||A Tale of Two Churches
by Peggy Bryson
Life is a book of volumes three.
The past, the present, and yet to be.
The first is finished and laid away.
The second we're reading day by day.
The third, and last of the volumes three,
is locked from sight - God holds the key.
St Mark's Church
Parish of Ballymacash
22 Deramore Park Belfast
This is a tale of two churches. 1992 is the centenary of the dedication
of 'the old church on the hill' much loved by many of the older parishioners
and the 25th anniversary of the Parish of St Mark, Ballymacash, becoming an
independent cure. In 1975 the new church was built.
We do well to remember that the feast of the Dedication of a church is a
Feast of the Lord and His people - not a celebration of a building. The
Church is the Body of Christ, the New Israel, the people of God, people like
you and me and not bricks and mortar.
Ballymacash is enriched by the publication of this booklet. As a result
we are made more aware of our surroundings and the people whose fellowship
in Christ we share and enjoy, the community in which we live and our fellow
Many people greatly appreciate the atmosphere of the modern church
building geared for liturgical renewal. History reminds us that the present
has evolved through generations who worshipped in quite a different
atmosphere of the nearby older church. However nothing stands still and
change is a fact of life. Ballymacash has a past and a present. It also will
have a future, under God, as we move into the 21st century and no doubt
change will continue to be the order of the day.
I hope that all who read the Ballymacash Story will be inspired to a
deeper sense of worship, witness and service in Christ who is the One who
has brought together so many in this growing community.
Feast of the Conversion of St Paul 1991
By happy coincidence the year 1992 marks two significant milestones in
the history of St Mark's, Ballymacash - the centenary of the original St
Mark's Church on the Nettlehill Road and the 25th anniversary of the
district of Ballymacash being raised to the status of a separate parish.
Mr Brian Kelly has made a very personal and profound. contribution to the
celebration of these anniversaries in producing this booklet which
represents many months of careful research. It is the inspiring story of the
parishioners' spiritual commitment, generosity and sustained effort, and one
which will bring encouragement to those privileged to be part of that same
continuing story today.
I commend this booklet with the hope that it may not only interest you,
but that you may be inspired by the record of the zeal, devotion and
self-sacrifice of past generations. I trust that our thankfulness for the
heritage we have received will be accompanied by a strengthening of our
loyalty to Christ and a faithful stewardship of the resources entrusted to
W. G. Irwin, Rector
||Old School of St Mark's Parish built 1833
Old School re-constructed by Edward Johnston
||April Dedication of Ballymacash Chapel of
Ease by Bishop Welland
||Old School given as a gift to Parish 1932
Used as School House but on completion of new School, returned to the
|1949 June 10
||Re-decoration of St Mark's Church
|1949 Sept 14
||Preparation for extension to church began
|1954 Feb 1
|| Rev TWW Jones became senior curate
in Parish of Derriaghy
|1954 Sept 15
|| Consecration of new Church and
Extension by Lord Bishop of Connor Dr Charles ES King Irwin 1956 Jul 5
1st Wedding solemnized in church (Betty Armstrong and Sam McKibben)
||Area served by St Mark's became
independent with the Rev TF Callan appointed curate in charge
|| 1st Confirmation by Bishop of
|1970 Jan 1
|| St Mark's becomes full incumbency
|1970 Jan 2
||Rev TF Callen instituted as Rector of St
Aidan's Parish, Belfast
|1970 Mar 1
||Rev TWW Jones instituted as first Rector
of St Mark's
||Halt to proposed building project
||Parish informed of alternative
|1973 Sept 23
||Sod cut by the Rev TWW Jones and
||Building Fund breaks £10,000 barrier
|1974 Feb 2
||Foundation stone laid by Misses McClure &
|1975 Sep 26
||Consecration of new church by the Rt Rev
GA Quinn Bishop of Down and Dromore
||Wedding in new church
|1978 Sep 25
||Agreement reached that Parish required a
|1978 Sep 25
||Old church de-consecrated
||Rev Jones appointed Rural Dean
||Link with Stoneyford Parish ended
||Rev M McCullagh became curate asst
|1985 Apr 14
|| Installation of Rector as Canon
||Appointment of the Rev P Hewitt as curate
|1987 Feb 7
||Canon Jones Hall dedicated
||Canon Jones retired
|1988 Dec 2
||Installation of new Rector, the Rev WG
||Rev T Gordon became curate asst
||Rector appointed Rural Dean
Born out of the ancient Parish of Derriaghy founded on a site which dates
back to AD 1444 and the Chapel of Air ear a chaid, the area of Ballymacash
served by St Mark's and its history, is to all intents and purposes a
reflection or mirror image of the town of Lisburn over the past century,
growing much in step with the developments of the town itself and on a scale
which few would have believed possible a hundred years ago.
Although Lisburn was recognised as one of the most prosperous towns in
the province at the turn of the century, it has without doubt maintained its
stature as the dawning of a new century approaches with major international
retailers acknowledging its potential and setting up an operation in the
Situated in the southern part of the Parish of Derriaghy which was
bounded on the south-east by the Lagan Canal, the area developed at a rate
which placed considerable pressure on the accommodation which was available
in the Ballymacash area. The speed at which these developments were taking
place can be appropriately described in the conversation which Rev Mervyn
McCullagh, the district's first curate assistant had with a local resident
when he arrived. He enquired as to the name of the particular new housing
estate. "I'm sorry but we haven't given it one yet!" came the reply. And the
main road? asked the curate assistant. "Oh that hasn't been named either! "
To fully appreciate, however, the extent to which the area has changed
over the past century one must first acknowledge the part which Canon Joseph
Atkinson Stewart played with over fifty years of devotion to the Church in
the Parish of Derriaghy. He was responsible for the building of the Chapel
of Ease in Ballymacash in 1892 having earlier provided substantial financial
support to the Mission Hall in which services had previously been held.
Canon Stewart moved from Pond Park House to Killowen House (now better
known as Killowen Hospital) on the Ballymacash Road. He provided employment
for a great many people resident in the immediate locality and it would be
fair to suggest that there were very few who worked in the district who did
not have some connections with the House at the end of the 19th and the
beginning of the 20th Century.
A curate in Derriaghy from 1862-63 he returned in 1866 for a second stint
remaining until 1915. He was appointed Canon of Kilroot in 1908 and was the
son of Rev Henry Stewart, Rector of Derriaghy who died in 1872.
Understandably a very popular figure in the area he was surprisingly
never to hold the post of rector of his much loved Parish of Derriaghy and
at one point it would appear that a split developed within the Parish when
he wasn't appointed. For a handbill was distributed in the parish informing
them of a public meeting in Stoneyford Church on Monday 27 May 1872. Those
present resolved to
|'solemnly pledge ourselves to use
every legitimate means to frustrate the designs of William Charley JP
and his colleagues to destroy the peace and harmony of the Parish of
Derriaghy; and we further pledge ourselves to continue our opposition
so long as the nominee of the said William Charley JP (the Rev SM
Moore) continues to fill the Pulpit of our Parish Church."
(Derriaghy: A Short History)
It was reported that one of his first gifts to Derriaghy Parish was an organ
chamber while further generosity was shown when he supplied a teacher for
Castlerobin Primary School which he changed from a cottage he had rented
from the Waring family at Aughrim and which was to serve as a school for
some seventy years. Although a pension scheme is very much part of our
working lives today it was of course not always the case and it is reported
that he, at his own expense, maintained a pension scheme for the aged in the
district. Canon Stewart who died in 1915 left an estate worth £10,7788 is
The Parish has grown at a dramatic rate is perhaps an understatement.
From the old Church on the hill dedicated in 1892 and serving a few well
scattered houses in what was a decidedly rural community. Some fifty years
earlier it should be recalled there were reportedly only 1071 houses in the
town of Lisburn which had a population of 7,524.
The original building was dedicated for Divine Worship as a Chapel of
Ease by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese Rev Thos I Welland on 5 April 1892 to
accommodate around one hundred worshipper in this particular district of
Derriaghy Parish, and to replace the Ballymacash Mission in which regular
services had been held.
Built on Nettle Hill, the Chapel of Ease was of a rectangular shape. The
pulpit, acquired from Stoneyford Church, was presented to the Chapel by Mr
Stewart in 1900. This required slight alteration in order to suit the
Chapel. The font of neat pine wood was purchased by Rev Stewart from Scott &
Co of Dublin. This was later replaced in January 1948 by a font of freestone
resting on a wooden stand. This font was sited at the front of the Church on
the east side beside the choir stalls. The seating in the old church was of
pitch pine and presented by R Brown.
The first Sunday service was held on 10 April 1892 with Rev W Riddell the
preacher in the morning and the Rev Joseph A Stewart the preacher in the
evening. The Church was, however, closed for repairs for a period at the
turn of the century and at the re-opening service on 19 October 1902 when
Rev Riddell was again the preacher, Rev Stewart read a document from the
Lord Bishop appointing and authorizing 'that henceforth this said
building should be designated the Church of St Mark in the Parish of
Although a curate in Derriaghy from 1894-1897 with more responsibility
for Colin than with Ballymacash, Rev WS Packenham later recalled that
services at St Mark's were always 'well attended and singing was always
hearty and the religious spirit deep and vital.'
Painted and repaired in 1920 the church was to be further extended in
1954 and consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Connor Dr Charles King Irwin on
15 September 1954. The address was given by Canon CJ McLeod, Rector of
Christ Church. Before the service Clergy walked in procession to the Church
and were received at the entrance by the incumbent Rev PAG Sheppard and
churchwardens W Glover and J McKinstry.
The Bishop's staff was carried by the Rev RC Ellis Rector of St Colman's,
Derriaghy. The extension fund had only begun two years previously. The nave
was effectively doubled in length, the vestry increase in size, sanctuary
enlarged and tower erected over the old porch at the west end. The sum of
£200 was apparently sufficient to erect the old building whereas £2936 was
to be spent on the construction of the extension!
The old St Mark's Parish Hall is now a small shopping precinct with a
general store, hairdressing salon and chip shop. The building was originally
built in 1790 and reconstructed in 1833 by Edward Johnson. Used as a School
House until the completion of the Ballymacash Primary School in 1932 when it
was returned to the Parish, presented by Miss MEK Johnson. Miss Johnson,
patron of Ballymacash School transferred the school and grounds to the
Diocesan Board of Education around 1920. The Hall was extended around 1950
with a substantial stage erected, committee room built behind the stage
while kitchens and toilets were added later. The extension depended on
voluntary labour at a cost of around £800.
St Mark's though has in more recent times served a more densely populated
area. The district of Ballymacash was recognised as a Parish in its own
right in January 1967 ... becoming a full incumbency on 1 January 1970 ...
to one appointing its first rector Rev TWW Jones, installed on 5 March 1970.
In terms of families the growth can be shown when it was estimated that
there were no more than 120-130 families in the district associated with St
Mark's in the Fifties and early Sixties while this jumped to upwards of 400
in 1974, increasing to 465 when it became an incumbency. Today the figure
stands at around 630 families.
Before approval for a much needed curate assistant was granted there had
been established a close link with Stoneyford Parish. Rev F Graham was
appointed as minister in charge of Stoneyford and curate assistant of the
temporary grouping of Ballymacash and Stoneyford Parishes and he was of
considerable support particularly during the periods when Rev Jones was
unable to fulfil his duties with his normal enthusiasm due to illness. It
was later agreed that a full-time curate assistant could be appointed and
Rev Mervyn McCullagh (1983-85), Rev Paul Hewitt (1986-89) and more recently
Rev Tom Gordon (1989-date) have each made a considerable impact during their
albeit short ministries with us.
The forethought and energies of the parishioners cannot have been
underestimated throughout the past hundred years as they have shown
outstanding enthusiasm in seeing their ideas through to fruition, at first
with the church on the hill, through to its extension and consecration on 15
September 1954 to the mammoth undertaking the Select Vestry planned in terms
of a new church and hall in the 1970s and then to the Canon Jones Hall which
provided the much needed facilities of a Parish of this size in 1987.
present Church and its facilities were required to meet the growng demands
of the parishioners as the immediate area saw rapid growth and expansion
with housing estates being built by both private and public bodies. However
it must be fully realised that while many have come into the district over
the past twenty-one years and set up home within the parish boundaries there
has also been a significant number of people who have sadly left the parish
to further their education and careers outside St Mark's and I am sure with
the publication of this booklet covering principally the past 21 years that
many of those who have remained in the Parish will be able to recollect the
many characters who remain part of the history of the Parish.
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the Parish of St Mark at this
point in time is the undoubted resolve, energy and leadership qualities of
those who have been associated with the parish either its clergy, its
organisations or its parishioners who have contributed so much by following
and supporting the leadership which have taken so many important decisions
over the past hundred years in order to secure the quality of worship in the
Parish of St Mark in Ballymacash.
The words used by Rev TF Callan reproduced below are particularly
appropriate in St Mark's at this time as we celebrate the 21st Anniversary
of becoming a full incumbency. Next year will also see the Centenary of the
dedication of the much loved Chapel of Ease and the 25th Anniversary of
becoming an independent Parish.
"We cannot keep the names and personalities that we revere alive beyond
the generation that knew them. What we can do is to make sure that the
children of today and the children yet to be bored, shall be proud of their
inheritance. We can teach that that the freedom into which and the supreme
values of the way of life which is their birthright are there because of
Without the enthusiasm, vitality and commitment shown towards the Word of
God in this district of Ballymacash the Parish which today is nigh on ?00
families strong could not have reached its present status. Today's Church
and Halls are nothing more than a fine testimony to those who have
participated in and contributed to St Mark's.
In order to set the scene for the Parish's expansion in the Seventies and
Eighties we require to look back into the district's history and it is then
relatively simple to realise that there was a firm basis on which the Parish
could sustain a rapid influx of parishioners. During research for this
historical base the editor found the period 1943-mid 50s particularly