Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church Forty Years On S. & B. Wallace




Rev. D.H.A. Watson, B.A., B.D.On 28th September 1956 the congregation had the joy of having their own minister, when Rev. D.H.A. Watson, B.A., B.D., was ordained in First Lisburn Presbyterian Church for the Joint Lambeg - Seymour Hill Church Extension Charge. Mr. Watson was a son of the manse, his father, Rev. David Watson, being minister ofFirstDonaghadee. Mr. Watson's mother became an active member of the Lambeg congregation.

Mr. Watson's influence in these churches was significant as shown by the breadth of outlook and caring attitudes of the members of both Harmony Hill and Seymour Hill, and the real feeling in each congregation of belonging to a family.
Mr. Watson was often seen in all weathers, riding round Lambeg and down to Seymour Hill on his bicycle, until the congregation joined together to buy him a black Ford Popular. To quote Mr. Watson "SZ 7316 proved a friendly and willing workmate."

A Brownie Pack was started in September 1958 under the leadership of Mrs. Margaret McKnight, with a Guide Company opening the following year in October 1959 under the leader ship of Miss Sheila Kerr and Mrs. J. Browne. Also in 1959, Indoor Bowling (Mixed and Ladies) was started. The Lambeg Players took the stage with Mr. Clifford Boyd as producer. They have subsequently progressed to such venues as the Group Theatre, Belfast and the summer theatre in Portrush.
Mr. J. Nelson continued assisting Mr. Watson until Mr. Nelson retired in October 1959. Rev. R. Brown, B.A., who was a final year student at Assembly's College, was appointed as assist ant until he left to continue his studies at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey.

During this time, improvements were carried out in the Lambeg Hall. In 1956 the upstairs room, used for church services, was floored by Messrs. Crawford in one week at the cost of 92. Electric heating was installed to replace the coke stove. This room was given the name `The Upper Room' by Mr. Watson. Some of the men of the congregation made a small raised dais at the front of the reading desk, a gift from the former Masonic Hall, now the site of the Bizerba Firm in Lambeg village. This room was also used for other church activities including the Annual Flower Show started by Mr. David Hilditch on Saturday 7th September 1957. Mr. Cyril Gillett has organised this show from 1966 - 1990 and the proceeds over this period have been donated to various charities and church furnishings. The present organisers are Mr. George McCartney and Mr. Jeffrey Whitford. In 1957 the Lambeg Hall was purchased from First Lisburn congregation from whom it had been held free of rent for some years.


The original site chosen for the Lambeg Church was at Woodland Park off the Moss Road but the Church Committee thought a more central site would be preferable and a recommendation was therefore sent to the Interim Session. Negotiations for a site on the corner of the Harmony Hill - Moss Road development were entered into by Church Extension but the asking price was considered too high. However in 1959, through the intervention of Mr. R. McK. Hill, the local Councillor, and a member of the congregation, a site (on which there had been a row of small houses) was found. It is this area of ground that forms the site of the present church.

Many letters passed between the Church Committee and Church Extension of which the Rev. J.T. Carson, B.A., was the hard-working Convenor, as the delays mounted and plans for the building were changed and modified. This caused considerable frustration.

The Foundation Stone of Seymour Hill Church, the Nendrum Stone, was laid on the 14th March 1959 and that Church was dedicated on 19th September 1959.

This meant that the hut which Seymour Hill had used was no longer needed and in 1960 it was transferred to Lambeg Presbyterian Hall in the village and joined to the Hall by men of the congregation. This proved very useful for the youth and the other organisations which were growing in number. The spirit of those who moved the but and rebuilt it in Lambeg under the leadership of Mr. Tom Conway was recorded in verse by Mr. H. Forsythe in the Harbinger of 1960.


Here's to the boys of the Conway Gang,
They went to work with a biff and a bang,
Some of them big and some of them small,
Demolishers, builders, painters and all.

Tommy and Cliffie, Alan and Stew,
Alec turned out for a time or two,
Sinclair and three by the name of john,
And a score of others off and on.

Here's to the boys who moved the hut,
Bang, biff, wallop, nail and nut,
With pick and hammer, spanner and drill,
Bit by bit from Seymour Hill.

Commander Tom was big and strong,
No thin-skinned guy could last for long,
Where Alan gave as good as he got,
Among that wild, sharp-shooting lot.

The floor was laid like a pier at the docks,
For Eric planned the pillars of blocks,
Gauging them well with level and line,
And the whole fitted together fine.

The hut went up in the Lambeg zone,
With many a grump and many a groan,
With many a push and many a shove,
But they did it all as a labour of love.

They lined it well with hardboard sheet,
And working there all trim and neat,
Freeze-on-it George sealed many a crack,
With a splash of paint about his neck.

Commander Tom and Stanley, the Sparks,
Hoped that, they would get full marks,
On many a cold, dark winter's night,
As they wired the but for heat and light.

And then with the painting the clowns appeared,
When a new one came the whole crowd cheered,
While Ronnie and Dan with youthful ease,
Were swinging aloft on the flying trapeze.

With Cyllies and Billies well to the fore,
They splashed all the windows, spattered the floor,
And one bright wag with a cunning swipe,
Flavoured the flake in Clutie John's pipe.

And then to finish the painting job,
Came a painter topped with a snow-white nob,
The window frames were made to glow,
By our lone-star artist, Platinum Joe.

Then clearing, step-building, flagging and fencing,
With Alan and John, like Hillary and Tenzing,
Were David and Cliffie, Alec and Stew,
At the height of their glory we bid them adieu.

If your name's not mentioned, well don't fret,
You're one of the gang, whose toil and sweat,
Were mixed with fun in all they did,
To save the Church three hundred quid.

Now here's to the boys of the Conway Gang,
Who went to work with a biff and a bang,
Some of them big and some of them small,
Demolishers, builders, painters and all.

One very important event in 1960 was the wedding of the Rev. Alec Watson to Missiean Sprunt. He brought his bride from Scotland to be warmly welcomed by the congregation. Mrs. Watson soon became involved in the work of the Church.

Also in 1960 Rev. J.W. Morrow, B.Sc., M.Agr. Ph.D., (later to become leader of the Corrymeela Community) was ordained in Kilmakee Church, Seymour Hill as Assistant to Mr. Watson. The two ministers worked together visiting and caring for the joint congregation with great devotion until eventually the two charges were divided and Dr. Morrow was installed in Kilmakee Church as Minister of Seymour Hill on 2nd December 1962. The Congregation of Seymour Hill passed from Dromore Presbytery to the former Belfast Presbytery on 1st January 1963. Seymour Hill is now in South Belfast Presbytery.


A number of plans for the church were submitted to Church Extension by the architects Messrs. Munce and Kennedy but were turned down as unsuitable. Plans for the present building were however accepted and on 19th September 1964 two foundation stones were eventually laid at Harmony Hill. These were formed from a dolorite boulder which had been found on the site. The preparation of the site presented difficulties as the builders, Messrs. Fraser & Co. (W. H. Law and Sons) had to excavate the hill and a number of springs were uncovered which had to be culverted. The contract for the building of the church was 35,820. Church Extension met the cost of the building, whilst the congregation was responsible for the furnishings. A Furnishing Fund (with Mr. S. Morwood as Treasurer) was started in September 1964.

The Church was opened and dedicated by the then Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev. Dr. James Dunlop on Saturday 29th May 1965. A feature of the opening was the switching on of the lights, which were the gift of the "Live Wire" scheme. This was a proj ect engaged in by the children and young people of the whole Presbyterian Church in Ireland to raise funds for providing lighting in new Church Extension buildings.

At the time of the opening of the church in Harmony Hill the congregation consisted of 244 families.

The opening services were held on Sunday 30th May 1965. At the morning service the preacher was the Very Rev. Dr. R J. Wilson, Principal Emeritus of Assembly's College. At the Evening Service the preacher was Dr. William Boyd, M.A., the Minister of First Lisburn.

The Church building has been described as a tent - a tabernacle. To the outside world the embracing walls of the building disclose only two elements - the tented roof of the Church itself and the courtyard entrance through the base of the Campanile.

The timber hyperbolic paraboloid roof floats above the enclosing walls, being supported at four points only. The emphasis on Word and Sacraments and their relationships to each other is brought out by the prominence and siting of the pulpit, font and Communion table. The composition in concrete gives unity with the pulpit, the screen at its back, the font and the pedestal which supports the Communion table top. This pedestal was cast in the same mould as the font. The central position of the table allows the congregation to gather round it for worship as a family, reminiscent of the long tables in the aisles when the people ,came forward' to Communion.

The bell which bears the date 1874 as well as a crown, a harp and a shamrock, came from Clogher Presbyterian Church, Co. Mayo. The cause at Clogher grew out of the work of Mr. John McManus. Formed as a congregation in 1864, united with Boyle in 1911, it was demoted to Mission Station in 1922. The building was demolished in 1931.

The Church Extension Committee sold the manse on the Moss Road and a new manse was bought at 2 Parkmount, Lisburn into which the family moved in April 1965.

The Rev. Alec Watson was presented with robes on 19th September 1965 by Mrs. Daley and Mrs. Black on behalf of the congregation. Mrs. Kirkwood presented Mrs. Watson with a gift.

On 23rd January 1966 a televised service was broadcast from the new Church, the preacher being the Very Rev. Dr. Fulton. Two services which have now become institutions were started in 1967 - the Candlelight Carol Service and the Christmas Eve Service.

In 1967 the following Memorial was sent to the General assembly in June:

'To the Venerable the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland to meet in Belfast on 5th June 1967.

The memorial of the Interim Session of Harmony Hill Church, Lambeg, Church Extension Charge respectfully showeth:

That the Church Extension Charge of Harmony Hill Church, Lambeg, was established in February 1954: that there are now associated with it more than 320 families: that the members feel financially able to bear the responsibilities of a congregation of the Church: and that they are eager to take their full and proper share in the life of the Church.

Memorialists, therefore, pray your Reverend Assembly to authorise the Presbytery of Dromore to erect the Charge of Harmony Hill, Lambeg, into a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, under that name and on a convenient date after 31st December 1967 to place them on the Synod of Ulster'

On Sunday 18th February 1968 the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev. Dr. William Boyd, M.A. led the worship and informed the congregation that it had been erected and was now an established congregation.

A Kirk Session consisting of members of the congregation was elected. The following were ordained and installed as the first elders of the congregation on 17th November 1968 -Mrs. M. Kirkwood, W J. Blackburn, R J.C. Boyd, W. Castles, G. Daley, C.E. Gillett, A. Rankin, G.S. Wallace and 3 elders were installed (having been ordained in other congregations) C. Bothwell, N. McKnight and A. MacLurg. Mr. A. MacLurg was appointed the first Session Clerk.

Also in 1968 the Church Building received a Civic Trust Award for the "The most pleasing contribution which it makes to the area". A travel grant from the American Memorial Chapel was awarded by the English Speaking Union to the Rev. A. Watson which enabled him to visit the U.S.A. from March to May 1968 in order to study the work of the churches there. There were two radio broadcasts from the church - the first in March 1969 when the theme was `Harmony' and the second in October of the same year with the theme `The Promised Land'. A televised service was recorded on 9th January 1971- the theme `The Light of Love'. Letters of appreciation were received showing the influence of the congregation on a wider sphere.

The work and life of the congregation continued to expand with the number of families (390 in 1970) increasing as more and more houses were built in the surrounding area. The Young Women's Group was formed in February 1970 and the First Lambeg Beaver Team started under the leadership of Mrs. Bartley in October 1970. Badminton and Table Tennis started in 1972 and a Bunny (now Rainbows) group for 4 - 7 year old girls under the leadership of Mrs. Doak began in 1975.

As the congregation grew, the need for more accommodation for its organisations was met from 1968 to 1970 by a temporary but erected in the grounds. The area between the Church and Harmony Hill had been purchased in 1967 from McCall and Sons for 1,100 with a view to building a hall on it but objections to this by some neighbours resulted in it being converted into a car park. This work was carried out by Mr. R. Cullen.


The building of the Main Hall by Dunlop Brothers at a cost of 17,200, was started at the end of 1970 and the service of dedication was held on 5th September 1971. The service was conducted by the Very Rev. Dr. W. Boyd, M.A. and the address was given by Dr. A J. Weir, M.Sc., then Clerk of the General Assembly. This service was followed by a week of celebratory events culminating in the Annual Flower Show.

The old hall in Lambeg village continued in use until about 1974 when it fell into disrepair and was accidentally burnt down. The sale of the site helped to pay for the cost of the new hall. The site of the old hall is now Priory Close, made up of a number of smaller houses for senior citizens.
The darkness and sorrow of the Northern Ireland situation was brought home to the congregation when two members were murdered in 1972, Sergeant Maynard Crawford and Corporal Roy Stanton of the Ulster Defence Regiment. A lectern, the gift of the Crawford family, was dedicated in memory of Sergeant Crawford. Memorial plaques are situated in the entrance foyer of the Church.

The summer of 1975 was marked by the departure of Rev. D.H.A. Watson, on receiving a call to become Minister of Burns and Old Parish Church in Kilsyth, Scotland, and from which he later moved to Anstruther in Fife. Mr. Watson came in 1956 to the Church Extension Charge in Lambeg of 57 families with 33 communicants and 4 baptisms in that year. When he left in 1975 there was a thriving congregation of some 370 families with 381 communicants and over 50 baptisms on average in a year.

For over 18 years, Mr. Watson ministered in Harmony Hill where his distinguished, energetic and well balanced ministry set the mould of the congregation in the true worship of God and in happy, active fellowship with all the people of the district. As well as his work in the congregation, Mr. Watson, a member of the Iona Community, was a founder member of the Corrymeela Community at Ballycastle, the N.I. War on Want and Protestant and Catholic Encounter. He was Chairman of the Committees of several schools and was active in the South Eastern Education and Library Board, serving as its Chairman for a period. He also took an active part in the work of the General Assembly, serving on a number of its Boards and Committees dealing with Sunday School and Youth Interests.

REV. W. H. GRAY, BA., B.D.

The Very Rev. Dr. H. Cromie, Minister of Railway Street, was appointed Convenor-in-Charge of the vacancy and an unanimous call was Rev. W. Harold Gray, B.A., B.D.made by the congregation to the Rev. W. Harold Gray, B.A., B.D. of Woodvale Presbyterian Church. He had grown up as a member of St. Enoch's Belfast and had been a schoolteacher before receiving a call to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. Rev. H. Gray was Assistant Minister in Great Victoria Street. He was installed in Newmills, Co. Tyrone on 17th October 1956, and was later installed also in Carland on 1 st June 1960 when the two congregations were united. While in Tyrone Mr.Gray gave valued service as Convenor for Sunday School work throughout the Assembly. He accepted a call to Woodvale where he was installed in 1969.

Rev. H. Gray was installed as Minister of Harmony Hill on 23rd January 1976. He was an able preacher, showing a deep pastoral concern and sensitivity; and was committed to every aspect of the life and witness of the Church. His wife, Jean, a tower of strength, was involved in the work of the Church, principally in the Women's Guild. Mr. Gray has been Moderator of the Dromore Presbytery and in 1989 Moderator of the Synod of Armagh and Down. He takes a keen interest in education, having served as Chairman of the South Eastern Education and Library Board and a member of a number of local school boards. He is a Trustee of Wallace High School and Chairman of the Board of Governors. He is also a Trustee of the Sabbath School for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The `Harmony Hill Link', a short congregational magazine, which is issued quarterly, was started in December 1976. There had been a similar magazine, `News & Views', published by Dr. & Mrs. Harbison, which had started in 1969. Mr. & Mrs. Richards undertook responsibility for `The Link' until February 1978 when they moved to England. Mr. Gray then undertook the editorship. On Mr. Gray's retirement, Mr. Clifford Boyd became editor.

A new pipe organ, built by the Irish Organ Company, one of the Cosgrove range, was dedicated on Sunday 9th January 1977 with Mr. James Moore, F.R.C.O. as guest organist.


A milestone in the history of the congregation occurred in February 1979, when the 25th Anniversary Celebrations took place; commencing with a Service on Sunday 18th February conducted by the then Moderator of the General Assembly, the Very Rev. Dr. David Burke. In the afternoon he was introduced to the Session and the Committee, members of the Choir, Sunday School teachers and Leaders of organisations, and on
that date the Church held its own Songs of Praise at the evening service.

During the following week, there was a permanent exhibition of the history of the congregation and of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. There were meetings for Young Wives and mothers, afternoon tea for Senior Citizens, an Inter-Organisation Quiz, a film of Yester year, entertainment by the Lambeg Players, items by the uniformed Organisations, a Fancy Dress Church Birthday Party for Beginners and Primary Sunday Schools, and a Sports Night at Glenmore Activity Centre for Junior and Senior Sunday Schools. This all culminated in afinal Celebration on Sunday 25th February 1979 when Rev. D.H.A. Watson and Rev. Dr. John Morrow took part in the morning service and the whole congregation was invited to `Open House' at 4.30 p.m. to meet Mr. and Mrs. Watson and family and have tea together. The Evening Service was recorded for `Shut-ins'.

On 14th October 1979, Mr. Alf McCreary, the well-known Ulster journalist, spoke of World Hunger at the evening service, a "Fast" Group was subsequently started in the congregation. The members fasted one day in the month and the money saved was given to Christian Aid. This Group is now know as `The Third World Group' to include others interested in helping in this project. To date the members of this Group have raised over 13,000 for Christian Aid.

A broadcast service took place on Radio Ulster on Sunday 9th May 1982 and messages of appreciation and congratulation were received.

The Church roof had to be repaired in 1982 as it was leaking and the supporting timbers had become affected with rot. A Gestetner duplicating machine was purchased which enabled Mr. Stanley Wallace to print `The Link' and other publications and leaflets required for the Church and its organisations.

As the Church had been designed and built without cavity walls, there was a problem with condensation and in 1983, the walls were insulated. An oil-fired heating system was installed to replace the under-floor electrical heating which was becoming less effective and in need of repair.


Mr. Rodney Boyd Thompson, B.A.In September 1983 the congregation welcomed its first Assistant Minister, Mr. Rodney Boyd Thompson, B.A., whose home congregation was Lowe Memorial Presbyterian Church, Finaghy. He was licensed in Lowe Memorial on 17th June 1984 and ordained in Harmony Hill on 13th January 1985. He showed a strong sense of Christian commitment and contributed much to the work and life of the congregation. He is at present minister of Cladymore in Co. Armagh.

The Choir held a `Sing-in' in 1984 which contributed to the cost of purchasing a new piano. This was so successful that a second was held in 1988. On this occasion the proceeds were given to the Presbyterian Residential Trust.

In September 1985 a Flower Festival was held, co-ordinated by Mrs. Audrey Carruthers. The theme was `Flowers in Harmony' depicting "The Words of Jesus Christ". This Flower Festival differed from many of those held in other congregations, in that, virtually all the arrangements were assembled by members of Harmony Hill congregation, with the minimum of professional help. During the Festival, organ recitals were given by the organist Mr. Tom Haire, and Mrs. J. Finnegan, Mrs. U. McIlroy, and Mr. R. Hinds. The Festival ended with a special Praise Service on Sunday 29th September.

Tragedy again struck the congregation when Constable Michael Todd was killed by I.R.A. terrorists in the service of the community on 15th June 1984. He was awarded The Queen's Gallantry Medal posthumously. Memorial chairs were presented to the church by his family and the R.U.C. A commemorative plaque was placed in the vestibule.

A new Assistant Minister came to the congregation in 1986, Mr. Charles John Carson McMullen, M.A., M.Litt. (Oxon) B.D., whose homeMr. Charles John Carson McMullen, M.A., M.Litt. (Oxon) B.D., congregation was Trinity, Omagh. He was licensed at Trinity, Omagh on 21st June 1987 and ordained in Harmony Hill on 31st January 1988.

The high reputation that preceded Mr. McMullen's arrival in the congregation was quickly confirmed. His many gifts of mind and heart together with the high standard of his ministry, pulpit and pastoral, impressed everyone. He endeared himself to all, minister and members alike. In the summer of 1989, Mr. McMullen was one of three delegates from the Irish Presbyterian Church to the Assembly of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches held at Seoul, Korea. He is now Minister of Legacurry Presbyterian Church having been called there towards the end of 1990 and installed on 1st March 1991.

Miss Ann Kennedy, B. Ed.,During the academic year 1989-90, Miss Ann Kennedy, B. Ed., was assigned to Harmony Hill for her final college year. This assignment was designed as a training year for her in keeping with a newly innovated scheme for students in their final year. Although the scheme is designed for the benefit of students, we gladly acknowledge that in the case of Miss Kennedy, the congregation greatly benefited from her sincerity and caring, co-operative attitude. Her presence for one year in Harmony Hill was enriching for the congregation. A member of West Church, Bangor, she was licensed there on Sunday 24th June 1990, and then moved to Cregagh Presbyterian Church as Full-time Assistant. Her ordination took place in Cregagh on 27th January 1991. Miss Kennedy is now the Minister of Caledon and Minterburn congregations, having been installed there on 19th March 1993.