In 1812 building operations were commenced, but money at that time not being too plentiful, the work was somewhat delayed, though their devotion never faded. The committee struggled on and the work advanced so far that they thought they should have had a stated Minister appointed over them. When the Presbytery learned that there was no Kirk Session, they declined the request until a Session was constituted.
Messrs John Rogers, Samuel Abernethy, David Shaw, William Martin, John Pettigrew and William Warwick were elected Elders and ordained in May 1813. On 4th August 1813 a call was made out for Rev Robert Aitken of Kirkintiltoch, signed by 112 members and 22 adherents. The Presbytery stipulated that a convenient house should be provided for the Minister. The Presbytery declined to translate Mr Aitken.
At a meeting of the Congregation on 8th September 1814 a call was made out to Mr John Shaw, a Probationer, and was signed by 73 members and 4 adherents. Mr Shaw accepted the call and was ordained the first Minister of the Congregation on 18th March 1816. The day of the ordination was looked forward to as a great triumph, and although the Church was as yet without a roof or a seat, the people were content to put up with these temporary inconveniences.
Towards the end of the solemn proceedings of that day a slight shower fell, and the older spirits regarded it as a token that the Almighty was now "dropping the dew of heaven as His blessing."
The inscription on the date stone, inserted in the wall above the entrance door, perpetuates the statement made by the deputation before the Presbytery at Cookstown. The words on the stone are "For Christ's Freeman" and the date 1815 indicates the acceptance of the call of the first Minister.
Up until the time of Mr Sturgeon's ordination the old congregation was officially known as "Killaney" and from that date has borne the name "Boardmills," though known locally by this title many years before.
The Rev John Shaw worked faithfully for ten years and died of fever, a comparatively young man, 23rd May 1825 aged 39 years. Rev Shaw was a son of David Shaw of Lochiney, Boardmills, who died 1813 aged 66 years.
In 1838 Rev Sturgeon was forced to resign from loss of health. After being confined to bed for seven weeks, he died on 22nd December 1840 in the 59th year of his age and 31st of his laborious and faithful ministry. Rev Sturgeon's son Robert, who farmed at Carricknaveigh, died November 1899. His sons John and William were both ministers.
During the ministry of Rev Sturgeon a school was opened opposite First Boardmills Church. Scholars paid fees of 1 penny and 2 pence per week and the teacher was Miss Mary Orr.
In 1837 the congregation of Second Boardmills numbered 900 compared with 1100 in First Boardmills. Twelve Church of Ireland members worshipped in the Carricknaveigh old school house.
Following the death of Rev Shaw in Second Boardmills, the Congregation called Rev John Downes of Falkirk. He was ordained in 1827.
Mr Downes and the Congregation applied to be received into the General Assembly, and on 7th July 1852 the General Assembly sanctioned the action of the Presbytery in receiving them.
This action to join the General Assembly did not meet the approval of some members of the Congregation, who out of loyalty to Second Boardmills travelled some distance on the Sabbath, to worship with them. They joined other communions nearer to their homes, thus weakening the Congregation. Then a few years later he, Mr Downes, became embroiled in a theological disagreement between Rev George Hay Shanks of First Boardmills and Rev Thomas Clugston of Killaney Secession Church.
Rev Downes received a call to Hobart, Tasmania at the time of this dispute. This call was inspired by an emigrant from Boardmills whom Mr Downes had educated, when orphaned. The call was accompanied by a cheque for £400 to bring him and his family over. The call was accepted and he arrived in Tasmania in 1855. After several years in Tasmania, he moved to become Minister of Learmouth in Victoria, and later in Clunes, where he died in May 1866.
One of the happiest events in the history of Irish Presbyterianism occurred in the year 1840. It had been clear for some time that there was no good reason for the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod to be dwelling apart. Both subscribed to the same Confession of Faith, held by the same form of Government, and maintained the same form of worship. It seemed as if this was an idea whose time had come, within a year of the idea of union being first mentioned at a prayer meeting in 1839.
The two Synods met on Friday 10 July 1840. The Synod of Ulster sat in May Street Church and the Secession Synod in Linenhall Street.
At eleven o'clock the doors of the two churches opened and a procession of Clergymen and Elders emerged from each. The Synod of Ulster was led by the Moderator, Rev James Elder of Finvoy and the Secession Moderator, Rev John Rogers of Glascar. The two Moderators walked side by side, followed by the long black-coated procession along Donegall Square and Donegall Place, until Rosemary Street Church was reached.
The Rev Dr Reid, Clerk of the Synod of Ulster, twice read over the Act of Union which had been previously agreed upon by both Synods. The question was then put to the House whether this Act was ratified. All rose, and with uplifted right hand expressed their solemn approval of it. The Rev Dr Hanna was then unanimously chosen Moderator of the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Court was fully constituted.
Dr Hanna had moved from Drumbo the previous year to Rosemary Street Church.
The Congregations of the Synod of Ulster numbered 292 at the Union and
those of the Secession 141. So 433 Congregations in all were, by the Act of
Union, placed under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly. This first
meeting was attended by 333 Ministers and 135 Elders.
A considerable number of Ministers, formerly in connection with the Synod of Ulster and of other Presbyteries of the late Secession Synod, took part with the Presbytery in the Ordination Services. The harmony and good fellowship among the different Ministers assembled, afforded great pleasure to those who witnessed the proceedings.
As a student Mr Shanks had been very active in advocating and promoting the Union. A great number of the Congregation were bitterly opposed to the Union and engaged in hostilities, that were prolonged and acute. They seized the meeting-house, an action which not only deprived the Congregation of their place of worship, but also resulted in the Regium Donum being withdrawn. At the General Assembly of 1845 Mr Shanks set forth the circumstances and sought their intervention. The Assembly appointed Dr Cooke and Dr Stewart, two eminent clergymen, to seek the intervention of the landlord, the Marquis of Downshire on whose property the meeting-house stood, to request him to intercede in obtaining for the Congregation their place of worship.
His Lordship's influence as peacemaker resulted in an agreeable settlement, in which the Congregation agreed to pay the withdrawing members the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds, on condition that they resigned all claims to the meeting-house.
The Seceders used the money to build a new Church within sight of the Church they had left. The Church was opened in 1846 on a site given by Mr John Dunwoody of Carrickmadyroe and the first Minister, the Rev Thomas Clugston was ordained on 11 March 1846. Mr Clugston and his wife were both from the district of Newtownhamilton. Mr Clugston and his Congregation did not live in harmony with Mr Shanks and his members.
During the winter of 1854-1855 an outbreak of fever swept through the district. In the midst of death unfriendliness was temporarily forgotten and the two Congregations, together with that of Second Boardmills, held united prayer meetings.
In 1855 Rev Thomas Clugston became involved in a bitter conflict with Rev George Shanks over which of the two were in harmony with the original principles of the Secession. Mr Clugston died on 23 December 1884 aged 72 years.
Mr Clugston was succeeded by Rev John Moody, B.A. who was ordained on 8 July 1886. Mr Moody, who was an outstanding and exemplary Minister, discreet and brotherly, succeeded in reconciling the mutual coldness aroused in the previous generation. It became evident that a successor would be difficult to obtain, due to lack of students coming to the ministry in the Secession Synod and since Regium Donum was changed to found the Sustentation Fund in 1869 each Congregation had to be self-supporting.
Mr Moody and his Congregation of 93 families were received into the General Assembly on 6 June 1925. The Congregation, under the name Killaney, was united with Second Boardmills. Mr Moody died on 3 December 1926 in his seventy-second year.
Following the resignation of Rev Downes, the Presbytery appointed Rev Professor John Edgar and Rev Professor W D Killen to take charge of the vacant Congregation of Second Boardmills. The choice fell on a 26 year old, Alexander Dobbin, called at a stipend of £50 per annum. After his ordination on 27 December 1855 Rev Dobbin entered with wholehearted devotion into the mission before him. He very quickly obtained the esteem and friendly relations of his own Congregation and the regard of the whole neighbourhood. He was a most faithful pastor, regular in his visitations, and attentive to the wants of the sick and dying.
During Mr Dobbin's long ministry many improvements were made to the church property. The manse was built in 1860-1861, schoolhouse was rebuilt in 1892 and the Church renovated in 1880 and 1901. In September 1903 Mr Dobbin retired from active duties and died on 8 September 1909.
His third son, John Wilson Dobbin was ordained as assistant and successor to his father on 26 November 1903. After a brief ministry, Mr Dobbin resigned on the 14 February 1907 to accept a call from the Congregation of Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham. He later became a Minister in Vancouver where he died on 10 October 1924.
When the two Presbyterian Synods, the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod came together in 1840 to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, one of the earliest resolutions passed by its was an earnest call to prayer for revival. A special day was appointed "as a day of solemn humiliation, because of our manifold shortcomings and transgressions, and of special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our Ministers, Elders and people." This appointment was faithfully kept for years.
When revival came to Boardmills in 1859, Rev George Hay Shanks was the friend and guide of the movement. It began at a little prayer meeting in the Parish of Connor, led by James McQuilkin, a working man with no formal education. He became the "chosen vessel" of revival in Boardmills. Mr Shanks' manse was often filled with anxious inquirers, and they sometimes remained there throughout the night after the services. As many as seventy were known to have visited the manse before ten o'clock in the morning in search of spiritual help.
Services continued each evening for five weeks from the middle of June and, frequently, the church could not hold all who wished to attend. There was comparatively little excitement, but there was no lessening of the Spirit's power or influence. Entire families were made aware of their need for Christ and led to seek the Saviour, who was glorified in lives, which bore testimony to the reality of the work.
As revival swept through Boardmills, an open-air meeting was held at the Temple during the month of August. One thousand people attended. Prior to this the locality was the scene of cockfighting and other evils. The whole district was transformed.
Extensive renovations were carried out to First Boardmills in 1878 and the Church was reopened on Sunday 17 March. The services, both morning and evening, were so well attended, that they could not all be accommodated in the Church and an overflow meeting was held in the Temperance Hall (now the caretaker's house.)
The Temperance Hall was built through a very generous gift by Mr William Magee, Carricknaveigh, who died on 1 July 1876 aged 63 years. His two sisters, Isabella and Margaret installed the rose window behind the pulpit to his memory. These and other gifts were dedicated at this reopening service, including gifts by the contractors, Messrs. W and R Davidson.
As an outcome of the linen industry at this time, a small hemstitching factory was established at Boardmills in 1888 by Mrs McGahey. There were eight sewing machines and ten people employed and they worked principally for the Wholesale Linen Houses of Belfast.
Rev Shanks was the son of Joseph Shanks of Tullydrain, Banbridge, born 31 March 1814, died 18 December 1893 and for over 50 years Minister of First Boardmills. His maternal grandfather was John Carmichael of Lisban, Saintfield. Mr Shanks was a very saintly, earnest and devoted Minister, an eminent temperance reformer. It was largely due to his efforts, that the Congregation was one of the earliest to introduce the use of unfermented wine at the communion table.
The year 1829 saw the birth of the Temperance Reformation. The use of whiskey at the time was universal and growing rapidly; during the previous ten years consumption had doubled. The bottle was everywhere, on the table at dinner and supper, wed ding and wake, at baptism and funeral. It was produced as regularly as the Bible, when the Minister called to visit and kept in the vestry of many Churches. Ministers and people alike drank. The Elders drank. Everybody drank and yet for a long time no adequate effort was made to put a stop to the terrible evil.
Robert Edgar who, with Hugh McKee, joined the army of King William in Scotland, settled in Lisbane, Boardmills sometime after the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691. His grandson, Dr Samuel Edgar, was born at Lisbane in 1766, ordained in the Secession Church (Second Ballynahinch) on 20 November 1793, and on 15 January 1794 he married his cousin, Elizabeth McKee of Poagsburn. Their son, John Edgar, DDLLD, who became Secession Professor of Divinity at the age of 28 years, was born at Magheraknock in March 1798. He was almost three months old when the Battle of Ballynahinch raged on 13 June 1798.
The Temperance Reformation, like many other extensive social changes, had small beginnings. Dr John Edgar had just been appointed by a Belfast committee to draw up an address to the public on the best means of discouraging the sale and consumption of spirits on the Lord's Day. He started his proceedings by opening his parlour window and pouring out before his house in Alfred Street, the remaining part of a gallon of old malt whiskey, and from that hour threw himself with characteristic enthusiasm into the Temperance Movement. He became known as the apostle of the Temperance Movement.
Mr Shanks retired in 1889 and was succeeded by Rev John L McCandless, who was ordained on 30 October the same year. Mr McCandless was the son of Mr Leslie McCandless of Corkey Mills, Manorcunningham. On his coming to Boardmills, the Congregation was still suffering from the many Secessions and was more or less depleted with only two Elders, David Kirkpatrick and Robert McKee. During his ministry the Congregation grew continuously, until it had doubled numerically.
Mr McCandless, like his predecessor, had always been an earnest Temperance Reformer. From 1909 until 1914 he was at the head of the Good Templar Order in Ireland and in previous years their Grand Chaplain.
Two of his four sons served in the Great War 1914-1918, in which twenty-eight other members of the Congregation also served, four of them unto death.
The Congregation were warmly attached to Mr McCandless. He won their affection and esteem by his intense interest and in his successful work among them. In a Congregation of 120 families there were 102 on the roll of the Minister's Bible Class. His work among the young was eminently successful. Mr McCandless was diligent in visiting the aged, sick and the bereaved, who truly appreciated his sympathetic visits.
In 1916 Mr William M Magowan presented an organ in memory of his father, John Magowan, who had led the praise for fifty years.
In 1926, Mr John McKee, Brooklyn, New York, son of a former Elder, Mr Robert McKee of Poagsburn, presented the Congregation with a timely and liberal gift of a beautiful new Church Hall, known as McKee Hall.
After forty-four years as Minister, Mr McCandless died on 24 June 1933
He was succeeded by the Rev Walter Kerr B.A., B.D., a licentiate of the Letterkenny Presbytery. He entered Magee College, Londonderry in 1926 and received the B.A. degree from Trinity College, Dublin in 1930. He became one of the first students to receive the degree B.D. in 1933 from Queen's University, Belfast. Having served as an assistant in Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, Belfast, he was ordained in First Boardmills on the 29 November 1933.
He was a valued clerk of Presbytery for 25 years. He retired in 1973 after 40 years of faithful and devoted service, ever seeking to be a good Minister of Jesus Christ, and held in high esteem by the congregation. In 225 years there were just six Ministers in the Congregation with an average length of service of 37 years, which is a remarkable and unusual record.
On 27 April 1938 he was married to Miss Jean M'Connell, a nursing sister, the youngest daughter of the late Rev James M'Connell B.A., first Minister of Megain Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast, who has made a valuable contribution to the history of the Presbyterian Church. They have two daughters, Ruth and Maureen. Fifteen members of his Congregation served in World War II and one member was lost at sea.
The Rev Alex Dobbin's next assistant was the Rev Robert Kelso, who was ordained on 31 October 1907. Many of the young men in the district joined the Forces when the Great War 1914-18 broke out, and in August 1916 the Rev Kelso joined the Army as a Chaplain. He was immediately sent to France. He served with the Royal Irish Rifles until his demobilisation in November 1919. Fifteen members of his
Congregation also served, two making the supreme sacrifice.
During his compassionate service as Chaplain, bringing sympathy and friendship where it was most needed, the Congregation was in the charge of Rev R W Dodds, Superintendent of the Kinghan Mission.
Mr Kelso was held in high regard and respect in the community. In 1924, when he was about to receive a call from a Church in County Londonderry, he was asked by his own Congregation and Killaney Secession Church to stay in Boardmills as Minister of the United Congregations. Happily he agreed and in less than two months Killaney was received into the General Assembly. Mr Kelso was installed as Minister of the United Congregations on 30 July 1925. Mr Kelso was a distinguished personality in Church life. He also took a prominent and honoured part in the social life of the wider community. He died on 16 June 1950.
Rev Kelso was succeeded by Rev Frederick Allen Pickering, B.A., who was ordained on 21 February 1951. Mr Pickering was an enthusiastic worker. He was especially interested in the young people and formed a Company of the Boys' Brigade and also a Company of the Girls' Brigade.
Rev Pickering resigned his charge on 8 May 1957 and accepted a call to
the Congregation of Conn and Mount Forest in Canada.
The 4 January 1959 was an important date in the life of Boardmills and Killaney Churches. On that evening, for the first time, a united Communion Service was held in Second Boardmills with First Boardmills taking part.
Rev Graham resigned in 1964 having received a call from Great Victoria Street Congregation, Belfast. In 1980 he was appointed Magee Director of Christian Training and in 1996 was honoured by the Assembly's College with the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Following the resignation of Rev Graham, the Rev Trevor Coburn was installed on 2 September 1964.
When Rev Walter Kerr retired from First Boardmills in 1973, the Union Commission recommended amalgamation of the three Congregations under one Minister. This resulted in the resignation of Rev Coburn.
Mr Coburn received a call to Molesworth Congregation, Cookstown and was installed on 21 March 1974.
Rev George Simpson, B.A. was installed on 27 February 1975.