A liberal in religious matters, he clashed publicly with the ‘Black Man’, Reverend Henry Cooke over the significance of the 1859 Revival. To Cooke it was an outpouring of Christian fervour but to the sceptical Nelson, it was ’the year of delusion’.
A strong advocate of land reform, Nelson entered Parliament as Nationalist MP for Mayo in 1880 under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell.
The Nelson Memorial Church off the Shankill Road, built with money bequeathed by his devoted sister, perpetuates his name today.
The inscription on his tomb, which is in the Shankill Graveyard, was placed by his sister. It reads:
‘No more a hireling to another’s laws,
Yet ne’er will I desert man’s genuine rights,
But gladly perish in fair freedom’s cause.
And when at last I rest from mortal strife
May silver roses o’er my ashes bloom,
And ah! may she who shared my love through life
Shed drops of fond affection o’er my tomb.’