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.
By: John A.
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.
Emily Kelly (nee Harvey)
As a young woman
Mary Emily Kelly
Pictured a few months
before her death in July 1990
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
Midweek Gospel meeting at Quilly since
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Memories of my mother’s love of Gospel
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 -
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:
At Gowdystown in the County
Stands Quilly Orange Hall:
Its members show, as soon you’ll know,
They desire the good of all.
To this intent they did set
With hearts just brimming full,
That all you children round about,
Should have this Sunday School.
That cherished aim is now
From strength to strength it goes;
With the way made known and favours shown,
Our cup it overflows.
So on this night, this
Kind tribute we would pay
To all these friends, and every friend
Who helped us on our way.
Your kind, your generous
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
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
They answer to the call;
From Mitchell’s Moss away across
To the borders of Gill Hall.
Down many a lane, like
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
Within these walls to meet,
To sing the hymns our mothers sang,
And sit at Jesus’ feet.
To his keeping then, we you
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
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
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
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
Is one we all love well
His name is Willie Thompson,
His worth no tongue can tell.
In our secretary, Harry
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
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,
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
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
That you will love Him and obey,
And be found amongst his jewels
On that coming crowning day.
And unto God we’ll careful
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,
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
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.