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A brief history of 1950/60’s children’s meetings,

Gospel meetings and Sunday Schools around Ashfield and Dromore.

 By: John A. Kelly

 A Mother’s Day trip down the memory lane of 1950/60’s children’s meetings, Gospel meetings and Sunday Schools around Ashfield and Dromore.

 For me, it really was a trip down memory when on a lovely Sunday afternoon, 6th March 2005, I took the short walk up the lane to Mount Ida Orange Hall, recalling happy times spent at Children’s Meetings held in the hall every Monday evening in the 1950/1960’s; then visiting other places around Ashfield and Dromore where I attended Sunday Schools and Gospel Meetings.  It was particularly poignant that it was Mothering Sunday allowing to recollect how my mother, the late Mary Emily Kelly (nee Harvey) ensured that I got a solid Christian upbringing.

Mary Emily Kelly (nee Harvey) As a young woman Mary Emily Kelly Pictured a few months before her death in July 1990
Mary Emily Kelly (nee Harvey)
As a young woman

Mary Emily Kelly
Pictured a few months
before her death in July 1990


Mount Ida

he late Robert and May Graham, founders of Graham’s Home Bakery, Dromore.
The late Robert and May Graham, founders of Graham’s Home Bakery, Dromore

The Children’s Meetings at Mount Ida Orange Hall, known to some as the ‘Cradle Hall’ due its cradle-like shape, started in 1953 under the leadership of Mr Cecil Alderdice.  When I started to go to the meetings in the early 1960’s, they were conducted by the late Robert and Mrs Graham, founders of Graham’s Home Bakery, Dromore.  Robert Graham drove round the surrounding country areas in a big old bus, picking up children at various stops.  My stop was at the end of Mackey’s lane, where I was picked up along with the Harvey and McCauley children.  The chat and fun on the bus was great and also the short walk up the wee lane to the Orange Hall.  In those days, the old hall had it’s own electricity generator, and I can well recall sitting at the meetings with the electric lights flickering furiously; and in the quietness of the meeting, listening to the continuous purr of the electricity generator.

There always seemed to be an endless supply of pencils with a gospel text awarded to children who gave the right answer to questions posed by the various speakers that included:  Tommy Alderdice, George Gracey, Hugh Hamilton, Bob McCandless, Victor Tinsley and R. J. Tinsley

The annual distribution of prizes was for me, the highlight of the year’s programme where children and parents alike were treated to a generous supply of lovely buns and cakes made at Robert’s home bakery, which in those days was based in Meeting Street, Dromore,

With no musical accompaniment for singing, the children relied on Mrs Graham, or Margaret and Jean Flack or the guest speaker to pitch them in on the right note for the singing of old fashioned children’s courses that have left such a lasting impression on me.  They included:

Daniel was a man of prayer,
Daily he prayed three times,
Even when they had him cast,
In the den of lions.
In the den, in the den,
Fears could not alarm him.
God just ‘shut’ the lion’s mouth,
So they could not harm him.

The children did not sing the word ‘SHUT ’ and like the lions, they shut their mouths when you came to this word.  If however someone did sing the word SHUT, they were the brunt of much banter from the other children.

Another one of the lovely chorus sang was called, “Romans Ten and Nine”:

Romans ten and nine,
Is a favourite verse of mine
Confessing Christ as Lord,
I am saved by Grace Divine.
These little words of promise,
In golden letters shine.
Romans ten and nine.

After the children’s meeting was over, it was back on board Robert Graham’s bus for the short journey home.

In about 1964/5 the meetings moved to a large wooden hall beside Ashfield Post Office, and in about 1999 the meetings moved to Dromore Gospel Hall.  The big old bus was replaced with a 17-seater minibus in 1964.

Sadly, Mrs Graham died in 1991 at 69 years of age and Robert died in 1995 at the age of 76, but many people will remember many happy evenings spent with them at Mount Ida children’s meetings.

Mount Ida Orange Hall
Mount Ida Orange Hall


Afternoon Sunday school at Quilly

My next call was at Quilly Orange Hall where an afternoon Sunday School has been held since about September 1949.  My father Andy Kelly was one of the teachers in those early days and when I attended the Sunday School in the 1950’s/early 1960’s, the superintendent was Willie Poots who after his death, was succeeded by Willie Thompson.  The Sunday School Teachers included:  Bob Beggs and his wife Mrs Ellen Beggs, Jim Beggs, Sam Thompson, George McKee, Bertie Black and my aunt - Minnie Kelly, who lived just about 150 yards from the hall.  After a few hearty items of praise from the “Golden Bells” songbook accompanied by Mrs. Rosemary Allen on the organ, it was a case of taking your seat on one of the two inward facing long uncomfortable forms so that the teacher could take the lesson.  The Sunday school was very well attended, with children arranged in about six to eight classes of varying age groups, with about 6 to 10 children in each class.

For me, two very important items in the Sunday School calendar was the scripture examination and the annual distribution of prizes. The examination involved learning a passage of scripture and reciting it to an examiner, one of the teachers.  Most of the young children tried to be strategically placed in the queue so that Bob Beggs would be the examiner.  Bob was a very kindly Christian man and it was generally felt that he would be more lenient than most in marking.  After saying your portion of scripture, which you had struggled for weeks to learn, it was great relief to hear Bob say, “Well done, 100%”.

Sadly, Bob Beggs died in 1975 at 61 years of age and I have no doubt that he would have received the, “Well done Bob, 100%”, from his Lord and Master whom he served so faithfully every week at the afternoon Sunday School in Quilly Qrange hall.

The annual prize distribution was held on a Friday evening when a really wonderful supper was served.  Led by the superintendent Willy Poots, it was like a Children’s Concert involving most, if not all children taking an active part in some way or another, whether reciting a poem, singing a solo, duet, or with a group of singers.  The musical direction was in the capable hands of Mrs. Rosemary Allen.

The prizes included picture-framed verses of scripture and I can still to this day see the one that hung on my bedroom wall for years during my childhood.  The framed verse from Isaiah 53 read; “For he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.  The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes, we are healed.”

Mrs. Beggs is now 86 years old.  In preparing this article, I rang her at her home on the Lower Quilly Road and much to my surprise she informed me why my mother had put that particular framed portion of scripture in my bedroom.  She said that my mother became a Christian through this well-known verse and she could clearly remember how my mother personalised the verse by saying, “For he was wounded for MY transgressions, he was bruised for MY iniquities.  The chastisement of MY peace was upon him, and by his stripes, I am healed.”

As a young boy, even though I must have read the verse many times for many years, it did not mean a lot to me in those days, but after seeing the Mel Gibson film “The Crucifixion” in Easter 2004, it was painfully obvious just how much Christ was wounded for our transgressions, and how much he was bruised for our iniquities, and how he bore the stripes of many beatings so that we can be healed.

Quilly Orange Hall Mrs. Ellen Beggs
Quilly Orange Hall Mrs. Ellen Beggs


 Midweek Gospel meeting at Quilly since 1954

A six-week Gospel Mission was held in Quilly Orange Hall in February/March 1954 and when it ended, Gospel Meetings were held in the hall every Wednesday evening and have continued ever since.

My mother and I regularly attended these meetings in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s when once again the items of praise were taken from the “Golden Bells” hymnbook and accompanied by Mrs. Rosemary Allen on the organ.  The meetings were well attended, and Bob and Ellen Beggs arranged the various guest speakers.

With not too many television sets in the country in those days, the highlight for me was when one of the guest speakers showed a film of for example, their missionary work overseas.

Penticostal Meetings at the Mills, Dromore

After calling at Quilly, I went to the Mills at Dromore, where my mother used to take me to a Penticostal Meeting that was held every Sunday evening in a hall, commonly called “The Hut”.  The owners of the bungalow that was built on the site informed me that the hall was demolished in about 1983 and explained the difficulty they had in tracing the original owners of the property.

My recollection of these meetings is that they were lively with great singing and the plain and simple preaching of the Gospel by a band of dedicated leaders keen to share their Christian faith.

First Dromore Presbyterian Church John McGrehan
First Dromore Presbyterian Church John McGrehan
Site of the Penticostal Hall (commonly called “The Hut”) at the Mills, Dromore. Pictured at The Glad Tidings Mission Hall at the Mills, Dromore in about 1930 are L to R:  (front row) Maisie Jackson, Mrs. Magill, Miss Morrell – Missionary, Miss Hearsey, Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Miskimmons and Miss Lilley.  (second row)  Barbara Ireland, Ena Purdy, Sammy Lunn, Minnie Beggs, Madge Miskimmons, Tina Jackson, Willie Purdy, Bobby Baxter, Sam Miskimmons, Evelyn Harvey and Mary Emily Harvey.  (third row)  Aggie Harvey, Maggie Harvey, Miss Kilpatrick, Maggie Hunter, Minnie McDowell, Mrs. Morrison, Mrs. Taylor and John Beggs.  (fourth row)  Ella Gibson, May Purdy, Mrs. McGrath, Sam Black, Billy Marshall, Tommy Kerr, Wilfie Taylor and Billy Hunter.
Site of the Penticostal Hall
(commonly called “The Hut”)
at the Mills, Dromore.
The Glad Tidings Mission Hall at the Mills, Dromore in about 1930

(Pictured at The Glad Tidings Mission Hall at the Mills, Dromore in about 1930 are L to R: (front row) Maisie Jackson, Mrs. Magill, Miss Morrell – Missionary, Miss Hearsey, Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Miskimmons and Miss Lilley. (second row) Barbara Ireland, Ena Purdy, Sammy Lunn, Minnie Beggs, Madge Miskimmons, Tina Jackson, Willie Purdy, Bobby Baxter, Sam Miskimmons, Evelyn Harvey and Mary Emily Harvey. (third row) Aggie Harvey, Maggie Harvey, Miss Kilpatrick, Maggie Hunter, Minnie McDowell, Mrs. Morrison, Mrs. Taylor and John Beggs. (fourth row) Ella Gibson, May Purdy, Mrs. McGrath, Sam Black, Billy Marshall, Tommy Kerr, Wilfie Taylor and Billy Hunter.
My mother, Mary Emily Harvey, seventh of a family of twelve, grew up at 11 Holm Terrace, Dromore, near to the Mission Hall. She is pictured on the extreme right - second row, at about 18 years of age. Also in the photo are three of her sisters - Aggie, Maggie and Evelyn Harvey. When I attended Gospel Meetings in the old hall in the 1950/60’s my mother referred to the building as the “Pentecostal Hall” or “The Hut”.)

After visiting the site of the Pentecostal Hall, my fourth and final Mothering Sunday call was to First Dromore Presbyterian Church where my family worshipped for many years.  I visited Mr John McGrehan, and had a most informative chat recalling my father’s years as an Elder and reminiscing about the morning Sunday school at First Dromore where John gave fifty years exemplary service; twenty years as Sunday School teacher and thirty years as Superintendent.

Sunday Schools at First Dromore date back to 1837 and it would appear that they were held in the Old School.  History shows that in those early days, some people came to church by horse and trap and the horses were stabled in part of the ground- floor of the two-story building during the church service.  John McGrehan explained that when he was a young boy he attended the Old School, which in his childhood days was called Dromore No. 3 National School, later to become the Public Elementary School. 

When I attended Sunday School at First Dromore, the primary Sunday School was held in the Choir Room at the rear of the Church.  In about 1956, I moved to the ‘Big Sunday School’ that was held in the Old School which by then, was showing every sign of wear and tear.  I can clearly remember the old coke-burning stove in the middle of the hall that must have been lit hours before the Sunday School in order to generate enough heat during the winter months.

The Old School at First Dromore Presbyterian Church, erected in 1860.  It was demolished in the late 1950’s and a Church Hall built on the same site was opened in 1960. The new Church Hall at First Dromore Presbyterian Church opened in 1960.
The Old School at First Dromore Presbyterian Church, erected in 1860.  It was demolished in the late 1950’s and a Church Hall built on the same site was opened in 1960. The new Church Hall at First Dromore Presbyterian Church opened in 1960.


The building was demolished in the late 1950’s and when my Sunday school class moved into the new Church Hall in about 1960, my teacher was Miss Sadie Stronge.  My class included sons of well-know Dromore shopkeepers - Alexander Thompson, whose parents owned a greengrocer shop in Gallows Street; and Peter Osborne, whose parents owed a confectionary shop in the Square.  We were all very fond of Miss Stronge and even when we were well into our teens, and the age to attend Bible Class, we stayed an extra year in her class where we continued to gain tremendous Christian teaching from this devout Christian lady.  Sadie Stronge, who was renowned for calling her well-read Bible - “Her Sword,” was Sunday School teacher at First Dromore for 45 years.  Sadie died in February 1997, but will be well remembered by many people for many years.

After leaving Miss Stronge’s class I attended the Boys’ Brigade Bible Class for several years, coming under the expert tuition of the minister, the Rev. F. L. McConnell.  Mr McConnell conducted my father’s funeral service in April 1984 and died a few weeks later.

John McGrehan, who is now 92 years of age, became a Sunday School teacher at First Dromore in 1934.  When Mr. James Baird retired as Superintendent in 1954, John was asked to be his successor.  In his modesty, John was reluctant to accept the position over more senior teachers, but after a meeting of all the teachers, he was assured that they all supported his nomination.  Still reluctant to accept he said that if he was proposed and seconded by the Kirk Session, he would accept the position.  At a Session meeting in 1954 he was proposed by John McDonald and seconded by Carson Cardwell and unanimously elected.  John McGrehan remained as Superintendent for the next 30 years and he was succeeded in 1984 by Hugh Scott.

John was also a most loyal and faithful elder of First Dromore.  Since his ordination to the Eldership in 1946, he was Secretary of the Congregational Committee for thirty-eight years and Clerk of Session for twenty years.

L to R:  The Rev. F. L. McConnell - Minister of First Dromore Presbyterian Church, Miss Sadie Stronge - Sunday School Teacher and John McGrehan - Sunday School Superintendent.
L to R:  The Rev. F. L. McConnell - Minister of First Dromore Presbyterian Church, Miss Sadie Stronge - Sunday School Teacher and John McGrehan - Sunday School Superintendent.


Memories of my mother’s love of Gospel meetings

My mother was never happier than when she was attending midweek Gospel Meetings in Quilly Hall or the Sunday evening Gospel Meeting in the Penticostal Hall, Dromore.  She had a tremendous simple Christian faith and loved to sing the old familiar Gospel songs from the Golden Bells hymnbook including:  ‘The Gospel Bells are ringing’, ‘Wash me, cleanse me in the Blood that flows from Calvary’, and a personal favourite of mine:  ‘Pass me not oh gentle Saviour, hear my humble cry, while on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by.’  I have the full confidence to know that the Saviour did hear my mother’s humble cry, and while on others He was calling, I am absolutely certain - He did not pass her by.  She passed away on 3rd July 1990, and at her funeral service in First Dromore, the magnificent church organ, superbly played by Mrs Gertrude Jamieson, resounded with great old Gospel hymns from the “Golden Bells” hymnbook.

These exemplary Christian servants have left “Footprints in the Sands of Time” for many children for many years, in Dromore and the surrounding areas.  I treasure my early Christian upbringing at these places of worship, and enjoyed my Mother’s Day trip down memory lane recalling happy times spent at these children’s meetings, Gospel meetings and Sunday Schools.

First Quilly Sunday School social - 1949
My sisters, Marjorie and Vera joined Quilly afternoon Sunday School when it began in 1949. They took part in the first Quilly Sunday School Social on 23rd December 1949 in Quilly Orange Hall. After a delightful tea served by the teachers, the young people presented the following programme: Opening recitation by Anna Martin; choir - “I am so glad”; solo - Phyllis McCready; choruses - Junior Choir; duet - Phyllis McCready and Isobel McCandless, solo - Marjorie Kelly; organ recital - Margaret Hull; choir - “Jesus loves me”; recitation - Sadie Poots; trio - Phyllis McCready, Isobel McCandless and June Orr; recitation - Isobel Beggs; choir - “While Shepherds watched”; solo - Isobel Beggs; recitation - Vera Kelly; choir - “Once in royal David’s city”; solo - Isobel McCandless; choir - “O come all ye faithful”.

At an interval, Mrs. Rosemary Allen presented a Bible suitably inscribed to Isobel McCandless, who had trained the children and Isobel gracefully acknowledged the gift. During the evening the superintendent, the late Mr. W. J. Poots, read the following poem that he had written for this historic occasion:

Quilly Sunday School

At Gowdystown in the County Down,
Stands Quilly Orange Hall:
Its members show, as soon you’ll know,
They desire the good of all.

To this intent they did set out,
With hearts just brimming full,
That all you children round about,
Should have this Sunday School.

That cherished aim is now attained –
From strength to strength it goes;
With the way made known and favours shown,
Our cup it overflows.

So on this night, this happy night,
Kind tribute we would pay
To all these friends, and every friend
Who helped us on our way.

Your kind, your generous spirit cheers;
Yea, it’s nothing short of splendid;
Oh, may God’s blessing come to everyone,
Is the prayer of its superintendent.

As the children come from every part,
We welcome them with an open heart;
Because in the Kingdom of his Grace
God has for every child a place.

From Edin Hill to the Quilly Burn
They answer to the call;
From Mitchell’s Moss away across
To the borders of Gill Hall.

Down many a lane, like crude Calhame,
Sure their courage does them credit;
From Ashfield, too, they’re sweeping through
And dear old Tullymacarette.

From the Sentry Knowe they made their bow,
From Greenan’s every nook and cranny;
They’re mustering strong as they come along
From the highlands of Ballaney.

Oh, how lovely and how pleasant
Within these walls to meet,
To sing the hymns our mothers sang,
And sit at Jesus’ feet.

To his keeping then, we you commend,
While your lives are young and tender;
That when Satan tries, and sins entice,
You’ll sing out, “No surrender.”

With becoming pride that we cannot hide,
For we speak from a glowing heart,
Of that faithful band of teachers grand
That nobly do their part.

These teachers all having heard the call,
From no man himself this honour takes;
This is the Spirit’s work withal,
And He makes no mistakes.

So Divinely led, we bow our heads
At the way made plain and clear;
On us He thought and us He brought
And placed his servants here.

They all do know and love their Lord,
And honouring His command,
Do point the way by the blood-stained Cross
That leads to the Heavenly Land.

Now the first one on our honoured list
Is one we all love well
His name is Willie Thompson,
His worth no tongue can tell.

In our secretary, Harry McCandless,
We’ve a worker truly great –
Serving, shining, guiding, gladdening,
Doing all for Jesus’ sake.

In our treasurer, too, we’ve a treasure true,
Whose faith and zeal ne’er lags;
In the love he bears to the One he serves,
And that’s just Robert Beggs.

Then we have Miss. Minnie Kelly,
A sturdy friend to us in Quilly;
Teaching the little hearts the way
To love God’s Holy Word and Day.

And of her kinsman, faithful Andrew,
Endeavouring, you can see,
To follow in the wake of his great name-sake
Who walked in Galilee.

Now concerning the lambs of our little band,
It’s here we must remark;
They’re led and fed by a tender hand,
The hand of Mrs. Clarke.

And I’m sure with us you’ll find it thus,
When we do state this fact;
That in Heaven at last to meet his class
Is the aim of Bertie Black.

O what a pleasure recording that we’ve got an organ,
And pleasant to our lot it is fallen;
Of a truth it is said, that it’s skilfully played
By our gracious young Mrs. Allen.

Yes, and her husband dear, is with us here,
His presence always pleases;
For he loves to teach, that we may reach
And win the young for Jesus.

Now that’s our one purpose here
That you will love Him and obey,
And be found amongst his jewels
On that coming crowning day.

And unto God we’ll careful be
To render thanks in full
For all His gracious benefits
To Quilly Sunday School. 

Mrs. Ellen Beggs, the current Superintendent at Quilly Sunday School, supplied the above poem and also sent me the following chorus, which I have entitled - “Passing through Quilly, calling today.”  Mrs. Beggs says that this is one of their favourite choruses at Quilly Sunday School in 2005:

“Passing through Quilly, calling today”

Jesus is present, Wonderful Jesus,
Passing through Quilly, calling today.
Mighty to save, to cleanse, and deliver.
Wonderful Jesus, coming your way.

Bring Him your sins, and bring him your sorrows.
Precious the Blood that can make you free.
Trust Him today, – for every tomorrow.
Wonderful Jesus.  Calling for thee.
 

Article written by:  John A. Kelly, previously from Mackey’s Lane, Ballaney, Dromore (1948 – 1964) and later Barban Hill, Dromore (1964 – 1969), and now living in Lisburn. John A. Kelly