Thanks are due to the following people:
1. Our Senior Members, Frances Gardner and Lily McComb for sharing their recollections.
2. Cecil Woods for encouragement and reading the script.
3. Mary Simpson for help with research.
4. Myra Ackers for typing the script.
5. The Ulster Star for the use of photogrophs.
6. Summit Printing for valued assistance.
7. The Presbyterian Historical Society.
8. The staff of Stranmillis and Ballynahinch libraries.
FOREWORD by the
Rev. Charles McMullen, M.A., M.Litt., B.D. "Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumber's chain has bound me Fond memory brings the light
Of other days around me. "
So sang Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, in his "National Airs". What follows is a series of `fond memories' as Jean Magowan brings alive the history of Legacurry Presbyterian Church. Couched in personal reminiscences and comments, it is her story.
Beyond that, she takes us back to the beginning of our story as a congregation in the early nineteenth century. Legacurry came into being at a time of prolific expansion throughout the Irish Presbyterian Church, our General Assembly having been formed in July 1840 as the General and Secession Synods came together.
Throughout the generations Jean not only captures the spirit of initiative, enterprise and commitment which has characterised the congregation, but is also honest in mentioning any shortcomings.
It is both a pleasure and privilege to commend this short history of the congregation which preserves the essentials of our heritage. It is right that we should look back on years of sturdy witness and give thanks to God. It is fitting to pay tribute to the hands that wrought and the loving hearts that planned.
As many will remember `other days around them' in these pages, let us not forget either the importance of keeping alive the faith for this present generation and beyond. Significantly, much has been achieved in the 1970's and the 1980's after the main period of this book, a proud symbol of which is the construction of the new hall complex during the ministry of the Rev. William Campbell.
Now as we celebrate one hundred and fiftyyears since the building of the Church with a Festival of Flowers and a Festival of Faith, we would do well to be reminded of the words of our Senior Minister, the Rev. John McCaughan: "Hats off to the past; coats off to the present". Our forefathers brought faith alive under the power and guiding hand of God. We have the same duty to make the history of our Church His Story. As the Scriptures remind us: `Where there is no vision, the people perish'. In that visionary sense let us preserve the changeless in a changing world.
THE MANSE, JULY 1993.
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 Hillsborough.
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
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.
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 Estate.
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 clergy!!
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".
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
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
LIVING THROUGH HARD TIMES...
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
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 ministers."
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
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 collectors."
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 25½ 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 themselves.
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
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 Station.
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:
Another four years were to lapse before more efforts were made to
procure a site for a Residence. Six sites were considered:
Number 6 was the preferred option. Mr. Ball was willing to sell 1½ 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 Wallace.
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:
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
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 anything."
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 communion."
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 family.
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 renovated Church.
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.
THE DONEGAL INFLUENCE...
A few days before Christmas 1909 the Committee met to discuss the various ways to choose a new minister.
They opted for a Hearing List and began by Hearing Messrs. Henderson, Stevenson and Young. These gentlemen were followed by several more ministers and licentiates whose names were not recorded. When a young Donegal man appeared in the pulpit he met with the unanimous approval of the 63 members who were eligible to vote at that time.
The Rev. Thomas John Kinnear Rankin was a farmer's son born at Seacon in 1884. He was educated at St. Eunen's Seminary and Raphoe Royal School, then at Magee College graduating with an MA in philosophy from the Royal University of Ireland. Our fourth Pastor was brought up in 1st Letterkenny Presbyterian Church where his minister was Dr. John Kinnear, a Liberal and supporter of Tenant Rights. When he was ordained and installed in Legacurry on 27 July 1910 he inherited a thriving congregation, a recently renovated Church, a well established day school and a Senior Minister, the Rev. William Browne, who encouraged and supported him. From his lodgings in Plantation townland he might well have envisaged a rosy future for himself and his Congregation. He was not to know that two World Wars, a severe Depression and the personal tragedy of his future wife's long illness were all ahead of him.
He was to minister for 39 years, during which time the Freewill Offering System was introduced in 1921, a new Public Elementary School was opened in 1926 and a new manse built in 1930. He devoted himself to this Bible Class and Sabbath Schools. There was a morning school in the Church and afternoon schools, first in Ravarnet, then in Deneight. Legacurry Sabbath School and Bible Class became the flagship of the Dromore Presbytery and Mr. Rankin's personal delight. He consistently encouraged the scholars and was quick to recognise their achievements. Many of our older members are able to recall the excitement of competing for the Jameson Shield and our pride, and his, when we won it outright, having been judged the best Sabbath School in the Presbytery for 10 consecutive years.
Mr. Rankin married in 1913. His bride was Miss Mary Elizabeth Corkey, an honours' graduate and a missionary in Egypt with the American Presbyterian Church. She was born at Glendermot, the youngest of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Corkey's eleven children. The eight sons became Presbyterian ministers, the three daughters became missionaries. Women were not, at that time, considered for the Ministry. The Congregation was delighted to have a bride in their midst and collected the magnificent sum of £88.1.6 for their wedding gifts. Mrs. Rankin was given silver and Mr. Rankin a purse of sovereigns and an Illuminated Address. They made their home at `Ardara' in Deneight (near the present manse) in a very attractive house recently built by the Fraser family. From there the young couple cycled around the countryside visiting the homes of their members, or simply for pleasure.
Early in 1912 Mr. Mateer agreed to sell a school site in Lisnastrean for £40 per acre. The money was to be raised locally and by appealing to past pupils. World War One intervened and the school was not built until 1926. It was the first Public Elementary School provided under the auspices of the new Northern Ireland Government. Mr. John Jameson built the school for £2,062. The Ministry of Education paid £1,374 being their two-thirds' share. The Church provided the other third. The foundation stones were laid by Lady Turner, JP, the Lady Mayoress of Belfast, Mrs. B. Graham, Larchfield and Mrs. T J.K. Rankin, BA. Mrs. Rankin's stone was to perpetuate the memory of Mr. Andrew Morrow of Ballyhomra who bequeathed £150 to the Church for educational purposes. The three ladies were each given a handsome silver trowel.
The old schoolroom took on a completely new role becoming a much needed Church Hall. It was replastered and furnished with 100 uncomfortable round bottomed chairs at 6s each and 2 oil lamps. The first problem arose within weeks when the Sexton of the day "did not consider it his duty to light lamps and fires for the `girls' meeting' in the schoolroom." A few months later a new Sexton was appointed. His job description read, "Keep Church, Hall and out-offices clean and tidy... Clean and verge all walks ... cut hedges and grass (he may keep the grass) ... light and heat any of the buildings as required for any Service or Meeting." His wages were £12 per year.
With the coming of Mrs. Rankin the women of the Congregation were given more recognition. They excelled at `collecting'. Long standing debts were cleared at a stroke. In 1918 after Mr. Scott, our last Precentor, resigned they collected £82 for an organ which cost £67, leaving £15 to buy new choir books. Mrs. Rankin wanted to do something beneficial for the women of the Congregation. Soon after she came she formed a Girls' Auxiliary and was its President until 1949.
Secular things were changing too, thanks to the influence of another young lady. In 1915 Miss Sarah Jane Woods, Ballyhomra, was appointed to the post of Assistant Teacher in the day school. Shortly afterwards she sought, and was granted, permission to introduce cookery as a practical subject. However, when the Committee discovered that 100 items of equipment were necessary they had serious second thoughts. "The unanimous opinion was if cookery could not operate on a much smaller scale the matter could drop, they would give £2.0.0 from the Annual Grant, the pupils could raise the rest." The success of Mrs. James Crothers', nee Miss S .J. Woods, cookery class can be judged from the Minute of January 1922 which records, "A new cooking stove to be purchased for the schoolroom." Persistence pays!!
The Church finances improved greatly in 1915 when Mr. R.H. Clarke, Largymore, bought Mr. Browne's old manse and 5 acre field for £450. For the first time there was ,real money' in the bank. A year or so later it was invested in War Loan.
World War 1 did not leave our congregation unscathed. Three of our members made the supreme sacrifice: Sergeant William J. Crothers RE., Lance Corporal Alexander Boyd, RIR, and Rifleman James McDowell, RIR. The others who served were Rev. J.C.G. Ball, Chaplain, Samuel Deans, T.S. Clarke, Gordon Harvey, David Bell, William Boyd, James Bowers, Samuel Milligan, R. Heathwood, John P. Milligan, Robert Boyd, John Presha, Alexander Gowdy, Joseph Caughey, John Corbett, George Glover, Harry McCloy, James McCloy, Lewis A. Milligan, William Milligan. The Rev. T J.K. Rankin served a four month tour of duty with the YMCA in a war zone. Their Memorial plaque was unveiled in 1921. A few years later a Shield was presented to the Dromore Presbytery by Miss Ann Jameson of Crossan, in memory of her nephew Private Alexander Jameson, Canadian Army, who was killed in action on 26 August 1918. After 10 years of competition it came home to rest in Legacurry. Ann's mother and perhaps Ann herself were Church Sextons for several years. Oral tradition tells us that Mrs. Jameson was the local `nurse' called on to attend at births and funerals.
The Spanish 'flu of 1918 also left its mark on the Congregation. The names of two of the victims are recorded - Mr. J.E. McIlveen, a choir member, and Mr. John McConnell, The Hill, Lisnastrean. Our first individual cup Communion Service is dedicated to John's memory. The attendance at the November communion that year fell from 86 to 62. Mr. Rankin added the comment, "Spanish flu".
The poor were still with us in 1916 when the Committee decided that any poor person in the neighbourhood needing interment ground could have it free of charge. We were not always so considerate. A few years later when some very poor families were no longer able to contribute to Church funds they were 'struck-off. One of these families was headed by a father, employed as a farm labourer and earning 8s a week. He had a wife and six children of school age and below. Even in the 1920's 40 (new) pence would not sustain a household of 8 souls for a week. Fortunately for that worthy labourer he was able to speak well of his employer's consistent generosity to his wife and small children.
The Lord provided. Our Church did not.
From 1922 to 1925 the Annual Report carried an `Arrears' column and any member who failed to pay the full amount expected from him under the `Voluntary System' had the shortfall printed against his name. Times were hard for the 'have-nots'.
In the early 1930's Mrs. Violet Campbell of Church View provided a nourishing, freshly cooked meal for some of the poorest children attending the day school. Her own children shopped around in Lisburn for two pence and three pence worth of off cuts of bacon, beef, fish, meaty bones and suet. With these ingredients she created fish pies, soups and stews served up with plenty of small potatoes given to her by Ernest Urey. On a really good day they enjoyed a basket of food sent over by the schoolmaster's wife who always "put something nice on top". When Mr. Rankin came to hear about this shining example of the generosity of the poor he was able to tap some public funding which helped her a little. At that time Mrs. Campbell was striving to keep her own family of four on 15s per week.
The Dromore Presbytery visited in 1924 and found all well except for the fact that there was no manse. As far back as 1915 sites for a manse had been under discussion but no action taken. Early in 1928 a Congregational Meeting attended by 26 members heard Mr. R.H. Clarke state that Mr. William Leathem of Deneight had agreed to accept £150 for a field of 2 acres and 1 rood. The site came with a small cottage occupied by Miss Agnes Reid. Mr. Rankin agreed that Agnes could remain in her home for as long as she wished. She died in 1935. The estimated cost of a house deemed suitable for a manse was thought to be around £2,000. The ladies were asked to start collecting for funds. Mr. Hobart of Dromore was the chosen architect. Although Mr. R.H. Clarke was shortly to purchase that part of Mr. Leathern's farm, the arrangement for the manse site was honoured.
The manse was built by Messrs. Thomas McKee and Son at a contract price of £2,087 plus £179 for the avenue. The plumbing estimate was £100 to £120. "Operation Manse" began on New Year's Day 1930 when the men of the congregation attended the site to excavate the avenue and walks, and to see if surface water could be kept out of the well.. Mr. Milligan raised stone for site work at 2s per ton. By August of that year the manse was completed and insured for £2,000, although the total cost to build was nearer £3,000.
Despite the Depression, fund raising went ahead - there were Special Services, Guest Teas, Social Events, first and second Subscription Lists and finally a Debt Extinction List. By 1941 the manse was clear of debt.
Meanwhile the interior of the church was distempered and the doors grained at a cost of £20.4.7. The coal house needed a new floor which the Sexton offered to lay provided he could have a bag of cement. Many a Primary Sunday School child was warmed by the new stove purchased for the Church Hall in 1932. It was a very efficient stove, pot bellied and black.
When the schoolmaster of the day no longer wished to live in the Master's Residence the name was changed to Cabra Cottage. Mrs. Jane Porteous was the first tenant, the rent was £30 per year.
In 1936 Mr. Davidson gave a Lantern Slide and Talk on Egypt. It was captivating, the machine whirred and hummed, long-legged camels walked across the screen followed by goats, funny sheep and men in blankets all in multi-shades of brown. (That was many a child's first time at the movies).
A social held in 1938 raised £5.0.0 out of which a new Pulpit Bible and choir books were purchased. The beautifully scripted dedication on the fly-leaf reads, "Pulpit Bible provided by the Congregation in commemoration of the 4th Centenary of the introduction of the English Bible into pulpit use -June 1938."
About this time the Committee decided to approach younger wage earning members with a view to their joining the Freewill Offering Scheme. Forty young people agreed and together they subscribed 18s per week. Nevertheless, that year the donation to Missions had to be reduced.
Soon we were to be plunged into World War II. The Rev. T.J.K. Rankin made the sombre announcement from the pulpit on the damp, thundery and humid Sabbath morning of 3 September 1939.
Several local young people volunteered for Active Service. Miss Frances McIlveen, Clyde Burke, Dr. Robin Clarke, Roy Irvine, Leslie Garnett, Bobbie Chapman, Hugh Fraser and George, William and Samuel Megarry. Bobby Chapman did not return - the others did, some of them bearing the scars of life in a Japanese `Prisoner of War' camp.
Our Centenary Services in 1941 were held in the busy and anxious days following the Blitz of Belfast when over 1,000 people died in one night. The Minute of 16 July 1941 devotes only five lines to the planning of the Centenary Services. The rest of the Minute deals with efforts to clear the manse debt and the security of Church documents. Our "box" was to be retrieved from the strong room in Church House and deposited in Mr. Rankin's safe and the grave digger was to have a War Bonus of 5s per grave. Despite the minimum of planning the Centenary Services were very successful. Mr. Rankin preached at both morning and evening services reading from Isaiah Chapter 6 and Matthew Chapter 16.
He made much of the opportunity to exhort the children to carry on the work and traditions of their forefathers -that was their duty. In those days of petrol rationing, private and public transport were restricted and travelling was difficult. We did, however, have one distinguished guest, the great granddaughter of Mr. William Graham who laid our `first stone' in 1843.
Following the Blitz came the `evacuees', some of them homeless, all of them frightened. Many homes in the country made room for at least one family. Agnes Reid's cottage was re-opened to house Mrs. Isabella Harvey, a very old member, her daughter and son-in-law. Special collections were made to assist Presbyterian families in Belfast rendered homeless due to the bombing. The Sabbath School rolls increased considerably and the Church Hall became a day school once more when space was needed for an extra 80 children. The hall was also a designated Rest Centre for homeless people in the event of further air raids. Temporary dry toilets were made in the old stables, water was carried from the new school. A little later the Down Regional Education Committee paid a rent of 10s per week plus £10.0.0 per year for the use of the hall, the cooker to provide school meals and a dining area for the day school children. After that a Baby Clinic was held there. From 1950 onwards it was the home of the local branch of the Women's Institute, the educational and social meeting ground for ladies of the district. Those unknown men who, in 1858, built that little ,schoolroom' would have been very proud indeed of the valuable service their handiwork was providing 100 years on.
Finances had improved by 1944 and we were able to "give a little extra to Missions." Also in 1944 Campbell Gardner, Glengard, Lisnastrean and his wife Agnes were remembered by their only surviving child Frances Agnes in the gift of a Communion Table and Chair. Frances is our eldest member and the lady who remembers the Rev. A.F. Moody. From time to time she writes lovely letters to us all from her home in Bangor.
The welcome end to World War II came in 1945. That year also brought electricity to the countryside. The Northern Ireland Electricity Board levied a five year minimum payment on all installations irrespective of usage. The Church levy was £26.0.0 per year. The Committee opted for lighting only, heating was deemed too costly. The following year the manse was wired at a cost of £73. At this time Mrs. Sarah Crothers chose William Quinn of Lisburn to install electric lighting in the Church in memory of her husband, James, who died in December, 1944. During the previous 31 years he had been a member of Church Committee, an Elder and a Church Treasurer.
Equipment surplus to Army requirements was sold to the public from 1946 onwards. The Church Extension Committee purchased a number of Nissen Huts for future use in developing areas. Mr. Rankin was quick to acquire one of them for Deneight where there was a proposal to build a large number of houses. He was anxious that his Church should be ready to receive the newcomers. The houses were never built, but the little hall was in regular use for almost 40 years. It accommodated an afternoon Sunday School, monthly evening services, Harvest and Carol Services, parties and youth functions. The local residents, in particular, made full and enjoyable use of it.
Our finances were improving rapidly. Mr. Rankin's salary was increased from £190.0.0 to £250.0.0 per annum. He was to enjoy the increase for a little over a year. He died suddenly on 21 April 1949 aged 65 years. He was survived by Mrs. Rankin who lived amongst the Corkey family until her death in 1961. They are buried near the Session Room doorway.
During Mr. Rankin's 37 year ministry he baptised 555 children. The first, Christine, daughter of William and Agnes Gibson; the second, Samuel John Noel, son of Samuel and Sarah Brown; the last was Samuel, son of Robert and Elizabeth Deane.
The first marriage of his ministry solemnised on 14 October 1910 was between Hugh Henry McConnell, farmer, Boardmills and Maggie McClelland, Cabra-the last was William P. Girvan, Young Farmers' Clubs' Organiser, Bresagh, Boardmills and Jeanette McIlveen, laboratory assistant, Crossan House.
These were the years prior to Youth Organisations, Children's Church, Youth Choirs, Bowls, Badminton and Senior Members' parties. They were the years of Sunday Services, Sunday Schools and the Girls' Auxiliary, a concert in March and a half-day Sunday School trip to Bangor or Newcastle in June. Each year in May, Mr. Rankin pumped up his bicycle and visited all his parishioners in their homes for reading and prayer. At most other times he could be found in the beautiful garden, which Mrs. Rankin enjoyed so much, and which he created with the assistance of Paddy, his garden-help. They made a rockery which literally stopped the traffic, a tennis court and masses of beautiful flower and shrub beds. The vegetable garden and soft fruits' section kept the manse and several other families in fresh vegetables and soft fruits, fresh and bottled, for most of the year. A hay crop was saved from the rest of the grounds. Mr. Rankin's niece and housekeeper, Miss May Rankin (later Mrs. R J. Porter) was expert in the art of making raspberry wine. The health of many of the Corkey family brides was toasted in raspberry wine made from the fruit grown by her uncle and Paddy, then picked by Mrs. Rankin and her oldest sister and constant companion, Miss Annie Corkey
Those of us who were there before 1949 remember the Rev. T J.K. Rankin as a man of many talents, full of energy and enthusiasm. Those of us who were privileged to attend his Bible Class on Sunday mornings experienced the greatest of all his gifts - his teaching. Our fourth minister was a truly great teacher.
PEACE, PROGRESS, PROSPERITY...
In 1949 no one could have foreseen how the next thirty-four years were to benefit the Congregation. Looking back we can see that nothing happened by accident - everything was in the vision of our much loved friend and senior Minister, the Rev. John McCaughan, BA, a Ballycastle man and a farmer's son. He came to Legacurry on 6 October 1949 from Cremore and Tyrones Ditches where he spent the first six years of his ministry, five of them as a bachelor. When he came to us brought with him his newly wedded wife, the former Molly Lyons, daughter of the Rev. J.D. Lyons, BA.
The introduction of the Welfare State in 1948 made great changes for the better throughout the Province. The instances of abject poverty in the previous hundred years had gone. Everyone was better off though few, as yet, were affluent, at least by to day's standards. Our new Minister was given a stipend of £275 per year with no allowances of any kind. If his financial aspirations were limited, his aspirations for our Church were not.
Perhaps his greatest gift, outside the pulpit, was one of `cultivation'. He used that gift to cultivate the young, and the not so young, with as much success as Mr. Rankin had used his cultivation skills on his garden.
Within a year of his coming our new Pastor formed a company of the Boys' Brigade, the first in a country Church in the district. Boys from neighbouring Churches joined "1st Legacurry Company", thus forging many firm and lasting friendships. Mrs. McCaughan became vice-president of the Girls' Auxiliary and the following year she formed a branch of the Women's Missionary Association.
The Memorial Fund for the Rev. T J.K. Rankin was opened at the end of 1950 and quickly exceeded £400. The Committee decided to use the money to install electric heating in the Church. The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Rev. H. McIlroy, BA, DD, performed the dedication ceremony on 6 January 1952. The Church now had modern lighting and heating systems but, as yet, mains water was not available, nor was there any other source of water convenient to the Church. Although proper toilet accommodation was discussed from time to time, without a water supply no progress could be made.
Shortly before Christmas 1951, Mr. and Mrs. McCaughan presented a silver baptismal bowl in memory of their son John William Lyons who was born in July 1950 and died in February 1951. The Rev. J.H. Rankin of Loughaghery performed the touching and beautifully simple dedication ceremony. Baby John was the first child born to a minister while in Legacurry, the first `manse' baby. Soon after came John's sister, Mary McKay, known as Kay, then his brother James Alexander, known asJim. Kay graduated from the New University of Ulster and became a school teacher. She married the Rev. Ivan Hunter, BA, BTh, of Ballywatt Presbyterian Church. Jim gave up his great love of football to become the Rev. J.A. McCaughan, BSc, BD of lst Dunboe. He married Alison Turtle, MA, who is now editor of "Wider World". Mr. and Mrs. J. McCaughan, senior, have three Hunter grandchildren and three McCaughan grandchildren.
Mr. and Mrs. Victor White donated 150 cups and saucers for Church use in 1952. From then on we were less inclined to borrow from our neighbours-we were beginning to feather our own nest! In that year also a Table Tennis club was formed in Deneight Hall. Apart from their Displays which were held in the Day School, the Boys' Brigade used the Church hall (the old schoolroom). Perhaps it was their many marching feet which wore out the Hall floor which needed to be replaced. The new floor and a new door cost £92.10.
Coronation year was a year to remember. A few of our members bought their first Television Sets so that they could watch the event, in black and white, in their own homes. A member of the Congregation who represented Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster at the ceremony in London remembers that day as one of the wettest ever June days. The Committee gave every Sunday School and Day School child a New Testament to mark the occasion. At the end of the year the Girls' Auxiliary would have liked to show the film "A Queen is Crowned" in the Church, but they were not granted permission. The Session and Committee also refused the Down Council's request to remove the hedge and ditch at the "crossroads" corner of the graveyard to make the crossing safer for the increasing volume of traffic. After a lot of discussion the Council resolved the problem by re-siting the Cabra road to create the staggered crossing we have today.
More electrical appliances were becoming available. After twenty-five years of hand pumping all the water used in the manse, the Committee decided to install an electric pump in the wash house. The Women's Missionary Association, the Boys' Brigade and the Table Tennis Club each subscribed £1 to buy an electric boiler. People were becoming accustomed to having electric light in their homes and farmyards and found the darkness around the Church inconvenient. Therefore in 1955 the Committee asked the Rural Council to provide public lighting at the crossroads. In time, they did.
In those days more and more people were buying motor cars. With petrol costing about 2/4d. per gallon (12 pence), people were able to travel further a field and on Sunday mornings some liked to worship in other Churches. So that our visitors would feel welcome the Session decided to form a Reception Team to greet strangers and hand them one of the recently purchased Visitors' Hymn Books of which we had a dozen. In May of that year (1955) the Session decided to drop the Evening Services in the summer months. The year ended with a week long Mission taken by the Rev. J. C. Pedlow of Downpatrick.
We went `Public' for the first time on Plough Sunday, 15 January 1956, courtesy of an invitation from the Northern Ireland Home Service. The atmosphere was tense, the Church was filled, the organist, Maureen Crothers, and choir were well prepared. Mr. McCaughan's apprehension showed just a bit as we practised our singing and the technicians sited, re-sited and tested their equipment, so that all would be exactly right when the little light on the pulpit glowed `red' to tell us we were on the Air.
By 7.45 p.m. all was ready, the red light came on and we went live. Ernest Clarke, Clerk of Session, introduced the Service. He gave a short description of our Church and Congregation and welcomed our neighbours and visitors and all who were listening in their own homes. '
The Old Testament reading from Hosea Chapter 11, which tells of a loving God anxious to forgive a sinful people, was read by Kenneth McIlveen, a local farmer. The New Testament reading from St. Luke's Gospel Chapter 9 verses 51- 62 was read by the World Champion Ploughman, Hugh Barr. Mr. McCaughan delivered `the sermon of his life', which the Congregation remembers well, from Hosea Chapter 10 verse 12, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord."
We sang some of our favourite Psalms, "How lovely is thy dwelling place", ' Ye gates lift up your head on high", "Good unto all men is the Lord" and the Hymn, "Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah."
Almost unexpectedly the little red light went out and we were off the Air. Instead of feeling a great sense of relief we were amazed to discover we had forgotten our apprehension and had simply enjoyed taking part in a wonderful service.
Letters of appreciation to Mr. McCaughan poured in from far and wide. His former school mistress wrote, "In thought as I worshipped with you I was sitting with your father and mother in the old home and was sharing some of their pride and feelings as we listened to you." The Rev. A.F. Moody, our third Pastor, commented that he was "impressed by the appropriate and arresting sermon, the concise and comprehensive prayers, and the Praise." The most beautiful letter of all came from an old lady in North Shields - a longish letter, laboriously written and sincerely meant... "thank you for that lovely service ... your prayers did me good ... your sermon did my soul good .. we are Pentecostals ... we are one in Christ ... oh! for more like that."
We broadcast again in 1957 on the General Overseas' Service which was heard by a young man from the Maze, a crew member aboard a tanker in harbour in Singapore. He was twiddling with the knobs on his radio when suddenly he heard his neighbour's voice! Our last broadcast was in 1959 on the theme of a "Wedding Story" (St. John's Gospel Chapter 2). By that time we were old hands!
Apart from the installation of electric light and heating, the Church
building had received no major attention for fifty years. Costly repairs
would soon be needed. Larger Church Hall facilities and proper toilet
accommodation were priorities. To prepare for all this forthcoming expense
a Property Fund was launched and has been afloat ever since. A target of
£2,000 was fixed. Plans to upgrade the stable to create a recreational
hall were abandoned in favour of building a permanent hall on the site at
an estimated cost of £2,500. The congregation decided not to go ahead with
a hall at that time as they were afraid they would not be able to find the
£2,500 besides the money needed for the Church repairs and toilet
The Church building was closed during the summer of 1959 to enable the major overhaul to go ahead. The interior was re-plastered and dry rot eradicated. The choir was re-located to the right of the pulpit to leave space at the front for a new organ and Communion chairs. Sunday services were held in the Day School. The successful Tender was submitted by members of the Congregation, Mr. Sam Andrews and his son Willie - their price £2,600 plus the cost of the kitchen. Sam Andrews' name crops up regularly in the Minutes of those years. "Sam Andrews to see to the draught ... Sam Andrews repaired the ventilators free of charge ... Sam Andrews volunteered to clean the spoutings ... Sam Andrews to make folding tables ... Sam Andrews and George Cruikshanks put the slates on the roof ... Sam Andrews to do as he sees fits."
The Re-opening Services on 5 July were taken by the Right Rev. T.A.B. Smyth, BA, DD, Moderator of the General Assembly and the Very Rev. A.F. Moody, MA, DD, who was our Minister in 1909 at the time of the previous overhaul. The Special Services continued over the next two Sundays. The Very Rev. J.K.L. McKean, MA, DD, the Rev. John McCaughan, BA, and the Very Rev. J.H.R. Gibson, MA, DD, all took part. The total collections amounted to £430. Just as impressive as the list of eminent clergy, was the list of thoughtfully chosen and necessary Memorials and Gifts which were dedicated by the Moderator.
Communion Chair - The gift of Miss Francis Gardner.
Gifts, from Organisations and Associations:
Bible for Reading Desk and Church Hymnal for Pulpit - The gift of the
Sunday School Children.
In September that year the first of several Annual Flower Shows was held in the Day School. There were flowers, fruit and vegetables, eggs, cakes, bread and jams, embroidery, knitting and sewing, painting, drawing and writing competitions, bran tubs, guessing games, handkerchief girls, hot dogs, teas and ice cream. Around £100 was raised each year for the Property Fund. There were other fund raising events, Concerts, Cake sales, Treasure Hunts and Bring and Buy Sales, all of which aided the Property Fund.
The "Sixties" were perhaps the most eventful decade of our history so far. They started with the Gymkhana which took place in Largymore on James Gardner's farm. (James was a twice grand-nephew of Robert, our first Elder). One field was filled with horseboxes, trailers, lorries and cars. In another field there were tea tents, ice cream and mineral tents, and Stewards' Tents. The auctioneer's rostrum was an open lorry and from it he sold all his `lots'. The horses and ponies, large and small, trotted, cantered and jumped their fences; some played musical chairs and some showed their paces hackney style. One little chestnut pony was overcome and ran away. A Pipe Band paraded in kilts. The children paraded in Fancy Dress. The sun shone all day and the Property Fund benefited by nearly £300.
On his return from visiting Canada, Mr. McCaughan treated everyone to a very interesting and entertaining talk and slide-show of his tour. The dedication of the Sunday School teachers to that decade might be measured by their resistance to the closing of the Sunday School during July and August. While commitment did take precedence over convenience, after some years they agreed reluctantly to have an open Sunday School in July and to close in August. During these years the Session considered whether women could be allowed to act on the Congregational Committee.
The site for the car park opposite the entrance gates was donated by Isaac Lyons. Until then cars parked along the Comber Road or in front of the Church. As usual members got together and fenced, in-filled and levelled and soon the park was in use. It turned out to have unexpected benefits like being a convenient place for neighbours to exchange a few remarks before going home. One could hear - or overhear - such comments as "There's not many like our own wee man", "Our own wee man is hard to bate", and so he is!
The "Mile of Threepenny Bits" in 1963 realised £948. Whether it was an Irish, English or Legacurry mile is not known. The idea was to cover the distance from the Manse to the Church in threepenny bits. A company of the Girls' Brigade was formed in 1964 as were the Life Boys which became the junior Section of the Boys' Brigade. A Watch Night service was held on 31 December, 1967. The gist of the sermon was "leave behind in 1967 all that was bad, take into 1968 all that was good." Children's Church started in 1969. It was much enjoyed by the children and much appreciated by their parents! The Men's Fellowship and the Indoor Bowling club were formed in the late 60's, and Senior Members' Parties were held for the first time.
Unsuccessful approaches were made to adjoining landowners for the purchase of a site suitable for a Church Hall. St. Columba's Church were selling their temporary Church building. A decision was made to purchase this building and re-erect it on the old stables site, for use as a Church Hall.
Another major fund raising event was necessary, so the Farm Sale and Country Fair was held in October 1969. Anything and everything that might sell was there and was sold. There were cake stalls, garden produce and grocery stalls, white elephant, household and work stalls, all under canvas. Outside, kittens, puppies and kids, chickens and bantams all awaited new homes. Farm implements, farm produce, livestock and animal feeds were auctioned. Gallons of tea were consumed. The children manned stalls and competitions of their own and our friends and neighbours all lent their support. The total income was £1539.19.8 less expenses of £13.16.3, leaving a nett profit of £1562.3.5 (about £12,500 in 1993). A figure which Mr. McCaughan said "surpassed our fondest hopes financially and demonstrated clearly that when the Church moves forward it has a great army of friends and helpers."
The Christian Stewardship Campaign gave the "Sixties" a permanent place in our Church's history. Discussions began in 1962. The Rev. J. Lavery of Edengrove gave an interesting and convincing talk to the Session and Committee in February 1963. A film on Christian Stewardship was shown in March 1964. The following month the Rev. T.A. Patterson, Director of Christian Stewardship helped to launch our Campaign. In the autumn the Congregation sat down together to its first Family Meal in First Lisburn Church Hall in Market Square where the Sermon of 1874 was held. The adults had their meal in the main hall and the children were entertained by the ladies of First Lisburn in another hall.
A Christian Stewardship Executive Committee was formed, every home was visited and the Campaign explained. The Brochure of October 1964 describes Christian Stewardship as "A Way of living, an approach to God, the proof of our faith." The purpose of Christian Stewardship" is to secure - not the Gift, but the Giver; not the Possession but the Possessor; not your money, but You for God." Of the Church and Congregation it says, "The past is honourable and the future bright, for the congregation is still youthful in spirit and rich in faith and enterprise". The history of our early congregation is described as "a thrilling example of a small band of people, dedicated to the worship and service of God, who gave their time, talent and money so that we who follow after are benefiting by their foresight and sacrifices."
There have been many `Revivals' throughout Christian history-some of them are remembered; some forgotten. The year 1965 saw the Revival of the Congregation of Lisnastrean, and our Congregation has never been quite the same again. The Annual Report of 1965 carried a Foreword by the Rev. J. McCaughan; even in the following abridged form it says all that needs to be said.
"There are two reasons why I have always been glad that Legacurry Church was built at a cross-roads. The first is that a cross-roads suggests choice, decision, action; and the second is that it is wonderful to see men, women and children coming from the four points of the compass to worship and dispersing to carry the Gospel truth and life in all directions.
1965 has been Christian Stewardship year, and I am greatly inspired by the response made to the challenge and emphasis o f the Stewardship programme. How grateful I am for the wisdom and dedication of those called to lead the committees and sub-committees; how encouraged by the persuasive work done on various visits by our members to our members explaining the scheme.
I can think of a long list of benefits that have flowed from God's blessing on this venture. There has been the birth of a new sense that `this is our Church', a realisation that there is a real place for everyone in it; a new willingness to serve it; and a renewed, family sense among the members. Our Church organisations have benefited, too; additional workers and leaders have come forward, and a Men's Fellowship formed.
I thank God for this spirit of interest and service, and for this commitment. We must see to it that there is no easing off in our Stewardship - which is the giving of our time, talents and money to Christ and His Church.
To-day we need to know our Reformed Faith, be unashamed of it, and charitable in commending it. We need to demonstrate it by our local Church loyalty, our wider Christian charity, our community service and our uprightness of character. God uphold us all in that.
May our Church at the cross-roads continue to make choices that commend the Christian Gospel, and decisions that deepen the discipleship and dedication to Christ of all its members. "
Where better to bring this story to an end? The story of how God dealt with His people Israel, the people of His Church at the Crossroads, but OUR story does not end. It goes on through the "seventies" and "eighties" and into the "nineties", and God willing, on through the 21st century Onwards and Outwards.
There are in our Congregation, at this moment in time, small children
whose forefathers were here in the early years, or, perhaps whose parents
came as recently as the 1990's. One of these children is the ideal person
to take up our story again around the year 2040 when the 150th Anniversary
Services, the Flower Festival, The Festival of Faith are all history, far
away in the previous century, barely remembered amid the progress and
activities of the 21st century, itself no longer new.
APPENDIX IV ,
APPENDIX V PRECENTORS
DAY SCHOOL TEACHERS (Incomplete Lists)
Inspectors - REV. C. LETTE AND REV. W. WRIGHT.
LEGACURRY SCHOOL (Old Schoolroom)
APPENDIX VIII CLERICAL SONS
Very Rev. John Davidson, MA, DD, born 1837, son of Arthur H. and Mary
Davidson, Legacurry. Licensed by Belfast Presbytery in 1861. Ordained in
Glenan in 1862. Married Anna Arnold, Dunmurry in 1878. Clerk of the
Monaghan Presbytery (1877 - 1922) and Clerk of the Synod of Armagh and
Monaghan (1890 -1922). Moderator of the General Assembly 1907. Died 1922.
Buried in family grave in Legacurry.
Rev. James Alexander McCaughan, BSc, BD, son of Rev. J. and Mrs. McCaughan, Legacurry Manse. Licensed by Dromore Presbytery in 1979. Presently minister of 1st Dunboe.
Rev. James Shortt, son of James and Jane Shortt, Cabra. James, sen., was an elder in Legacurry (1927 - 1930) when the family moved to Canada. James, jun., entered the ministry as a mature student. Ordained in United Church of Canada. Presently he serves the Congregations of Andrew and Unwin in Alberta.
Rev. John White, born 1816, in Ballyhomra, brother of William and George White, early members of Legacurry. Licensed by Dromore Presbytery in 1843 and ordained in Carluke Free Church, Scotland, in 1845. He was Carluke's first minister. He died in 1908 and is buried in Carluke.
Rev. James Donald Bailey, son of John Bailey and Emily McDonald of Ballyhomra. Probably born in the 1860's. He became minister of a Church in Blufton, United States of America. The name `Baily' appears on our Church records from 1845. The family grave is on the right hand side of the Church.
FINANCIAL REPORT 1870
Arrears of Stipend -November 1870, £5 13s I Od
Treasurer, R. Morrow, in Account - Debt and Building
FINANCIAL REPORT 1900
LIQUIDATION OF DEBT ACCOUNT
STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS 1900
BALANCE SHEET FOR 1941