Methodist Church
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Centenary of
Seymour Street Methodist Church 1975
Updated 2000

Mr. George E. Orr







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 reads,

"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 close."

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 worship.

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 Congregation.

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 anonymous.

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 congregation.

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 leaders.

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 service.

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 of Dunkirk.

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 Infirmary.

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 faithful service.

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 further afield.
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 service:

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 Centenary records.