Hic liber in usum cactus Presbyterorum in Congregatione Loughaghery.
Isaiah 30:8 "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a
book that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever." These are
the opening words in our oldest records which date back to 1801 - minutes
of meetings of Session, baptisms, marriages and Communion Rolls.
Unfortunately there is no written record of the first half century of the
These old records are wonderfully well preserved, and, although the
paper is fragile, the handwriting is clear, though the style is at times
hard to decipher. Spelling too, is different; where we have double S, the
first one is written as F. Session is Serfsion, miss is mifs, witness is
As I read these old records I thought howwonderful thatwe, nearly two
hundred years on, can discover much about the customs of our church,
because they had as Isaiah said 'noted it in a book', though the hands
that noted it are long since still.
The congregation goes back to the year 1750, when a number of families,
resident in the district, whose homes were remote from any Presbyterian
place of worship, and who were keen for an Evangelical Gospel, as opposed
to the cold ritualism, then prevailing in many places, were organised into
a congregation in connection with the Burgher Seceders, who had been sent
to Ulster from Scotland "to comfort the people".
At this stage, a little bit of explanation about Burgher Seceders.
Seceder Presbyterians have their roots in a protest against patronage in
the interests of spiritual life and freedom in 1733 in the Church of
Scotland. An independent Associate or Seceder presbytery was set up in
Scotland, and within a few years a situation developed in Ireland
sympathetic with the Secession principles of the new Scottish body, and
applications were made to them to establish Seceding Congregations in
Ireland. The Seceding ministers who had been sent over were Rev. Andrew
Black to Boardmills and Rev. Thomas Main to Drumgooland and it was they
who gave occasional services to this young flock at Loughaghery. The
Secession Church was divided into two sections - Burghers (moderates) and
anti Burghers (extremists).
It is to the Burgher Section that we belong.
It would seem that the congregation of Loughaghery owed its origin
mainly to a certain Mr. James Magill of Loughaghery House, a layman,
zealous for the cause of evangelical religion in those halycon days of the
Secession Church. It was he, who gave the congregation its name.
The first' Meeting House' as it was then called, and for many more years
to come, was built by the beautiful lough of the neighbourhood. The first
minister was possibly Rev. Rawlingstone, a Scotsman, though there is no
reliable evidence to support this claim.
The first building was thought to be small and rather primitive, it
probably had a thatched roof, and lasted about thirty years. No remains of
this pioneer building are to be seen.
The first definite minister Rev. William Knox, (1755 - 1770), contributed
much to the extension of the Secession Church and to the gathering of a
large and flourishing congregation at Loughaghery. It is said he was
beside the Lough, the exact spot is not known, no burial place of this
pioneer minister being marked, sad to say.
His successor was Rev. Samuel Edgar, (1771 - 1786) a farmer's son from Saintfield, Mr. Edgar was a leader of the early Secession Church; his son
Rev. S.O. Edgar of Armagh was the author of "the Variations of Romanism",
and his nephew was Rev. Dr. S. Edgar, who laboured successfully in
Ballynahinch. He, Dr. S. Edgar had an illustrious son Rev. Dr. John
Edgar,. who was a pioneer temperance advocate and philanthropist, and who
had a tremendous influence on the people.
The name Edgar is one that still stirs emotion in the hearts of the older
generations of Presbyterians in Co. Down. Mr. Edgar of Loughaghery, was
for many years Clerk of the Secession Presbytery of Down, but
his Presbyterian Records have long since been lost. He was also a member
of the first Burgher Secession Synod of Ireland, which convened at
Monaghan on October 20th 1779.
He conducted a classical school to eke out a scanty livelihood. He died at
the early age of thirty-eight and was buried in the parish church-yard.
His widow survived him by more than forty years.
It was during Mr. Edgar's ministry that the second Meeting House was
built, about half a mile from the first. It is thought this building, also
of a primitive nature, was in Milltown in the vicinity of Loughaghery
House, though the exact spot is not known.
Mr. Edgar was succeeded by Rev. William Moorhead, the progenitor of a
dynasty that was to last for a hundred and fifty two years, a record
unique in the annals of Irish Presbyterianism. He was the son of a farmer
from Drum, and a licentiate of Derry Presbytery. He was ordained in
Loughaghery on October 27th 1786. For his support he was promised £36 per
year, together with as many bales of oats as could be collected, which
would be not less than seven and perhaps ten, and when the congregation
could pay more they would cheerfully give it. This was considered a good
income then, and many young men as well as ordained ministers were very
keen to obtain it.
Mr. Moorhead laboured long and laboured well for forty-three years. He
gathered round him a large congregation of intelligent, godly families,
and a sagacious staff of Elders, by whose aid, under the blessing of God,
in those distant and perilous times he raised high the banner of spiritual
truth and Loughaghery became a stronghold of the glorious Gospel of
Most interesting is the length of the Sunday services laid out in the
minutes at this time.
They read "Public Worship to being 11.30 a.m. summer and winter. That
worship be intermitted for half-an-hour from 1st May till 1st October,
and continue until 4.00 p.m.
In the months of March, April and October to close at 3.00 p.m., and the
rest of the winter to close at 2.30 p.m."
During the intermission they had something to eat, which they had brought
with them, their 'pieces' in their pocket as it were. In the good weather
this was eaten alfresco, probably sitting on the grass. What a full day
Sunday was, especially for those who had long distances to walk and many
had up to five or six miles. I wonder what they did in all those hours of
worship. Certainly the Psalm singing was slow, the prayers were long, but
what a lengthy sermon the minister must have had to deliver! Mr.
Moorhead's flock was widely scattered, but his influence extended far
beyond his own flock. Several times he was Moderator of Down Presbytery,
Moderators in those days were chosen by vote and mostly after several
nominations and a poll. He was also moderator of the Synod, and he was
nominated as a candidate for the Chair of Theology of the Secession
Church, altogether a brilliant man.
Days of fasting, humiliation and thanksgiving were, frequent in those days
and he was almost always the member of Presbytery appointed to prepare the
reasons for these observances. Ailing in health he resigned from active
ministry in 1829 and died in 1837.
Next came his son Rev. Robert
Moorhead, 1829-1877 who laboured for nearly fifty years. It was during his ministry
that the third and present building was erected, the site being considered
more central for the members.
This building, though the same in the main, was very different from
today's building, and of a more substantial nature than the two previous
ones. It consisted of the main rectangular building, with the pulpit in
the South wall and the door opposite, no vestry and no front porch There
was a large circular gallery embracing three sides. The only entrance from
the road was where the little gate is now, beside the store, up across the
green to the door.
We are told Rev. Robert was an able man, prudent and pious. He was like
his brother Rev. James of Donacloney, a man of fine appearance and
dignified address, his venerable father, Rev. William, in these respects
having led the way for his worthy sons. A story is told which demonstrates
something of the character of Rev. Robert - A horse race was run each
Christmas Day from the end of Loughaghery Road to Samuel Stokes in
Ballymurphy, much to the annoyance of Mr. Moorhead. He showed his
disapproval by drawing all the
blinds in the manse until the race was over. He wasn't afraid to stand
firm when something was done which he considered detrimental and wrong.
A distinguished minister brought up in the congregation wrote "By a wise
arrangement between Rev. Robert and his people, the family home, inherited
from his father, was changed into a manse as the home of the minister for
all time to come."
Unfortunately this is not now the case. He married a Miss Bessie Magill of
Hillsborough. He had three sons-in-law in the church. Rev. John Beatty,
Ballycopeland, Rev. Ebenzer Legate Ballyclare, (father of Dr. Legate who
conducted the bi-centenary service in 1951.) Rev. James Morell, Glenwherry,
later Rathfriland and lastly Ballybay. He died on 18th March 1877.
His son Rev. John Nesbitt Moorhead, previously of Cloughey, was installed
as his father's successor in July 1877. He ministered for sixty-six years.
We are told he was a man of many and rare gifts respected and revered by
He was a gifted speaker, and his prayers were renowned for their beauty,
especially at funerals, and like his predecessors a man of striking
appearance - tall and slender.
In his young days he rode on horseback to Church, as did his wife. Later
on he walked over the hills, coming out at Victor Brown's lane, and in his
last few years he came by taxi. Jack Poole of Ballynahinch brought him. He
never owned nor drove a car.
It was during his ministry that the Church, built early last century, in
the year 1895, having become dilapidated, was extensively renovated. On
14th July 1895 the church was reopened by the then Moderator Rev. Dr.
Buick. Attendance at both services was large and it was announced to this
large congregation at the evening service that the cost of over one
thousand pounds had almost all been met. This was a tremendous effort at
that time, money being so scarce and wages so low.
An extract from "The Witness" of 2nd August 1895 reporting on the new
building says "The whole of the woodwork as flooring, pews, window sashes,
doors, has been removed, including the circular gallery. The pulpit has
been removed from the south wall to the east wall, and a new entrance hall
added over which a commodious end gallery has been built. The new pews are
arranged differently, the two aisles running parallel with the long sides
of the church.
The whole of the space for the choir is enclosed with open arcaded and
moulded framing, having turned columns with neatly moulded caps and faces
and moulded newels rising above capping. All the woodwork, which is pitch
pine is varnished. Ornamental metal balustrades have taken the place of
wood on front of the gallery. The external appearance of the church is
much improved the front being broken by pilasters and moulded
architraves." I am told Mr. Moorhead was there every morning on his horse
working along with and encouraging his parishioners in giving voluntary
labour. The raised part of the green was filled in this way, voluntarily.
Following the opening of the renovated church the committee decided to
apply to the Grand Jury of Down for a new road and entrance fronting the
church, and after repeated failures succeeded in getting a grant of one
hundred pounds. This was used to build the wall along the graveyard, make
the new entrance and put on the gate, as we know it today.
At a committee meeting held four days after the re-opening of the Church
on 18th July 1895 the minutes record 'That the committee and congregatioon
of Loughaghery owe a deep debt of gratitude and thanks to their minister
for his persevering industry and ability in collecting such a sum in a
short time among a purely agricultural community desiring it to be put to
his credit in these minutes."
On the completion of fifty years the Congregation presented him with an
illuminated address expressing their gratitude for a faithful friend and
pastor, and also a gift of money. I have to hand a circular which was sent
round the congregation and from which I quote.
Since it has become known that our friend and pastor Rev. J.N. Moorhead
has completed fifty years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church there
has been a strong feeling among the members that opportunity should be
taken of this occasion to make tangible acknowledgment of our appreciation
of the faithfulness with which Mr. Moorhead discharges his work in our
midst. At a specially convened meeting of the Congregation a Presentation
Committee was appointed. We have much pleasure therefore in soliciting
your helpful interest. We are anxious that every family and if possible
every member of the families shall have some share in the Presentation, so
that we shall be able to say the Presentation is a small token of love and
esteem of all the members of the congregation, including the young folk.
In the Assembly's Historical Room it is recorded regarding the Moorhead
family and Loughaghery:
'It is surely unique in the history of Irish Presbyterianism to have had
three generations of the one branch of a family serving successively in
the one congregation." Let us give as liberally as possible to show our
admiration for Mr. Moorhead and this illustrious family from which he
All contributions will be gladly accepted by W. Martin Secretary,
Loughaghery Presbyterian Presentation Committee."
The chairman of this committee was Sam Watson (Burren) At this time Mr.
Moorhead had never missed a single Sunday from the pulpit, and this record
was kept up right to the end of his ministry. What wonderful health he
Mr. Moorhead died in September 1939. He was laid to rest beside his
ancestors on a lovely, sunny, Sunday afternoon. The Church was packed with
young and old alike, and the lovely hymn -
There is a land of pure delight,
Where Saints immortal reign.
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers,
Death, like a
narrow sea divides
This heavenly land from ours.
(Hymns, incidentally, had only just been introduced).
His wife died a month later. She was so ill she never knew her husband had
died. Prior to her marriage she was Miss Jane Black of Ballymurphy. George
Morton now lives in what was her home. She was a woman whose work was
endless as minister's wife, farmer, and mother. To eke out their living
she kept jersey cows, and reared calves. I am told by one who knew her
well that she did well with these cows. She insisted on doing the milking
herself. Mr. Moorhead was not allowed in the byre.
They had ten children, three sons and seven daughters, and it is now their
second son, Robert, who has become our generous benefactor, and we hope
through him the Moorhead memory will be perpetuated in the generations,
yes, centuries to come in our new church hall.
|Mr. Creelman with his mother at his
installation on 19th April, 1939.
Rev. David John Creelman (Clogher Presbytery) succeeded Rev. J. N.
Moorhead. He was installed on 19th April 1939. During his ministry the
manse was overhauled and modernised. Early, too, hymns were introduced, as
pre viously in true Presbyterian tradition only Psalms and paraphrases
were sung. Instrumental music was introduced at this time, and a
Flourishing Young Peoples Guild was formed, ;but more of these subjects later. n 1946 Mr.
Creelman accepted a call from Wexford and Enniscorthy Churches.
It is interesting to relate that after leaving Loughaghery Mr. Creelman
married Miss Bessie Moorhead daughter of Rev. J.N. Moorhead his
predecessor. They have one daughter, now married and living in Scotland.
Sad to say Mr. & Mrs. Creelman died in middle life.
On 7th May 1947 Rev. John Hendly Rankin was ordained to the pastoral
oversight of the congregation.
Mr. Rankin after his robing with
Mrs. McDonald, Mrs. Irvine and Mrs. Beatty.
During the war he was Y.M.C.A. padre in
England and abroad, and before coming to Loughaghery he was assistant in
Crumhn Road Church. Mr. Rankin was unmarried when he came, but married
Miss Dorothy Russell from Newtownbreda the following August, and the next
year 1948, there was great excitement when twin boys arrived in the manse.
During his ministry the congregation prospered and flourished. In the
bi-centenary year the present pipe organ was installed, and the choir was
removed to the side from the centre, a move which has been regretted by
some members in more recent years, and the lovely choir seat of 1895 was
done away with. Mrs. Rankin started the custom of putting flowers in the
Silver Bowl given by Miss J.M. McDonald. This is now looked after by Mrs.
In 1957 the W.M.A. (now P.W.A.) was formed under the leadership of Mrs.
In 1954 the congregation presented Mr. Rankin with robes, Mrs. Rankin with
a tea-set, and the twins, David and Jonathan with fountain pens, as a
token of gratitude.
The robing ceremony was performed by two senior ladies, Mrs. E. Beatty and
Mrs. W. Irvine, assisted by Mrs. J. McDonald. The tea-set was presented by
Mrs. A. Johnston.
Rev. J. McCaughan after expressing his pleasure at being present adopted a
poetical vein in the following lines.
|Tonight we meet in happy mood,
Full of fun as well as food.
Joined in concord, free from strife,
To praise your minister and his wife.
Seven years ago he came
To this place of note and fame;
Next came his wife, who all hearts win,
Then next, of course, there came
Loughaghery Manse is a place,
Of hospitality and grace,
A friendly welcome you will find,
And conversation ever kind.
Loughaghery Church is a delight,
With its windows tall and bright.
pipe organ, sweet of tone,
A church where you may feel at home.
The Communion Table tells of grace
Standing handsome in its place,
Pulpit central, clear to view,
Commanding every well-filled pew.
|Whence this pride in Church and Manse?
Whence this Church's grand advance?
The secrets of this surge of life
Lie in your pastor and his wife.
Loudly let their praises sound
Echo all the land around,
They have served and led you well
As everyone of you could tell.
To-night the future's bright and clear,
May joy be yours for many a year,
Parson robed, and church repaired,
Manse improved, and all bills squared.
So to-night we all rejoice,
Sing with loud and cheerful voice.
Let praises echo and return.
From County Cork to the Pound Burn.
|Mrs. Eddie presents a silver tea
service to Mrs. Crooks. Others in picture (from left) Mr. J.
Eddie, Clerk of Session; Rev. A. Crooks, Miss M. Reid and Mr.
Mrs. A. Johnston with Mrs. Rankin and the
twins, David and Jonathan.
In 1963 Mr. Rankin accepted a call from Markethill, where he still is.
Rev. Andrew Crooks was installed in April 1964.
Mr. Crooks was a native of Ballynure, and had ministered in Bethany for
twenty-eight vears and before that in Minterburn for one and a half years.
He had travelled extensively on the continent with groups of young
people and had recently been as far as New Zealand. All this made him a
man of rich and varied experience.
Mrs. Crooks started the Sale of Christmas Cards for Church Funds, a
practice which is still continued successfully. The old Church hall was
opened in March 1971. Mr. Crooks strove hard then for a more permanent
building, but it would seem the time was not then ripe for such.
Towards the end of his ministry Loughaghery and Cargycreevy became joined.
he retired in June 1971 and went to live at Ballygally where he died in
And so we come to the present. Rev. David McConaghy was installed as joint
minister of Loughaghery and Cargycreevy in February 1972. Mr. McConaghy
comes from Toberkeight near Bushmills in Co. Antrim. He served as
assistant minister in Hamilton Road Church, Bangor, before going to the
Mission field in Malawi and Zambia, where he served eight years.
The installation service was held in Loughaghery and the reception in
Cargycreevy, both times with packed houses. Under the able leadership of
Mr. McConaghy the congregation is growing and the traditions of this old
and his toric congregation are still ably maintained. There is generosity,
loyalty and the desire for the extension of Christ's Kingdom still found
in the people. This has been shown in the building of a lovely new choir
room and minister's room at the back of the church costing around £23,000
in 1981, and high hopes and plans for a new hall in the region of
A Junior Christian Endeavour was formed in March 1977. Credit must be
given to the leaders Olive Gourley and Barbara Graham who are doing
worthwhile work among the children. They are assisted by Jennifer Campbell
who acts as pianist.
Other improvements are the replacement of the heating system, which had
been a Musgrave boiler installed in 1958. In 1981 this was converted from
a high pressure system to low pressure with extra pipes and radiators and
a new Pottorton boiler installed.
An amplifying system was dedicated on 5th February 1984. This was given by
the Bowling Club. Hymn books for "Special Occasions" were used for the
first time at this service. In 1984 the two windows nearest the organ were
replaced. One had been blown in during the January 1984 gales.
Moorhead headstone also fell during the same storm and was replaced.
At a special service held on 25th March 1979 ten visitors were welcomed
from Canada. They had come to honour the late Rev. T. Watson M.A. who had
been brought up in Loughaghery. new entrance doors and the leaded stained
glass windows above the doors, together with a suitably inscribed plaque
were donated by his family in his memory.
|.Rev. D. McConaghy & Rev. A.
Crooks with members of the Watson family outside the newly
The memorial plaque reads "The doors to this Sanctuary are a memorial
from his family to the life and work of Rev. Thomas Shanly Watson M.A.
1884 - 1977. Son of Samuel Scott Watson and Ellen Shanly, Member of
Loughaghery Church, Scholar, Wheelwright, Prairie Missionary, Soldier
Minister of Presbyterian and United Church of Canada. Born in Cargygray
died in Vancouver. "
'I have fought a good fight - I have kept the faith.' (Rev. Watson was an
uncle of John Johnston)
At the same service a new pulpit Bible, presented by the Rainey family in
memory of their parents, James and Annetta Elizabeth Rainey, was
The history of Loughaghery was brought before the congregation in the gift
of a commemorative plaque from Mr. & Mrs. O. Greer and family, listing the
previous ministers, all of whom have been mentioned in this book.
A new pulpit cushion was presented by Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Jess, new notice
boards in the vestibule by Mr. James McKibbin, and the carpeting thoughout
by P.W.A. Members and other ladies. This latter gift was made possible by
the sale of Christmas Cards.
In 1986 Mr. McConaghy was given Robes and a gift of money as a token of
gratitude and Mrs. McConaghy received a typewriter, which she uses
unsparingly for many occasions in the Church. Heather, Christine and
Sheila each received a gold bracelet at the same time. These gifts were
made by the united congregations of Loughaghery and Cargycreevy.
Our latest gift is the Hymn Books "Mission Praise" presented in memory of
Thomas Gourley, by his family on 6th December 1987.
Many ministers who have loyally served the church in the past at home and
abroad, were sons of Louaghaghery, among them being Rev. N.M. Brown,
Limavady; Rev. J.S. Brown, Magherafelt; Rev. S. Edgar, Brookvale; Rev. J.
Black, Lylehill; Rev. A. Magill, Boveragh; Rev. S. Thompson, Sereggan;
Rev. T. Patterson, Principal of Strabane Academy; Rev. S. Irvine,
Greenbank; Rev. James McKee and Rev. William Beatty (Wallace Beatty's
grandfather) missionaries to India; Rev. T. Watson, Canada; Rev. James
Moorhead, Rev. R. Moorhead and others.