It was in the Spring of 1856 that a Mrs. Colville, an English lady from Gateshead near Newcastle-on-Tyne and one who had 'time and money to spend for God', arrived in Ballymena to engage in house-to-house visitation with a view to winning souls to Christ. She was joined in the summer by Lieut. Aikman, a 'gentleman who gives his time and substance to God', and whose preaching was favourably received in the town. Her work was not very fruitful, or at least, so she imagined, and when she went away in November she was 'in low spirits thinking that God had not acknowledged her anxious labours'. She little knew of one small seed which she had dropped a few days before she left. It was on November 3rd when she was visiting a certain Miss Brown who lived in Mill Street. She found two ladies present who liked to talk about religious matters and especially about controversial subjects, which disputes seldom end helpfully. On this occasion she found them discussing 'predestination' and 'freewill' with a young man, James McQuilkin, who came from the townland of Connor about five miles from Ballymena and who worked in a linen warehouse in the town. He wished to know if she was a Calvinist or not, but she was a wise servant of the Master and not disposed to argue with them. Professing to be no more or less a Calvinist than the Bible required her to be, she spoke of the importance of seeking a personal interest in the Saviour and the need of the new birth. The seed dropped into the heart of James McQuilkin and not long after this he entered into the great experience of which she spoke under the preaching of Rev. William G. Campbell, a general missionary of the Methodists, who was holding special services in the town of Antrim. Thus was James McQuilkin influenced for God by an obscure, earnest Christian lady who thought her work a failure. Heavy showers of blessing are often on their way when little is expected and when heralded only by a drop here and there.
'God's River in Spate', by John T Carson, published by the Presbyterian Historical Society,p5/6