Loughaghery Presbyterian Church




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 Congregation's existence.

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 witness.
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 interred 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 unfortunately all 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 Christ.

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 all.

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.

January 1926.

"Dear Member,
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 springs.

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 enjoyed.

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.
There everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers,
Death, like a narrow sea divides
This heavenly land from ours.

was sung.
(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. Eddie.

In 1957 the W.M.A. (now P.W.A.) was formed under the leadership of Mrs. Rankin.

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 the twins

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.
Fine 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. J.O. Greer.

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 August 1987.

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 �142,000.

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.

The 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 dedicated doors.

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 dedicated.

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.

See Photographs