ALEXANDER HENDERSON, 1829/1855
MR. HENDERSON was educated at the Old College (Royal Academical
Institution), Belfast, obtaining the General Certificate in 1826, then an
accepted qualification for the ministry. During his period of study he was
employed as Librarian of the Linenhall Library and continued in that
position until 1829 when he accepted the call to Lisburn. He was ordained
on 29th June, 1829, commencing a ministry with the congregation which was
to last for twenty-six years.
A native of Belfast, Mr. Henderson was a member of a family long
associated with the Press. His brother, James Henderson of Newry, was the
proprietor of the "Newry Telegraph," and another brother, the Rev. Henry
Henderson of Holywood, contributed letters for many years for publication
over the pseudonym " Ulster Scot." A nephew, James Alexander Henderson, of
Norwood Towers, Belfast, was the proprietor of the "Belfast News-Letter "
and another nephew, the Rev. William Henderson, was the editor and
proprietor of " The Monthly Messenger " over the years 1856/67. It was
intended that Alexander Henderson should also become a newspaper man but,
at the early age of seventeen, he decided to enter the ministry.
The information contained in the records covering that period of the
congregational history is extremely sparse. It has not been possible to
trace any Committee Minute Book earlier than 1846 and the Session Minute
Book bearing the date 1854, makes reference to the mysterious
disappearance of the previous Session Minute Book when on loan to the
Committee. Consequently, there is little information on the earlier part
of his ministry in Lisburn.
The cotton industry was very much on the decline with the result that
many spinners had gone over to the manufacture of linen by 1830. About
that time, the population was 5745 and, with distress rampant through the
failure of the cotton industry, many efforts were made to provide relief.
The Philanthropic Society rented the old cotton factory in Jackson's Lane
(Railway Street) and Wallace's mill in Bakery Lane for use as poorhouses
about 1832 and a year earlier a canteen was providing food in a corner of
the grain market. Malnutrition brought disease to a community ill prepared
to cope with outbreaks of fever, cholera and typhus. In 1830, there was
only one hospital, a threestorey building in Seymour Street with sadly
inadequate accommodation for the treatment of only fifteen patients. The
Marquis of Hertford built a hospital in the west of the town (site of
present Manor House Home) during the cholera epidemic, but this building
had in 1837 been let for other purposes. An alternative fever hospital was
in existence in 1833 at the Dublin Road near where the Lagan Valley
Hospital stands at present.
In 1833, the usage of the Linen Market had declined to such an extent
that the frontage had been converted into shops which were let for the
sale of meat, being adjacent to the slaughter house. In other directions
there had been an expansion of activities with flourishing flour mills at
Grove Green (Low Road), Graham's Brewery (Wardsborough), tanyards, muslin
manufacturing and tambouring. In 1835, the Northern Bank opened a branch
in the town and, in 1839, with the Ulster Railway open to Lisburn, the
north side of the town commenced to be developed. Stewart's mill, in
Antrim Lane, came into operation about that time. In 1840, Vitriol Island
was acquired by Samuel Richardson where he built a mill with 2,500
spindles. It was not long after that the Gas Company came into existence
and this, in its train, brought street lighting.
As for the opinion of outsiders about the town, one English observer
held the view that, in 1834, " it was a clean, neat, lively place,
enjoying a good trade " and, in 1838, it was reputed to be "the handsomest
of our inland towns." Another English comment, in 1838, was " You would be
surprised at the close, the perfect resemblance that the road to Belfast
from Armagh bears to England, I could hardly persuade myself that Lisburn
was west of St. George's Channel; there is nothing Irish about it."
Dean Stannus became Rector of the Cathedral in 1835 and also agent for
the Hertford Estate. In these positions he was a man of immense influence
in the locality. One reads that, in 1843, he inaugurated a local Show in
July of that year. At that time there were two large annual fairs, one on
the 21st July, and the other on 5th October. The Maze Races drew many away
from the July Fair but brought numbers of buyers for horses and cattle.
Race Week in July saw a general atmosphere of relaxation with side-shows
of the old type for the amusement of the people.
Again, in 1849, the town was stricken with an outbreak of cholera bringing
disastrous results. The population of the country was on the decline owing
to the famine and it was a period of great hardship.
Turning to congregational matters, one reads in the Session records for
20th December, 1854, recorded by William Barbour, Clerk of Session, " It
was resolved that our devout thanks be rendered to the Lord for that He in
the prevalence of the pestilence of Cholera which twice during the year
scourged this town and its vicinity removing suddenly by death many
members of this congregation did graciously spare the members of this
Session and preserve them and their houses from this Visitation, our
prayer is that as another judgement came upon the land by War, We and all
others may be truly humble under the mighty hand of God."
This record contains one of the very few references pertaining to
events outside congregational affairs and is thus helpful in obtaining an
insight on local conditions. Dean Carmody, in relation to his studies into
the history of the Cathedral, regretted that more was not on record in the
Parish minutes about important happenings in the district and further
Where the Manse was situated then is not possible to determine. It is
evident that the provision of such accommodation was in the minds of the
members of the congregation as the Session Minutes dated 1st April, 1855,
disclose that there had been opened " a subscription list to be devoted to
the Church and Manse Builders fund with some ?205 promised to be paid over
The Crimean War had its impact on the congregation when, at a Meeting
of Session on 4th November, 1855, it was reported that the Rev. Henderson
had intimated that day to the congregation that he had been appointed by
the Government as Chaplain to the Troops in the encampment at the Curragh
and that, as soon as he had decided upon the line of duty he intended to
pursue, he would let them know his decision. On 2nd December, he conveyed
to the Session his decision to accept the Government's offer and resigned
from the charge of the congregation.
The Rev. Henderson was unmarried and eventually died at Warely, Essex,
in 1868. At his expressed wish. he was buried in a plain grave without any
monument. He was a man of great beneficence which he exercised most
privately and in an unostentatious manner. He was a modest and worthy
minister, not at all narrow in his views, and most catholic in his
During his ministry at Lisburn, the dramatic events in the General
Synod bringing to an end the non-subscribing controversy and leading up to
the formation of the General Assembly in 1840 had taken place.
With the commencement of the nineteenth century a notable change in the
religious condition of the Synod began to manifest itself. Signs of
returning life and earnestness appeared. This evangelical revival gained
impetus and with it a great controversy arose between the subscribers, all
of whom were orthodox in belief, and the non-subscribers, some of whom
were orthodox whereas others held Arian beliefs. Orthodoxy implied
acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity, Arianism that Jesus Christ
while the Son of God, was a "created being" and not of "the same
substance," and Unitarianism that Christ was a man adopted to the office
of the Son of God.
The leading figures were Dr. Henry Cooke, of Killyleagh and Dr. Henry
Montgomery of Dunmurry, both outstanding men and eloquent speakers. Cooke,
who espoused the cause of the subscribers, was, by disposition, self
possessed and forceful and, in outlook, a militant Tory. Montgomery for
the non-subscribers was a man of devout and attractive personality holding
At that time, the General Certificate o? the Belfast Academical
Institution was accepted by both the Synod of Ulster and the Secession
Synod as qualification for the ministry and it was in connection with the
filling of a vacancy in the classical department in 1821 that the conflict
arose. The Rev. William Bruce, whose father was Principal of the Belfast
Academy and had been minister of the Lisburn congregation, 1779/82, was
elected, Cooke contending through Arian influence.
The controversy raged for several years until finally at the Synod of
1828, Dr. Cooke succeeded with a series of overtures providing for the
examination of all candidates for the ministry with a view to the
exclusion of all holding Arian or unsound doctrines. As a last move, the
non-subscribers drew up a " Remonstrance " setting out their position and
stating unless the Overtures were repealed they must separate. It is
interesting to note that the Rev. Andrew Craig, senior minister of the
congregation, signed this " Remonstrance."
At a special Synod, held the following August, the Remonstrants
absented themselves except the Clerk, the Rev. William Porter, who laid
their "Remonstrance" together with an "Address" on the table. The terms of
separation were agreed and seventeen ministers left the Synod and formed
themselves into a separate body, taking the name Remonstrant Synod.
Dr. John M. Barkley in his " History of the Presbyterian Church in
Ireland " remarks, " Once again, as century earlier, it must be a matter
of regret that patience was not exercised, and schism prevented by
tolerance towards those already in the ministry, and making of
subscription absolute for the future. The tragedy of both divisions is
that they need not have happened, as may be seen from the events of 1854,
when the Presbytery of Munster, consisting of seven congregations, joined
the general Assembly, on condition of still remaining a non-subscribing
body, and such they remain to the present day."
Subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith became
compulsory for all ministers, licentiates and elders and the way thus
became clear for one of the happiest events in the history of Irish
Presbyterianism in the union of the Synod of Ulster and the Secession
Synod. The desire for Union was mutual and, accordingly, in July, 1840,
the two Synods came together in Rosemary Street Church, Third Belfast, and
the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland came into being
with the Rev. Dr. Hanna as Moderator.
WILLIAM BREAKEY, 1856/1872
THE Rev. Breakey was the son of John Breakey of Drumskelt, Ballybay.
Born about 1819, he attended Old College, Belfast, where he obtained the
General Certificate in 1838. He went on to the Free Church College,
Edinburgh, and, on completing his studies there, was licensed by the
Belfast Presbytery in 1840. A short time after, on receiving a call from
Loughbrickland congregation, he accepted the charge.
The Rev. Breakey came to the congregation from Loughbrickland, being
installed on 3rd September, 1856, the Rev. Dr. Cooke and the Rev. Barclay
of Carnmoney, officiating. According to the Session records, " On 10th
August, 1856, the Rev. Breakey, in pursuance of his appointment, appeared
before an overflowing congregation and, after the usual devotional
service, he preached from the 1st Epistle of John: `These things have I
written to you that you believe on the Name of the Son of God."'
During the vacancy the congregation had suffered loss through the
withdrawal of Mr. William Barbour from the positions of Clerk of Session
and Elder. In a letter dated 9th February, 1856, he resigned from both
offices " in consequence of his having to be so often away from home." In
perusing the Session records one can appreciate just how much his
withdrawal must have meant to the congregation. The clarity and concise
recordings by him of the deliberations of the supreme court of the
Presbyterian community in Lisburn are a pleasure to read. He continued as
a member of the congregation and there is evidence that, although not
holding office, he continued to exercise a considerable influence on the
activities of the Church. In later years,
Mr. Barbour's distinguished grandson, Sir Milne Barbour, although not a
member of the congregation, together with his mother, paid tribute to
their Presbyterian ancestry in presenting to the congregation the
magnificent Barbour window which for over fifty years has been such an
adornment to the Church.
In accordance with the accepted custom in the Presbyterian Church, the
Thursday before Communion was observed as a Fast Day with a Service being
held at noon in the Meeting House. The mid-day Service was not considered
suitable for many members with the result that, towards the end of 1865,
it was decided to hold it in the evening at seven o'clock. The present day
Pre-Communion Service on the Thursday evening before Communion Sunday
derives from this former stricter code of the Church.
At a meeting of Committee on 26th March, 1857, it was recorded that "
The Church being in want of some repairs and the Sabbath School having
most un desirably to be held in the body of the House, and the Committee
being without funds. Resolved that a Subscription List be opened for the
purpose of making these repairs and for erecting a School House for the
accommodation of the Sabbath Scholars. As the Committee are without a Site
for the intended School House, and as the garden behind the Church, in the
possession of Dr. Campbell appears to them a suitable one. Resolved that
Mr. Reid (Secretary) wait on Dr. Campbell to ascertain whether he would
let the Committee have the garden and the terms on which he would let them
Action was taken without delay to raise funds for the project and
approaches were made to the leading personalities in the district for
contributions. Mr. Jonathan Richardson, M.P., of Lambeg, received a
deputation consisting of Mr. George Duncan and Dr. Kelso and gave a
donation of ?10. Dr. Meharg and Dr. Musgrave waited on Lt. Colonel Hogg, a
kinsman of the present Lord Hailsham, and received a similar contribution.
At the Committee Meeting in April, 1857, the Secretary reported that
Dr. Campbell was prepared to sell the garden at the rear of the Meeting
House for the sum of ?30 but, it was not until August that the
negotiators, Dr. Kelso and the Secretary, were able to report the purchase
of the site for ?25.
First indications in April were that the project, including
improvements to the Meeting House, would cost some ?500 and opinions were
that the amount in volved was too great to embark upon. However, . a
general Subscription List was opened and members delegated to carry out a
very thorough canvas of the congregation for contributions.
New plans were prepared in September, 1857, providing only for the
School House and by December tenders had been considered and the contract
awarded to the firm of Graham & Kidd. The tender was subsequently
withdrawn and at Meeting in February, 1858, several tenders having been
considered, that of Mr. John Chapman was accepted.
At this stage there was apparently some doubt as to whether the School
should be erected on the site acquired or at Railway Street, presumably on
ground to be made available through the influence of Dean Stannus.
Inspection of the alternative site was carried out, but the Committee
confirmed their intention to build at the rear of the Meeting House as
Now, dissatisfaction arose about the plan of the building and it was
decided to call in a professional architect, Mr. Jackson, "to prepare a
proper plan and specification. " Fresh tenders were sought and on 10th
June, 1858, that of Mr. John Chapman for ?390 was accepted. Building work
commenced and by the 9th December had almost reached completion.
Arrangements were then put in hand for the official opening of the new
School House and the congregation was signally honoured by the presence of
the two great men of the General Assembly at that time, the Rev. Dr. Cooke
and the Rev. Dr. Morgan (former minister), to officiate on that occasion.
The Meeting House was lighted by gas and one reads in the Committee
Minutes dated August, 1857, " that the gas fittings of pulpit be at once
put up and also additional light be placed on, each corner next the pulpit
in line with the other lights. The old lights to be newly bronzed." Also,
at Meeting in March, 1858, " the lamps temporarily put up at pulpit be
removed and the old ones replaced. The gas fittings at Mr. Barbour's seat
to be removed also and the old ones replaced." Reference is made on 14th
May, 1858, to the awful death of the late Sexton by burning. Where, and
how the tragedy occurred is not stated, but the Committee felt impelled to
defray all the expenses of the interment.
Movement was then afoot to carry out renovations and extend the Meeting
House and, by September, 1859, had reached the point where, in view of the
large demand for sittings, consultation had taken place with Mr. Jackson,
Architect of the School House. By October, however, differences of opinion
had arisen about the proposal, the contention being that the upwards of
eighty sittings were unlet. Nevertheless, the majority was for the
enlargement and plans were proceeded with. At a Meeting on 8th December,
1859, " a communication from Mr. Barbour before the meeting to effect that
he, in consequence of his hearing, was anxious that no change should be
made in the Church without his being acquainted with its nature and it was
resolved that Messrs. Macartney and Duncan do wait upon and explain the
nature of the contemplated improvements." By March, 1860, the projected
enlargement seems to have been shelved as being inexpedient until the debt
from the erection of the School House was liquidated.
The question of the opening of a Daily School had been in mind since
the School House had been completes and by January, 1860, following a
special meeting of the congregation, had reached the stage where a
committee was appointed td implement this under the National Board of
Education as a non-vested school. Then followed the appointment of Mr.
Samuel Hull as Principal, his being a name which for over half a century
was to play such an important part in education in the town and district.
In March, 1863, there were 110 pupils on the rolls and by September, 1865,
the numbers had risen to 158, the denominations of the scholars being 84
Presbyterian, 57 Episcopalian, 13 Protestant Dissenter and four Roman
Catholic. The fees varied from 1/1 to 5/- per quarter depending on the
class in which the pupil was placed. Disputes arose from time to time in
regard to the fees, the Committee being reluctant to agree to any increase
and indeed, at times, a state of almost open conflict existed between the
members and the National Board of Education.
One reads that the National Board having refused the congregation the
use of the School for the holding of Services during repairs to the Church
in 1864, the Committee on 11th May, resolved to take possession for this
purpose for six Sundays. Despite all this the School prospered'and over
the years was noted for the sound education imparted to the youth; not
only of the congregation but, of the town generally.
An interesting recording in the Committee Minutes appears in connection
with Meeting of 11th March, 1863, when " It was proposed and passed that
the two sums received from the two candidates for the representative of
Lisburn, viz., ?50 from Mr. Barbour and ?50 from Mr. Verner, amounting to
?100, be now applied towards liquidating the debt at present remaining
upon the Church." The election was one of note during the battle for
tenant-right in Lisburn. Mr. Barbour, the Independent candidate, was
elected, but was subsequently unseated on petition, wth Mr. Verner, the
Hertford Estate nominee, being awarded the seat. The allusion to Rev.
Breakey's address at a meeting in the Market House contained in the
Committee records dated 9th December, 1863, would imply his participation
in the hustings and that there was a sharp division of opinion in the
congregation about the matter. It was decided to take no action. Elsewhere
it has been recorded that " a Reverend gentleman of Lisburn-not Dean
Stannus- who, if his speech has been accurately reported, stated at a
recent meeting `God had placed Lord Hertford over the people of Lisburn in
matters political '." One cannot identify the minister and is left to
conjecture whether this was what gave rise to the discussion at the
Meeting of Committee.
The year 1858 saw a great wave of religious revival in North America,
and in Ulster, which had close ties with the United States, many prepared
themselves to welcome such a revival. Prayer Meetings were held in many
places and there followed, in 1859, a very remarkable and widespread
religious awakening in Ulster. It began in the congregation of Connor,
near Ballymena, and spread quickly throughout the counties of Antrim,
Down, Tyrone and Londonderry. Churches were crowded and thousands
professed conversion in every part of the area touched by the revival.
There were permanent results. The revival gave to the Church a new
enthusiasm and new evangelical power; it enhanced the standing of the
laity; it gave a new significance and popularity to the singing of Psalms
and introduced the singing of Hymns. There was much emotionalism at
Services and many strange manifestations. It was not uncommon for several
at religious gatherings to utter cries and fall in a semi-conscipus state,
" stricken " as it was called. The fervour was intense and there were many
avowed recantations. It is understood from recordings elsewhere that the
Rev. Breakey required quite a lot of convincing on the genuineness of such
professions and, indeed, on at least one occasion carried out a very
thorough investigation into a rather peculiar manifestation locally.
Throughout the records of the congregation there does not appear any
reference to this Revival of 1859, but there is no doubt that at that time
there was an expansion of Presbyterian activity in the town. One must go
back to 1848 to trace the influences which eventually came to bear in this
development in Lisburn. In that year a Rev. Powell resigned the charge of
the congregation of Bray on receiving a call to Carlow where he was
installed on 1st November. He was an excellent scholar and an acceptable
preacher. In addition he was a strong Protestant and revealed his
intolerance of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. His utterances
were resented by the people of that denomination who threatened to boycott
the merchants belonging to the Presbyterian congregation unless they could
have him removed. So immediate and resolute was the pressure exerted that
the Rev. Powell hurriedly resigned in 1855, bearing with him. excellent
testimonials from the Presbytery of Dublin and good wishes for his future
prosperity and usefulness. He removed to Belfast and was received by the
local Presbytery as a minister without charge.
Although the congregational records give no hint of it, other reports
suggest that at that time friction began in the old congregation of
Lisburn and division resulted. The Session Minutes show that the Rev. J.
Powell and Mrs. Powell of Carlow were received as Communicants on
certificate on 6th October, 1855. It appears however that the Rev. Powell
shortly afterwards began to hold Services in a hay loft in Castle Street
and the disaffected party resorted to these. He organised a congregation
(now Railway Street Presbyterian Church) and application was made to the
General Assembly for admission, which was granted in 1860 only as far as
the congregation was concerned. Many members expected that the Rev. Powell
would also be received as minister and, offended by his rejection,
followed him in his ministrations. He continued his Services in a
carpenter's shop fitted up for the purpose and when he again had organised
a congregation applied to the Original Secession Synod for admission and
was installed in 1861. In 1863, Mr. Sloan offered a site for a Meeting
House to the new congregation which was accepted and, in due course, a
humble edifice was erected, the forerunner of the present Sloan Street
Church which was received into the General Assembly in 1887.
The Committee Minutes of 19th December, 1860, record receiving
"Deputation from the New Presbyterian Church consisting of the Rev. David
Graham and Mr. Francis Smyth for the purpose of getting the use of the
Church to preach a sermon to liquidate a debt incurred by providing some
furniture in connection with their place of Worship," which request was
granted. Then later, at Meeting in April, 1862, it was resolved " that a
memorial be presented to Dean Stannus, Agent for the Hertford Estate, for
site for the 2nd Lisburn (Railway Street) congregation."
In November, 1865 the portentious announcement appears in the Committee
Minutes " that Heating by hot water pipes is by far the best of modern
inventions, "following which the tender of Mr. Knox for the installation
was accepted. It is later recorded that a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr.
Hall of Dublin raised ?100 and enabled the cost to be defrayed.
Interest outside was developing in the Church, property as was
instanced by an approach from the Northern Bank, in 1865, to acquire the
premises facing on to Market Square. This was not proceeded with due to
difficulty in getting possession from the tenants. Then, in 1867, the
Ulster Bank made overtures for a house at' the front which, presumably for
similar reasons, proceeded no further.
The year 1868, being the centenary of the building of the Meeting
House, it was decided to mark the occasion by holding a congregational
social on 30th April. That historic event was very extensively supported
by the members and prominent townsfolk.
In 1861, the first official census was held in Ireland in which the
people were required to state to what re ligious denomination they
professed to belong. This placed beyond doubt the great disproportion
existing between the number of members of the Established Church and the
rest of the population. The advocates of disestablishment at once saw the
advantage provided to them by the facts thus disclosed This resulted in
the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, involving also the
withdrawal of the Regium Donum from the Presbyterian Church. The capital
funds made available by the Government in lieu of the annual disbursement
of Regium Donum, became the nucleus of the Sustentation Fund, the invested
income being employed to augment ministerial stipends as heretofore. An
indication of the importance attached to the completion of census forms
about that period is contained in the congregational records where, early
in 1871, it was resolved at a joint meeting with the Committee of Railway
Street Church in regard to instructing about the completion of census
papers " that two representatives go round and enter in a book all
Presbyterians and at the same time instruct on filling the form with
particular emphasis on recording Presbyterian as the religious
The Rey. Breakey had in recent years been in indifferent health and his
death occured on 6th April, 1872, after a long illness. The formalism of
those Victorian days is conveyed in the Committee Minute on the funeral
arrangements which reads, " Special carriages were supplied to convey the
members of Session and Committee to Loughbrickland. The members met at the
Church at 9.30 a.m., each wearing a badge of crape on his arm and
proceeded in marching formation to the Manse in Railway Street. The
remains of the late minister were then carried to the Church where the
Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Barclay, conducted the Service
and were then carried to the New Church; (Christ Church) where the cortege
joined their conveyances and proceeded to the interment ground at
"The Rev. Breakey had great gifts as a preacher being well instructed
in the saving truths of the Gospel and he proclaimed the Gospel in all its
fulness and freshness to those under his care. He took an active intereest
in the religious activities of the young and of the rising generation. A
man of wide vision and in no way tied to sectarian limitations, he
maintained a most friendly and harmonious relationship with those
belonging to other religious denominations in the town. He took little
active part in the Church Courts, but preferred to devote his time and,
attention to ministering to the needs of his people+ in the congregation."
JOHN LAWRENCE RENTOUL, M.A. 1872/1886
MR. RENTOUL was the son of the Rev. J. L. Rentoul, Minister of
Ballymoney Presbyterian Church. Born about 1852, he was licensed by the
Route Presbytery in 1872, and on accepting the call to Lisburn, was
ordained on 17th October, 1872.
The ordination took place in the presence of a large congregation and
at the subsequent dinner in the School one hundred and ten persons were
present including Dean Stannus, Rev. W. D. Pounden, Rev. 1, Powell, Rev.
D. J. Clarke and Mr. Claude L. Capron (Agent for the Hertford Estate).
During the vacancy some trouble arose with the Railway Street
Congregation in connection with the Chaplaincy of the Workhouse. This was
a position which in former years the minister of the Lisburn Presbyterian
Church had been automatically entitled to, but with the advent of the
second Presbyterian Church, the position was altered. The Rev. D. J.
Clarke of the new congregation had. applied for the Chaplaincy immediately
on the death of the Rev. Breakey, and despite the energetic overtures of
the Session and Committee of the now First Lisburn Congregation to have
the position reserved for the minister they would eventually call, the
Rev. Clarke was appointed.
This was to be the beginning of a period of considerable activity in
implementing long needed improvements and additions to the congregational
property. The enlargement of the Meeting House had been under
consideration in the past on more than one occasion, but now the project
was to be brought to fruition. At a Committee Meeting in March, 1873, the
tender of ?677 submitted by Alexander McFerran was accepted but, two weeks
later, it was reported that this contractor had refused to proceed with
the work and, in consequence, it was decided to seek new tenders. Little
delay was occasioned by this set-back and, by the beginning of April,
James Verner & Sons' tender of ?735 was accepted for the alterations which
involved the inclusion of the then vestibule in the Church area and the
conversion of the adjoining Session House into a vestibule. These
alterations can be traced in the present Church, the four rows of pews
nearest the entrance doors on the ground floor being the extent of the
additional accommodation provided with a similar augmentation of seating
in the gallery.
The need for a manse had long been in the minds of the members of the
congregation, they were now in an expansive mood, so, in September, 1874,
it was mooted that consideration should be given to the acquisition of
either Miss Gregg's (Castle Street) or Mr. Pennington's (Railway Street)
houses as a residence for the minister. This proposal was not, proceeded
with, but by February, 1875, a site of some one acre on the North Circular
Road had been procured from the Wallace Estate and the building of the
manse had been entrusted to Paul McHenry at a cost of ?1,375. In June of
that year some difficulty arose with the Estate Office about the siting of
the building, but this objection was later withdrawn and the construction
work proceeded apace being completed. by the end of the year. Some
additional land at the rear of the manse was offered to and acquired by
the Committee in 1876.
Having just completed these major schemes it was with shock that it
became known that the Rev. Rentoul had, on receiving a call from a
congregation at Perth, decided to resign from the charge of the
congregation. Strong and sustained overtures were made to persuade him to
remain and these were eventually successful, but as he had gone so far as
to actually resign his charge, the whole procedure of filling a vacancy
had to be gone through once again. He was, in consequence, installed
minister of the congregation on the 21st December, 1876, at a Service held
in the evening.
The need for funds to liquidate the debt arising from the works carried
out was pressing and, as in the past, the congregation was not found
wanting. One reads that, in 1880, the sum of ?506 was raised at a bazaar
and again, in 1884, a very ambitious three-day event held in the Orange
Hall brought in ?864. An approach had been made to Sir Richard Wallace for
a subscription, and through the good offices of his Agent Mr. Capron, ?50
It is interesting to note that Mr. Harty of Hillsborough, father of the
famous Sir Hamilton Harty, gave instruction to the Choir for three months
in 1880 and carried out an examination of candidates for the Precentorship.
About that time the cleaning of the Church was much under observation and
one reads that it became necessary to remove and have destroyed a number
of pew cushions which had become infested with moths.
In August, 1881, at a congregational meeting a presentation was made to
the Rev. Rentoul to mark the occasion of his recent marriage.
Prior to 1877, the congregation had been attached to the Belfast
Presbytery, but at the General Assembly in June of that year, it was
detached therefrom and joined to the Dromore Presbytery.
Where the Sunday School outing was held in 1885 is not disclosed, but
reference to the event found its way into the Committee Minutes through a
claim from William Shaw, who had been injured when a cart carrying
provisions overturned. In response, a sum of one pound was awarded to him,
so it would appear his incapacity was not considered serious.
Property matters again come into the Minutes in 1886, when it was
decided to purchase from Colonel Ward, Trustee of Miss Coulson, the
premises at the corner of Linenhall Street, known as Dornan's House, for
?250. This was followed by a report that the roof of the Church had become
so defective that nothing short of complete re-roofing would suffice and
the work was put in hand at a cost of ?156.
Home Rule was at that time very much in the minds of Ulstermen and it
is not surprising to find reference to it permeating into the Committee
Minutes in May, 1886, when the members turned aside from congregational
matters to frame a resolution to the Members of Parliament asking them to
oppose the projected Home Rule Bill.
One month latter, in June, 1886, the Rev. Rentoul notified the
congregation of his intention to resign the charge to enable him to accept
the oversight of the St. Georges' Congregation, Sunderland.
In a congregation which over its long history has been served by many
persons in various lay offices carrying out their duties in a devoted and
self-effacing manner, it may seem invidious to make any particular
reference to some on account of special character and long service in
their office. A review of the events during the nineteenth century would
not be complete if some reference was not made to the tenure of office of
Mr. George Duncan as congregational treasurer. Over the years 1848 till
1880 he was the strong man behind the scenes guiding and directing the
finances of the congregation at a time when, with the various works
undertaken, such a personality was indispensable.
The Rev. Rentoul died at Wishaw, Scotland, on 13th July, 1900, aged
forty-eight, and his memory is perpetuated through the memorial tablet
erected in the Vestibule,
JOHN JAMES CARLYLE BREAKEY, B.A., 1886/1927.
MR. BREAKEY was the son of the Headmaster of Ballinasloe Academy. He
was educated at London and Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained the
degree of Bachelor or Arts. In his early years he taught in his father's
school, later coming to Assembly's College to train for the ministry.
While there he obtained the Magill Bursary for Pulpit Eloquence, being the
first student to gain, this honour. He was licensed by the Athlone
Presbytery in May, 1886, and, on accepting the call to Lisburn, was
ordained on 11th November of that year. Mr. Breakey was a kinsman of the
Rev. Wm. Breakey, who had preceeded him as minister of the congregation
over the years 1856/72, their forbears having come over with King William
in 1690 after which they obtained grants of land and settled in the
At a Congregational Meeting on 16th August, 1886, in connection with
the vacancy,, it was moved by Dr. M. B. Mackenzie that the congregation
was satisfied with the candidates heard and subsequent voting enabled a
call to be given to Mr. Breakey, his proposer being Mr. Richard Knox and
his seconder Mr. G. A. Duncan. The call was presented to him on 30th
August, 1886, in which it was promised to pay stipend of ?160 per year.
The three members of the congregation referred to in this connection had
over the years taken a very active part in the work of the Church. Dr.
Mackenzie was a well-konwn medical practitioner in the town and a staunch
Presbyterian. He was particularly interested in the Praise of the
congregation being a singer of note and he was responsible for the conduct
of the Psalmody on several occasions when the Precentorship was vacant. At
one such time he transported the entire Choir from their usual place in
front of the pulpit to the front seats of the gallery and subsequently had
to be ordered to desist and return to the Choir Box. The change had been
regarded as an innovation although, in fact, the gallery is the correct
place for the Choir in the Reformed Church.
On 31st October, 1888, Mr. Samuel Hull resigned his position as
principal of the Day School after some twenty-nine years' service and was
succeeded by his son, Mr. Fred Hull, thus continuing the long family
association with the School.
In 1894, Mr. Thomas Malcomson, who in his quiet and unassuming way was
to take such a prominent part in the work of the Church, became
responsible for the Secretaryship of the Stipend collection, and in 1899,
on the retirement of Mr. Hugh Mulholland, he became Congregational
Secretary, occupying the position for twelve years. In 1894, the
Congregational banking account was transferred to the Ulster Bank,
Lisburn, where Mr. Malcomson was manager. He was outstanding in his
profession and over his long life was held in the highest esteem
throughout the entire local community. Through Mrs. Malcomson, Sen., and
his son, Mr. Thomas Malcomson, the long family connection with the
congregation is still maintained.
In the realm of Church Praise there was at that time throughout the
Presbyterian Church a movement to overcome the old antipathies towards the
introduction of instrumental music and the congregation was not immune
from this tendency. In May, 1887, the Committee voiced the ever increasing
desire for such innovation in a request to the Session to agree to the
School organ being used at public services, but, by August it had become
evident that agreement could not be reached and the matter was allowed to
drop in the meantime.
The subject of putting in a new front to the Church, which has been
raised from time to time in the intervening years, seems to have been
mooted originally in 1897. The lease of the premises facing Market Square
was due to expire in a few years and it was suggested that the opportunity
should be taken to go ahead with the project. However, the question of
finance became the main issue when all the idealistic discussions came to
an end and the matter was eventually shelved.
Prior to 1898, the morning Service was held at noon each Sunday and, on
overtures being made to the Session, it was agreed as from January, 1898,
to change the hour of worship to 11.30 a.m. Another rather interesting
decision was arrived at in 1899, when it was arranged that the Precentor
would sing during the taking up of the collection.
In 1901, Sir Theodore Hope had been given access to the records of the
congregation for personal reasons and he was so impressed with their
historical value that, at his own expense, he had two volumes specially
treated and bound by the British Museum and, at his suggestion the
Committee assumed responsibility for the similar treatment of the
remaining two volumes of the earliest records. These volumes are now on
loan to the Presbyterian Historical Society at Church House and are
preserved in a most excellent manner.
In 1902, a further move was made towards improving the. lighting of the
Church when incandescent burners were introduced to replace the former
naked gas burners.
The development of congregational activities at Lambeg was implemented
in that year when a house was rented for the purpose of holding Prayer
Meetings and the opening of a Sunday School. It was from this small
beginning, almost sixty years ago, that the present Lambeg Presbyterian
Church had its origins. It was also in that year that the Session agreed
to the introduction of Hymns at the evening Service for the first time.
Although situated in the centre of the town adjacent to the main
thoroughfare with its continuous bustle of traffic, a feature of the
Church is its quiet serenity which is contributed to in a marked degree by
the subdued and peaceful atmosphere created by the many very fine stained
glass windows. Although succeeding generations in the congregation will
always have good reason to be grateful to the various donors, it is to the
Rev. Breakey, who, by his untiring efforts persuaded the benefactors to
adorn the Church in this way, that a large measure of their gratitude is
due. Many were erected in perpetuation of the memory of farmer members; of
the congregation but, as time progressed, the names gradually and
inevitably came to have little significance to the congregation of the
day. Now after a period of over fifty years they are accepted not as
individual memorials, but for their aesthetic value -a joy and inspiration
to all who 'behold them, and in becoming such, they have assumed, through
the dignity and hallowed air given to the Church, the role. of a:
remembrancer of that kindly man who laboured so unceasingly and
effectively to achieve such ecclesiastical beauty. The culmination of his
efforts came on Sunday, 27th January, 1907, when. at special Services
conducted by the Rev. Professor W. T. Martin, D.D., D.Lit, and the Rev.
John MacDermott, D.D., the windows were unveiled.
In memory of
of Lisburn, Physician and Surgeon, who died 9th February,
1834; and of his wife Mary Riddel, who died 14th March, 1862.
"Go and do thou likewise."
Erected by their sons.
Presented by Henry and Edgar Musgrave, Esqs.
THE GOD OF PEACE
In memory of JOHN HOUSTON. Presented by his widow, Mrs.
THE ROSE OF SHARON
"The Desert shall blossom as the Rose," 1906
Presented by Mrs. S. J. Pelam.
In memory of ALEXANDER and ELIZABETH BROWNLEE, A.D. 1906.
Presented by Miss Brownlee.
THE ROSE OF SHARON
In memory of
ALEXANDER KENMUIR, 1825 -- 1886 and
SUSANNAH MARSHALL KENMUIR, 1826-1885. Presented by Miss
Kenmuir, Mrs. Agnes Wilson, and J. Kenmuir, Esq.
In memory of
ELIZA DICKSON, ANNA ISABELLA, MARIA EUPHEMIA, and FREDERICK
JAMES FINLAY. Erected A.D. 1906
Presented by John D. Finlay, Esq.
CONSIDER THE LILIES
Presented by James Simpson, Esq., 1905.
JOB AND HIS FRIENDS
In loving memory of
WM. BARBOUR, Esq., J.P.
born at Plantation, 7th November, 1792; died at Hilden, 6th
September, 1875; and also of Eliza Kennedy, his wife, born 17th
July, 1800; died 24th October, 1873.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of
Presented by Mrs. J. D. Barbour, with J. Milne Barbour,
ONE OF THE WISE VIRGINS
In memory of
1812-1898. For many years a member of this Church. "In my
Father's House are many mansions." Presented by her daughter,
In memory of
RICHARD and ANNE FOOTE, A.D. 1906
Presented by Mrs. M'Afee.
THE OPEN BOOKGOD IS LOVE
In memory of
MARY DAVIS and JANE JOHNSTON, of Trooperfield. Presented by the
Misses Annie and Mary Davis.
In memory of JOHN and CHRISTIANA FINLAY.
Erected A.D. 1906.
Presented by John D. Finlay, Esq.
CONSIDER THE LILIES
Presented by Robert Alister, Esq., 1906.
THE BURNING BUSH
ARDENS SED VIRGNS
Presented by " Lambeg Friends," 1906.
The two large windows on either side of the pulpit were purchased from
Messrs. Meyer & Co., of London, at a cost of ?125 each and are considered
to be a most excellent example of stained glass artistry and
By November, 1907, the question of the installation of an organ in the
Church was again raised and, this time, the Session agreed to the
proposal. It was arranged, pending the purchase of a suitable instrument,
to hire one. By May, 1908, a deputation had proceeded to Dublin to inspect
a second-hand organ which it was thought might be suitable and those
entrusted with this task duly returned having bought it for ?32 10s. 0d.
The organ was transported to Lisburn and re-erected where it gave good
service for ten years until the present pipe organ was installed.
In 1910, the long association of the Hull family with the Principalship
of the Day School came to an end when Mr. Fred Hull was succeeded in that
position by Mr. John Fletcher. Several members of the congregation can
recall having attended the School during Mr. Hull's tenure of office and
retain happy memories of the days spent there. Many more remember the old
School at the back of the Church with Mr. Fletcher as Principal. What
nostalgic memories are conjured amongst them of those times-the lunch
breaks, the romping and sport in the gymnasium, the fights on the stairs
leading up to the School Room, the School concerts, elocution classes, the
old desks, club swinging, Mr. Fletcher the dominie of dominies and the
sound education he imparted. The imprint of his personality still lives
with those he taught and his memory will always remain with them. With the
coming of Mr. Fletcher, the Hull family still remained associated with the
School through Miss Agnes Hull, a member of the teaching staff, a lady of
strong personality, who is remembered by many through her kindly
despotism. She suffered patiently our childish foibles, she could wield
her " pointer " with accuracy, but never without justification.
Prevailing anxieties about political developments are manifested in the
reference in the Session Minutes in 1912, where it is recorded that
Sunday, 28th September, would be observed as " Ulster Day" and that,
following the Service at 11.30 a.m., an opportunity would be given to the
members of the congregation to sign the "Ulster Solemn League and
It is of interest to note it was in 1912 that the use of individual
Communion cups was introduced for the first time.
The need for extension of the School to meet the needs of educational
developments was recognised and in May, 1913, the work was entrusted to
Mr. James McNally, a member of the congregation, at a cost of 1590. This
addition was known as the Science block and was erected on portion of the
garden of the premises now occupied by the Belfast) Savings Bank, which
was acquired from the owner at that time, Mr. James Silcock. The extension
was formally opened at a Social held on 12th February, 1914. The financing
of the project was carried out with the assistance of a loan from the
Board of Works.
At this time there was some concern about building developments in
Linenhall Street, at the rear of the School and in consequence, it was
decided to put in a large window in the south gable with the object of
preserving "Ancient Lights" rights.
An interesting aside in connection with political events was a letter
received by the Committee from the Urban District Council in July, 1914,
suggesting that precautions should be taken to protect the property from
the Suffragettes owing to recent damages. As a result, a letter was sent
to the District Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the sexton
was instructed to see that the gates and doors of the Church were properly
fastened each night.
With the outbreak of war in August, 1914, the Committee lost the
services of their Secretary, Mr. F. G. Hull, who had joined the Ulster
Volunteer Force. The momentous happenings of this period, both at home and
abroad, go unrecorded in the congregational minutes. There are, however,
still amongst us many who have vivid recollections of those days.
Communications were difficult, wireless and television were unknown as
channels of information and there was a complete dependence on newspapers.
Bulletins were displayed in a window of the Post Office at Railway Street
and when any news of the great battles being fought was announced over the
week-end, through the good offices of Mr. Stephen Williamson, a well-known
newspaperman and member of the congregation, it was transmitted by
telephone to Mr. W. B. Leonard, who relayed it to the Rev. Breakey so that
he could convey it to the congregation when assembled for Public Worship
Many will recollect the celebration of the centenary of the Sunday
School observed in the School in the winter of 1914, some months after the
outbreak of the First World War. Memories of that occasion are still
retained when the children of the Sunday Schools with their parents and
members of the congregation attended a Social to mark the event.
Each child was presented with a Psalter and Hymn Book with a
commemorating fly leaf which read
FIRST LISBURN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
SABBATH SCHOOL CENTENARY 1814-1914.
J. J. C. BREAKEY, Minister.
J. KINKEAD, Superitntendent.
R. S. FISHER, ?
J. H. McCORMICK, Secretary.
These books were much in use in the congregation until, in
later years, the Church Hymnary was revised and rendered them obsolete.
The Social was one of much emotion not only for the reason for which it
was held, but on account of prevailing times. It was at that meeting that
the well-known song of the First World War " Keep the Home Fires Burning,"
rendered as a solo by a young lady singer who is still with us in the
congregation was heard for the first time by many of those who were
Church renovation was a topic much in mind from 1916
onwards and, although it was realised that it could not be fully
implemented until hostilities ceased, plans were proceeded with. Again the
congregation-is indebted to the Rev. Breakey for the influence he brought
to bear on Mr. Henry Musgrave to present a pipe organ. The Rev. Breakey's
persuasive powers were so ably directed that the donor, after first
offering ?500 for this purpose, finally agreed to defray the entire cost.
The ceiling of the Church was of plaster and had commenced to give bother.
One has recollections of portion collapsing on top of the Choir during
morning Service, happily without any serious personal injury. It was
agreed, therefore, to renew it with a pitch pine ceiling. The
'installation of a gas engine under the School to drive the dynamo for the
generation of electricity for power and the lighting of the Church and
School was embodied in the scheme, as were the erection of a new pulpit,
providing of terrazo flooring in the vestibule, the creation of an organ
chamber and a minister's room. The work went forward expediously, during
which the congregation worshipped in the School, and was completed for the
Church to be re-opened on 1st December, 1.918.
Prior to these changes the pulpit was in its present
position, but was approached by a series of steps rising from the Choir
area and visible to the congregation. The minister's room was that now
used as a cloakroom, leading out of the vestibule. As the Rev. Breakey
entered the Church and proceeded down the aisle towards the pulpit steps
on a Sunday morning his presence was heralded to those in the pews, in
advance of his coming into sight, by the rustle of his silk robes. Some
moments before he would have been preceded by the Church Officer, Henry
Thompson, in his familiar morning coat, carrying the Bible and slowly
ascending to the heights of the pulpit to place it in position there.
The Great War of 1914-18 had brought its sacrifices for
many families in the congregation and it was fitting that a permanent
memorial should be set up to the members who had given their lives and
also those who served in the armed forces during those dark days. A War
Memorial Tablet was erected in the vestibule and was unveiled in November,
1922, by the Rev, Dr. Simms, Chaplain to the Forces.
The organist from 1906 had been Mr. Joseph Magee who was
succeeded, in 1919, by Mr. A. W. Anderton who, prior to his appointment,
had been organist in the Cathedral. He was an accomplished musician and
one recollects with pleasure the recitals with which, from time to time,
he regaled the congregation. He resigned in 1921 on going to Canada and
was succeeded by Captain Ensor, a man of colourful and somewhat unorthodox
dispositon, who was to retain the position for but a few months. Later
that year Mr. T. E. Ellis became responsible for the Praise and continued
in this office till 1934.
It was on Sunday, 22nd August, 1920, that the impact of
the armed conflict for political power going on throughout the country was
felt in Lisburn. Walking home from his Church on that day, District
Inspector Swanzy was brutally attacked and shot dead outside the Northern
Bank. His assailants ran up Castle Street and got away in a car which they
had in readiness near the Technical School. Immediately after that tragic
occurrence serious disturbances broke out in the town which soon became
uncontrollable. For several days fires raged resulting in considerable
destruction of property.
Miltary had to be drafted in to help restore order and it
became necessary to impose a local curfew for a time. Apprehension existed
lest there should be a further armed incursion in succeeding months and
one has memories of the banding together of many young men to assist the
police in nightly patrol duty. There was a rota of householders who, each
night, made available sustenance for those engaged in these protective
activities. Happily their vigilance was rewarded and as the months and
years went by, despite " the troubles " elsewhere, the town went
The need for finances was ever with the congregation in
the twenties and many money raising efforts through concerts and bazaars
were organised with considerable success. The old order was changing in
the collection of Stipend and other funds and, by 1922, with the
inauguration of the Free-Will Offering Scheme, the practice of separate
contributions for the various objects was superseded. Mr. William Johnston
became the first secretary of the new scheme and his excellent organising
ability ensured its immediate success. He was succeeded, in 1925, by Mr.
Henry Moody and, in 1927, Mr. R. F. McNeight and Mr. John Wilson took over
the work which they carried out in such an efficient manner for the
ensuing six years.
An event of much importance took place in 1927 with the
transfer of the Day School to the Education Authority. This marked the end
of an era going back over sixty-five years and was eventually to result in
the assimilation of the School in the new Central School on the Dublin
Road some years later and the release of the School building for purely
It was in May, 1927, that the Rev. Breakey informed the
congregation of his intention to retire after occupying the pulpit for
forty-one years. His active ministry was just one year short of that of
the Rev. Alexander McCracken, some two hundred years earlier, and also
that of the Rev. Andrew Craig one hundred years previous but, as he.
continued as the senior minister of the congregation until his death, his
unbroken association with the Church of fifty-two years established a
He was a man of distinguished parts and of great culture
and spiritual insight. His long ministry saw many changes in the
congregation, the adornment of the Church, the Boer War and the First
World War, the political controversies of 1921 and the great economic
upheavals which contrasted with the placidity of the Victorian age. His
adaptability in the changing circumstances was remarkable and it was with
sadness that the congregation learned of his decision.
With such memories, it was with great delight to the
congregation when, in 1955, his son, the Rev. Dr. James Carlyle Breakey,
Minister of Fortwilliam Park Church, occupied the Moderatorial Chair of
the General Assembly with such great distinction.
DAVID HAY, M. A., 1927/1949
THE Rev. Hay, a native of Donegal, was born on 17th
November, 1879, and, on completing his divinity training, was licensed by
the Letterkenny Presbytery in June, 1906. He received a call to the
Presbyterian Congregation of Donemana and was ordained there on 4th April,
1907. On receiving a call to Carlisle Road Church, Londonderry, he was
installed there on 1st October, 1919, where he remained until he accepted
the charge of First Lisburn, being installed on 16th Decernber, 1927.
On 12th September, 1927, a deputation waited on the Union
Committee of the Presbyterian Church in pursuance of having the vacancy
filled and Mr. John Wilson, now the senior member of the Committee with
thirty-three years of continuous membership, was one of the principal
spokesmen. Permission was duly given to hear candidates and culminated in
a call being made out to the Rev. Hay.
Shortly after that, in 1929, the Committee elected for the
year included, for the first time, three lady members in Mrs. Malcomson,
Senn, Mrs. Hay and Miss Alister.
In that year it was decided to improve the facilities at
Lambeg by obtaining new premises, and after negotiating with Mr. William
Belshaw, suitable accommodation was purchased for ?500. It is in the same
building that the newly formed Lambeg Presbyterian Congregation now
It was also at that time that a public supply of electricity became
available in the town which the Committee decided to connect up with and
so dispense with the gas engine for the generation of power for the Church
In 1930, Mr. T. M. Wilson presented a stained glass window
in memory of his father and mother, the subject being " He leadeth
me by the still waters." This was to be followed, in 1935, by a
similar gift from Mr. R. E. Barbour in memory of his wife, the selected
text being " I was thirsty and ye gave me drink." Both these
windows face each other on the gallery level on either side of the pulpit.
In 1934, the organist, Mr. T. E. Ellis resigned and was
succeeded by Miss W. E. Thompson of Londonderry and in the same year Mr.
R. F. McNeight assumed the office of Congregational Secretary which he has
so capably filled, with such great acceptance, for over twenty-five years,
creating a record of continuous service in this position unequalled over
almost three hundred years.
It was in 1935 that the School building reverted to the
congregation with the transfer of the pupils to the newly erected Central
School and, thus, provided for the extension of various activities in
connection with the Church. It was about that time that a Badminton Club
was organised which provided much appreciated recreational facilities for
the young people.
The increased membership of the Choir made it necessary to
consider ways and means to provide adequate seating accommodation and so,
in 1936, it was agreed to increase the space by taking away two rows of
pews in the centre area of the Church.
The Rev. Breakey had been residing at Bangor since his
retirement in 1927 and as the jubilee of his ministry approached it was
considered fitting to mark the occasion in a tangible manner. A small
deputation of the older members of the congregation visited him at his
home in November, 1936, and conveyed the greetings and good wishes of the
Church through the presentation which was handed over. It was just over a
year later that this grand old man passed away on 17th February, 1938.
Once again dark clouds were on the horizon and it almost
seemed to mark the end of an era when, on 24th December, 1939, a tablet
was unveiled in the vestibule to the memory of the Rev. Breakey.
The period of uneasy peace ended in September, 1939, with
the outbreak of the Second World War and it was not long until its impact
was felt in the congregation. The School was taken over for use as the
Food Office for the Lisburn district and, although the temporary loss of
the premises was inconvenient in the disrupting congregational activities,
it was recognised as a small contribution to the overall sacrifices
necessary at that time. Then came the need to provide adequately for Air
Raid Precaution requirements and this necessitated that the windows of the
Church be screened to comply with the prevailing "black out." In August,
1940, instruction on Air Raid Precaution was being given in the gymnasium
under the School building and, at that time, a Control Centre was
established by the authorities under the new wing of the School from which
the air raid alarm and control system for the Lisburn area was operated.
In January, 1941, the equipment available in the vestibule of the Church
for use in the event of an air raid was a stirrup pump, a rake, a shovel,
three buckets of sand and three buckets of water. This was supplemented in
April of that year after the devastating air raids on Belfast. About then
the Barbour and Musgrave windows were removed for safety reasons being
replaced by muffed glass and were stored in various places including the
Rev. Hay's country home at Donemana. Fire-watching of the Church premises
became necessary, but was to some extent, made less onerous by the
presence of full time officials engaged at the nearby Air Raid Precaution
Control Centre. In May, 1942, the Rev. Hay asked for the opinion of
members of the Committee as to the course to be adopted should the air
raid " alert " sound during Divine Service. It was considered that in this
event he should give an opportunity to those who wished or had for duty
purposes to leave, to do so and carry, on with the; service. If the "
alert " sounded and the " all clear " had not been given before the hour
of commencement of the service, no service to be held.
In April, 1942, it was decided to provide the Rev. Hay
with an assistant and Mr. J. Crozier was appointed. He continued in this
office until September, 1944, when he resigned to accept the charge of
Molesworth Street Presbyterian Church, Cookstown. The Rev. Crozier married
the Rev. Hay's eldest daughter, Miss N. Hay, and is. at present, Minister
of Elmwood Presbyterian Church, Belfast.
Prior to 1940, there had been pews in the gallery' but,
this type of seating was not at all comfortable, espcially with the pulpit
on a lower level. It was decided that some form of individual seating was
desirable with the result that tip-up seats were installed which at that
time seemed a rather revolutionary move. The change, however, greatly
improved the standard of comfort of the members of the congregation who
were accommodated in the gallery.
In May, 1944, the Rev. Hay and his family suffered a
grievous loss through the death of Mrs. Hay, a lady who had endeared
herself to all sections of the congregation. Her passing was an extremely
heavy blow to the Rev. Hay and one from which he found great difficulty in
recovering. In 1946, together, with his family, he provided the
congregation with the present beautiful Communion Table in memory of Mrs.
Hay. This necessitated the removal of four rows of pews in the centre of
the Church in front of the Choir area and added very considerably to the
quiet harmony of the furnishings of the interior. It was particularly
suitable that the Rev. Hay selected this form of memorial which, since his
death, one comes to associate also with him, because in the opinion of
many the inspiration which he obviously obtained when conducting Communion
Services in his latter years made them most impressive ceremonies which
will live long in the memories of those who had the privilege of
participating in them.
In 1946, it was agreed to vest the property of the
congregation in, the Education Board of the Dromore Presbytery instead of
appointing trustees from time to time. The advantage of such a change was
that, the Education Board being a permanent body, any inconvenience which
might arise in the future from an omission to appoint trustees as
vacancies arose would thus be averted. The four surviving trustees,
Messrs. G. A. Wilson, William Johnston, J. L. Allen and John Wilson duly
demitted their office to enable the transfer to be made.
Over its long history the congregation never had the
honour of supplying the General Assembly with a Moderator and it seemed,
at long last, this distinction was about to be achieved in 1949, when the
Rev. Hay was nominated as the Moderator Designate. He was a man whose wise
counsels had won for him the esteem and admiration of the entire
Presbyterian Church and particularly in the field of education where he
had done yeoman service in conveying and pressing home to the Educational
Authorities the views and aspirations of the General Assembly. The
recognition about to be conferred upon him had been well earned but,
unhappily, was not to be consummated. The Rev. Hay's health had been
giving serious concern and right at the crowning moment of his ministerial
career he was obliged to withdraw his name. It was undoubtedly a sad
moment foe him and one in which all his people shared and, in so doing,
sustained him in his hour of disappointment. It was, however, with great
satisfaction that the congregation and his many friends elsewhere received
the news that a Doctorate of Divinity had been conferred on him.
With their minister in indifferent health it was not
entirely unexpected when, in September, 1949, he decided to retire from
active ministry. He had ministered to the congregation for a period of
twenty-two years covering from the economic depression of the early
nineteen-thirties, through the Second World War with its terrors and
trials, right up to, what might be termed, the beginning of the nuclear
age. An excellent preacher, he was a steadfast man, a good friend and of
WILLIAM BOYD, M.A., 1950.
THE Rev. Boyd, son of John Boyd of Bailieboro, Co. Cavan,
graduated at Trinity College, Dublin, and after completing his divinity
training at Assembly's College, Belfast, was licensed by the Balieboro
Presbytery on 22nd April, 1931. He accepted a call to Burt, Co. Donegal,
where he was ordained on 24th May, 1932, remaining there till 30th May,
1939. On 30th June of that year he was installed minister of Third Armagh.
On 8th September, 1939, he returned to Burt to take part in a Service in
which he participated but, did not conduct, it being the occasion of his
marriage to Miss. Glenn of Lisfannon. His ministry at Armagh was
interrupted during his period of service as Chaplain to the Forces during
the 1939/45 War. He resigned the charge of Third Armagh in March, 1950, on
accepting the call to this congregation where he was installed on 27th
The Rev. Boyd did not come as a stranger to the
congregation as, through his family, an association had been created
earlier going back to the beginning of this century. His uncle and aunt,
the late Mr. W. J. Morrison and Mrs. Morrison, were members of the
congregation prior to the First World War, Mr. Morrison becoming a Member
of the Session in 1907. Then, through Mr. and Mrs. William Corrie, his
uncle and aunt, both well-known for their active interest in the work of
the Church, a further link with his family has existed for many years.
In the Rev. Boyd the congregation gained a minister of
wide experience, not only of the Church in our land, but beyond the
confines of this country. As Chaplain to the Forces during the War he had
served at home and abroad and was consequently; through his deep sense of
appreciation of the many problems which would have to be contended with,
particularly qualified to minister to the needs of this old, but growing,
congregation in the post war era. He is a man of understanding, great
sympathy and immeasurable drive, qualities that were to be fully put to
the test over the ensuing years.
Early in 1953 the Rev. Dr. Hay fell ill, his strength
failed rapidly and his death took place on the 17th March. His had been a
ministry of twenty-six years and one of great acceptance to the
congregation which had brought many spiritual and material benefits to the
Church. On the 22nd March, the day upon which he was to have occupied the
pulpit as the special preacher at a "Full Attendance" Service, a Memorial
Service was held instead, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Hugh McIlroy together
with the Rev. Dr. Wm. Corkey.
In June, 1953, it was with great satisfaction and delight
that the congregation learned their minister, in his capacity as a former
Chaplain to the Forces, had been invited to attend the Coronation of her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The provision of a Communion Chair was considered as an
appropriate form of Memorial for the late Rev. Dr. Hay and on 21st March,
1954, the Dedication Service took place at which the Rev. Dr. J. G. R.
Gibson and the Rev. Frank Hay, B.A., officiated.
The form of Memorial to the members of the congregation
who had made the supreme sacrifice in the 1939/45 War had been under
consideration for some time and it was decided that the erection of new
doors to the Church would be appropriate. The work was proceeded with and,
in November, 1955, the new doors were dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Dr. J. C.
Breakey at a very moving ceremony.
It was in 1954 that the improvement of the Church property
in Market Street was first mooted and resulted in the partial completion
of the scheme in 1956 with the demolition of four of the old structures
and their replacement by modern shops. The scheme has gone further ahead
in recent months with the demolition of the remaining houses and the
construction of shops on the site. The improvement created by this major
project of reconstruction is self-evident and, in carrying it through, the
financial benefit to the congregation will be substantial eventually.
With the disposal of the Church property at Lambeg to the
Church Extension Committee, in 1957, the Congregation severed a connection
with that area which had existed for over half a century. The newly formed
Lambeg Presbyterian Church urgently required accommodation and it was in
accordance with the best traditions of the congregation that, when this
request came before the Committee, a ready sympathy was forthcoming as was
manifested in the reasonable terms agreed upon for the transfer.
The continued need for breadth of vision in the material
affairs of the congregation was more than ever necessary in the succeeding
years in dealing with such matters as the re-wiring of the Church and
Church Hall, repairs to the Manse, the lowering of the surround of the
gallery and the major reconstruction scheme for the Church Hall to place
it in a good state of repair with up-to-date facilities for the various
This has all been accomplished and has brought the entire
Church property into a condition which one would venture to suggest has
been unsurpassed at any time before. The past decade has been one of
unparalleled development both in spiritual and material matters. The
progress made has been achieved through the able services of those
entrusted with the conduct of the congregation's affairs, in which they
have been wholeheartedly supported by the members. The carrying through of
all this could not have been done without one of energy and enthusiasm
giving the lead and in this, congregation has been greatly blessed in
having as their minister the Rev. Wm. Boyd.
The mid-century periods of this congregation have been
memorable : 1768-the building of the present Church, 1859-the building of
the School (now the Church Hall)-but there is little doubt that when, with
the passage of time, a clearer appreciation can be obtained of this
present period it will be found to have been one which will bear more than
favourable comparison with any contained in the annals of the
The first decade of the Rev. Boyd's ministry has passed
and, looking back, it has been one of great satisfaction. It is with
confidence that the congregation looks forward to the future under the
wise guidance of their minister believing that, through the grace of
Almighty God, " the best is yet to be."