soon he was heckled, and the crowd cried ‘Answer her question’. I stopped and I said, ‘What is your question? She said ‘How do you know there is a Jesus Christ’? How do you know there is a Jesus Christ? And Oh, a great shout of derision went up from the ungodly in that crowd.
Here was I, a mere stripling with little experience, faced with a hostile crowd. I sent a prayer to Heaven. I said, ‘Lord, give me an answer. Turn this weapon as a boomerang in the face of the devil’. God gave me the answer. I said ‘Young woman, I come from Ireland, and an Irishman always answers a question by asking another. I will answer your question , if you will answer me a question?. ‘What is your question?’ she replied. I said, ‘Can you tell me what day it is?’ The crowd laughted. She said it is Sunday’. I said, ‘Could you tell what month it is?’ She said, “It is the month of August’. I said, ‘Now I only have one more question. Could you tell me what year it is?” The crowd saw what I was getting at now. They started to laugh and sneer at her. She said, ‘It is ninteen hundred and forty-two’. I cried. ‘Where did you get that from? Ninteen hundred and forty two years from where? She mumbled and stuttered. i said ‘I will help you out. It is A.D. it is the year of our Lord, after the death of Christ. There is a Christ young woman, when you take your diary out and look at the year, that number stands as a living testimony that there is a Christ’
Ian Paisley follows a long line of open air preachers in Ireland. In the mid-18th century, Limerick born Michael Walsh preached in English and Irish with John Wesley before large crowds. Later in that century and early in the 19th century the one eyed preacher from Co. Galway, Gideon Ousley again preached in English and Irish to big gatherings before being silenced by the Methodists Authorities. In the mid-19th century there were noted preachers in Belfast some firebrand.