Loughaghery Presbyterian Church




As far back as 1802 it was decided to publish the accounts yearly although there is no copy of any such report available. The oldest I have to hand is 1881.

Prior to 1929, when our Freewill Weekly Offering was first introduced, members paid Stipend, Sustentation and Pew Rents as well as Precentor's fees. These monies were collected by house to house collection.

The Stipend was paid directly to the minister as his salary, Sustentation was what is now our Central Ministers' Fund, and Pew Rents as well as the weekly collections went to the general running of the Church.

How the Sustentation Fund came around is quite interesting. As far back as 1672 in Charles II's reign a subvention by the State - Regium Donum or Royal Bounty was granted to be divided over all the clergymen. �600 was the grant, but the Seceders weren't included at first, for why we don't know. In 1690 William III on his way from Carrickfergus via Belfast to the Boyne, stopped at Hillsborough, where he was given an address of welcome by the Presbyterians. He immediately doubled the Grant to �1200. (good old William) and by this time Seceders were included in this Bounty.

Congregations were divided into three classes according to size and the grant proportioned out accordingly. This continued until 1869 when by the Irish Church Act it was stopped. Ministers though, could draw it for life or invest it in a trust. After much deliberation it was decided that each Minister would invest his share in a central fund, which remains as an endowment for all time.

The General Assembly, formed in 1840, accessed each congregation to pay into this fund according to number of families in 1869 and called it the Sustentation Fund. In the olden days many ministers could not have existed had it not been for this fund. It seems that in our congregation there was great difficulty in making ends meet and that money was often scarce. Minutes of 1878 reads:

'That as the Congregation has been behind in its payments of the Sustentation Fund, consequently, Mr. Moorhead has received nothing from the fund for the last quarter. It is resolved that one or two men from each townland, so chosen from their knowledge of the circumstances of the people should mention a sum that every stipend payer should give that each may know what is expected of him."

At a meeting of Session and Committee held on 27th May 1867 the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to:

'That taking into account the number of families connected with this congregation and the abundant means with which the Lord has blessed them, we are of the opinion that the sum contributed for the support of the Gospel Ministry is far too small and much below what it is their duty to contribute. That this meeting is of the opinion that this congregation is able without burden being placed on any seat-holder to contribute a stipend of �100 yearly, and that we hereby resolve to make an effort at once to have it increased to that amount." This target was not reached for many years.

"That in order that these resolutions be carried into effect at once a deputation be appointed to visit each district to urge upon them the duty of being more liberal."

Then there was 'Chicken Money'. Each family was asked to set a broody hen on a clutch of eggs to hatch. (we were then an almost entirely farming community). The proceeds from the sale of these chickens was handed over for whatever project was on hand at that time. This was each one's special effort - an original idea.

As previously mentioned the Weekly Freewill Offering was first used on 1 st August 1929. Mr. E. Beatty and Mr. R. Bateson (then Clerk of Session) were in charge of this scheme. Mr. E. Beatty had been treasurer from 1923 until the end of his life. He was preceeded by Mr. J. McBride Lougherne, and succeeded by our present treasurers. The Freewill Scheme was so successful that after a year Mr. Moorhead got a rise of �20 in stipend bringing his total to �85. The target of � 100 set in 1867 had not yet been reached.

At a committee meeting following the extensive renovations of 1895 the re-letting of the pews was considered, and it was thought this was the proper time to increase the rents. It was resolved that the front seats be let at thirty shillings yearly, seats in the middle of the Church at twenty-four shillings and the back ones twenty shillings, the small seats not less than twelve shillings and the front gallery the same as the ground floor back. In the report of 1881 contributions were understandably smaller. There was only a few who paid �1 each to stipend and sustentation, grading down to as low as two shillings to each fund.

Mr. Moorhead got �63.0.2d stipend that year, little wonder he needed help from the Sustentation Fund, into which we paid �44.14.0d. Missionary envelopes were also given out as another fund.


There is little evidence of much social life last century. It looks like a matter of "All work and no play". The first evidence in this line:- Minutes 13th January 1878.

"The committee and session met to-day when it was resolved that a Service of Song be given in the Church to meet an account due and that everyone who had the welfare of the congregation at heart should be asked to dispose of the tickets.

In the report of 1881 �5 was realised as profit from a Service of Song. There are other reports of cinematographs from time to time in those far away days.

In the 1920's and 1930's it was customary to hold an annual social or soiree. These were very lively nights and the Church was packed - the night of the year. I remember Mr. Moorhead goading the young fellows on in the gallery, and the quick witty reposte between them. When his back was turned, pieces of fruit loaf dipped in tea were thrown at him. If this missile went off target one was liable to get a slap of sodden fruit loaf anywhere. The ladies didn't like it. Understandably, it had a detrimental effect on a pretty hat or dress and a soggy jolt on the face wasn't the most pleasant.

At these socials there seemed to be some competition among the ladies as to who could set up the most attractive table. It was who could bring the prettiest china, lace cloths, and silver teapots and of course every hostess had flowers on her table. This all had to be carried. I still remember the basket in which my mother packed ours to carry to the social.

The tables were flat tops put across the little seats and lots were drawn as to where each lady worked. The back seats were not so popular, nor the gallery, because of the very lively element there.

Entertainment was provided by guest artists. I can remember Florrie Coulter and Hugh and Greta Greer from Ballynahinch singing, Berry Street Choir on one occasion and Crescent Choir twice came by bus to sing.

Interesting is the amount of food used. In 1930 ninety "two-shilling" fruit loaves, five dozen pastry (for visiting artists) three pounds tea and two stones sugar (everybody must have taken sugar in those days) were ordered.

In 1931 Tom Reynolds (Majorie Rea's Father) and a few others were asked to come. There seems to have been much deliberation about this and a divided committee. Some thought this wasn't the 'proper' entertainment to be held in the Church, but those for, seemed to win the day and Tom and his party came along. After Mr. Moorhead's day these types of socials disappeared from the scene, and the congregational social took the form as we know it to-day, sober, peaceful events.
At present we have an active and flourishing Bowling Club. This was formed in 1971. A mat was donated by Messrs S. & R. Bell and within three weeks a second mat was bought. Twelve bowls were also bought from Boardmills for �20. A membership fee of �2 was set. Our first year's office bearers were:
President, Rev. A. Crooks; Vice-President, Mr. S. Bell; Joint Captains Miss M. Irvine and Mrs. Magowan; Secretary, Mrs. T. Gourley, Treasurer, Mrs. R. Irvine.

In 1972 the first bowling dinner was held and in 1976 the first Service. Since inception the Club has operated most successfully now with three mats, and last year we managed to get to the semi-final of the J.C. Patterson Shield. The club plays for various trophies, the first of these being presented by Mr. & Mrs. W. Stewart in 1973. With the building of the new Hall it is hoped that the Club will become stronger and it is a possibility that the Club will take the ambitious step of running a Tournament open to all Bowlers throughout the North of Ireland. The present captain is Raymond Gourley.

A ticket for a bygone social.


On 6th March 1971 the hall was opened. The ceremony was performed by Rt. Rev. Principal J.L.M. Haire M.A., D. D., Moderator. In his address he said "Here you have created a hall, where you will be able to worship, learn and gather together for recreation and be better in body, spirit and mind."

Mr. Crooks in his turn said it had been the all-absorbing ambition of the congregation to build a hall and two years previously a fund had been started for this purpose. He was keen for a permanent building, but after much discussion and thought, it was eventually decided to erect a cedar-wood building. Mr. 0. Greer, treasurer, informed the congregation on that afternoon that the building had cost �4500. The congregation contributed �2400. Then a bequest from Miss Magill of �160 and a donation of �150 from Sir James Martin.

At a fete held in May 1970 in a field of Mr. Greets � 1600 was realised, and at the dedication service that afternoon �400 was lifted, as a result the hall was opened free of debt. The following poem was written by Mr. Tommy Mitchell, one time Sunday School Teacher and Elder about the May fete.

There's many a lovely valley
In dear old County Down
And many an ancient building
In our beloved land is found;
But the one I now am thinking of
Would take your breath away,
It is the dear old Church Loughaghery
In the townland of Cargygray.

It is lovely and oh so quiet
And free from worldly din
And when you enter in you'll find
A sacred peace within;
No ornaments adorn her walls,
She was not built for show
Just a homely place to worship God
By the people of long ago.

But after careful thinking
And discussions by them all
The members thought the time had come
To build themselves a hall.
So at last it was decided
That we should have a go,
But how to go about it
We really did not know.

 But soon our leader Mr. Crooks
Soon too the job in hand
And he was well supported
By a strong and willing band
So a field being kindly granted
It was settled then and there
That to make a lot of money
We would have a grand May Fair.

The weather-man being in a friendly mood
He gave us of his best,
Yes God gave us a perfect day
And left us to do the rest.
We thank Him for the sunshine
He gave that live long day
For any doubts and fears we had
It swept them all away.

The ladies turned out in splendour
As only ladies can
And for sheer determination
Far surpass the humble man;
They are blessed with endless energy,
And given half a chance
It is they who pay the piper
And the men who have to dance.

We had tinned meat, sweet meat,
Teas and lemonade
All sorts of entertainments
With a fancy dress parade;
We had eatables, vegetables
And implements galore
The like of which was never seen
In any field before.

We had hardware, software,
And ware in between
We had baby's wear, ladies wear
Fit for any queen.
With jumpers for the short man,
And blazers for the tall,
Dresses for the girls,
With hardly any dress at all.

Livestock being there in plenty
Raise their voices now and then.
From the hefty squealing sucker
To the cackling laying hen
And many other articles
Too numerous to declare
It was a real repetition
Of the Auld Lammas Fair.

And now it just remains for me
To say God Bless you all.
And thanks for every help received
 In building our new Hall;
And many generations yet unborn
Who follow in our train
Never, never have to say
Our work was all in vain.

Tea was served to all present, and before the closing of that service Jennifer Stewart presented Mrs. Haire with a bouquet.

Jennifer Stewart presenting Mrs. Haire with a bouquet, March 1971.


The following gifts were presented to the hall by members:

Piano -  Mr. 0. Greer.
Piano Stool - Miss M. Irvine
Table and Chairs - Mr. S. Rutherford and Mrs. I. Rutherford 
Platform Carpet - Mr. J. Scott and Mr. W. Beatty
Bible and Bible rest - Miss M. Reid.
Hall Clock - Mr. T. Jess.
Kitchen Clock - Mr. B. Graham.
Bowling Mat and Felt - Messrs. S. & R. Bell
Tea Trolley - G.A.
Tea Trolley -  Mr. R. Irvine.
Three Mirrors - Mr. J. Eddie.
Electric Kettle - Mr. Whitford.
Kitchen Table- Mr. S. Jess.
Kitchen Table -  Mr. M. Stewart.
Two Folding Tables - Hunter Family (Clintagh)
Two S.S. Work Tables - Mr. T. Mitchell.
Table Tennis Table - Mr. D. Rutherford.
Two hundred stainless steel spoons - Mr. W. Stewart
100 China Cups and Saucers - Gourley Family
Two Trays - Mr. D. Kirk.
First Aid Cabinet - Mr. J. Falloon.
Curtains and 100 chairs - P.W.A.
Chairs and Table Tennis Table - Y.P. Guild
Light fittings, S.School
Chairs and work tables - S. School.



In the early 1800's the names of Alex Sutherland and his wife appear from time to time as sexton.

There is no indication of what he was paid except after Communion he was given 7s. 7d. and his wife 2s. 8.5d for washing tablecloths and cleaning utensils, as an extra. The Sexton's house (now store) was built for him around 1830. The minutes record that it was decided to build a house for the Sexton in the lowest N.E. Part of the Churchyard beside Mateer's (now Balfour Steven's well). That well is still there.

In 1849 John Rainey was appointed. He was engaged "to keep all the premises clean and in order, to have the use of the garden and the grass of the graveyard and green, with one guinea a year and five shillings for each new burying ground and the same for the washing of the Communion table-cloths," remember they covered the tables in the aisles.

He was succeeded by his son James, who was there, well into this century - an old man. His picture is on the front cover of 1916.

After his death David Purdy was appointed in 1922-1932 at �6 yearly. He was followed by Sam Jess in 1932 also at �6. Then Sam Patterson. after his retirement Sam Jess took up duties again for a number of years. John Jess was sexton for an interim period from 1938 until mid-1940's.

Prior to 1960 when electricity was installed coke was used for heating. Records refer to a heating system being installed in 1911 at the cost of �69.15.0. This coke had to be wheeled from the house to the furnace room, which was where the Minister's room is now, and lit very early on Sunday mornings. In the winter, too, seventeen oil lamps had to be filled and lit for evening services. Hard work it was. Heating the Church commenced on Communion Sunday in October until Communion Sunday in May. No heat at all during the summer despite the weather. What a blessing electricity is.

The work of the Sexton is now done by the men of the committee, opening and locking up and cutting the grass, while the women clean the Church weekly.


Thirteen young women of the Congregation met in the Choir Room on Tuesday 12th April 1988 to form a Young Women's Group.

Mrs. Hilary Gourley acted as chairperson and introduced Mrs. Lorna Poots, a member of the Executive Committee who told them the practicalities of forming a group.

Mrs. Hilary Gourley was elected President, Mrs. Margaret Stanfield Vice-President with Mrs. Joan Walsh as Secretary and Mrs. Ruth Long as Treasurer, Mrs. Florence Annett, Mrs. Ruby Hunter, Mrs. Pamela Jess and Mrs. Sandra McKinney formed the rest of the Committee.

A programme is being arranged to commence in September next and all Young Women will be very welcome.


I have come to the end of our Church's story, or as far as I can write at present, but we have not reached an end or stopping place. Our Church will move on. We are in the midst of change and this rate has increased in recent years.

Long prayers and long sermons formed the main part of public worship for many a generation, and the number of Psalm tunes familiar to a congregation was very limited, and Loughaghery in this respect was no exception. The first improvement was probably in the musical part of the service, with the formation of choirs, a wider range of music and the use of organs.

Time was, when apart from the Communion season, every Sunday had the same kind of service. Probably the first departure from this was the holding of Harvest Thanksgiving Services, which we have been holding since the late 1920's, and the following of the Christian year from Sunday to Sunday. We, in Loughaghery, are moving with the times, looking to the future. In generations, yet unborn, those perusing the archives will see that 1988 was a year of note, for they will read that in that year we built the Hall.


As minister of the congregation, I would like to thank Mrs. Mary Eddie and Miss Mary Reid for all their painstaking research and effort in producing this short history of our congregation.

As this book is published, a new church hall is under construction. At a meeting of the congregation on 21st January, 1987 it was agreed to build a new Church Hall according to plans submitted by S.V.W. McCready & Company, Architects, Lisburn. The cost is expected to be approximately �142,000. This has been made possible largely through the generosity of the late Mr. Robert Moorhead, son of Rev. J.N. Moorhead.

Mr. Robert Moorhead died on 18th April, 1982, leaving approximately �81,000 to be used for the benefit of the congregation. With the interest that has accumulated since this bequest was received, it has been agreed by our congregational Committee to use �100,000 from this investment, and our Fund Raising committee is actively engaged in raising the balance required to complete our new Hall.

The generosity of the late Mr. Moorhead is greatly appreciated and, in thankfulness to Almighty God, it should inspire every family associated with our congregation to renewed commitment to Jesus Christ. We are not just building a church hall, we are building the Kingdom of God in a community which is changing with the passing of the years. Many new houses have been built within our bounds and we welcome warmly several new families who have made their spiritual home among us.

Let us all respond to the challenge of reaching out in love with the message of the Gospel. By our personal words and deeds, and by all our activities, let us witness to the truth as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. Let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to grasp any opportunities of the days to come, and, filled with gratitude for the past and hope for the future, may we, as a congregation of God's people, hand on the torch of faith to those who follow us - a torch alight and burning brightly.

"Ardens sed Virens"