The 1830's were good years. The Napoleonic Wars were long over, there was
an earnest young Queen on the throne, cottage industries were thriving and
the potato famine with its Workhouse horrors were, as yet, unimaginable.
The people of Legacurry, our forefathers, although quite numerous, were
far from affluent, nor were they destitute by the standards of those days.
Most were small tenant farmers and hand loom weavers; others were
labourers, millers, shoemakers and carpenters. Many, especially women,
were unable to write their own names. The main priority of everybody was
the `Rent' due to either the Marquis of Downshire or the Marquis of
Hertford, their landlords.
For almost two hundred years generations of these folk had walked, on
the Sabbath Day, to either Anahilt or Drumbo Presbyterian Church.
However, the men of the 1830's were tiring of the long walk and were
beginning to consider the possibility of having a Church of their own.
To-day, and with hindsight, we can say they had great foresight, great
courage and great faith. One hundred and fifty years ago we might not have
been so sure - we might well have said, "We have no building skills, no
tools, no prospects, no site, no minister, no money, no wit!" Fortunately
for us we were not there! Nevertheless, the seventy brave men led by
Robert Gardner and Thomas Davidson must have spent many anxious and
prayerful days early in 1840 when they decided to try to form a
congregation and build a Presbyterian church in their own district.
On 3 March that year the Belfast Presbytery was asked to provide
ministers to conduct services on five consecutive Sabbaths. The first of
these services was held on 7 June at 5.00 p.m. No record exists of where
they were held. Very likely they were open air services in a field
belonging to one of the founder members, perhaps Mr. Robert Morrow (of
Legacurry House) and just possibly on the present Church site.
The young licentiates who conducted these services were Messrs. Bellis,
Campbell, Hammy, Morgan (or Musgrave) and a Dr. Reid. The Rev. Alexander
Henderson from 1st Lisburn and the Rev. Adam Montgomery form nearby (old)
Ballycairn were appointed by the Belfast Presbytery to make the
arrangements for the five services and measure the extent of local support
for a separate congregation. Mr. Montgomery was Clerk of the Presbytery
and Mr. Henderson was no stranger to the Legacurry area. For some years he
had regularly inspected Deneight Day and Sabbath School where 103
Presbyterian children were on the Sabbath School roll. Our founder members
were fortunate to have the goodwill and recommendation of their
neighbours, the Rev. Thomas Greer of Anahilt and Rev. S.M. Dill of
The first stumbling block came early in 1841 when the request to the
Marquis of Downshire for a Church site was not successful. His reluctance
was very disappointing as all the land around Legacurry formed part of the
Marquis' Estate. By this time there were about one hundred families in the
area who were anxious to have a Pastor of their own, and the Presbytery
recommended that a minister be chosen and ordained with speed.
Two licentiates were considered by the newly formed congregation, known
at that time as the Congregation of Lisnastrean, Mr. Phineas Whiteside and
Mr. Simpson. Mr. Whiteside was the unanimous choice of the people. He was
a Tyrone man born at Albany in 1810. A student of the Old College,
Belfast, where he gained the General Certificate in 1836, he was licensed
by the Tyrone Presbytery in 1840 and ordained on 19 August 1841.
Oral tradition tells us that the platform that day was a farm cart and
the service was held in a field near the site of the present Church which
was built some two years later. We are not told whether Mr. Whiteside's
parents and two sisters Martha and Mary were present on that historic day
- we can only hope it was a glorious August day and not wet! The many
guests, Presbytery Representatives and neighbours arrived by saddle horse
and pony trap from Lisburn, Anahilt, Hillsborough, Drumbo and Boardmills,
with their own grooms and drivers. In our minds' eye we can see horses
unyoked and tethered, glad to nibble the grass, their traps upended in
rows in the fields, their occupants walking around in tall hats and tails
or best costumes, feathered hats and buttoned boots. The Committee (wives)
provided evening entertainment; were they up from dawn making fresh
griddle bread, slicing currant loaf and packing up their china? We can
easily imagine the sounds of the horses, the scent of the new bread, the
crowds, the excitement, the stresses, strains and nerves that all played a
part in that big day.
An excellent record of the Ordination exists and is quoted in full as
"On Thursday the 19th August, 1841 the Rev. Phineas Whiteside was
ordained to the pastoral charge of the Congregation of Lisnastrean in
connection with the Presbytery of Belfast. Owing to the unavoidable
absence of Dr. Henry Cooke, who had been appointed to preach on the
occasion, the services of the day were commenced by the Rev. William
Gibson, Belfast, who preached an eloquent and impressive discourse from
1st Corinthians Chapter 1 verse 23, But we preach Christ crucified. 'At
the conclusion of the Sermon the Rev. A. Montgomery explained and defended
Presbyterian Church policy in an animated and convincing manner; and,
after the usual questions being put to the young Minister, he was set
apart to sacred office `by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery ,
with a solemn and fervent prayer from the Rev. H. Simpson of Saintfield.
Dr. Coulter then delivered an impressive and affectionate address to
Pastor and people, and the entire services o f the day which were listened
to with the deepest attention by an immense audience, were concluded with
prayer and benediction by the Rev. Samuel Dunlop of Hillhall. In the
evening, the members of the Presbytery present, and others, were
entertained by the Committee of the Congregation, on which occasion Mr.
Whiteside spoke for some time in a beautiful and eloquent strain of
language. He alluded to the importance of, and the difficulties involved
in, the Ministerial trust, contrasted, in a very, felicitous manner, the
surrounding fields, which were almost white unto harvest, with the
spiritual, field, which, said he, was white already, and, after having
declared his resolution o f entering into the harvest, and dedicating
himself to the work of the Ministry, he concluded in words nearly to the
following effect. `If these determinations meet with the response of God,
and be rendered a blessing to the souls of men, then I trust it will be no
presumption to expect many a crown o f rejoicing. To return, from the
harvest laden with many sheaves, and present them faultless before the
presence o f His glory with exceeding joy. To win souls to Christ was the
grand design in the appointment o f a Christian Ministry, and if any
exertions I may use be in the least degree subservient to the, furtherance
o f that design, the consciousness that 1 had neither run in vain, neither
laboured in vain, will superabundantly repay for past exertions, and the
solemn reflection that the great Master himself has shone on the
undertaking, will more than counterbalance the many difficulties incident
to such a work, and will inspire me with love and zeal and renewed
exertions, that we may all come in unity of the faith and the knowledge of
the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ. "'
Our first Pastor, our own Pastor, had made a very impressive beginning.
The General Assembly provided a Grant, and the Congregation of Lisnastrean
operated as a Mission Station until 1844 in Cabra new bridge school house,
known locally as Purg. There the Rev. Phineas Whiteside held services each
Sabbath, and his Sabbath School in the afternoon was well attended by the
poorest of the district, as well as the not so poor.
An early photograph shows us a handsome and confident young man. Perhaps
we should spare a thought on how he might well have felt as he faced his
first charge. Tyrone and home were far away and an awesome responsibility
was ahead of him. Our founder members had chosen well, they had their own
Minister who shared their pioneering spirit. They suited one another.
Together they had made a commendable beginning, a beginning from where
there was no foreseeable ending, and together they had brought an end to
Thus far hath the Lord led us.
|REV. PHINEAS WHITE SIDE Born at Killycopy, Slewartstown, Co.
Tyrone 1810. Educated at Bedfast Academical Institution Ordained
First Minister of Legacuny,19 August 1841. Died 7 September 1865
||Mr. George Cruihshanks conveying Rev. C. McMullen and party from Purg
Lane on 1 September 1991 as the congregation remembered the coming of the
first minister over 150 years ago.
THE EARLY YEARS...
The Mission Station at Purg had served our forefathers for nearly two
years when, in the spring of 1843, Mr. Robert Morrow of Legacurry House
made a gift to the congregation of Lisnastrean of a site for a Church and
graveyard situated in the townland of Legacurry. Hence we were to become
the Presbyterian Church at Legacurry. We might well have become the
Presbyterian Church at Cabra or Crossan. The Marquis of Downshire
consented to the gift; perhaps his previous reluctance wilted when he
realized the determination of this new congregation resident on his
No records exist of the building of our Church - the architect is
unknown, the builders are unnamed, there are no plans and no estimate of
costs. However, there is an account which tells us, "The first stone was
laid on Friday, 28th July, 1843 by William Graham, Esq. of Lisburn. The
introductory services were commenced by the Rev. P. Whiteside, minister of
the new congregation; and, after the laying of the stone, the Rev. David
Hamilton of York Street, Belfast, delivered a very solemn, touching and
interesting address to the assembled congregation. `It is nearly three
years since the congregation was formed; yet, strange to say, they could
not procure a site for the Church until a few weeks since, although it is
situate in one of the most Presbyterian districts in the County of Down."'
A second account tells how "On 27th March, 1844 the new Presbyterian
Church at Legacurry was opened for Divine Service by the Rev. Dr. Cooke.
The sermon on the occasion was a powerful and eloquent exposition of
Divine truth, and was listened to with deep attention and delight by a
numerous and respectable audience. The collection amounted to nearly �60,
including �21 from the Marquis of Downshire; �1 from Andrew Cowan, Esq.,
JP. and 6s from John Henderson, Esq. who was unable to attend."
A brief eight months separated these two events. Eight months of hard
labour by our first Pastor, and founder members, yet any praise or thanks
to them goes unrecorded - instead we hear of the prowess of the visiting
Labour was cheap.
Oral tradition tells us that men and women, old and young, shared in
the building work. The women drove the horses and carts laden with stones
from their own fields for the foundations. The men built as the women and
children carted. The masonry was let by the perch and all the families
were expected to pay a share. How lovely it would have been for us had
some literate and long-sighted labourer hidden his diary somewhere in the
building. More likely he was far too busy getting through a day at a time,
looking forward to seeing the roof on - not the 150th anniversary.
It is fitting that we should reflect on that band of men and women who
built their House for us, with a will that enabled them to bear aching
backs and aching limbs, hurts of mind and body, through long hours of
cold, wet, and heat from summer 1843 to spring 1844. At the same time they
had to maintain their own means of livelihood, and the rent had still to
be paid. There were no mechanical aids -just picks, spades and shovels,
wheelbarrows and horse drawn vehicles; maybe a mule or a bullock for site
work. Fortunately the technical input was good if the source unknown; a
good, sound `Barn Church' was built, whitewashed and plainly glazed.
Many of these labourers are resting a few feet from their House, their
graves often unmarked - they are dust. Their living memorial is the
Presbyterian Church at Legacurry, the Church at the Crossroads.
Neither do records exist for the building of the schoolroom at the end
gable of the Church around 1858. The first teacher was either James White
or a Mr. Entwistle. The `Master' in those days had many duties apart from
teaching. He was responsible for lighting the fire, cleaning the
schoolroom and providing a bucket of fresh drinking water each day.
Whatever the privation the teachers managed to educate the children of the
locality for 68 years.
Session Minutes exist from 1845 to 1858, then are missing until 1908.
The first entry in the first Session Book is 24 August, 1845 reads: "This
day the names of Robert Gardner, William Gardner and William McVicars were
read out by the presiding Minister of the Congregation as persons
qualified to act as Elders in the Church and to constitute the first
Session in this Church."
Robert Gardner and William McVicars, our first two elders, were
ordained by the Presbytery (of Belfast), but "William Gardner did not have
full confidence in himself as to his fitness for the office" and declined.
After this minute comes a beautiful record of our very first Communion
Service. It reads, "The first time the Communion of the Lord's Supper was
administered in this Church was on Sabbath, 28th October, 1845. The
following persons were admitted to the Lord's Table for the first time at
this Communion after a lengthened course of instruction and examination by
the Minister, viz John McKeown, James Todd, Samuel Brown, Hugh Calderwood,
James McMillan, Mary Jamison, Eliza Baily, Mary Long. The others who
communicated on this occasion were admitted by Certificate from other
Congregations". What a pity their names were not recorded too, and what a
lovely word is "communicated"!
The next minute reads, "Sabbath, 10th May, 1846. It being resolved that
there should be two Sacraments in the year in this place the Communion was
held here this day. There was a good attendance". Thus we joined in the
old Presbyterian custom of a May Communion Season which was to continue
for 145 years.
Apart from the minutes which record the Sacraments, occasionally there
is a minute of a special meeting of Minister and Session when members,
presumably the young, who had sinned, "were instructed, exhorted and
prayed for by the Minister and admitted, or restored, to full membership
of the Church".
David Fullerton was appointed Precentor to the Congregation in 1846. In
1850 a compliment to the first Sunday School teacher mentioned by name
reads, "Peggy Harvey regularly attended the Means of Grace and was useful
in the Sabbath School as a teacher".
There was a visitation of Presbytery in May 1848 and a second in May 1853.
On the second visit the Rev. John McNaughton of Belfast "expressed the
satisfaction of the Presbytery with the ministerial fidelity of Mr.
Whiteside and general state and management of the Congregation". He also
offered some practical help with a local problem. The Unitarian
controversy was raging and Unitarian ministers were preaching in the
neighbourhood. The Session was worried. Mr. McNaughton offered to deliver
a course of Lectures commencing on Sabbath, 8 May at 5.00 p.m. and
continuing throughout the summer.
The marriage Registers open on 14 October 1845 with the marriage of Elenor Brown of Cabra and James Young, of Belfast, weaver. Then on 30
April 1846, Sarah Maor (probably Moore) of Deneight marries Richard
Watson, labourer, of Magheradartin; and David Goudy of Ballymacbreen,
weaver, married Elisabeth Russel of Tullyard on 3 July 1846. These young
people were aged from 18 to 23 years and all of them were unable to write
their own names, making a simple `x'. Of the 54 marriages recorded in Mr.
Whiteside's time, 39 people were unable to write their names and others
managed to write theirs only with great difficulty. Perhaps their
illiteracy prompted the building of the School Room. Of the 54 brides only
6 had an occupation or `rank', 2 were dressmakers and 4 were weavers. Most
of the grooms were labourers, weavers and small farmers but there were
some others-John Robinson, a bleach green overseer from Keady married
Sarah Davidson of Lisnastrean. The Rev. Samuel Priestly, Presbyterian
Minister of Poyntzpass, married Mrs. Annie Ward, a widow from Lisburn; and
George Henderson, "Newsletter" editor from Newry, married Catherine Ward
of Largymore whose father was a "Gentleman".
Then on 1 June 1855, halfway through the Crimean War, John Moore of
Newry, who was in The Militia, married Mary Armstrong of Legacurry. Both
were 17 years old. John's father was a weaver, Mary's a miller. Let us
hope John survived the horrors of that war.
The Baptismal Register opens in 1854, and records 112 baptisms until
1865. The first baby mentioned is "Elen Harvy, daughter of William Harvy
and Mary Hawthorne of Townland of Cabra (who) was born upon 21st March
1854 and was introduced into the Christian Church by baptism on 26th day
of April 1854." All baptisms up to 1865 were recorded in this way; sadly
we will never know who, or how many, were baptised between 1841 and 1854.
Baptisms and Marriages were happy occasions for both people and Pastor.
A study of the early gravestones around the Church tells us something of
the less happy side of life at that time, particularly for parents of
"Samuel Brown, Ballymacbrennan, remembers his beloved children, John,
Francis and Margaret who died in 1864."
"John Brown, Lisnoe, died 1850 aged 70 years."
"Martin Boyd remembers his beloved mother Mary Ann who died 1849 aged 41
years, his brother Robert died 1850 aged 11 years, his father died 1856
aged 50 years, his sister, Agnes died 1860 aged 21 years, his infant child
"William Clarke, Crossan, died 1863 aged 3 years, Martha died 1873 aged 12
"William Craig died 1860 aged 22 years and William John died 1863 aged 2
"Rachel Davidson died 1853 aged 17 years and Rev. Thomas Davidson died
1865 aged 31 years."
"Mary Jane Morrow died 1852 aged 3�
All these corteges, and many more, unnamed and forgotten, but known to
God, passed through the Church gates. How sad and difficult were those
times for their families and for their Minister.
The hardships of the Potato Famine were felt in the Lisburn area. In
1847 the number of destitute people admitted to the Workhouse trebled to
almost 1,000 souls. Our forebears were much affected by the famine, their
survival depending on a good potato harvest. A letter from Thomas and Mary
Hull, local emigrants, writing from Pittsburgh in 1847 to James Clarke,
Deneight, reports that the "disease of the potatoes is as bad here as it
is there ... what way are the farmers in Ireland getting along, the
potatoes will not assist in making up the Rent ... have the landlords
lowered the Rents ... the united states of America can send plenty of
India meal to keep down the price of provisions." Thomas Dawson, Deneight,
replied in 1848: "The potatoes are looking well so far, I hope they are
coming back, they were very scarce, there is a great deal set this season
and looking well."
The young Phineas Whiteside had a lot to contend with in the early
years of his Ministry.
Oral tradition tells us that our first Pastor was a handsome man, of a
good disposition, and good with children. We know that he remained
unmarried and that his stipend did not exceed �40 per year. He lived in
the townland of Deneight, probably in the original part of Deneight House
where his landlord was Robert Morrow of Legacurry House, and later in the
townland of Lisnoe, in the present home of Cecil and Dorothy Woods, where
his landlord was Henry Hart.
Apart from his signatures in the Marriage Register he left us nothing
in writing. History tells us he was strongly opposed to the invalidation
of mixed marriages, a vexing question in 1844. The only record of his
spoken word is an abridged version of his Ordination address to the
Congregation of Lisnastrean. When he died on 7 September 1865 at 55 years
of age he was mourned by his sisters Mary Whiteside and Martha Macky, wife
of the Rev. David Macky of Albany. His grave is at the front of the Church
- which he often referred to as the Meeting House. He left behind him his
Church visible to those who "Stand at the crossroads and look" - the House
of God made with the labour of willing hands. He left us, too, that other
Church, "The House of God not made with hands", his Congregation. It is
that Congregation which has provided us with a past, a present and a
foundation for the future.
REV. WILLIAM BROWNE
Borne at Ballynenagh House, Moneymore. 4 November 1838.
Scholar of Queen's University and Assembly's College.
Ordained in Legacurry 31 May 1866. Resigned active duties 11 June 1907.
THE VERYREV. A.F. MOODY, M.A., D. D.
Minister of Legacurry Congregation.
August 1907-November 1910. ' ' Moderator o f the General Assembly, 1935.
REV. T.J.R. RANKIN, M.A.
Born at Seacor, Letterkenny, 1 February 1884.
Scholar of Magee College, Derry and Royal University of Ireland.
Ordained in Legacurry, 27July 1910.
Died 21 April 1949.
LIVING THROUGH HARD TIMES...
The euphoria of the early years was over. Our first Pastor and many of our
founder members had gone to their reward. Ahead were the settling down
years and the Depression of the late 19th century when we survived the
most financially difficult years of our history. Despite serious monetary
problems great progress was made - the property was maintained and
constantly improved, a farm and manse were purchased and a school
residence built. At the same time the day school needed furniture, maps,
books and fuel.
At the Committee meeting in September 1865, the first following Mr.
Whiteside's death, some tough decisions were taken:
(1) Thomas Dawson, junior, was to collect all stipends due, plus
arrears, and any member in default would not be allowed to vote for the
(2) The pew rents were to be increased.
(a) The two corner pews at each side of pulpit �1.10.0 each.
(b) The sixteen pews nearest the pulpit �1.0.0.
(c) The remaining pews to reduce from 19/3 to 13/3 each.
(3) Single lettings to be made only to single people and no seatholder to
rent less sittings than suitable for his family. A sum of �52.5.0 could be
raised by this arrangement.
Later that year Mr. Robert Morrow and Mr. William Weir were nominated
to attend the November meeting of the Belfast Presbytery to obtain a
Hearing of twelve men plus one other to be chosen by the Presbytery. They
were empowered to offer a stipend of �40 per year (�1,800 in 1993).
For a time Mr. David Gordon from Carrickfergus and the Rev. William
Johnston from Newtownlimavady were favoured, but agreement could not be
reached. More men were heard. At last on 5 June 1866, "it was agreed
unanimously that we moderate in a call to Rev. William Browne from the
Presbytery of Magherafelt."
The Rev. William Browne, a farmer's son, was born 1838 at Ballynenagh
House near Moneymore. As a boy he attended Crooks Academy in Moneymore,
later transferring to Royal Academy, Belfast then to Queen's College and
Assembly's College. He was licensed to preach on 3 May 1864 and on 31 May
1866 he was ordained to the Pastoral Charge of Legacurry Presbyterian
Church. The newspaper report of the day reads, "A large number of
ministers of the Belfast Presbytery were present, and the church was
completely filled. The Rev. James Crawford, Hillhall, preached an
appropriate sermon, and the Rev. Dr. Murphy, Belfast, defended
Presbyterian ordination and doctrine, after which Mr. Brown was set apart
for the ministry with the usual solemnities. Prayers were offered up by
the Rev. Mr. Montgomery, and the young minister and people were addressed,
at considerable length by the Rev. Dr. Given. The ministers and members of
the congregation were afterwards entertained at dinner by Mr. Robert
Morrow, Legacurry, and in the evening a soiree was held in the church,
when addresses were delivered by the Rev. Mr. Brown and several other
By October that year congregational life was back to normal. A new
Committee of 15 men was elected, a start made on reducing the Church debt
of �145 (about �6,500 to-day), plans prepared for altering the schoolroom
to provide a Session Room, and to make a door from the Session Room into
the Meeting House. All the sittings were let, more pews were needed,
discussions took place on ways to enlarge the Church.
Jonathan Norwood carried out the work on the schoolroom for �19.10.0
but the enlargement of the Church had to wait for two years. Meantime
George Waterworth was appointed Sexton at �2 per year. James Woods became
Precentor receiving �5 per year, and a new schoolmaster was appointed. A
table and four chairs were purchased in time for the Sacrament (November
1867) and communicants were asked to sit in the middle rows. Communicants
sat in the middle rows until the 1970's when they outgrew the space and
spread to the side pews. The House was insured for the first time in 1868
to the value of �600, the premium being �1.1.0.
The same year saw the Ordination of the second group of Elders - Mr.
Thomas Dawson, senior, and Mr. Thomas Dawson, junior, father and son from
Deneight, and the co-option of Mr. George White from Ballyhomra who was
formerly a member of Session in Loughaghery. The original Minute exists
with the signatures of the three elders and the Rev. Adam Montgomery.
Early in 1869 the burying ground was marked off in rows and "any
seatholder taking ground at the front of the house had to guarantee to put
up a respectable headstone and paling"
There was much discussion about how best to provide the extra seating
so urgently needed. The Committee wanted a gallery, others wanted a porch.
"At last they agreed to build a porch, remove the inside wall and make new
seats back to the wall." This time they decided to use some
professionalism - Mr. Browne had plans drawn up and specifications
prepared. Mr. Robert Morrow invited estimates from local builders. The
successful contractor was William McNally, his price �37.10.0. Soon Mr.
McNally hit a snag, because he had forgotten to allow �12 for the new
seats and he had forgotten about a door for the new porch which cost
another �3. Then he realised that nobody had thought about stone finishing
which cost another �5.5.0. Altogether the porch as it is to-day cost
�57.15.0 (about �2,500 to-day). There was another problem, which meant
that the seats had to be raised by five inches.
Professionalism wasn't the whole answer!
From the 1870's money was extremely scarce. Up to the end of the 1890's
the Minutes record: "Mr. Browne's stipend not paid for 2 years ... Mr.
Browne wrote asking for payment of stipend ... no money to pay stipend ...
Secretary lent one year's stipend... ask Mr. Browne to accept �40 for this year, will try to find full
stipend for next year." Money was borrowed from Committee members who, in
turn, were repaid by money borrowed from other Committee members. The
lenders were usually William Davidson, Thomas Dawson, James Gardner, John
Dawson and Joseph Gilliland, the rate of interest 5%.
In the summer of 1870 money was borrowed to whitewash the Church,
repaint and reglaze as necessary, put up spouting, buy furniture for the
schoolroom and for "a little house to be builded of Convenience for the
Day Schollars." The Annual Report that year listed 120 seatholders
contributing a total of �49.18.9. Mr. Robert Morrow, Treasurer, included a
letter expressing "the regret of the Session and Committee being unable to
carry out necessary improvements ... their Pastor having no manse ...
collections not keeping pace with the increased number of seatholders ...
many could afford to give more ... the poor should give something ... the
Committee had stopped giving `only a halfpenny' ...all should do likewise
... seatholders would be given an envelope each half-year so they could
bring their stipend to Church thus avoid paying poundage to the stipend
The Assembly's New Sustentation Fund was introduced in 1870. In
September 1872, after a two year wait, "the little house got builded" by
Hugh Irvine, who charged �10. A year later heating stoves were purchased
for the Meeting House, and the Committee decided to take advantage of the
New Glebe Loan Act to help finance a manse for which Mr. Browne had been
collecting funds for some time.
In February 1874 Mr. Browne reported to the Committee that, with their
approval, he had purchased a 25� acre
farm with a dwelling house and byre at a cost of �705. The property was in
the townland of Largymore and formed part of Sir Richard Wallace's Estate.
Legal formalities and renovations were to take two more years. At last,
ten years after his Ordination, Mr. Browne was able to move out of his
lodgings into the comparative comfort of his own home.
Immediately the farm was bought the greatest fund raising event in our
history was organised in the form of "The Sermon", the popular
entertainment of the day. The Rt. Rev. William Johnson, Moderator of the
General Assembly, preached. Subscriptions were solicited far and wide from
Businesses, Linen Merchants, the Clergy, Doctors and the Gentry. Last in
that list came the plain Esquires. There were also Titled people, justices
of the Peace and Army Officers. Miss Mary Whiteside and `Friends across
the Channel', all contributed.
The morning Sermon was held in Legacurry and the evening Sermon in
Market Square (First Lisburn). There were 21 special collectors, 11 in the
morning and 10 in the evening. The gigantic sum of �506.10.0 was received
- about �22,000 to-day. The Rev. William Browne was a very happy man as he
thanked the Moderator for his esteemed discourses, the Rev. J.L. Rentoul
for the loan of his church for the evening sermon, the Rev. DJ. Clarke of
Railway Street and the Rev. J. Powell of Sloan Street for closing their
Churches for the occasion and lastly, but specially, all those friends who
had contributed so cheerfully and liberally.
Church life was busy in 1876. The Belfast Presbytery made its last
Visitation. The following year the Congregation was transferred to the
Dromore Presbytery. The books were audited and "dinner and coffee" for 40
people, at 2s per head, was ordered from Mr. Bailey of Lisburn. The
Congregation was unable to meet the bill, so the Committee paid the �4
The new Committee of 1876 passed a set of 10 resolutions which would
have graced any modern boardroom. A couple of months later they added rule
11 which stipulated that "Any person addressing the Chair should occupy no
more than 10 minutes." Eloquence alone was not enough, as it was money
which was needed to talk! Therefore resolution number 12 was passed "That
on election, or re-election, to the Congregational Committee it is to be
understood that they become security for debt against the manse,
otherwise, they will not be eligible to act on Committee."
The three aspects of Church life which set the pattern for the next 25
(1) The mundane and everyday matters.
(2) Property and its problems.
The second Sermon was preached on 26 January 1878 by the Rev. John
Macnaughton of Rosemary Street. Part of an advertisement for that Sermon
reads "Within the last eight years the Congregation of Legacurry found it
necessary to enlarge, repair, and heat their Church, overhaul the
Schoolhouse and provide a Residence for the Minister at a cost of above
�1,100. Although the Minister and members have made several efforts, there
remains a debt of �350 pressing heavily on the Congregation and minister,
hampering their influence for good." This moderate effort raised �72.4.3.
The mundane matters went on normally. The Church roof was repaired -
the Committee met the expense. The Church and Schoolroom were whitewashed.
Collection ladles and collecting boxes were "set aside", and plates were
introduced because they looked better. A new byre was built at the manse
which necessitated the road being moved on to Mr. R.H. Clarke's land. He
had no objection "provided he was given a present of �5."
A new pitch pine pulpit and choir seat were installed in 1884, the
Session Room was pink washed and the ceiling papered, a small hall was
made to separate the coal room from the Session room and the Committee
room was ceiled.
The running of the Sabbath School was a continuing and serious problem.
In good times there were Sabbath School soirees and the young people
received `Premiums'. In bad times it closed down completely for a year or
two at a time, then started again. Sometimes it was held in the Church,
sometimes in the Schoolroom, sometimes on Sabbath evenings only, sometimes
in the mornings. Mr. Thomas Dawson, senior, was Superintendent.
Occasionally he had help from Mr. John Knox and some Committee members as
well as the Rev. W. Browne. He resigned in 1884 but was asked to resume
his duties. He died in harness in 1891 at 88 years of age. The word
`children' does not appear in the Minutes until 1900, when they were
entertained to 12 dozen of oranges. Perhaps `children' were not catered
for in our earlier years.
When the Presbytery of Dromore visited in 1890 they were complimentary
about the Sabbath School, the scholars having taken the highest places in
the Presbytery examinations. The Choir was praised too, for the efficient
way it conducted the Psalmody. The trainer at that time was likely a Mr.
Walker and the Precentor, Mr. John Woods. The `Visitors' were greatly
pleased to find the church property in such nice order and free from debt.
Had they `Visited' more thoroughly they would have found Mr. Browne had
had no stipend for nearly two years. The Committee members were seriously
out of pocket, so much so that Mr. Browne paid their hospitality account
of �14.8.0 out of his own purse.
What might our Pastor's thoughts have been as he "preached an excellent
sermon" (in the presence of the Moderator) from St. Luke Chapter 23 verse
42: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom."
The choir trip of 1892 was an exciting event. A brake and luncheon were
supplied by the Committee. Any extras were to be provided by "the honoured
gentlemen invited by the young ladies of the Choir as a friend and
escort." The Misses Hillis, Woods, Brown, Harvey, McIlveen, Dawson,
Clarke, Reid, Scott, Armour and Watson were the young ladies of the
1890's. Their `honoured escorts' were unnamed, and rightly so, for they
failed in their duty! Once again the long suffering Committee picked up
the bill for the extras.
Some extremely onerous duties were laid upon the Sextoness of those
days. Her name is not given but she may have been Mrs. Jameson. A
yardstick was supplied to her to ensure that all coffins were buried at
least 3' deep. If not, she was forbidden to open the gates to admit the
cortege. Also, if the 5s interment fee had not been paid, she was
forbidden to allow the funeral to proceed. When the Sextons were men
yard-sticks and fees were not mentioned.
The mundane and everyday occurrences of these years were not all dull.
In 1888 ways to improve the entrance to the schoolroom were discussed. One
brave man suggested "a porch" only to have his idea rejected as "an
unnecessary appendage and a shed." Then Mr. William Harvey suggested that
they "adhere to the existing triangularism." His phraseology was more
acceptable, hence we have a Church porch and a Schoolroom porch which are
look-alikes. The scholars may not have been pleased, as they had enjoyed
sliding down the muddy slope outside their school door. The Committee
decided to raise as much as possible of the cost amongst themselves
without appealing to the public.
History was made in 1893 when the first water borne Central Heating
System in the district was installed in the Church. Messrs. Musgrave and
Company sent out their representative "to meet the Committee, draw up
plans, explain the workings of a small pipe system of heating, advise on
safeguards in time of frost, prevention of chemical deposit in bore of
pipes, the lifespan of the apparatus, advise the Sextoness on fuelling and
examine the suitability of the chimney."
Consultation one hundred years ago was excellent. The complete
installation cost �43.17.6 (about �2,000 to-day). It worked well for fifty
years but it did not get there by itself. A work scheme was planned down
to the last detail. Messrs. Harvey, Morrison and Gilliland drew sand,
Messrs. McConnell, White and Dawson drew loads apiece of brick. Messrs.
Brown, Armour and McIlveen drew cement. The plum job went to Messrs.
Brown, Milligan and McClelland who drew the apparatus from Lisburn
Then the Church was newly distempered. Mr. Robb, the painter was
allowed to choose the colour of the cornice himself. At that time there
was a very nice, slightly ornate plaster ceiling. Finally all was in
readiness for the re-opening in December 1893.
Down the years our forefathers had managed to provide a Church, a
burying ground, a schoolroom and a manse, but, as yet, there was no
Residence for the School Master. A site adjoining the Deneight road was
considered and rejected. At the end of 1889 a one acre site costing �50 in
Mr. Ball's point field was chosen. A Memorial was prepared by the Rev.
William Browne and laid before Colonel Mussenden who seems not to have
heard their `prayer'. However, the document is worth reading:
The Memorial o f the Committee and Congregation o f Legacurry respectfully
Than an, effort is on foot to provide a Residence for the Principal of
Legacurry National School and to take advantage of the facilities offered
by the Board of Public Works and the Education Board to secure the money
at a cheap rate of interest i.e. 2� %
per annum for 35 years when all will be cleared o ff thereby. For that
purpose an acre of land in fee farm at a nominal rent is necessary. Your
memorialists have, fixed on a site on your property and have come to terms
with the tenant.
They now approach you with the request that you, in the interest of the
education of many of your tenants, be so generous as to grant us the site.
Your memorialists as in duty bound will ever pray. "
Another four years were to lapse before more efforts were made to
procure a site for a Residence. Six sites were considered:
(1) Mr. Andrew Morrow's site of one acre known as Jenny Ferguson's. At �50
this was thought to be "out of all reason."
(2) Deneight School site.
(3) Mr. John Clarke's field.
(4) Mr. Mateer's field.
(5) Mr. Jameson's field.
(6) Mr. Ball's point field known as Moore's corner.
Number 6 was the preferred option. Mr. Ball was willing to sell 1�
acres for �50, a price deemed reasonable (more reasonable than they could
have foreseen). By 1982 sites were sold off it to the value of �14,850,
which gave the foundation to the New Church Hall Building Fund.
Tenders were received from three builders, Messrs. McVernan, Coulter
and Quinn. Mr. McVernan's tender was accepted and he built the Residence
for �245 (about �13,000 today including the site). The architect was Mr.
Hunter and the Trustees, Messrs. S. Brown, A. McIlveen, J. Gilliland, L.
Milligan, C. Gardner and J. Ferguson, all farmers. Again the money was
borrowed from Committee members, as well as through the New Glebe Loan
Act, plus �125 to buy out the Head Rent on the Largymore manse from Lady
Borrowing alone could not meet all the expense involved in the more
major projects down the years, so Sermons were arranged as necessity
dictated. A third sermon was preached in October 1884 by either Dr.
Johnson or Mr. Lyons.
There was a long list of preparations; many items were bought, some
were borrowed. The shopping list read:
(1) Oil cloth and mats for the Church.
(2) New lamps for the pulpit.
(3) Grey and white stripe blinds for the House windows.
(4) A table cloth and 2 towels.
(5) A pair of coal buckets.
(6) Half a ton of coals.
(7) Refreshments. The borrowing list was shorter:
(1) Lamps for the Church.
(2) Collection plates. (3) Crockery.
Our forefathers were surely disappointed with the outcome when only
�71.5.6. was raised.
The fourth Sermon preached by the Moderator, Dr. William Clarke, BA, on
29 September 1889 did much better raising �103.3.11.
The Minute writer tells us a lot more about the fifth Sermon preached
on 17 December 1893 to defray the cost of the heating system. "Sermons in
Contemplation" was the topic chosen by the Rev. Dr. James Heron, DD. Some
400 plain tickets, 200 complimentary tickets, 200 circulars, 200 addressed
envelopes and one receipt book were ordered. Mr. Hugh Kirkwood, Lisburn,
offered to lend his shop lamps; Joseph Gilliland fetched and returned them
in his pony and trap. A labourer "was to be got" to repair the fences and
clean up the walks, and `the women' were to wash the floors - (sexual
discrimination!!). However, all the efforts (and offences) were worthwhile
when �109 was raised.
The sixth and last mentioned Sermon arose from a remark made by the
Rev. Josias Mitchell of Anahilt in June 1900 when he said, "The only thing
required was money, the Committee should obtain some even at a sacrifice
to themselves." A comment likely to be more hurtful than helpful! The
outstanding debt at the time was �300. We know nothing of the actual
Sermon, but we do know how the outcome was used:
To Glebe Loan Act �80. 3. 1
Principal and Interest 55. 5. 0
Rev. W. Browne's expenses 4. 0. 0
Rev. Duffs hotel bill 1.14. 6
Cost of manse pump 13. 0. 0 �154. 2. 7
Cash in hand 141. 5. 5
Income from Sermon �295. 8. 0
Before leaving the 19th century a quick ramble through the Minute book
shows life at the grass roots. We read that "There was a friendly
consultation between the members present about different matters and
everything in general ... After a little confidential chat the members
separated for their respective homes ... A great deal was said and very
little done ... Whitewasher's stipend to be deducted from his pay ... It
was noted that the Trustees were deceased, new ones were needed ... At
last they agreed ... Manse gates to be hung ... Nothing was done about
On amore serious note, "The members present were but few... only five
members present ... Secretary to write to absentees in as nice way as
possible ... Committee's interest in the House can be judged by their
attendance at meetings ... Sabbath collections poor, some attend rarely,
some never appear. These things must remain a reproach on a Christian
country ... Tidy up for the Presbytery meeting ... Whitewash for the May
The worst of the bad times were left behind in the old century. Better
times came with the new century. Its birth was celebrated with a
"Cinematograph Concert", a new venture with new technology for a new age.
Early in the new century all the Church accounts were completely clear
of debt for the first time in our history.
During Mr. Browne's 40 year ministry 38 marriages were solemnised. The
first on 13 April 1868 between Thomas Carlisle, weaver, from Tannabrick
and Eliza Jane Crothers, Lisburn. The last was between William James
McIlveen, farmer, and Lydia McIlveen, both from Crossan on 20 November
1906. He baptised 561 children in their own homes. Oral tradition tells us
Mr. Browne loved visiting in the homes of his flock where he was made very
welcome. (They provided him with ample reasons to visit).
He retired in June 1907 becoming our Senior Minister and continued to
live in the manse paying frequentvisits to the family home near Moneymore.
Tradition takes the Browne family back at least to the 17th century when
they established their farm at Ballynenagh. Since those times they have
farmed intensively and, in most generations, have produced sons for the
Ministry and Medical profession. To-day the farm is run by the Rev.
William's grand-nephew Norman and his son David.
Our second Pastor died on 5 December 1914 in the house in which he was
born. He is buried in the family grave at the side of Saltersland
Presbyterian Church. His congregation and his neighbours were represented
at his funeral by the Rev. T J.K. Rankin, Campbell Gardner, Archibald
Harvey, William George White, Matthew Morrow, James McCloy, Samuel Brown
and Robert Hugh Clarke. They travelled by train from Lisburn to
Magherafelt where they were met by Mr. Welsh who had an hotel in the town.
He conveyed them to the funeral and on returning to his hotel they were
entertained by the Browne family before being escorted to the Railway
Station for the return journey to Lisburn.
In 1907 the Rev. Andrew Frederick Moody, MA, BD, a Coleraine man, was
assisting temporarily in Chester Avenue, Whitehead, and was available to
come immediately to Legacurry. He was installed on 28 August 1907. He
stayed until 29 September 1909 when he accepted a call to Cliftonville,
Belfast. Our previous Pastors were both unmarried but Mr. Moody brought
with him his wife Lucy (Giles) and baby son Henry Laurence born on 1 March
1907. In 1935 he became Moderator of the General Assembly.
Our third Pastor's stay was short but eventful. By 1909 our simple
barn-like Church had been transformed. The whitewash finish had gone,
instead we had the stonewash finish as it is to-day. The plain glazed
windows were replaced by the beautifully coloured glass windows which rest
our eyes on Sabbath mornings. The plaster ceiling had disappeared being
replaced by the lovely timbered ceiling of to-day. A gallery was added and
both floors were fitted with pitch pine pews. Beautiful brass bowled oil
lamps were suspended along both aisles. The present pulpit lamps, now
electrified, date back to those years. The pitch pine and the lamp light
blended beautifully. Stables were erected in the graveyard on part of the
site presently occupied by the Church Hall of 1970.
Written records of these major improvements are non-existent but our
two oldest members have personal recollections. Miss Frances Gardner,
great grand-niece of our first Elder, Robert Gardner, remembers standing
in the Session Room doorway and surveying the havoc within, the lovely
plaster ceiling lying on the floor in pieces! Mrs. Lily McComb, nee
Caughey, recalls playing with little bits of the lovely coloured glass and
taking them home to show to her mother. She also recalls the whole
family's tremendous pride in the wrought iron entrance gates at the front
and side of the Church which were made and donated by their father, James,
whose blacksmith shop was a little way up the main road. Lily tells how
they didn't have much money to spare but a lot of loving labour went into
the making of those gates. The congregation subscribed around �500 towards
these renovations and another �500 was raised by other means.
In Mr. Moody's time there were 8 marriages and 24 baptisms. The first
child baptised was Phineas Browne Caughey (a tribute to Rev. William
Browne), the son of James and Lizzie Caughey of Legacurry, the blacksmith
Early in his ministry six new elders were elected-Messrs. John Clark,
(Deneight), Archibald Harvey, William George White, Robert Armour,
Campbell Gardner, and John Clarke (Lisnastrean). The Presbytery visited a
few months before Mr. Moody left and commented on the thriving Sabbath
School and Bible Class, the happy state of things and the beautifully
The Rev. A. F. Moody's years were good years.
The Rev. William Browne saw us through the bad years when we lived a
hand-to-mouth existence. He showed great patience and generosity
particularly when the stresses of those years created serious personality
problems for himself and one or two of the older members. We can be
thankful that he recovered from the serious and prolonged illness which
followed those days and was spared to enjoy, with his Congregation, a few
of the better years of the 1900's.
REV. JOHN McCAUGHAN B.A.
Ordained Minister of
Cremore and Tyrone's Ditches United Congregations, 4
June 1943. Installed Minister of Legacurry, 6 October 1949 Retired, 10 November,
REV. WILLIAM McBRIDE CAMPBELL, B.A., B.D., Dip. Ed. Minister of Legacurry
Congregation September 1984 - March 1990.
REV. CHARLES JOHN CARSON McMULLEN, M.A., M.Litt., B.D.
Minister of Legacurry Congregation March 1991-