Hill, George (1810–1900), presbyterian minister and historian, was born 18 September 1810 in Moyarget, near Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, sixth of eleven children of William Hill, farmer of Moyarget, and his wife Marianne, daughter of the Rev. William Lynd, minister of Ramoan presbyterian church. He was educated in Ballycastle and from 1826 at the Belfast Academical Institution, where he obtained the general certificate in 1833. While at the Institution he came under the influence of the strong ‘new light’ ethos of many of his teachers. In September 1834 he became minister of the remonstrant presbyterian congregation in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, and in March 1837 was called to the remonstrant church in Crumlin, Co. Antrim. The loss of his voice due to a throat infection forced him to retire from the church and in October 1850 he became librarian of QCB, a post he held for the next thirty years. As the institution's first full-time librarian, he was responsible for developing and cataloguing the library, and worked for many years without assistance of any kind, to the detriment of his health.
Hill wrote historical articles for local newspapers for many years before contributing (1859–62) an important series of eight articles on the history of north Antrim to the first series of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. In 1869 he produced a new edition of The Montgomery manuscripts, complete with an extensive critical apparatus, and in 1873 his Historical account of the MacDonnells of Antrim was published. His most ambitious work, An historical account of the plantation in Ulster at the commencement of the seventeenth century, was published in 1877. He also published an account of the ‘flight of the earls’ (1878) and two volumes of essays, Plantation papers (1888, 1889). His poetry, which was published in various papers and journals, was widely admired by his contemporaries.
Most of George Hill's work is in the antiquarian tradition and concerned with family and local history. It is based, however, on an extensive knowledge of the sources for late medieval and early modern Irish history and he was one of the first writers to make use of the calendars of Irish state papers and other sources that became available during the nineteenth century. Some commentators have accused Hill of hostility towards the seventeenth-century planters, but his approach is usually recognised as even-handed and his books are generally accurate and authoritative. They continue to be referred to by historians of the plantation and hold almost canonical status amongst genealogists and local historians.
On his retirement from Queen's in October 1880, Hill returned to the family farm at Moyarget, where he lived in some poverty until his death. He received a grant of £200 from the Royal Bounty Fund in 1880 for services to historical literature, but failed in his attempts to obtain a civil list pension. He died 4 July 1900 and was buried in Balmoral cemetery, Belfast.
He married (1838) Jane, daughter of the Rev. James Bankhead, minister of Dromore presbyterian church; they had two children. A portrait of Hill by Harry Douglas, paid for by public subscription, was presented to QCB in 1897.