The plans for the new buildings included a school which was to occupy the
main hall directly beneath the church. It appears that at first this hall
was not used as a day school though it is probable that Sunday School
classes were held there.
An interesting report appeared in the "Methodist Intelligence" column
of The Irish Evangelist of 1st October, 1878. It read, "The Methodists of'
Lisburn have completed their arrangements for opening on 1st October next
a classical school under the Intermediate Education Act. The Principal of
the new school, Mr. C. F. Baker, T.C.D., bears the highest testimonials."
Two months later in The Irish Evangelist of 2nd December there appeared
the following advertisement:
"The Principal of the Lisburn Intermediate School, C. F. Baker, T.C.D.,
will receive a limited number of Pupils as Boarders, who will have, in
addition to the advantage of a well-conducted Middle Class School, the
personal assistance of the Principal in the preparation of their work.
Pupils will be prepared in the shortest possible time for Trinity, the
Queen's College and Civil Service Examinations.
The residence is spacious, and furnished with shower and plunge baths.
It is in a healthy locality.
References kindly permitted to the parents of former pupils, and to the
Revs. J. W. Jones, R. Roberts, James Dixon, John Dwyer, George Vance, John
Carson, James Thompson and W. Nicholas, A.B.
Many of Mr. Baker's former pupils now occupy distinguished positions in
the various professions and Civil Service employments.
Terms for pupils under 15 years, including English, Mathematics,
Classics and French, £26 per annum.
Special terms for Boys over 15 years. Great attention given to backward
or neglected Boys.
For further information apply to the Principal."
A report in The Irish Evangelist on Ist February, 1879, suggests that
there was a good response to Mr. Baker's efforts to enlist pupils. It
"The Intermediate School lately established by Rev. J. W. Jones in
Lisburn is progressing favourably. The number on the roll is now 72 and,
under the care of Mr. C. F. Baker, it is likely to increase." Rev. J. W.
Jones was at that time the Superintendent Minister of the Lisburn Circuit.
There is one further mention of Mr. Baker in the contemporary press. A
report in the Belfast News Letter of 17th February, 1881, mentions the
prize distribution of "Lisburn Academy and Intermediate School." The
prizes were presented by Sir Richard Wallace "in the large room of the new
schools." The Principal's name is given as C. F. Baker. There is evidence
that C. F. Baker's school was opened in Market Place (Dublin Road),
probably in the building now used by the Salvation Army.
The present Wallace High School on Antrim Road was built by Sir Richard
Wallace in 1880, under the name, "Lisburn Intermediate and University
School." The first headmaster, according to the school brochure, was Mr.
A. C. Baker. It appears to be a remarkable coincidence that there were two
Intermediate Schools in Lisburn, one founded in 1878 and the other in
1880; that their two principals should have the same surname, Baker; that
Sir Richard Wallace should have associations with both; and that one
should have been newly built in 1880 whilst the other should hold a prize
distribution in February 1881,"in the large room of the new schools."
Perhaps in the future these similarities may be explained and it may be
discovered that the present Wallace High School is a continuation of the
earlier intermediate School, founded by the Methodist Church.
Mr. C. F. Baker., during his short stay in Lisburn, was appointed a
Class Leader and a note in the Membership records indicates that he left
Lisburn in June 1881 to go to Skibbereen.
Seymour Street National School was opened in July, 1886, mainly through
the efforts of Rev. Dr. Hollingsworth, the Superintendent Minister of
Lisburn Circuit. The first headmaster was Mr. James Henry, LL. D., B. L.,
under whose leadership the school quickly grew. By the end of the first
year there were three assistant teachers on the staff and by the following
Spring a fourth assistant became necessary. These four assistant teachers
were in turn assisted by several monitors. Dr. Henry resigned in July,
1897, in order to join the legal profession. He was succeeded by Mr. Alex.
S. Mayes. The school was highly regarded as it provided a wide curriculum,
including the study of languages and science, which appealed to more
senior students. Many of its pupils won valuable entrance scholarships to
such well-known educational establishments as Methodist College, Campbell
College and Victoria High School.
As numbers on rolls increased (at one time, according to contemporary
reports there were 240 children enrolled) the accommodation became
increasingly cramped and inadequate. Only a completely new school could
solve the problem. However such an undertaking would prove very costly and
the leaders were much exercised about the situation when a new school was
made possible through the generosity of Mrs Archibald McAfee, a widow, of
Bow Street. Mrs. McAfee was probably the last surviving member of the
Foote family which had long had a close association with the Seymour
Street congregation and, indeed, with the Market Street Preaching-house of
earlier days. She, herself, was not a member of the Methodist Church,
having become a Presbyterian, probably at the time of her marriage. She
wished to honour the memory of her recently deceased brother, William
Foote, described by the Lisburn Standard as "a well-known and respected
business-man of Lisburn," who had been a member of Seymour Street
congregation. She offered a donation of £1,500 to be used to build a
school which would bear his name. The leaders were delighted to receive
such a munificent gift and the school was erected on ground already
belonging to the congregation, with 100 feet frontage along Wesley Street.
It is probable that Mrs. McAfee's gift covered the entire cost of building
the new school. Appeals were made for help in furnishing the classrooms
and individual members' gifts were used for this purpose. The Barbour
family was responsible for furnishing two of the rooms.
The school was built by James McNally, Lisburn, the architect being J.
St. John Phillips, A.R.I.B.A., of Belfast. The opening ceremony on
Wednesday, 15th April, 1908, was presided over by the Superintendent of
the Lisburn Circuit and Manager of the School, Rev. Alexander Egan, who
referred to the work of his colleagues on the Building Committee, Dr.
James G. Jefferson and Mr. Thompson Allen. The door of the new school,
which comprised five classrooms, was opened by Mrs. Harold Barbour of
Dunmurry and speeches were made by Rev. Dr. Evans, a Commissioner of Irish
National Education, Rev. G. R. Wedgwood, Chairman of the Belfast District
Synod, Professor A. C. Dixon, Queen's College, Mr. Harold Barbour and Mr.
James Pelan, Chairman of the Urban District Council. It is an interesting
comment on the good relationships between the sister churches that Rev.
Canon Pounden of Lisburn Cathedral pronounced the Benediction at the
Ceremony. Unfortunately Mrs. McAfee, who was 86 years old, was too infirm
to be present at the opening ceremony. Indeed, she died only a few months
later. One of our oldest members, the "father" of our Leaders' Board, Mr.
David Williams, remembers her funeral. He recalls that boys from the
William Foote Memorial School attended her funeral in August, 1908, and
that it was one of the last local funerals to have a four-horse hearse.
Mr. Alexander S. Mayes, B.A. who had been headmaster of Seymour Street
National School continued in this capacity in the new school until 1917
when he was succeeded by Mr. Francis O'Kane. Mr. Mayes, on his departure
from Lisburn, went to Duncairn Gardens, Belfast. He played a prominent
part in founding the Belfast District Sunday School Union. M r. James
Wells succeeded Mr. O'Kane in 1937 and in 1956 he was followed as
headmaster by Mr. David G. Leinster. The building was vacated in 1966 just
before Mr. Leinster's retirement in 1967.
Following the 1923 Education Act the Regional Education Committees took
over responsibility for the former National Schools. The William Foote
Memorial School was handed over to the Lisburn and Belfast Regional
Education Committee and was then run by a "four and two" committee. The
premises continued to be used until 1966 when the new committee. Primary
School was opened. Then, as there was no further use for the William Foote
Memorial School as a school the premises were handed back to the church in
their original "plight and condition." They were then ready to begin a new
and exciting chapter in their history.
Lisburn Methodism-One Church
In the years immediately following the opening of the new church in
1875 there occurred important changes in the organisation of Methodism in
the Lisburn district.
As has already been stated an important schism in Methodism in 1816 had
led to the formation of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Church. For a
number of reasons, not the least being a dramatic decline in the
membership of the Primitive Wesleyan Church from about 1860 onwards,
attempts were made to re-unite the Primitive Wesleyan and the Wesleyan
communions. This re-union was effected in 1878. At that time there were 40
members of Lisburn Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Church. These were
absorbed into Seymour Street Wesleyan Methodist Church, to form Lisburn
Methodist Church, as it was now officially designated.
During the following year, 1879, a revision of circuit boundaries took
place. Lisburn circuit lost five classes, consisting of 48 members, and
six preaching-places, Ballinacoy, Knockcairn, Bridgend, Stoneyford,
Rushyhill and Ballymacward, to the Antrim and Glenavy Circuit.
Following the merger between the Primitive Wesleyans and Wesleyans,
Lisburn Methodists found themselves with two churches-the new Seymour
Street Church and the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Church in Dublin Road.
At the Conference of 1879 it was decided that, "Lisburn, Dublin Road, is
referred to the Belfast District meeting in August to consider any
proposal from the Lisburn friends respecting the use to be made of it."
The Minutes of Conference of 1880 indicate that "the Trustees were
authorised to sell or otherwise dispose of Lisburn Chapel and Residence."
It seems almost certain that, for a short time at least, Dublin Road
premises were occupied by C. F. Baker's Lisburn Intermediate School (see
the previous chapter). It has not been possible to discover when these
premises were disposed of but the old Primitive Wesleyan Church in Dublin
Road still stands and is presently occupied by the Salvation Army.
A notable period of spiritual activity occurred in the Spring of 1891,
when the circuit ministers were Revs. Henry Ball and G. W. Thompson.
According to The Lisburn Standard "a remarkable revival broke out. The
work began very quietly, no special advertising being done. A small band
of workers went out with a lantern to announce the services. The meetings
grew in interest and power in a very remarkable way, and were continued
for about ten to twelve weeks, drawing very large congregations. All
available spaces were filled, pulpit steps, boardroom, vestry, aisles,
etc., being occupied. The gracious influence became so great that an
address became almost unnecessary. On one occasion, after an address of
ten minutes, 110 names were taken at the enquiry room. It became necessary
to open the schoolroom for the enquirers. The meetings reached various
classes-policemen, shop assistants, factory workers, and some very low,
degraded people were among the seekers. Among those who helped our own
ministers were Rev. Crawford Johnston and Rev. James Grubb, who brought
large numbers from the Central Mission with them; Rev. James Harpur, Rev.
John E. Green and the local Presbyterian ministers gave valuable help.
Billy Spence, Mr. Joseph Connell, Mr. Hugh McCahey, Mr. J. Neill, Mr. S.
J. Briggs and Mr. James Maze were also very busy in helping the converts.
When the mission closed the interest and power were as great as when it
commenced-physical exhaustion and lengthening of days brought it to a
The re-union of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Primitive
Wesleyan Methodist Church had been successfully negotiated in 1878. There
still remained the Methodist New Connexion-particularly strong in Lisburn,
the place of its origin in Ireland. Following the re-union of two branches
of Methodism many felt that the split between the Methodist Church and the
Methodist New Connexion was no longer necessary. That was especially true
as the differences in church government and administration no longer
existed. Following a resolution from the Quarterly Meeting of the Wesleyan
Church in Bangor, where the Methodist New Connexion was also notably
strong, two committees, one from each communion, met in 1904 and
recommended a union-in practice a transfer of all the mission work and
property of the Methodist New Connexion in Ireland to the control and
jurisdiction of the Methodist Conference. This transfer was completed in
1905, when the Lisburn Circuit as we know it to-day was constituted. The
Lisburn New Connexion church was closed, the members being absorbed into
Seymour Street; Broomhedge and Priesthill, former Methodist New Connexion
churches, became divisions of the new circuit
It is interesting to examine the terms and conditions of this transfer.
In the Minutes of Conference for 1905 it states that Conference approved
the Report of the Committee appointed by Belfast District Synod and
consisting of the Superintendent and Circuit Stewards of Lisburn Circuit
in consultation with the officials of Broomhedge and Priesthill. The
Conference approved of the union of Broom-hedge and Priesthill with
Lisburn Circuit on the following conditions:
(a) The existing Lisburn circuit shall incur no financial responsibility
for these places.
(b) Broomhedge and Priesthill shall be an appointment for a Married
Minister, with a grant of £37.
(c) The Minister appointed to Broomhedge and Priesthill shall have full
charge of their pastoral and week-night work, and shall be so assisted in
the Sunday work that Priesthill shall have a ministerial service once a
fortnight in the morning and on the alternate Sunday in the evening, the
other half of the Sunday work being done by local preachers.
(d) The local affairs of Broomhedge and Priesthill shall be managed by
their respective Leaders' Meetings or Committees, while the Lisburn
Quarterly Meeting shall exercise its functions for the whole circuit.
Some idea of the importance of the merger with the Methodist New
Connexion can be seen in the increase in membership of the Lisburn
Circuit. In 1904 there were 301 members, in 1905 the membership was 514.
The Methodist New Connexion owned a Schoolhouse in Antrim Street, the
site of which is said to be occupied to-day by the firm of B. J. Eastwood,
Bookmakers. In 1907 this Schoolhouse was bought by the officers of the
Home Mission Fund for £150. The Conference of 1908 sanctioned the selling
of the Schoolhouse but there appear to have been no purchasers because in
1910 Conference agreed to the leasing of the premises for ten years at £
13.10.0 per annum to a Mr. Duncan for use as a Blouse Factory. Its later
history is unknown.
It will be remembered that when Seymour Street Church was opened in
1875 the plans included two ministers' residences which were to be built
on the site adjacent to the church. In fact, as those acquainted with
Lisburn Methodism are aware, only one manse was built. The actual date of
building is unknown-certainly the manse was built at a later date than
1875. In The Irish Evangelist of April, 1880, a note referring to the
Lisburn Circuit mentioned ". . . a sum of £150 is in the bank towards
erection of a new manse." In the Belfast News Letter of 28th June, 1882,
there appears a report of a Conference decision that ". . . £300, part
proceeds of the sale of manses in Lisburn, should be put at the disposal
of the circuit." Possibly these manses may include the house purchased in
Castle Street around 1860 and the Primitive Wesleyan Manse connected with
the church in Dublin Road. If the former was being sold it would suggest
that the new manse, beside the church, was ready for occupation in 1882.
The story of the present century is a story of development and, to use a
modern word, outreach. Various preaching-places were opened where
Ministers and Local Preachers from Seymour Street conducted services of
Early in the first decade of the 20th century Mr. Samuel J. Briggs, a
tailor, of Bow Street, Lisburn, who had been appointed Class Leader of the
Hull's H ill Class on the death of Mr. John Connell in 1892, began a
Sunday School and services in his cottage residence situated on the
Lisburn side of Hull's Hill Corner on the Lisburn/ Moira road. He was
greatly assisted later by Mr. Thomas Balmer and his wife who owned a
grocery shop nearby. Those who attended were from various denominations
though Mr. Briggs and Mr. and Mrs. Balmer were members of Seymour Street
Numbers attending these services greatly increased, following the
Mission in 1921 conducted by Rev. W. P. Nicholson, and the present wooden
hall was erected soon after. Following the death of Mr. Briggs the venture
was operated by a local committee, few of whom were Methodist. It was
understood that it had been Mr. Briggs's wish to have the hall handed over
to Seymour Street Methodist Church and this was effected about 1941/42.
The services continued to attract local support but by 1962 considerable
expenditure on the building seemed necessary owing to decay. As no
Methodist remained on the Committee, and as the association with Seymour
Street was tenuous, the building and site were transferred from the
Methodist Church to the local committee and Hull's Hill Hall ceased to
farm part of the Lisburn Circuit from 1964.
A cottage service at Ravarnette and an open-air, service at Barnsley's
Row, off Linenhall Street, were for some time regular appointments for the
Ministers of Seymour Street. Their frequency and the duration of their
activity cannot be recalled with certainly but they appear to have
flourished during the second decade of the present century and to have
been discontinued in the following years.
Ballyskeagh Mission Hall, Lambeg, is still on the plan for Sunday
Services. Meetings for fellowship, Bible study and Sunday School
instruction were held in various houses in the Ballyskeagh area early in
the 20th Century. The meetings which led to the erection of the present
hall seem to have started about 1911 or 1912. They were
inter-denominational and appear to have been begun by Mr. James Allen,
supported by Mr. John Wilkinson. These men were both members of the Church
of Ireland and seem to have been influenced to some extent by the "Cooneyite"
movement at that time. Few attending had any Methodist affiliation.
After the Gee family moved from Lisburn to Ballyskeagh, services were
being taken on a monthly basis by Ministers of the various denominations
in the locality, and gradually there appears to have arisen a preference
for the services of the Methodist Minister. By that time a disused house
had been adapted for the meeting but as attendances increased this became
too small. In 1927, during the ministry of Rev. John N. Spence, the
Methodist Church in Seymour Street acceded to a request to take over the
administration of the cause. A sum of £527 was gradually collected and the
present hall, designed by Mr. James Shortt, the contemporary Town Surveyor
of Lisburn, was built. It was opened on 23rd October, 1927, when the
preacher was Rev. E. B. Cullen.
Mr. Albert Gee was much involved in the management of this cause and
continued so (in effect as Society Steward) until the Autumn of 1941 when
other commitments demanded his attention. Meetings were held regularly
until March, 1941, when, following the German air-raids, the Hall was used
as an emergency evacuation centre for people from Belfast. Mr. Gee spared
no efforts in building bunks and making the necessary arrangements to
house and feed the evacuees. He was greatly assisted by Mr. Robert Gill
who looked after the Hall during this period and later during the
twentyfive years when Mr. J. Wesley Campbell was Superintendent of
Ballyskeagh Sunday School. Mr. Campbell resigned from this position in
1967. In 1973, Mr. W. Leslie Millar was appointed Society Steward for
Ballyskeagh. The Ballyskeagh cause owes its survival and growth to the
devoted service of all these men and to very many others who remain
During the First World War, a concern was felt that something should be
done to help the young people of the congregation. Rev. R. Hull Spence,
the Junior Minister in Seymour Street, made a move to do something
practical by founding a troop of Boy Scouts. The Scout Movement was then
in its infancy and it would be fair to say that many members looked on the
project with tolerance rather than enthusiasm. However the Leaders' Board
gave its permission and the troop was formed. Mr. Spence left the Circuit
in 1915 and, following his departure to become a Chaplain to the Forces,
enthusiasm waned. Nevertheless the Troop still existed at late as 1919
when it made an uninvited "guest appearance" at the Victory Parade in
Lisburn. It became defunct soon after.
A more permanent form of youth work began in 1923 with the formation of
Life Brigade companies for both boys and girls. Thus there commenced a
work which has had a good influence on the lives of many members of the
In the Autumn of 1923, with the active encouragement of Rev. Herbert
Deale, Commissioner of the Boys' Life Brigade in Ireland, then composed of
one Company only, 1st Portadown, attached to Thomas Street Methodist
Church, a company was formed in Seymour Street. The Superintendent
Minister of Lisburn, Rev. Beresford S. Lyons, had been keen to band
together the boys of the congregation and he became the first Chaplain of
the Company, whilst the Junior Minister, Rev. W. H. Stewart, was appointed
as the first Captain. As the Junior Minister remained on the Circuit for
no longer than two years there were frequent changes in the captaincy in
the early years of the Company. Geoffrey Deale, the son of Rev. Herbert
Deale, was eventually appointed Captain and gave faithful service until he
was transferred to England on promotion. Mr. William Caves, one of the
founder members and later Captain of the Company, also gave valuable and
faithful service to the Company in its early and later years. The Boys'
Life Brigade eventually amalgamated with the Boys' Brigade to form one of
the largest organisations for boys and, as the 1st Lisburn Company B.B.,
attached to Railway Street, had already been members of the Belfast
Battalion for many years, the 2nd Lisburn Company B.B. was created. Many
Officers and N.C.O.'s have given valuable service to keep the Company
alive through the years.
Shortly after the formation of the Boys' Life Brigade Company it was
felt that an organisation for girls would be helpful. Rev. Herbert Deale,
who had inspired the founding of the Boys' Company, suggested that a
Girls' Life Brigade should be formed in Seymour Street. On 6th November,
1923, thirty-two girls and three potential officers met in the Schoolroom
and decided to act upon this suggestion. The G.L.B. Company was to meet
weekly on Thursdays; Miss Sally McCahey was to be in charge and she was to
be assisted by Miss Isabel Tate and Miss Georgie Menary. Rev. Beresford S.
Lyons became the Company's first chaplain.
Later when the Company was affiliated to Headquarters in London on 24th
March, 1924, Miss Isabel Tate, now the wife of Rev. D. Hall Ludlow, became
its first Captain and later Miss Ruby Walker assisted as Lieutenant. From
the start, Officers and girls were enthusiastic, Classes were formed and
work on badges commenced. It was gratifying, that so many of the early
members, including the first Captain, were present at the Jubilee
celebrations in 1974. Many of them spoke of the helpful and enjoyable
times spent in those early days.
A couple of years after the formation of the Boys' Life Brigade
Company, about 1925, a need was felt for a similar organisation for
younger boys so under the direction of Miss Sophie Given a Life Boy
Company was formed. Miss Given was assisted by Miss McDonald.
The 1920's were a period of evangelical zeal and fervour, following the
missionary activity of Rev. W. P. Nicholson. He held a Mission in Lisburn,
in Railway Street Presbyterian Church, which had the greatest seating
capacity. This mission had the support of almost all the Protestant
ministers and was inter-denominational but it proved of lasting benefit to
Seymour Street congregation as many of the converts returned to the church
to participate in its activites and, in some cases, to become enthusiastic
A further important Mission occurred in Seymour Street in 1933-it
seemed almost by accident. A young man from Lisburn, Harold Ruddock, had
been converted in his late "teens" or early twenties. With his family, he
joined Seymour Street congregation and later went to study in Cliff
College. There two of his fellow students were Tom Butler and Joe Blinco.
It was the custom for the students of Cliff College to go out "on trek"
preaching the Gospel as they travelled. Perhaps because of their
friendship with Harold Ruddock, Messrs. Butler and Blinco arrived at
Seymour Street in September 1933, unknown and unexpected. The
Superintendent Minister, Rev. Edward Whittaker, hastily convened a
Leaders' Meeting following the Sunday morning service and the two students
were authorised to conduct a Mission for a fortnight. There was a certain
novelty in the appearance of the young men, dressed in their shorts, and
crowds quickly gathered, despite the short notice and lack of advertising.
Many people were touched by the Message preached and much work of lasting
good was effected.
The following year, in March, 1934, Joe Blinco and Tom Butler returned
to the Lisburn district and held missions in Magheragall and Ballyskeagh.
Tom Butler returned again in 1961 and conducted a fortnight's mission, the
New Life Crusade, in Seymour Street. From time to time he visits Seymour
Street where he is always sure of a warm welcome. He comes now more
sedately dressed but is as energetic and ebullient as ever.
In January, 1967, yet another significant mission was conducted by Mr.
Michael Perrott of Belfast Y.M.C.A. During this time many young people
were converted and several of them have since entered full-time Christian
One form of Christian activity undertaken by the Church was of a
temporary nature but had a strong impact on the life of the community.
During the Second World War troops from the Dunkirk evacuation began to
build up in the Lisburn area from June 1940 and the numbers were augmented
by airmen when the aerodrome for R.A.F. training opened at Long Kesh.
Facilities for evening meals and recreation were lacking in off duty
hours. The congregation at Seymour Street therefore offered facilities for
those needs to be supplied in the Church Hall beneath the Church. A band
of almost 100 voluntary workers operated on a rota basis, members serving
as they had free time. The small kitchen then existing was really
inadequate for the purpose but somehow the need was met and snacks of all
kinds were provided at the cost of materials only. Prizes for games and
competitions were offered; sing-songs and impromptu concerts took place.
Many who were not members of the Methodist Church joined in to help; there
were staff available to serve every night and enthusiasm was maintained at
a high level .
The Minister at that time, Rev. John Hart, remembers the occasion well
and speaks with great enthusiasm of the spirit of helpfulness and
cooperation which was generated. At one period 10,000 meals were being
provided per month and many of the soldiers were entertained in the homes
of members of the congregation. Friendships were formed which lasted long
beyond the end of the war and letters of appreciation were received from
men drafted to all parts of the world. Mr. Hart, in his reminiscences,
remembers and emphasises the total involvement of members of Seymour
Street Congregation, their response to the need of the armed forces and
their kindness and consideration towards men shattered by the experience
Help was also given to evacuees from Belfast following the bombings in
April, 1941. Mr. Hart, who was an A.R.P. warden, vividly remembers the
scene as hundreds of refugees trudged along the road from Belfast into
Lisburn. They were frightened, dazed and demoralised, many of them were
injured and blood-stained, some didn't know where they were and were
surprised when told that they had reached Lisburn. Again the members of
the congregation rose to the occasion. Scores of these refugees were given
sleeping accommodation in the church, in the canteen and in the William
Foote Memorial School. Women with nursing experience tended those who were
injured, patching up wounds and bathing the children. The church organist,
Miss Maureen Johnston, played the organ in the church to help soothe and
calm those who were upset.
No praise can be too great for the leadership and direction given to
this humane and Christian activity by Rev. John Hart. He threw himself
into the work with enthusiasm. He was Chaplain to twelve military units,
including some American troops, stationed in the area. He opened an Advice
Clinic where, through personal interviews, he sought to help many of the
men who had personal problems, especially those who had come through the
nightmare experience of Dunkirk. Mr. Hart helped found and administer the
Lisburn Air-Raid Distress Fund and was one of the founders of the Social
Welfare Committee in Lisburn. So great, indeed, was his participation in
public affairs and the esteem in which he was held in the town that the
Urban District Council took the unprecedented step of writing to the
President of the Conference, Dr. W. L. Northridge, asking that his term of
office in Lisburn should be specially extended in order that he might help
to bring to completion the various schemes which he had helped to
inaugurate. This request could not, however, according to the rules of
Conference, be granted.
A Personal Memoir
A history of the life of a church must of necessity be rather impersonal
if it is to be objective-but the life of a church is not impersonal. It is
made up of many individuals, and is concerned with their relationships
with one another and with God. Seymour Street Methodist Church means as
many different things as there are different members. Each member will see
it from his own personal viewpoint. One of our older members, who wishes
to remain anonymous, wrote the following personal account of his memories
of the church of over fifty years ago. At his suggestion we entitle it:
"A Faithful Servant"'
There was an air of expectancy among the seven or eight boys sitting
astride what was known to them as the "Wee Wall" at the Low Road entrance
to Seymour Street Lecture Hall. Normally they waited until the Headmaster
and teachers had left the William Foote Memorial School and then the wall
was used for all sorts of acrobatics and many stitches were sewn to close
cracked heads, eyebrows and various limbs in the nearby County Antrim
But this occasion was different and they waited patiently until, after
many false alarms, they heard the sound they were expecting-one not often
heard nowadays-the clip-clop of horse's hooves, accompanied by that
peculiar swishing of rubber tyres on the wet metal road. A jaunting car,
now only seen on postcards, slowed down and with a final, "Whoa there,
girl!" came to a halt opposite the gate. The Jarvey seated on the dickey
with a foot on each shaft stirred himself and, after climbing down via a
foot pedal, removed the rug from the passenger's knees and assisted the
little lady to alight. She immediately commenced giving instructions
regarding the unloading of the musical instrument strapped on the other
seat of the jaunting car.
The boys watched wide-eyed, for this instrument was not a violin,
'cello or even a double-bass but a harp, and was generally only seen once
or twice a year, and they never ceased to be amazed by the fact that when
placed carefully on the path, the instrument was taller than its owner,
who was under five feet in height.
The lady's name was Miss Maud J. G. Hunter, and no history written in
the centenary year of Seymour Street would be complete without mention of
her name. She was organist for thirty of the past 100 years and the music
of her regime was all that Church music should be, and will always be
remembered by those who were privileged to attend during her years of
The occasions when the harp was played were the Congregational Reunion,
or Social as it was then called, when Miss Hunter accompanied some of her
invited artistes. Many were the occasions when the old hall rang to the
well-known songs of these islands. At these social evenings most of those
present were seated at or convenient to long tables capable of seating 24
persons and presided over by two hostesses, one at each end.
How well those tables looked, covered with the pure-white linen cloths
specially laundered for this annual event. The flowers added their usual
touch of colour and the silver tea-services at either end of the tables
gleamed in the light from the gas-lamps overhead and the flickering flames
from the two huge coal fires, which were then the only means of heating
the room, added their reflections to the sparkling silver. Each tea-maker
(then called) was attended by a gentleman who kept her supplied with all
her requirements and helped those seated at the tables. One of these
gentlemen had always to quote his yearly joke on these occasions, "I am
keeping the ladies in hot water."
In those days the congregation was much smaller than at present but the
eight long tables would always be fully occupied with overflows seated on
forms around the walls. The six stables at the back of the Manse were all
occupied, with some horses sheeted and tethered behind the playground wall
and the playground completely chock-a-block with pony traps. Oh, yes! they
did not mind travelling miles, in conditions we would now consider most
uncomfortable, to be present at the Church Social.
After the reports from the stewards, which were generally long with
many items and details, although. in those days the total income would
never have reached four figures, the programme commenced and the items
were varied; soloists, duettists, instrumentalists, elocutionists, all
gave of their best, and the applause, coupled with requests for encores,
was hearty and spontaneous. One of those taking part and who gave great
pleasure to all present was Mr. David Williams who was gifted with a
beautiful tenor voice and was greatly in demand, not only locally but much
In these modern days it is considered something special when young singers
at church services accompany themselves on guitars but there must still be
a few members of our congregation who have pleasant and thrilling memories
of the small orchestra comprising Miss Hunter's past and present pupils
who took part in special services.
Children's Sunday was a memorable service for those taking part when
girls and boys from the Sunday School occupied the front centre seats,
girls on the Manse side and boys opposite, and during hymn singing they
faced the congregation.
It is not difficult to recall the opening hymn always sung at this
Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steeps of light.
'Tis finished, Lord, 'tis finished,
The fight with death and sin,
Fling open wide the Golden Gates
And let the victors in.
The strains of the orchestra and harmonium, the singing of the choir,
children, and congregation must surely be remembered by those who were
present at those services.
The opening lines of the second verse of the hymn
"What rush of Hallelujahs
Fill all the earth with joy"
must have suggested to the children taking part that they were having a
prelude to Heaven itself.
The actual dates of Miss Hunter's years of service may be uncertain,
but she was organist and continued for some considerable time after the
new organ was installed in 1920.
It might interest readers to learn that the organ builders arrived from
England to commence work on Monday, 23rd August, 1920, following the
Sunday when District Inspector Swanzy was shot at the door of the Northern
Bank on the corner of Railway Street. Many shops and houses were in flames
and the two English workmen. hesitated about opening the huge cases of
organ pipes which were delivered to the front of the church. On being
assured that the mobs would not organise a band and use the pipes as
instruments, and that they would get assistance, they opened the cases and
with the assistance of many willing helpers the contents were safely
deposited in the church pews. Some weeks later the builders were searching
for one very small pipe and were in some distress when a thorough search
of every pew in the Church revealed no trace of the missing flute but,
fortunately, someone suggested it might have been overlooked in unpacking
the cases and, as the empty cases had not yet been returned, a search
revealed the lost pipe buried in the shavings and it is hardly advisable
to state the nature of their form of celebration.
The organ chamber was, of course, built many weeks before the
installation of the organ and in June, 1920 Miss Hunter's orchestra
performed for the last time at the Children's Service. At that time the
Church was lit by gas and after wooden brackets had been screwed to the
walls of the chamber, members of the congregation brought large oil lamps
to provide light for the orchestra and the harmonium.
Can you visualise what the scene was like? The chamber was a
rectangular room of approximately 200 square feet, the inner walls framed
with tongued and grooved sheeting and reaching the height of the
semicircular dome above the existing frontal organ pipes. Filled with the
members of the orchestra, their music stands and instruments gleaming in
the soft lights of the oil lamps, the chamber provided a scene never to be
forgotten by those present.
Miss Hunter who lived to celebrate her 100th birthday, and was blind
for some years before her decease, will always be remembered by those who
knew her and it is gratifying to know her name is recorded in the