A SHORT FAMILY
AND PERSONAL HISTORY

by
James Victor Hamilton

Burt

 
 
 

VI

BURT, CO. DONEGAL. MARRIAGE

I came home in the autumn of '79 and found myself very soon engaged to preach in eight vacant congregations: Dundrod, Maghera, Donacloney, Burt, Castlederg, Dundalk, Carnmoney and 2nd Ballynahinch. I set my heart on Donacloney. I liked the country as I drove out from Banbridge. I liked what I saw of the people, and they spoke kindly of me. I liked the size of the congregation (a little over a hundred families). They talked of giving me a call, but within ten days of my being there the call came from Burt, and I had always thought I should consider very seriously the first call I should get.

I think I should tell here an experience I had after preaching in one of the large Belfast congregations a few months ago. When I came into the vestry, an elderly man came in. I knew him as an old Burt man, and he said in the presence of several: "Boys a boys, it's wonderful. When you preached for Burt, they said, don't call him, for he will not live long", and now, he said "Hamill, Dickey, Ross, Park and others are all gone and you are as vigorous as ever you were." [JVH NOTE: Hamill was the Rev. Thomas Macafee Hamill (1853-1919), Professor of Systematic Theology in Assembly's College; Dickey was the Rev. Robert H.F. Dickey (18561915) Professor of Hebrew at Magee; Ross was the Rev. Robert Ross (1825-1894) of Carlisle Road, Derry, father of Sir John Ross, last Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The Rev. William Park is referred to later in this chapter].

As a matter of fact, the Burt people thought about two others, neither of whom had the required majority, and then someone proposed Hamilton and, tired of their wrangling, they called me. I was ordained there on Friday, 30th January, 1880.

Burt had the name of being a proud and not a specially religious place and there had been a perpetual quarrel between the people and the last minister. [JVH NOTE: This was the Rev. William Clarke, who resigned in July 1879, after only three years at Burt, to become Minister of 2nd Bangor; he was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1889]. Professor Witherow advised me not to go to Burt, for they would freeze me. The Rev. Dr. Stewart, visiting me a few weeks after my ordination, when walking along the road to the train on his way home, said to me: "I always think of Burt as like the cities of the plain - a beautiful land and godless people." I confess I was not much moved by either of these opinions. I had a great assurance that God had put me there, though I did not really want to go there. I had told the Donacloney people that if they would hurry up I would rather go to them. For at that time I feared that I might get Burt. But God had put me there and I had then, as now, the profound conviction that human nature was the same everywhere, and from my own experience, that the power of God was omnipotent, able to subdue the most stubborn hearts and tame the fiercest spirits.

I would like to record the great generosity always shown to me by the Burt people; they gave me four or five presentations during my brief years with them, and I do not think I ever bought oats or hay or straw for my horse or potatoes for the house. Fowls and eggs and butter were frequent travellers towards the Manse. Of course, my own people sent some of these valuables from Trentagh, but the Burt people were unstinting in their generosity.

I had a happy ministry in Burt. My health was sometimes feeble enough, but the people from the beginning to the end of my almost six years there, were most kind and God gave us much blessing among rich and poor, young and old.

It was a beautiful country. From Grianan, about a mile from the Manse, there was the finest view I had ever seen. You could see the rise of the Swilly, Muckish and Errigal. The course of that river through rich and fertile lands, overlooked by the magnificent Highlands of Donegal, widening out to the Lake of Shadows, a beautiful Lough and extending for 25 miles out to the Atlantic.

On the other .side, you could see where the Foyle rises, away in the Tyrone mountains. The course of the river ever extending, passing through Londonderry, down past the rugged Magilligan hills, on to the Giant's Causeway and the ocean.

Along the courses of these rivers, there are some of the best cultivated agricultural lands in Ireland. For extent, variety and magnificence, I know of no view to equal this.

After visiting Killarney, I said that we had a better view, a mile from our home, than any I had seen there.

My wife, who came from Co. Cork, and her brother, Dr. Donaldson smiled incredulously. I explained that in Killarney you have more beautiful grouping of scenery within a comparatively narrow area, but at Grianan you have vastness of extent and wonderful massing of all the elements of land and sea that go to make magnificent scenery.

On the day of my ordination, the Rev. William McKean, then of Raphoe, afterwards Dr. MCKean of Ballymacarrett, one of my best friends, and I were walking along from the Manse to the Church, when, looking around, he said, "Man, Bob, if I lived here I would preach quare sermons."

Dr. Eben Donaldson was the dispensary doctor in Burt. He and I became great friends and saw much of each other. [JVH NOTE: according to my father, RWH and the doctor differed on the question of whether medicine or theology was the queen of the sciences]. In the autumn of 1881, his sister, Martha Lilian came to visit him. She had just come to the end of a long period of nursing: her sister Eva and her father Dr. Ebenezer Donaldson, of Newmarket, Co. Cork. [JVH NOTE: According to a marginal note in the handwriting of my late cousin G.C. Hamilton, quoting from the Donaldson family bible: Ebenezer died 23/2/1878 and Eva died 10/6/1881]. Both these loved ones seemed dependent on her ministry and wished her always to be near them, so that night and day the strain on body and mind was heavy. But there was no other daughter in the family. [JVH NOTE: There had been a daughter, Mary, born 7/4/1850, who only survived till 31/5/1850. Mary Jessie, the next eldest was born on 21/7/1851 and lived till 1935, but by this time she was working abroad as a governess; she worked at one time in St. Petersburg. Elizabeth, born 1868, survived only two months]. The mother had the household affairs and five or six boys to look after and the day of trained nurses had not arrived, so that Martha, capable and willing, was the constant ministering angel to her dear ones until they passed away [JVH NOTE: The boys were Dr. Eben (1855-1904); George (1857-1917), who emigrated to Australia; Robert Gray (1858-1933), also in Australia; Colonel John McFadyen (1859-1943) of the R.A.M.C. who had served in the Burmese Expedition of 1888-9; the Rev. Charles (1861-1903) who had been at various times a Presbyterian Minister in Hillsborough, Co. Down, a curate in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, a Plymouth brother and, finally a patient in Sligo Lunatic Asylum; James (1863-1933), Australia; Adam (1864-1944), San Francisco]. Now she (Martha) came north for a rest, her health much run down, her heart perhaps so overstrained that it gave her trouble all her life and probably had something to do with her final illness.

I had friends at the Manse that day, and we went out for a walk and met the Doctor and two ladies, his sister and his cousin Meta Bernard. [JVH NOTE: Meta (later Mrs Butler), was a daughter of George Bernard, Solicitor, Dublin; George was a brother of Martha Bowles (nee Bernard), wife of Dr. Ebenezer Donaldson of Newmarket]. We were introduced and either that evening or the next, when my friends left, I spent the evening at the doctor's.

From the time I came to Burt, good friends were having me married to this one and the other. If there was any improvement going on at the Manse or in the Manse garden, it was surely coming now. A friend one day in Derry said to me, "You are going in the right direction now." I asked him to be sure and let me know the date in proper time.

I can be quite candid in saying that I never seriously thought of marriage. I sometimes thought that probably some day I would be married, but the matter was no serious concern to me. But it became a matter of very serious concern to me from that night I spent with the doctor and the two ladies.

I was attracted, smitten and conquered all at once. I knew nothing about her history or mind, but soon came to see that the attraction and affection were mutual. We both believed that God was drawing us together and in our happy, helpful married life of 46 years, neither of us ever doubted that. We were permitted and enabled to help one another in the service of Christ, and while each of us possessed an independent mind, we were wonderfully one in the things that mattered. We had much joy in one another and in the work God gave us to do.

George Bernard, a well-known Dublin Solicitor, and Mrs Bernard, Martha's uncle and aunt, conceived the idea of our being married in Dublin, as being convenient for Mrs Donaldson, Martha's mother, who lived in Newmarket, Co. Cork, and for me who lived in Co. Donegal. They most kindly offered to have the wedding take place from their house in Grosvenor Road, Rathmines, and their generous hospitality was gratefully accepted.

The Rev. Dr. A.C. Murphy, who was then minister of Rutland Square Presbyterian Church, Dublin, had formerly been minister of 1st Derry and had known us both - Martha through her visits to her uncle, Dr. Walter Bernard of Londonderry. [JVH NOTE: Dr. Bernard, in the 1870's, was instrumental in having the Grianan restored.] It was therefore decided that we should be married in Rutland Square. Accordingly, Martha went to her uncle in Dublin some weeks beforehand, became a member of Rutland Square and received great kindness from Dr. and Mrs Murphy.

I went to Dublin on 21st June, put up at the Gresham Hotel, dined that evening at the Bernards' and on the next day, 22nd June 1882, we were married in Rutland Square Church by the Rev. Dr. W. Fleeting Stevenson of Rathgar Church, an old friend of mine - Dr. Murphy being away on holidays. After a beautiful luncheon at the Bernards', whose generous kindness we could never forget, we crossed to Scotland from Belfast that night, spending a few days in Edinburgh on our way to Sanday, Orkney, where we spent with the McConaghys a very happy honeymoon. [JVH NOTE: He does not mention the Phoenix Park Murders, which had occurred the month before.]

The sorrows and trials that came bound us together in ever increasing confidence in one another and in Our Lord. I have reason to bless, and do bless the day I met her. The precious gift He gave me, the uplifting influence of her whose brave, bright, buoyant spirit did so much to brace me for the tasks God gave me to do.

She was the most unselfish, unselfseeking person I ever knew. I have said that God gave us times of much blessing in Burt, and I must explain this more fully.

When I went to Burt, there was no evening service on Sunday. And on looking round I found there were three day-schools within the bounds of the congregation, situated widely apart, and one of the farmers had a commodious barn. These four houses covered the area of the congregation fairly well, and we started a Sunday evening service in each of them, having thus four stated services each month. There were many, both old and young, who never came to church, but within a short time we got most of them to come to these evening services, which were held near their homes. The places began, indeed, to be crowded, and instead of detracting from the morning attendance at the church, it soon began to increase it.

During my almost six years in Burt, we had no special evangelistic services and very seldom any week-night service. I believe in evangelistic services and frequently went from home to conduct Missions. I can scarcely say why we had none, but I did a great deal of visiting. I visited mostly on horseback, and soon came to know all the people and to know indeed their relation to Christ. I embraced every possible opportunity of speaking personally to people, but only when I found them alone in the home or the yard or the fields or the road. I do not think I bored anyone. I was a farmer's son and deeply interested in farming, cattle, horses, etc. I had had much contact in my home with working people and knew their interests and mode of life.

In other words, I was human, and I think, as they began to know me, they expected me to speak about the things that I sought earnestly to present on Sunday. I do not remember anyone who resented my asking them, not if they were converted, or if they were saved, but if they were trusting Christ. Of course, some sought to turn the conversation away from serious things. I shall give two interesting incidences:

One old man, who had been, in his early days, coachman to my uncle Dr. Andrew A. Hamilton, when I would be speaking about Christ to him, would say, "Boys a boys, but you are like your uncle." Another time it would be something else about my uncle. He was now a roadman, looking after part of the road near his cottage. He had a daughter living with him, who was a humble, earnest Christian, much concerned about her father's salvation, and I am sure she prayed much for him. He never came to any of the services. One day, immediately after returning home from my summer holidays, I was riding along the road on which he was working, and asked him, as I was passing, how he was. He replied, "Thank God, I am well, sir." Here was a new note. I never heard John speak of thanking God before. So I said, "I hope you do really thank God." His reply was "Indeed, I do, sir." I had a talk with him and found that God had opened his heart to see and confess his sins and to accept Christ as his Lord and Saviour. The remaining years proved the reality of his conversion.

The other case arose in this way: an old lady who was mother and grandmother in one of our best-to-do homes, and a remarkably capable woman. In a matter, family, social or business, within the range of her experience, I would have taken her advice unhesitatingly, and she was no mere dreamer but had lived a most active, strenuous life and contributed greatly to the prosperity of her family.

She was now about 80 years of age, clear and vigorous in mind and enjoying good health. When I spoke to her about spiritual things, she would begin to tell me about Mr Gray, who was the minister of Burt in her early days or in some other way divert the conversation from more serious things. [JVH NOTE: This refers to the Rev. Robert Gray, who ministered at Burt 1839-1857.]

One Monday forenoon, I was visiting on the hill near Grianan. I first went to a house where there was a young girl, about 18 years of age, who told me she had given herself to Christ, and I had a gratifying talk with her. I then crossed the road to a house where an old woman lived, whom I had often spoken to about personal salvation, and she told me she had found Christ and seemed very happy in trusting Him. Later in the day, I came to the house where the old lady was mother and grandmother. During the evening, when she and her daughter and daughter-in-law were in the room, I began to tell the daughter-in-law, who was a fine type of Christian woman, my experiences in the two houses on the hill in the forenoon. I said nothing directly to the old lady. The next time I went to the house, the daughter-in-law told me that after I left, the evening I told about the conversion of the young girl and the old woman, the old lady said to her, in her anxiety, "Are they all going to be saved and am I not?" Her daughter-in-law spoke sympathetically with her, and the old lady sought and found Christ. I found her quite happy, looking to Him and eagerly listening to what one said about the Gospel of His grace. Some months afterwards, she had a very serious attack of illness, which I did not know about. When I visited the house next, she told me of her illness and how she thought she was going to die, and added, "And sure, Mr Hamilton, I was not afraid to die."

In February, 1885, there was a simultaneous mission in all the Presbyterian churches in Belfast, and I had been invited to help. On the Monday on which the mission began, a severe day, with blowing snow, I left the Manse early, to attend the funeral of an old friend, Mrs William Foster of Ballinacross. [JVH NOTE: This will be Mary ne Mills, whose son Sam was married to RWH's sister Mary Jane.] After driving all morning, I hastened to Derry, housed my horse, had some lunch and caught at the Waterside the 3 p.m. train for Belfast. I was to stay with an old friend, the Rev. Dr. John MacDermott of Belmont, for the week. [JVH NOTE: This was the father of Lord MacDermott, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.] On arriving in Belfast, I went to the Lombard Cafe for tea, and nearing 8 p.m. went to the church I was to preach in, on that Monday night. I found my way to the vestry, but there was no minister or elder or anyone else but the sexton to confer with about the meeting. I understood afterwards that the minister, who was an able, good man, did not approve of the mission: [JVH NOTE: Assuming that the church was Rosemary Street, then the disapproving minister will have been the Rev. William Park. Installed in Rosemary Street in 1873, he was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1890. He retired in 1923 and died while addressing the General Assembly on 5th June, 1925.] At 8 o'clock, I entered a large church and found 57 persons scattered through the building. I had not allowed myself to be influenced much by numbers, great or small, and preached in my usual way, enjoying the service. An elder came to me at the close with some apologies. I confess I thought it rather poor business to come from the wilds of Donegal, in such weather, to preach to 57 persons, in a large church in Belfast. [JVH NOTE: The church I think referred to was destroyed by incendiaries in the air-raid of 4-5 May 1941. The other church in Rosemary Street which still exists belongs to the NonSubscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.]

About ten or twelve years afterwards, a Co. Down elder told me that he had met a lady at Ballyclare recently, a sister of some of the ablest
ministers of our church, who told him that she was converted at the service. I preached in a different church every night, and addressed a noon-day service that was held every day during the week at Rosemary Street church, and greatly enjoyed the week.

The most remarkable meeting I addressed was in Linen Hall Street church, the Rev. John McIlveen's, where we had immense crowds of people, and I was led to speak for more than an hour, no-one seeming tired. [JVH NOTE: This church, built in 1839, closed in 1887, being replaced by the Crescent Church. The Rev. John McIlveen was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1908 and continued in the Crescent till his death in 1914.]

Shortly after this, the Rev. James L. Bigger of Railway Street Church, Lisburn, wrote to me asking my wife and me to come to Lisburn, to spend Easter with him and Mrs Bigger. He was at that time a candidate, I think the only candidate, for the vacant Chair of Hebrew in Magee College, and in his letter of invitation he said he wished the Railway Street people to hear me, as he would like me to be his successor. I emphatically refused the invitation, which otherwise we would have gladly accepted, because I had made up my mind long since that I would not again preach on trial. Later on, Bigger wrote that he would like to spend the Assembly Sunday in Derry with his people, and would I exchange with him on that Sunday. I was equally emphatic, and for the same reason, that I would not again preach on trial. A deputation from Railway Street came to me at the Assembly asking me to preach and of course I declined.

It appears some Railway Street people heard me preach at the Belfast Mission in February. Some of them were said to have followed me night after night. That year I had undertaken the supply of Killarney for a month, beginning shortly after the Assembly. My wife went with me. We stayed at her mother's in Newmarket, Co. Cork, and I went on to Killarney for the week-end. One Saturday, I found on my return to Killarney another letter from Bigger beseeching me to give them a Sunday in Lisburn. My first thought was annoyance with Bigger for his persistence, in view of my refusals. But this feeling was replaced in a moment by another, which caused me to say, I think, aloud in the room, "This may be the will of God"; and I took the matter very seriously and prayerfully.

We had a remarkable experience coming away from Burt to Killarney. We started a day or two earlier than we needed, so that we might spend a night or two with relatives in Dublin. But when coming down the steep avenue from the Manse at Burt with a good deal of luggage on our phaeton, I found there was something wrong with the phaeton, which caused it to press down on the mare's hind legs. We managed to get down the avenue, hoping that on the level road there might be no trouble; but there was, so that we found it impossible to go on, and returned home. The blacksmith mended the phaeton, so that we got safely to Derry and the train next day. We took a monthly excursion ticket to Killarney; they were quite cheap at the time. We went to Dublin and on to the South, my wife going to Newmarket and I to Killarney.

VII

RAILWAY STREET, LISBURN.

Had we started on the 11th, our ticket would have expired on Saturday the 11th of July and we would have returned home for service in Burt on the 12th; but owing to the day's delay, we started on 12th June, our ticket expiring on Sunday 12th July, and we found that because the 12th was a Sunday our ticket would be good for Monday the 13th. We then determined to spend that Sunday with our friends in Dublin and come on to Burt on the Monday. Here, then was the situation that presented itself - there was Bigger's letter, there was the new and deep impression as to the possibility of this being the will of God, and there was Sunday 12th July, now free from any engagement, so that, after consulting with my wife, I wrote to Bigger consenting to go to him for the services on that Sunday. My wife and I came on Saturday, 11th July, I preached twice on the Sunday, and we both had a very happy time with Bigger and his wife - both of the excellent of the earth - and came away on Monday, I a good deal relieved that Bigger's persistence had come to an end.

After a month or so the call came from Railway Street. I did not want to go. I delayed replying, but finally accepted the call, and was installed in Railway Street Church on 8th October, 1885. I have often said that Bigger coerced me into coming to Lisburn, but I have long felt that Bigger was only God's instrument in the matter.

My dear wife had much bad health. Most trying experiences both in Burt and in Lisburn. Two little girls, quite premature and still-born came at Burt. I can never forget my experiences in carrying their remains in the stillness of the night, about midnight each time, I think, over to the ground behind the old church and burying them there, between the church and the old session house. I had this remarkable experience: though I put no mark whatever when the first was buried and though it was more than twelve months afterwards when I took the second over, in digging the grave for it I found I just opened the ground beside the box in which the first had been deposited. I could not have pointed out the ground in daylight to anyone, as I so covered up the deposits that no trace of them could be seen.

Then, in our early days in Lisburn, another little still-born girl came, and the remains were buried in Lisburn cemetery. It can well be understood what sufferings of body and mind my dear, much loving and much loved wife endured in these experiences; yet she murmured not, submitting bravely and childlike. My wife was not in good health at the time I came to Lisburn, and it was decided that she would remain with her brother in Burt for the winter.

On 30th March 1886, great joy came to us when Eben Stuart Burt Hamilton was born to us. [A note in RVH's writing states: The name "Stuart" was probably due to an error in the registration by Uncle Eben Donaldson, as no doubt "Stewart" was intended. JVH NOTE: In those early days the dispensary doctor had to act as registrar of births and deaths.] We gave him the name Burt because he was born there, where we had so many loving friends. He was baptised in Burt church in June, by the Rev. Professor James L. Bigger, and shortly afterwards mother and child came to Lisburn.

Our other son, Robert Victor was born in Rubicon, [Belfast Road,] Lisburn on 12th November 1888. We lived in Rubicon for about nine years and afterwards moved to Grianan, a new house on the Magheralave Road.

On the evening of the installation in Lisburn, there was a great meeting in the Orange Hall, many of the leading townspeople and clergy being present. It was not only to be a reception for me but a farewell to Mr and Mrs Bigger; presentations being made to both. Each of them, by their excellence of spirit, largeness of mind and outlook and devotion to the great work which God gave them to do, not only had a warm place in the affections of poor and rich in Railway Street church, but had come to be greatly respected and loved by the whole community. Mr Bigger was a man of outstanding ability, of very marked singleness of mind as a servant of Christ, and of boundless energy.

There was a heavy debt resting on the church when he came to it and before he left, largely by his own efforts, this was entirely removed. For debt and church extension, 1,400 was raised in his time.

Mrs Bigger was equally devoted to the service of Christ. Full of energy also and one of the brightest and most beautiful spirits one knew.
They did a great and noble work in Lisburn, where blessings long outlived them, and in Londonderry afterwards they took the same place of esteem and affection, not only in Magee College, but in the city of Londonderry, that they had enjoyed in Lisburn.

Railway Street Church was really an outcome of the Revival of 1859. There seemed to be a need for a second Presbyterian Church in Lisburn. Over 100 families and the Rev. John Powell gathered together for a year or two in a hall in Castle Street. A committee was appointed in November 1860, and in 1861 they gave a call to the Rev. D.J. Clarke, who became their first Minister. [JVH NOTE: For a fuller account of the origins of the congregation, see Rev. David Stewart: The Seceders in Ireland (Belfast 1950) p.404 and A History of Congregations.... (Belfast 1982) p.595. Powell's extreme anti-Catholic views brought about his enforced resignation from Carlow. When he came to Lisburn in or about 1860 he held services in a hay-loft in Castle Street, granted by Mr Jonathan Richardson of Killeaton. In 1861, the majority of the newly-formed congregation gave the call to Clarke. Powell thereupon joined the Secession Synod and founded the congregation which later became Sloan Street. In 1887 the Sloan Street congregation was received into the General Assembly; by that time the Rev. J.W Gamble was its Minister].

Mr William Barbour of Hilden contributed most generously to the new church and was a member of it. Mr. Clarke had great difficulties to encounter, first in getting a site for a church and afterwards in raising money for the erection of the church and manse.

I never knew Mr Clarke, but he must have been an able, far-seeing man, for with comparatively few people he built a church whose capacity is still ample for an immensely increased congregation. He built up a vigorous congregation and was manager of four national schools: the Boys' School and Girls' School at Railway Street, the Hilden School and the Largymore School. The last-mentioned was handed over to him by a generous townsman, Captain Bolton, who built it, but when he died there was some flaw in the title deeds and the [Hertford] Estate office took it over and appointed the sub-agent manager; when he left the town, the estate being sold, it was handed over to the Cathedral.

Mr Clarke was minister of Railway Street Church for 17 years and died in 1878.

When I came to Railway Street, I found a number of earnest people and an excellent spirit in the congregation. Rich and poor received me most kindly and from the outset to the latest day of my ministry here, the happiest relations existed between the people and my wife and me, and I must add that from the outset on to the end God, in his wonderful mercy, bestowed much blessing on us as a congregation, young and old, along the years, coming under the gracious convincing and converting power of the Holy Spirit.

I made a rule of visiting the people three or four or more times a year, feeling that if there was not the friendly touch there could be little blessing.

We had great missions, mostly annually, for many years, conducted by such men as the Revs. Dr. William Rogers of Whiteabbey, Dr. John Stuart of Waterside, Londonderry, John Morrison of Tullylish and other ministers of our own Church, besides evangelists from at home and abroad. Our people took a great interest in these missions, and many from other churches came. Some gave much help and many got much blessing. Our communion roll was, almost invariably, largely increased by these missions, and all were refreshed and stirred up.

I was not many months in Lisburn when I found that Orangeism and Freemasonry were very powerful. I remember saying one night to a member who afterwards became an excellent elder that my strong impression was that these two movements were more powerful in Lisburn than the Church of Christ, and that they were both distinctly unfavourable to spiritual religion. I did not till then know that my friend was a mason, nor did I exhort him to give it up; but soon afterwards he gave it up himself and became an exemplary elder.

I have still the conviction that these two organisations are distinctly unfavourable to true religion. I am glad, however, to acknowledge that in recent years they have both been immensely dissociated from the public house and that, in connection with both, there have been for years Temperance Lodges.

On two occasions only, I addressed political meetings, my sole reason being that there was a distiller on the other side. I then thought, and I think still, that a distiller should not represent a Christian community and have a say in the making of its laws. [JVH NOTE: As to the two political meetings, I wonder was the "distiller" Charles Curtis Craig, brother of the future Lord Craigavon. The Craig family was closely connected with Dunville's Distillery. C.C. Craig was returned as M.P. for South Antrim in 1903, defeating Samuel Keightley and again, (unopposed) in 1906].

I think I should say here that I have always been an enthusiastic admirer and follower of W.E. Gladstone, whom I have always regarded as the greatest statesman of my time. While my politics differ widely from the overwhelming number of the people of Lisburn, I have been treated with great kindness by rich and poor in the community. During some election times, when feeling ran high, there may have been east-wind breezes, but they soon blew past.

I was in the fullest sympathy with Mr Gladstone's Home Rule Bill for Ireland, and am convinced to this day that, had it been passed, we would not have had all the deplorable doings since then, but something of real peace and goodwill.

The unfortunate thing seems to have been that the Imperial Government so seldom gave Ireland what she sought until such feelings were engendered as to make the Irish feel they did not care whether what they sought came or not - hence bitterness, eager speaking and eager doing abounded.

Personally, I have never liked Home Rule, but for over 40 years have regarded it as inevitable. [JVH NOTE: At first sight this statement seems to be at variance with the earlier reference to "fullest sympathy with Mr Gladstone's Home Rule Bill." Perhaps my grandfather's approach was the same as that of Percy French:

"When we've got all we want, we're as quiet as can be
Where the Mountains o' Mourne sweep down to the sea."]

Personally, I have found Roman Catholics wherever I have been as trustworthy and decent as any others. Both in Burt and in Lisburn, I have had many friends among them and have always been treated most kindly by them.

But to come back to Railway Street: Mr Bigger had taught large Bible Classes for men and for women; and in my early days they were, I think, still larger. Episcopalians and Methodists and others outside the congregation attended, and at times we had over 200 members. In the course of years, the classes became smaller because all the other churches began to have them, and this was entirely healthy and good.

During the last few years of my ministry, there were a men's Bible Class on Monday night and a women's Bible Class on Tuesday night, each numbering from 70 to 80 members. I am glad these classes continued to grow strong under my successor. [JVH NOTE: The reason for the segregation remains unclear].

I was not long in Lisburn until I discovered there was much drinking in the town. One night, I visited nine families, all working people, and in six of them saw drunkenness that night. In one of the houses, there was no more after that night, the head of the house, who was the culprit, becoming an exemplary communicant. I mentioned this night's experience at the first meeting of the Session, and discovered that the elders were little concerned about it, and that only one of them was a total abstainer. At that time, the secretary of the congregation was one of the leading publicans of the town, and I think the publican influence was the strongest in the committee, but not numerically. There were several publicans in the congregation, decent men, more ready, perhaps, than others with their pounds in the days of financial stress. They took much interest in the congregation and had much influence.

A most worthy bank manager, who afterwards became an elder, said to me one day, that "it would be difficult for me, in view of the publican members, who were so influential, to preach temperance vigorously." Of course, my reply was that drunkenness was sin and that my business was to expose and, by the blessing of God, diminish the prevalence and power of sin. I never in the pulpit attacked the business. I felt it would not be fair to attack the business of the few in the presence of the many, but I was unsparing in the exposure and denunciation of drunkenness, and had but too many facts to draw upon.

Within twelve months, there were no publicans on the committee, but none of them left the congregation. The secretary and others, in time, gave up the business.

I may here tell how the Temperance Union came into being. A family that my wife and I came to know intimately were the Pims of Lisnagarvey, especially Mrs Pim and her two daughters, Miss Laura and Miss Alice. They were of the salt of the earth. [JVH NOTE: the Pims and the Richardsons were among the best known Lisburn Quakers.) I am thankful that Miss Laura is still with us, bright and vigorous, finding today, as she always did, her joy in doing good, ministering in connection with the Y.W.C.A., the Nursing Society and otherwise, to the material and spiritual needs of young women, the poor and afflicted, giving unstintingly of her time, her love and her means in the service of her Lord.

More than twelve months after my coming to Lisburn, Miss Alice Pim, afterwards Mrs Brownrigg and I were walking through the Park, and talking of the abounding drunkenness in our midst. [JVH NOTE: This refers to the Wallace Park, given to the town of Lisburn by Sir Richard Wallace, the local landowner.] I happened to say that what was needed was united effort on the part of all the clergy and the churches, something like a Temperance Union. Miss Alice mentioned this in a few days to her uncle, James N. Richardson of Lissue. He came to me about this, and after consideration requested me to write to all the local clergy, asking them to meet on 21st February, 1887, at the Friends' Meeting House, to consider the desirability of forming a Temperance Union, and to bring any sympathising friends with them. All the clergy in the town came, except one, who was from home. Mr Richardson was asked to preside and after prayer he asked me to explain the object of the meeting. After saying something about the need for united action in view of the drinking habits in our midst, I said I thought that three things might be done by such a Union:

First - to hold united temperance meetings in the Orange Hall, to impress public opinion and to take total abstinence pledges.

Second - to be a sort of vigilance committee to see that the licensing laws were observed and enforced.

Third - to look forward to having a building as a centre of temperance influence and as a counter-attraction to the public house. [JVH NOTE: Presumably when he refers to "all the clergy" he means "all the Protestant clergy." Canon Pounden, Rector of Lisburn Cathedral 18841917, was not a teetotaller. RWH got on particularly well with the Rev. Arthur John Moore, Rector of Christ Church, Lisburn 1886-1894, Vicar of Holywood 1897-1919. Great support for the temperance movement came from the Rev. Joseph Atkinson Stewart of Killowen, near Lisburn, Curate of Derriaghy 1862-1863 and 1866-1913, who was extremely wealthy. As to the pledges, according to RVH it was not uncommon for the pledges to be pushed back in through RWH's letter-box on or shortly before 11th July.]

After very full discussion, in which nearly all present took part, warm approval was given, those present cordially agreeing to be members; the following office-bearers were appointed:

President: James N. Richardson of Lissue.
Treasurer: James R. Boyd of Greenwood.
Secretaries: Revs. A.J. Moore and R.W. Hamilton.

At a meeting of the Committee the following week, Mr Richardson intimated that he had engaged the Rev. Samuel Pearson of Portland, Maine to give temperance addresses in the Friends' Meeting House and that he would quite willingly give him to our committee to address united meetings. This was cordially agreed to, and it was arranged that there should be a meeting in the Orange Hall on Sunday afternoon, 6th March, at 4 p.m., and meetings during the week at 8 p.m. Great crowds came to these meetings. 570 persons signed the total abstinence pledge, and I believe there was immense blessing to many.

Mr Pearson, the son of a rich American, in early days left his home and spent seven years in riotous living. He gave a lecture one night entitled "Seven years in Hell" - describing his life in those evil days. But God had mercy on him. He was converted and became a Gospel Temperance Lecturer. While pointing out the evils of intemperance, as only a man of his experience could do, and believing in the signing of the pledge, his chief remedy was the Gospel of Christ, and not only did I know at the time of many who saw their sin and took Christ to be their Saviour, but for years afterwards I met from time to time persons who told me they were savingly blessed at those meetings.

Along the years, we had many memorable series of meetings, productive of much good. Another American, the Rev. J. Quincy Adams Henry, (a relative of the famous Quincy Adams and Patrick Henry), a man of much more culture than Mr Pearson, attracted great crowds in the Orange Hall. Within twelve months of the founding of the Union, the matter of a suitable site for a Temperance Institute was discussed. Sir Richard Wallace, through Mr Capron, his agent, was asked for the vacant ground at the end of Railway Street opposite the Courthouse. The site was offered at an annual rent of 7.10s., but finally Sir Richard was personally appealed to and he generously gave the ground free for ever.

Much encouragement to arise and build was given by a number of generous contributions promised: James N. Richardson 300, John D. Barbour and the Rev. Joseph Stewart 200 each, John Grubb Richardson, the Island Spinning Co. and others 100 each. As the building cost much more than at first contemplated, the three first named above most generously increased their contributions. [JVH NOTE: According to my father, the local industrialists had good reason for supporting the cause: week-end boozing was so prevalent that it was difficult to get the factories started on Monday morning.] Mr Richardson, to whom indeed the Union owes more than to any other, gave altogether 800 himself and collected 800 from his friends. On 24th June, 1889, in bright, warm sunshine, Mrs J.D. Barbour laid the foundation-stone of the Institute. It was opened the following year, and with its cafe, reading and recreation room, its gymnasium; its hall, its garages and stables, it has filled and continues to fill a useful place in the community. At present there are about 100 young men members of the billiard room. The Brownlee Library and the various rooms are largely availed of.

The Union in its early years did much for the cause of temperance. All the churches and temperance societies were enthusiastically associated and energetic in the cause.

The first serious repulse came, and it was a very serious one, when two distillers became candidates for representing in Parliament the adjoining portions of Co. Antrim and Co. Down. [JVH NOTE: This probably refers to the 1906 Election at which James Craig (later Viscount Craigavon), was returned for East Down and his brother Charles Curtis Craig for South Antrim; the same thing happened at the two elections of 1910; James was a stockbroker and Charles a solicitor, but they may well have been shareholders in Dunville's Distillery, of which their father, who died in 1900, had been a director.] Many hitherto enthusiastic temperance friends now became enthusiastic supporters of these two candidates, and the candidates, by their generosity, going so far at times as to provide free drink in the public-houses, became very popular; their whole influence being very detrimental to the interests of temperance for some time. However, the cause is strong and vigorous in our midst and public opinion in reference to it is now very different from what it was when the Union was formed. Intemperance hangs it head down to-day, and is seldom seen in the open.

The Institute, that for years was in financial straits, has been more than self-sustaining for many years and today has almost 1,000 to its credit in converted War Loan.

When, during the war, our noble King determined to abstain from alcoholic liquors till the war would come to an end, the matter was brought before a large congregation in Railway Street at the morning Sabbath service, and when asked to follow the King's example and to indicate this by standing up, the whole congregation seemed to rise, and when those opposed were asked to rise, only two did so. [JVH NOTE: Fortunati ambo.]

There is still too much drinking in our midst, but not much, I believe, by Railway Street people.

Shortly after coming to Railway Street, I was seriously impressed by a problem concerning young family life among the working people. A decent, well-disposed young man and young woman married. In a few years, there would be two, three or four or five children. The normal wage at that time was 12s per week. 14s or 15s per week was very special and very rare. How, on any of these wages, could rent and fuel, food and clothes be paid for? How could the children be clothed for day school and Sunday school on this one man's wages? It was impossible unless some help came from without, and if such help did not come, it seemed inevitable that these decent parents should be slowly but surely disheartened and sink down to the submerged tenth. Appreciating this very greatly, I sought the help of the congregation. There was not, hitherto, a collection for the poor. One was now called for annually, and the people generously responded, and a number of our better-off people were ever ready to respond generously when I asked them for help. In this way, boots and clothes were provided for many families, and no-one knew but myself, nor asked to know, the recipients of this help.

We had a number of noble Christian ladies in Railway Street. We formed a Dorcas Society. [JVH NOTE: For the origin of the name, see Acts 9 vv. 36-42]. The ladies visited the homes of the people, taking round to the homes the Monthly Visitor, showing sympathy and brightening by their presence many a home. The collection for the poor and other monies were at their disposal, but they, in the nicest way, asked me to give the gifts, and did not know to whom they were given.

They did not wish to pauperise the poor, but to keep up the spirit of respectability, and my own custom was often to take things at night to the needy homes, that no others might observe or know. Later on, when much more money was at our disposal for the help of the poor, the committee entrusted it all to me, and no-one but myself knew who was helped. I regarded it as exhibiting a fine Christian spirit.

As for myself, I seldom asked anyone to come to my door for help, except an odd one at night; I mostly took the help to them.

By these efforts, many a family was tided over a most trying and difficult period, before the children were able to work; afterwards, there was little need for help, except when there was sickness.

Another channel for helping the poor, in old age or whenever no longer able to work: I never liked to allow a decent member of the Church to go to the Workhouse, but tried, before the Old Age Fund came into existence, to have them kept in comfort at home. [JVH NOTE: On 5th August, 1886, RWH was appointed Presbyterian Chaplain to the Lisburn Workhouse.]

Very early in my ministry in Railway Street, a deep interest was taken in Foreign Missions. During my ministry in Burt, Dr. Fleeting Stevenson, who was the Convener of our Foreign Mission, one of the most earnest and cultured ministers our Church ever had, found me out in some way I never knew of, took a great interest in me and especially endeavoured to inspire me with ardour for Foreign Missions. He wrote letter after letter giving me facts and figures, and succeeded in measure in causing me to realise the enormous responsibility of the Church to send the Gospel to those who had never heard of the living and true God, the Saviour of the world.

When I came to Railway Street, I found many, rich and poor, deeply sympathetic with Foreign Missions. The collection in 1885 was about 12 and it gradually rose. We gave 19 in 1886, and for some reason the Convener next year asked all the congregations to double their contributions. Railway Street, in response, gave over 40.

When the next year came round, I appealed to the people, urging that none of us had suffered from our splendid giving to this collection last year, that the cause was urgent, and could they not give what they gave last year. In response, they gave over 50, and went on increasing year by year, until in 1920 we gave 285.

At the same time, our ladies had, year by year, a sale for the Zenana Mission, which kept gradually rising until it raised in 1920 168-1Os. The great majority of our working people gave nobly.

I frequently preached on the subject of Christian giving, systematic giving, and pointed out that in Old Testament days the Israelite gave a tenth to the purposes of his church in his day, and I urged that the New Testament believer could not surely give less, should indeed give far more.

For my own part, I nearly always gave about a sixth of what God gave me. In days of financial stringency, it may have seemed unwise, but God supplied all the need and left me so that in the closing days with immensely reduced income, I yet have enough and to spare, and continue now the sixth. [JVH NOTE: The remuneration promised in the Call issued by Railway Street congregation in 1885 was 120 per annum.]

One of the best men in the congregation, Frederic Duncan came to me after a sermon on systematic giving, and said if I was right, he was far wrong, that he had been giving some shillings to various collections and other calls, and grumbled at the number of calls. But he now thought I had made good the case for at least the tenth, and that to him it would mean, not a few pounds, but over a hundred pounds a year. From that day, he gave 20 to the Foreign Mission collection and proportionately to other objects. [JVH NOTE: He owned a drapery business on the island site in Market Square, Lisburn.]

Another friend at the same time - it was before the Foreign Mission collection - who hitherto had been giving a few shillings to the various collections, was not able to be at church the day of the collection, came to me with 4 and subsequently gave increasingly to all our Missions and good objects.

When the people do not give, it is largely due to the Minister. Some are afraid to urge giving at all, some fear that if the people give to Missions they will not be able to give to congregational needs. But the truth seems to be that if people are led to see that their money is not their own but God's, to see therefore the responsibility and the privilege of giving, they will give liberally and cheerfully to all good objects, as God enables them.

I think it is a fact that the people who give most to Foreign Missions give most to all home things also.

1888 was distinguished by two experiences:

l. The World-wide Missionary Conference.
2. The birth of Robin
[JVH NOTE: My father Robert Victor Hamilton was always known as Robin.]

1. The first World-wide Missionary Conference was held that year in Exeter Hall, London. It was organised by the Rev. James Johnston, and most admirably arranged for. Delegates were present from all the churches of Christendom except the S.P.C.K. of the Anglican Church. [JVH NOTE: Surely "Christendom" is too sweeping a term?] I was a delegate from our church. Several meetings every day for a week, a most interesting, illuminating experience. It was the first time that all the Christian forces in non-Christian lands were tabulated and known.
There were some special entertainments and excursions. One of them that I well remember was at Haddo House, the residence of Lord Aberdeen, where Mr Gladstone was one of the guests. I had the great honour, as I have always regarded it, of shaking hands with this great man, of whom Lord Salisbury, his lifelong political opponent, in a funeral oration, said "that he was almost without parallel in history, a great Christian man." [JVH NOTE: I can remember visiting RWH c. 1935 and seeing a framed photograph of Mr Gladstone.]

Henry Drummond was also present, and the Aberdeens gave us a delightful afternoon.

2. The other thing that distinguished 1888 is that on the 12th November of that year, Robin was born at Rubicon, Lisburn. His mother was anxious to give him my name in full, and while I suggested my father's or other names, this was agreed to. But one day, in great earnestness, she told me she had been thinking about the name and that if I would consent she would like to call him Robert Victor; she had been praying much for her darling child and said she wanted him to be a victor in the battle of life. Of course, I most cordially acquiesced in her wishes.

When I was about a year in Lisburn, the Committee decided that they would look out for a site on which to build a Manse. There was a Manse, next house to the Church, built through the energy of the Rev. D.J. Clarke, but no minister ever lived in it.

Mr Clarke had built a house for himself nearby, and when Mr Bigger came, the Manse was well let. He got the rent of 40 and preferred to live in the suburbs. The same was true when I came. The tenant would have required notice, which meant the Manse was not available when I came; so I, too, took a house in the suburbs. But the people were very kind and thought we ought to have a Manse in the suburbs. So, with members of Committee, I went round all parts of the town to look for a site. We agreed that the best site about the town was on this hill, where the Manse now is. We went to the Estate office about it and were told that Sir Richard Wallace would not allow any erection on this hill, which was then, indeed, a sort of wilderness, lest it would obscure his view from the Castle of Colin and other mountains. But they offered us another site. [JVH NOTE: The hill referred to is Fort Hill, off Magheralave Road.]

The fact was that I was not very anxious about a new Manse. We were very comfortable at Rubicon, but I was very anxious about a Lecture Hall, and persuaded the Committee to erect one.

We had a sale of work in the Orange Hall and raised, between the sale and the people's givings, more than enough. The Lecture Hall, which has filled a most useful place all these years, cost - furniture and all - only about 500.

Later on, it became obvious that we needed more accommodation in the church, and the vestibule and other parts needed reconstruction. The room which is now called the Upper Room was then approached by steps outside.

We got a very capable architect, Mr W.J. Gilliland of Belfast, who put up the side galleries and reconstructed many parts of the Church, putting in new windows etc., at a cost of about 1,400.

The people themselves contributed generously. We had another sale of work, held this time in the Fort House, through the kindness of Mrs Robert arbour of Patterson, New Jersey, who, when over here, always worshipped with us. [JVH NOTE: For an account of the Barbour Family at that time, see Report of the Barbour Will Case (Belfast News-Letter Book-printing House, 1885); this relates to the disputed Will of Robert's brother, Thomas. The case was heard in Dublin in June 1885]: Sufficient money was raised.

Fourteen years after the Office people refused this site, Sir Richard Wallace was dead, Lady Wallace was dead and the Estate was being sold out. Mr James Sloan of Plantation House, a member of a family that was a great strength to Railway Street Church, bought the whole hill and the first thing he did was to offer a fine site for a Manse. The Committee gladly accepted the offer, and the Manse was duly erected, the congregation never being asked for a penny for its erection.
It was financed in this way: 800 was borrowed from the Board of Works at 5%, principal and interest being paid in 35 years. The rent of 40 from the existing Manse met this. The house adjoining the Manse in Railway Street belonged to the congregation. Mr Clarke had built it with some surplus money. The Committee sold this house for 500 to Miss Isabella Brownlee. Miss Brownlee, by her Will, bequeathed this house to the congregation and died in a few years. The contractor's tender for the Manse was less than 1,100. Miss Brownlee's Trustees fenced the gardens, putting up gates.

We came to the house in January 1901. [JVH NOTE: Following the death in 1961 of the Rev. Dr. J.K. Elliott, this Fort Hill Manse was sold to the Friends' School.]

Mr Clarke had built schools behind the church, a boys' school and a girls' school and they served the community well for many years. But the buildings became increasingly unsuitable for modern requirements, and there seemed to be a pressing need for new structures. Miss Isabella Brownlee, who bequeathed handsome legacies to Railway Street Church, to several objects in Lisburn and to the General Assembly funds, left a considerable residue to be disposed of at the discretion of her Trustees, James Edgar Sloan of Plantation and myself.

She had before her death given proof of her interest in education by giving 200 for the purchase of a site for a teacher's residence. Mr Sloan and I decided to use some of the residue in the erection of a new up-to-date school. We bought a section of the ground which was formerly Sir Richard Wallace's garden, for this purpose. After many years of correspondence with the Commissioners of National Education, the plans etc. were accepted and they gave a grant of 1,400. The school altogether cost 6,000-7,000. In the case of the residence, 250 was borrowed from the Board of Works.

While all admit that the school is a fine one, commodious, well ventilated, well lit and well built, we would have had further and fuller accommodation in it, but the Commissioners would not allow us.

I had visited schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but our Commissioners were impervious to new ideas.

We wished also to build a more commodious teacher's residence but the Commissioners objected. It so happened that Dr. Lamont, the first principal, had no family, and the accommodation was sufficient for him.

But when Mr Boyd came with a family, we were compelled to enlarge the residence at a price which exceeded the original cost; prices during the years had so much increased. [JVH NOTE: This was James Boyd. His children included Professor Maurice Boyd of Queen's University, Belfast and Eustace Boyd, who became a Director of the Ulster Bank.]

For the erection of these buildings, the congregation was not asked for a penny.

This school, called the Brownlee Memorial School, in honour of Miss Isabella Brownlee, whose money made it possible to erect it, has filled a most useful place in the community; its teachers possessing a high standard of educational efficiency and that fine Christian spirit which is of the utmost value in not only training the intellect but in shaping and developing the character.

The school is now transferred to the Local Education Authority and is under the management of a local committee of intelligent, highminded men, which gives me great satisfaction in retiring from it.

[JVH NOTE: As of 1995, the school is still going. About 10 years ago, the teacher's residence became surplus to requirements; it was retransferred to the Church and sold by them.]

From the early days of the congregation, there was an afternoon Sunday School in the Hilden Dining Hall, the use of which was given at first by Mr William Barbour, who was indeed the chief founder of the congregation. This Sunday School was carried on earnestly and efficiently by numbers of willing teachers before my time and during my earlier years here, and was always largely attended by the children of Hilden and neighbourhood. But increasingly, perhaps due to the modern appreciation of convenience and comfort, there was felt the need of more suitable accommodation. So I went to Mr J.D. Barbour, the head of the firm of Wm Barbour & Sons in my time, to ask for ground for a Mission Hall in Hilden. He entertained the matter most sympathetically and sent Mr Milne, his second son out with me to spy out a site. They offered ground close to Hilden House. But on account of special expenditure on other operations at the time, the matter of the Hilden Mission Hall was deferred. [JVH NOTE: The Mr Milne referred to was the future Sir Milne Barbour.]

Subsequently, when Mrs Milne Barbour, to the deep sorrow of the whole community, passed away, she left 250 to Railway Street Church. Shortly after this, I met Mr Milne and he asked me what the Committee proposed to do with Mrs Barbour's bequest. I told him it was not yet decided, but I thought it might be made the nucleus of a fund to build a Mission Hall in Hilden. The next time I met Mr Milne, he told me he would like to add 500 for this purpose. The next time I met him he said he would like to defray all cost of such a building and for us to go on to select the site and get plans, etc.

We selected the site where the E.M.B. Hall now is, with Mr Barbour's approval. The ground belonged to Sir Samuel Keightley & Co. We bought and paid for it, but ultimately Mr Barbour insisted on paying this also.

The plans, etc. were approved, Mr Barbour having given great attention to them, and indeed to every detail of the building from beginning to end, anxious that all materials and equipment should be of the best. Altogether, the building ground, furniture, etc. cost the most of 2500, and all conveyed to the Session of Railway Street Church.

I should have said that at an early stage it was cordially agreed that the Hall should be a memorial to Mrs Elise Milne Barbour; it bears in front a memorial stone, and in the Hall our committee put above the platform a picture of Mrs Barbour.

Our Session appointed a Committee of Management of the Hall and made Mr Barbour Chairman. He has from its erection taken a deep interest in the Hall and Sunday School and the work carried on, and, when painting or lighting or anything else was required, has always borne the cost. It is only recently that our Committee has insisted on financing the Hall.

I should add that immediately on its erection, our Committee decided that the annual interest of Mrs Barbour's 250 should go to the upkeep of the Hall. Mr Barbour has, from time to time, handed over sums for the same purpose.

One can never be thankful enough to Mr Barbour for his abounding generosity to our congregation; personally, I feel most grateful and thankful to God that I have been associated with him, not only in that, but also in connection with other institutions. The seat in which his grandfather sat in Railway Street Church was always paid for by the firm of Messrs Barbour & Sons, until the Linen Thread Company was formed. From that date, Mr Milne himself paid the stipend, 4-10s. A few years ago, he wrote me a letter intimating that he wished to make permanent provision for that stipend, and enclosed scrip for 200 at 4%, thus doubling the annual amount and making it permanent. One heartily blesses God for such men as the Rt. Hon. J. Milne Barbour, M.P., D.L., M.A.

This, then is the third building, all specially fine buildings, which came into the possession of the congregation without any financial effort on their part.

I would have no satisfaction, as a Minister of the Gospel of Christ in having had a hand in all these material erections in connection with Railway Street Church, if there had not been also, and chiefly, the placing of stones in the Temple of God, the building up of the imperishable Kingdom in the salvation of men. But, thank God, while there is deepest cause for humiliation in view of faithlessness and shortcomings in so many directions, our congregation never lost sight of the chief aim of the Church of Christ, that is the salvation of souls, the bringing of young and old under the sway and power of the living Christ. And all along the years, there were tokens of God's presence and blessing in the conversion of sinners and the comforting and building up of men and women in the faith of Christ. I can humbly say for myself that the spiritual building was ever cherished as supremely important and that, through the grace and mercy of God, the Holy Spirit opened the hearts of young and old among us and gave us from time to time seasons of blessed refreshing.

The congregation at various times bestowed on us generous gifts. When we first took up house at Rubicon in 1886, they gave us 50 to help to furnish. Onetime, my health was a bit run down and they sent me away for a month or more and paid all the expenses.

1907 happened to be the semi jubilee of our marriage, and the on gave very handsome gifts to Mrs Hamilton and me, and sent us away to Canada and the United States for three months. Since then they gave us further valuable gifts, both in Mrs Hamilton's lifetime and after her death, including the memorial window in the Church. We received sundry addresses also. In 1910, the Golden Jubilee of the congregation and the semi-jubilee of my ministry in Railway Street synchronised.

Mr James Carson, manager for years of the Ulster Bank and treasurer of the congregation, wrote in this jubilee year a very interesting and comprehensive history of the congregation from the beginning. He gives the following figures to show the progress since I came in 1885. He gives 1885 and 1910. 1 add 1920 and 1929:

Year Families Communicants Stipend Sustentation Sabbath
Collections
Missions
& other
charities
1885 272 176 139 57 71 102
1910 325 296 250 96  109 505
1920 340 300  386 110 231 770
1929 395  324 570 130 117 * 1610

(*Freewill offering explains)

While the figures give some idea of the steady progress of the congregation, they do not exhaust either the financial or spiritual efforts and prosperity.

I could with satisfaction mention the names of men and women in the congregation who were a never-failing help and encouragement, but they would be so numerous that I feel I had better not begin to name names.

We have had many earnest, good men on both Session and Committee, and while from time to time there were little differences of opinion, there never were any unseemly conflicts but much Christian forbearance and goodwill.

It could not be expected that a free Presbyterian people in making radical changes should be all of one mind. So in changing from fermented to unfermented wine at communion, we had considerable variance of opinion, and I must confess the teetotal people were the least tolerant at the time, but the ill-feeling soon passed away. [JVH NOTE: A cutting, apparently from Mr Carson's history, pasted into my MS of the original RWH book states: "In the year 1889, unfermented wine was first used at the celebration of the Communion."]

Then, in the matter of the introduction of hymns, some of our best people did not like them, but with fine, Christian magnanimity acquiesced in their introduction. I should say that I was minister of Railway Street for almost twenty years before I made any appeal publicly or privately to the people to consent to the use of hymns in public worship.

One Sunday, I made an earnest appeal to them. I reminded them of the length of time I had been with them without in any way touching on this subject, and that I had come under the power of the Gospel of Christ where hymns as well as psalms were constantly used, and that I loved the hymns, but that out of respect for the views and feelings of many in the on I had not hitherto urged their use. I reminded them also that there were many in the congregation and most of the young people who liked the hymns. I added that for long my own conviction was that we were never meant, in the worship of praise, to be confined to the psalms, to that subject-matter of praise in which the name of Christ did not occur and in which there was nothing of noonday clearness about His atoning work.

I appealed, therefore, to these friends that did not like the hymns, that as I and others had given proof of great patience towards them during these twenty years, would not they now have patience with us and cordially acquiesce in the introduction of hymns. They did so, and we really had no trouble about their use. Practically the same was true when the use of instrumental music was introduced in the service of the Church. [JVH NOTE: Mr Carson's history states: "Instrumental music was introduced into the service of the Church and an organ installed in the year 1908."]

I think I ought here to refer to generous donors to the Church. I have already mentioned Mr Sloan's handsome gift of the ground for the Fort Manse. Mr James Crossin, J.P, Massereene Villas [North Circular Road], besides being always among the most liberal contributors to all our funds, presented the congregation with the clock in the Church, and with our magnificent organ and in his will remembered our Sunday School. He also bequeathed several thousand pounds to the Mission and other funds of the General Assembly. Mrs McAfee and Mr McAfee, though Methodists, left by their wills generous gifts for our poor and church funds.
 

Miss Isabella Brownlee, the last of an old and much respected family, who had been a great strength to our Church, left about half of her assets to relations and by the remainder, except some inconsiderable sums to the Lisburn Nursing Society, the Lisburn Intermediate School and the Temperance Institute (for the purpose of a Library), enriched the Assembly's College Library and this congregation.

Alexander Davidson, an elder of the Church, left 100 for necessary repairs to the roof of the Church. Miss Jessie Sloan bequeathed money for the poor and other purposes. Mr H.G. Larmor, J.P, one of the most helpful and generous members of the Church, an elder for many years, gave, in his lifetime 200, the interest from which was to help disabled breadwinners. Miss Lily left 300, the interest from which was to provide prizes for scripture examination in the Brownlee School. Mrs J.D. Hamilton, who died recently, and was one of the oldest members, always willing generously to help in any way, bequeathed 300 for the benefit of the Church funds.

In 1907, my brethren did me the honour of electing me as Moderator of the Synod of Belfast.

Previously, the General Assembly had appointed me as first Convener of the Missionary Conferences Committee (now Missionary Propaganda Committee); subsequently, on the death of the Rev Dr William Rogers of Whiteabbey, one of the ablest and most devoted and Christlike men the Church ever possessed, the Assembly released me from the former Committee and appointed me Convener of the State of Religion and Evangelisation Committees. Both these Committees involved considerable work, which for years I greatly enjoyed, but the demands of ever-increasing congregational and other work in Lisburn and health considerations compelled me to give up the latter Committee after seven or eight years as its Convener. I came to the stage when I had to decide between the work involved in connection with various Committees of the General Assembly - all most important - and the work God gave me and was giving me to do in Lisburn. I could not give my best strength to both, so I relinquished for the time much of the outside work.

The year 1907 was a memorable one for my wife and me. It was our silver wedding year, and the congregation, deeply appreciative of the
occasion, gave us two handsome cheques and a silver rose bowl and sent us off for a few months holiday. Just about this time, my cousin Emma Finley, perhaps the oldest and best friend I had along the years, who was always wishing us to visit the many cousins in Canada, made her wish this year almost practically imperative by sending a cheque for 100 towards the expenses. So to Canada we went, and spent our 25th Wedding Day, 22nd June, on the good ship Sonia on our way to Quebec and Montreal. [JVH NOTE: The Finleys and Gaults have already been referred to. Emma (nee Gault), wife of Samuel Finley, was the daughter of Mary (nee Hamilton) and Leslie Gault. Mary was the sister of RWH's father.]

We got a most affectionate welcome from the cousins in Montreal, but most of them had moved away to summer quarters. Lizzie Gault (Mrs Matthew Gault) was still at Braehead, and put herself and her carriage at our disposal for the week or so we spent in Montreal. [JVH NOTE: I assume that Matthew was Leslie's son.]

An experience I valued much was to take tea with my old, genial friend, Bishop Carmichael. But, alas, he was much broken down, a bundle of nerves, and died some months afterwards. His wife, a most noble woman of a beautiful spirit, had died some years previously; in my early days in Montreal, they had both been exceedingly kind to me.

But our destination was "The Islands", where the Finley family had already gone. They owned two of the "Thousand Islands" in the St. Lawrence. Mr Finley had been one of two who purchased from the Government three islands. Mr Finley owned two of them, one of about eleven acres, the other less than an acre, the two adjoining. They got them very cheap, but by the time we were there most of the islands were bought, and at very large prices.

Life on these islands was ideal for a restful, simple holiday. Of course, all access and egress was by boats, and my friends had several canoes, row boats and sailing boats. All supplies were brought from a town called Gananoque, about four miles distant. They had a cow, but supplies of every kind, including fruit and vegetables, came from the mainland.

The conditions for a restful, happy holiday were ideal; the heat was never oppressive, as there was always a breeze. The summer log-house was most comfortable and the company, Emma and Gretta and Kathleen, others occasionally, was of the best, intellectually, spiritually and affectionately. [JVI-I NOTE: Gretta and Kathleen were presumably Emma's daughters.]

We spent two months here, longer than we intended, because of my needing the attention of a dentist.

One evening at tea, the girls remarked that they often wished they had a bridge between the two islands. Later on, I went to where the islands approached nearest to each other, and did some measuring and thinking that evening. The next morning at breakfast, I announced that I was going to build a bridge. I found the span would be less than 30 feet. There were great quantities of oak saplings on the island, the Government, some years ago, having cut down the immense oak trees; saplings, three or four or five from every root, had grown up and were now fifty or sixty feet high. I first built a stone pier on either side, sufficiently high above the level of the water. I cut down four of these saplings, but when I had them cut I found they were so heavy that, although we got four men, we were unable to move them down to the water to float them to the bridge quarters. So I had to cut down four smaller ones. These were over 30 feet long and rested on the two heaps of stones and formed the beams or framework. Then, across these four, innumerable small poles were nailed down to make a close floor for the bridge. Then banisters about three feet high were raised along either side.

The small island was called Drumclamph for Mr Finley's old home in Co. Tyrone. It was full of squirrels that kept me company while I built, at first very timorous but after a while running past me across the bridge to the larger island, where they had never been before.

At length, on Wednesday, 28th August, 1907, I handed the bridge over to cousin Emma, and, standing on the bridge, recited a poem made for the occasion as follows.

This bridge is neither straight nor square,
'Tis level only here and there,
Its glory is its inclinations
Its peril is its pier foundations,
But 'tis a bridge that spans two isles,
And cares not what pert critic smiles.

True, proper critics apt to judge
Display discernment of a bridge.
A noble bridge, declare the squirrels,
A splendid bridge, aver the girls,
And since it gives these friends some pleasure,
The pontiff scorns the men who measure.

Behold, how nature vast and full
Despises lime and line and rule,
Like plant and tree and hill and sea,
From all pedantic gauges free,
This bridge is no prim artist's creature,
But emulates the child of nature.

Besides the family, three Miss Shillingtons, who had built a beautiful summer house on an island nearby, were present, and all took tea on Drumclamph, a very happy gathering. I think the maids were present too.

The next day, we left Sagastaweke - the Indian name of the larger island - after some of the happiest experiences of our lives.

Perhaps I should mention two other experiences:

When Mr Finley first came to the islands, there were few people about, but soon people from Montreal and Toronto and the United States purchased islands and built thereon. Mr Finley and a Methodist clergyman soon started Sunday afternoon services at a very interesting spot called Half Moon Bay. In my day, scores of boats and splendid launches came every Sunday afternoon, bringing hundreds of worshippers, and I had the privilege of conducting the services on several Sundays.

The other matter: My cousin's man, George, an Englishman, whom I tried to enlist to give energetic help at the bridge, but soon found he always made for the point of least resistance - he would put small stones on the piers, although there were plenty of large ones about, so I had to encourage him to do other work about the house and leave the bridge to me. But there was an elderly man named John McDonald, a boatman who took us to fish, whom I got to help, the very opposite type from the other; he would tackle anything and was a great help.

Another story about him: Friends in an adjacent island, to whom we went for tea, had numbers of fruit trees, but said they never had any fruit. I suggested root pruning. They did this, and the next year had abundance of fruit. They told John McDonald that this was due to my advice, and it appears John said, "Mr Hamilton is the cleverest Irishman I have ever known." This I regard as one of the finest compliments I ever got.

In 1910, there was a great Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, representatives of all the Protestant Churches of Christendom being present, and many native Christians, some of them very able and notable speakers, from all the mission fields of the world. I was one of the delegates from our Church, and the privilege of attending the wonderful meetings was one of the great experiences of my life. I could never forget one of the great pronouncements of the Rev. Dr Denny, theological professor of the United Free College, Glasgow, stressing the importance of the Church at home being alive and vigorous:

"The sort of person that is needed in the service of the Church, at home or abroad, is the person who is enthusiastically sure that he has in Christ that without which life has no value.

1914 was a never-to-be-forgotten year. Burt had belonged to a medical corps in Edinburgh, and was called out for service a few days before war was declared. He went out with French's Expeditionary Force to France. His mother and I went over to Manchester to see him before he left. Bob, their first-born was but a few months old, and he and his mother were to be left alone. Some hours after he had gone, I was alone with the child, carrying him about in the drawing-room. Deeply impressed with the pathos of the occasion, I began some rhyme expressive of the child's mind. I can only recall two verses:

Daddy is gone to the war,
And, mother and I are alone,
We're going to be good and not cry
Till Daddy comes back again home.

But mother and I are so glad,
I can't tell you how glad we feel,
That Daddy in going to the war
Is not going to kill but to heal.

Then, but a few weeks passed when he was taken prisoner at Mons, and for some time reported as missing. This was a deeply anxious time for his wife and mother and us all. But again in a few weeks we learned that he was at Torgau, an old fortress that had been used as a barracks. After many trying experiences, he was released with four others in January 1915, long before exchanges were entered upon. After a time, he went back to France again, and continued in active service until within a few months of the end of the war, when he was gassed in rescuing a fellow-officer who had been gassed in a dug-out. For this he received the Military Cross.

The period of the war was for many of our young people a trying and tragic time. Many of the young men of the congregation went to the war and fourteen laid down their lives in the service of God and their country.

[JVH NOTE: It may be appropriate to interpose here a short note on RWH's elder son, ESBH (Burt);

Born at Burt, Co. Donegal, 30th March 1886. Educated: 1893-1900 Lisburn Intermediate School; 1900-1903 Campbell College Belfast: 1903-1904 Queen's College Belfast; 1904-10 medical course at Edinburgh University but 1907-8 was spent as games-master at Wickersdorf School. Germany. Hospital appointments: 1910-1911 Edinburgh Royal Infirmary; 1911-1912 Cardiff Infirmary. General practice at 79 Shrewsbury Street, Manchester 1912-1914. Married 18th January 1913 at 10 Chalmer's Crescent, Edinburgh his 1st wife Marion Elsie Stewart (1884-1921). 1919 FRCS (Edinburgh) and became an ear, nose and throat surgeon in Manchester. Took a prominent part in the St. John's Ambulance Brigade in Lancashire. c.1934 married his 2nd wife Marjory Kathleen Bird. O.B.E. 1953. Children: by his Ist marriage: Dr Robert Stewart Burt born 23rd February 1914; Geoffrey Cadzow, C.B.E., M.A., born 5th January 1917; he died a few years ago; Peter Donaldson, L.D.S. 1921-1963; by his 2nd marriage; Henry Wilson, F.R.C.S. born 1st April 1935. ESBH died 14th March 1962.)