A Tale of Two Churches
St Mark's Church, Parish of Ballymacash

Mr Brian Kelly

 
 
 
 
 

A NEW ERA BECKONS AT BALLYMACASH

The Christian fellowship and stewardship which had categorized the preceding decades in the district of Ballymacash saw its members welcome the dawning of the Sixties with continuing spirit and vitality and with an outlook which was to mark another era in the district's history. Hilary

Morrison was the honorary secretary of the Select Vestry at the time and he has since served the Church in many capacities over the following thirty years both at local level and at diocesan and national levels.

Rev William Norman Cochrane Barr who had arrived as Rector of Derriaghy Parish in 1961 addressed the first annual general meeting in St Mark's Hall on 8 May 1961 and spoke of the great potential which there was in the district with the proposed housing developments which would undoubtedly increase the size of the district served by St Mark's in Ballymacash. Such developments would however place considerable pressure on the Parish as a whole and in particular on its accommodation. or lack of it! A committee to act as an advisory body outside the Select Vestry was formed to investigate such needs and consisted of fourteen members.

Within a year the committee had put in a great deal of necessary groundwork not least in the purchase of a few acres to the rear of the old Church. Consideration was given to an addition to the parochial hall and plans for making a car park near the Church.

At the Second AGM of St Mark's held on Monday 14 May 1962 the Rector referred to the valuable service which Rev John Terence Roche Rodgers had given since his arrival in 1960 and took the opportunity to welcome Rev Adam Aubrey Johns, a native of Co Monaghan and who had been ordained for the Parish of Aghalee. With almost 200 families now in the parish Rev Barr told those in attendance the continuing increase in the size of the parish was now leading to the possibility that "St Marks would branch out as a Parish of its own in the not too distant future."

While it may have taken the greater part of the decade for Rev Barr's expectations to be fully realised for the Parish of Ballymacash, in hindsight, the intervening decade was essential for the laying of the foundation on which St Mark's could develop and prosper.

Over the next year there were a number of occurrences which gave the Rector and the parishioners a great deal of encouragement including the increase in the numbers attending communion. The attendance of eighty was almost double that of the previous years while income showed a rise of around 200 compared with 1961 and now stood at nearly 1900 ( or in other words between 9 and 10 per family per annum). Ninety-two were in the senior Sunday School with an average attendance of between 75-80 while in the junior Sunday School thirty were registered with an average attendance of over 25. The Bible Class had also commenced with an encouraging nucleus of a dozen members.

Rev Johns who had taken a deep interest in the youth organisations reported that the Brownies had 25 members, the Girl Guides had 16. There was shortly to be a change in the leadership of both the Cubs and Scouts with Mrs Crawford taking the helm in the cubs and William Hankers the new Scout Master and it was hoped that they would be given the same degree of support which their predecessors had enjoyed.

The future status of St Mark's within the framework of the Parish of Derriaghy was again the main topic of the Fourth AGM in 1964. The Bishop had suggested that Ballymacash should form a separate unit and preparations for such taking place began with the finances of St Mark's being divided from those of the rest of the Parish. However the cost of running St Mark's was estimated at 38 per week at a time when income was remaining relatively steady.

The departure of Rev Johns to become Rector of Billy brought Rev Terence Frederick Callan to the Parish in charge of the Ballymcash district, having been Rector of Clogh (Roslea). Born in Malta where his father was serving with the Royal Army Service Corps, Rev Callan was educated at Carlow National School, Kings Hospital and Trinity College Dublin. He had been ordained in 1957 and took up curacy in Derriaghy on New Year's Day in 1964.

With housing developments continuing in the area, average attendances at the services was between 150-170 and it was reported the following year that the Diocesan Council were to "look into the possibility" of St Mark's becoming a separate Parish later in the autumn. The Select Vestry considered that it would be opportune and appropriate to look for a more suitable house as a Rectory. It was however still of some concern that 53 families contributed 1253 out of a total of 1977 12s 10d, or put another way that those 53 families contributed two-thirds of the district's income.

After interest had been shown in the formation of an indoor bowling club, a club was started early in 1964 in the dining room of Ballymacash Primary School by kind permission of the Antrim County Education committee and a few members of Derriaghy club also boosted the numbers.

The June 1965 magazine reported that the Mothers Union annual outing to Portrush cost 17/6 though this was to cover the fare only!

As we entered 1966 consideration was being given through the medium of the Derriaghy Parish magazine that due to the large attendances at services in St Mark's it was being contemplated that a second Morning Service would be required to meet the increasing demands of the 250 families.

Rev Barr suggested at the 6th AGM on 27 April 1966 that it would not be long before St Mark's was on its own and almost apologised that apart from taking a few services there, such have been the demands placed on the pastoral side by Christ Church, he was having to leave St Mark's more and more in the very capable hands of Rev Callan. He also agreed that the purchase of a larger house in the area as a rectory would further help to establish St Mark's as an entity on its own.

Another pleasing aspect of the parish at the time was the ever increasing number of young people being brought forward for confirmation, almost seventy candidates in 1966. Following the resignation of Walter Cowan as sexton Mr Glover took on the position at a salary of 120 per annum.

It is important to note that as the district of Ballymacash was poised to become a parish in its own right the finances were to dictate whether or not it could function independently. In 1966 it was reported that there had been a 12% rise in the income (256) with total income amounting to 2732 12s 4d. The surplus over the year's working was 473 3s 7d. Consideration was to be given to the purchase of a four- acre field belonging to parishioner Jacob Corkin on the Ballymacash Road while an original offer for Mrs Hardy's house at 97 Antrim Road and considered as a rectory had to be increased before being accepted at 7750.

Message From:
The Rectory,
Agherton Parish Church, Portstewart Co Londonderry

Reflections - Ballymacash

The Rev Canon TF CallanTogether with my wife and three children I arrived in Ballymacash on 1 January 1963. Having been Rector of the rather remote Parish o f Clogh with Drumsnatt straddling the Fermanagh/Monaghan border for the previous six-and-a-half years I was to venture into the more populous church extension area as Curate Assistant o f Derriaghy with special responsibility for St Mark's Ballymacash. The little Church on the hill was our centre of worship, the old school on the Ballymacash Road/Nettlehill Road was in use as a Church Hall and our house was a semi-detached house on the Ballymacash Road.

There was an enthusiastic committee of men and the scope for work for the Kingdom o f God wide and varied. New houses were springing up all the time and new families being 'added to the Church' on a very regular basis. Due to a lack o f accommodation the need arose for two morning services and as the number o f children was rapidly expanding, running concurrently with the second service of Morning Prayer, children's Church followed by Sunday School was held in the Church Hall under the very capable leadership of Hilary T Morrison. This he did with tremendous sensitivity to the opening minds and hearts and souls o f children.

At the Church there was valued assistance of the Reverend Canon AP Chamberlain, retired from a Parish in Derry Diocese and much esteemed Kenneth Quinn whose family were staunch members of Magheragall Parish. I conducted  a Kindergarten Sunday School in the afternoon and it was not long before we had to recruit other teachers for this venture. In 1966 the fine present Rectory at 97 Antrim Road was purchased and our family had the privilege of living there for three years.

The devotion to the little Church on the hill was much in evidence, particularly at Harvest time. Decorating operations began well in advance with the making o f the corn fringe and the gathering of the foliage for the sanctuary window, all lovingly positioned with ceremonious regularity year after year . The need for a new Church became obvious as the Ballymacash end o f Derriaghy Parish rapidly expanded and a Building Fund started.

Discussion and planning towards independence were well underway with a grateful senses o f achievement and St Mark's was granted independence after three years. Having become a Curacy in charge we worked towards full independence for another three years and at the end of this period full independence was granted by the Diocesan Council. Alas, I was then nominated for the Parish of St Aidan, Belfast, thus ending my six extremely happy years as Curate Assistant o f Derriaghy and Curate in Charge of Ballymacash. If I have had a worthwhile input into this sphere of Ministry, I am humbly thankful.

The Rev Canon TF Callan

ST MARK'S TO BECOME INDEPENDENT - THAT'S OFFICIAL

A formal declaration from the Diocesan Office was received towards the end of 1966 confirming that the new parish of Ballymacash be instituted with effect from 1 January 1967, the boundaries for the new Church being delineated on a map but principally out of the Ballymcash area of the Parish of Derriaghy. Approved stipend and locomotory allowance were fixed at 1000 and 200 per annum. The Representative Body had also consented to accept the vesting of Elmdene on the Antrim Road as the new Rectory.

A whole new era in the life of the Church was dawning with a new Rectory just purchased to replace a house bought a few years earlier. A service of introduction of Rev TF Callan as curate in charge of the recently created Parish was conducted by Rev Barr with the lesson read by Rev JJ Armstrong, curate asst Derriaghy. Rev Canon TE Beacom, Registrar of the Diocese of Connor administered the Declarations with the preacher the Rt Rev Dr RCH Elliott whose chaplain was the Rev RB Livingston, curate in charge of St Columba, Derryvolgie.

In the March magazine of 1967 with the old Church featured on the front cover - eight advertisements brought in much needed income - Rev Callan explained that despite St Mark's becoming a separate Parish, those who purchased grave plots while the Church was under the control of Derriaghy would nevertheless automatically retain these burial rights at the agreed scale for parishioners. The Dramatic Society played to two packed halls in January raising 65 for the Rectory Fund.

The first meeting of registered vestrymen of the new Parish of Ballymacash was held on 4 January 1967 and within three months the Easter Vestry reported that there were now some 300 families in the Parish. It was also rather optimistically suggested that over the next 15-20 years there could be upwards of 700-800 families.

The Cub pack had now increased to twenty boys while Basil Ritchie, whose late father had received the same honour was to become the troop's first Queens Badge holder. He was presented with his badge by Mr T Thompson ADC later in the year. This was a well deserved honour not only for Basil himself but the Ballymacash Scout Troop under the leadership of Gordon Knowles.

On 26 April 1967 Rev Callan moved from the curatage to the new Rectory at 97 Antrim Road for which the Parish received 5,000 from the RCB in respect of a loan.

A guest tea, which attracted just short of 500 to the Pond Park Red Cross Hall, raised the net proceeds of 237 13s. A St Mark's cake was presented by the Regal Bakery while other popular features were the P4 of Ballymacash Primary School on their recorders, tambourines and xylophones, the Minnowburn Male Voice Choir and the Villagers and Bob McCormack.

The magazine also reported the imminent departure of Mr and Mrs Kenneth Quinn to Uganda. Mr Quinn a Sunday School teacher and Diocesan lay reader had obtained an engineering post with the then Ministry of Overseas Development.

At a meeting of the Select Vestry on 19 September 1967 Rev TF Callan suggested that while the parish had been most grateful for the help which Mrs Muldrew and Mrs Callan had given by offering their services, the time was ripe to appoint an official organist and it was to be reported that the services of Mrs Geddis as official assistant organist had been acquired for 30 per annum.

William McKelvey, from St Mark's, took part in the World Scout Jamboree held in Idaho in which 102 countries were represented.

On 10 September 1967 the new service for Holy Communion which increasedthe degree of participation in the Sacrament was introduced.

In the latter part of the year Rev Callan suggested through the medium of the magazine that the present parochial hall was now insufficient to meet the demands of the growing congregation in, St Mark's and was placing constraints upon further development of the various orgainsations. Some 60000 would however be required to build a new hall with conventional materials.

A parochial meeting to discuss this problem was arranged for 14 November and the parish had reveived 1292-6-7 in respect of the half share of the sale of the curatage on the Ballymacash Road.

A new prayer desk presented by Mrs I Corken in memory of her husband Cecil and a new lecturn from the Parish of Derriaghy were dedicated on 26 November by Rev Arthur Noble, Rector of Christ Church and the new Rural Dean.

The Parish agreed to present both Miss Georgina McClure and Miss Nan Lavery with a beautifully bound and suitably inscribed Bible as a token of their service as teachers in the Sunday School. Miss McClure had given fifty years of unstinting service while Miss Lavery had served for 47 years.

Following considerable discussion over the previous months as to the type of building which would best fulfil the needs of the parish not only at the present but perhaps more importantly in the future, it was agreed at a vestry meeting on 16 January 1968 that the new building should be a dual-purpose one and not solely a church building with the voting 11 to 1. A building fund account was later opened.

The Parish was shocked by the death of William Richardson during his year as the Rector's Churchwarden. Mr Richardson had given sterling service to the Parish and had held every office open to laymen in the Church. On his death in addition to being the Rector's Church warden and synodsman he was also a transferor's representative on Ballymacash Public Elementary School which he had also served loyally. A prominent member of all the institutions which he served with dignity and loyalty he was not ashamed to take his place in Church or in his lodge regularly whether in office or not. A Sanctuary chair was later to be presented in memory of Mr Richardson and a second chain by Mr Walter Refausse.

It was reported that when the Bishop of Connor attended the parish for the Confirmation Service on 3 March 1968 that it was the first time, as far as one knows, that a confirmation service had actually been held in the Church.

Thirty-five candidates in all were confirmed: R Hewitt, S Watson, R Corbett, A Nettleship, P & R Carson, T Kelly, J Chapman, G Nawn, F Duffin, K Moorehead, P Jeffers, G Corbett, J Belshaw, N McAleenon, Misses P Doyle, L Fletcher, E Murphy, P Donaldson, L Corbett, B White, P Abernethy, W Heasley, J McAleenon, E Belshaw, E Dougherty, R Fair, B Duncan, E McBride, P Nicholl, E Parke, A Belshaw, L McDowell, S Nawn, J Lewis.

Friday 3 May saw a presentation being made to W Stewart Gamble to mark not only his many years of Cubbing and Scouting in both the Parish and the District but also in Lisburn and Co Antrim. He was a Cubmaster for 25 years, Scoutmaster for 2 years, Group Scoutmaster of 1st Ballymacash for 10 years and ADC for Lisburn & District for 10 years. Stewart had gained his Scout Wood Badge in 1947 and the Medal of Merit in 1959. Wesley Duncan presented Mr Gamble with an easy chair to mark his retirement from full-time Cubbing and Scouting and as a mark of respect in recognition to the service he had given to the organisation locally.

After a visit on 27 May 1968 by Rev Noble and Dr Wilson from the Church Extension Committee it was decided that other Churches in the Diocese should be visited before coming to any firm conclusions as to the new Church. It was however quite ironic that one of the first Churches visited was to be Immanuel Church in Ardoyne where Rev TWW Jones - later to spend eighteen years in Ballymacash and make an invaluable contribution to St Mark's - was Rector.

Having appointed WD & RJ Taggart as Architects and envisaging a total cost of around 40,000 three schemes were outlined on 19 August 1968. However the Diocesan Council informed the Select Vestry that the cost of building the new Church had to be kept below 30,000. Although much toing and froing between the interested parties took place it would be quite wrong to suggest that this was the only thing which was going on in the Parish.

The magazine featured a photograph of the old Church and listed the details of services and organisations on its front cover while on the rear cover a number of local advertisers assisted with the cost of the publication. Some are sadly no longer with us eg C & T Hardy, Bow Street while others like J & D Murphy and the Pond Park Service Station still remain prominent.

Miss Heather Murphy, Miss Dorothy Doyle and Miss Rosemary Chapman were each featured in the local newspapers when they left the choir and Sunday school on the eve of their marriages and their service to the Parish was recognised in a presentation made by Miss McClure. The Sunday School opened a new session in September seeking to maintain the high numbers on its rolls (e.g. 92 in the morning with 87 in regular attendance).

During the months of May and June some 345 households were visited. "Each family was asked to aim at an average of 2/6 or 3/- per week and this " it was reported "would see us through many of our financial difficulties."

Whether or not the badminton club was actually founded around this time is to all intents and purposes up for debate I suppose but parishioners were invited to join the Black Hall in Pond Park Road as facilities weren't sufficient in the old hall.

Peter Kerr one of the parishioners was chosen to represent the Connor Diocese at the 4th British Conference of Christian Youth while John Sturgeon was to issue an appeal to parishioners to collect all their used stamps - their 5d postage stamp had just been launched - in order that this could be another part of the fund raising activities for the Building Fund.

With progress being relatively slow to say the least it was however encouraging that forty attended the first meeting of the Young Wives Fellowship and a working committee was established under the group leadership of Audrey Gifford, Joyce Lynn as secretary and Heather Cranston as treasurer.

The end of the year saw the end of yet another piece of the history of St Mark's with the old organ, which had remained unused since the new organ had been installed about ten years previous, finding a new home in Killegar Parish in County Leitrim. The Rector of Killegar Rev TR Jennings actually collected the organ himself.

Before the first anniversary of the launch of the Building Fund it had soared to 2050 and the Bishop was now taking considerably more interest in the project after problems had been experienced with the Diocesan Council and the Church Extension Committee. But there remained a great deal of concern as to the state of the parochial hall which was not improving with the advancing years.

It had served the community first as a Primary School erected by the Johnston family of Ballymacash House who made the gift of the building back in 1913 to the Parish of Derriaghy through the Connor Diocesan Board of Education. With further extensions it continued to be used extensively by the parish organisations.

On 21 April 1969 application was made for the parish to be raised from a curacy in charge to a full incumbency and attendances at the various Church Services continued to be particularly healthy with around 360 attending both the services on Mothering Sunday. It was soon agreed that the two morning services at 10.30 am and 11.30 am should be amalgamated to one at 11.00 am because of the success of the Childrens Church under Hilary Morrison, although the 10.30 am service had been in existence for the past three-and-a-half years.

The figure of 40000 which had been verbally confirmed by the Rural Dean over the telephone was formally approved on 23 June 1969 and the magazine was used to give parishioners some idea of the undertaking which they were considering. Although approximately half of the costs of building the new Church would be borne by the Representative Church Body (RCB) on an interest free loan (ie the Parish does not make repayments for the first ten years) the Diocesan Council will give a grant of 8000 or a quarter of the building costs, whichever is the lower, and which does not have to be repaid. It was therefore reasonable to suggest that a figure of 5,000 should be reached in the Building Fund by the time the Church is ready for use.

The July/August 1969 magazine was the final one to bear the picture of the old Church on its front cover. It was replaced in the September edition by an artist's impression of the proposed frontage of the new Church. In just fifteen months 2748 5s 1 Id had been raised by direct giving ...a remarkable feat by anyone's standards. Before the year was out the Parish had been formally granted full incumbancy status after a meeting of the Diocesan Council on October 2.

Rev TF Callan was to be instituted as Rector of St Aidan's Parish in Belfast, in succession to Rev C Jameson on 2 January 1970 after having spent six years in Ballymacash during which the Parish had grown from about 160 families to just under 400, the plans for a new church building were well underway and the Primary School had grown with an additional three teachers and additional classrooms.

Just as the new decade was dawning on the Parish about to welcome its first Rector, the Church was also celebrating the Centenary of its Disestablishment.

Farewells and presentations were made to Rev Callan on his departure at a social evening on 30 January. He received a handsome oak-mounted barometer, suitably inscribed in addition to a box of chocolates for the children and a cheque while other gifts included a travelling alarm clock from the bunnies. The Mothers Union presented Mrs Callan with a beautiful handbag and gift, while the Young Wives treated her to an evening in the Woodlands Hotel.

The March magazine featured a letter from the Rev Thomas William Warren Jones as Rector-elect. Addressing his new congregation as "my dear friends" he recollected that "we left Ballymacash in 1956 with one boy and we return now with three in all - Keith, Neville and Ashley."

"Ballymacash has always had a reputation for friendliness" he continued. He became St Mark's first Rector being instituted on 5 March 1970 and despite only having arrived in the district a few weeks earlier, he was to preside over his first Easter General Vestry on 1 April 1970.

Rev Jones' arrival in the Parish was to mark a period of almost two decades of change on a grand scale with Rev Jones at the helm and which was probably only brought to an end by the Rectors continuing ill-health. Born in 1925 and educated at Trinity College Dublin Rev Jones was ordained in 1949 and served his first curacy in Shankill Parish, Lurgan before moving to Derriaghy in 1954 where he was to serve under Rev Patrick Ashton Gregg Sheppard who had been rector there since 1946. It was while curate in Derriaghy Parish that he was to have his first association with the Ballymacash district. During his couple of years in the area the much revered old church on the hill was to be extended and consecrated.