|Rev. Shaw Thompson||First Dromara Presbyterian Church, built in 1826.|
Rathfriland Road, Dromara.
Minister: Rev. Shaw Thompson
Telephone: 9753 3023
No evening service during July and August.
Presbyterian Church in Ireland Website:
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First Dromara Presbyterian Church.
This congregation was originally part of Dromore. In 1713 the Synod of Ulster made it a separate congregation, annexing to it the townlands of Tullyniskey, Enock, Fedoney and Carnew, belonging to Magherally; and Kinallen, Leppock and the upper half of Ballykeel, belonging to Dromore congregation.
The first minister was Mr. John Campbell (lic. Armagh) who was ordained by the Presbytery of Armagh on 13th December 1715. He died here on 3rd June 1724 and was succeeded by Mr. John King (lic. St. Andrew's) who had been received by the Synod in 1719. He was ordained here on 14th December 1726 and died after a ministry of 30 years on 9th November 1762.
The third minister was Mr. James Jackson Birch (lic. Dromore), ordained on 12th August 1764. His stay was very long and when he became infirm his grandson, James Birch Black (lic. Dromore), was ordained as his successor on 30th July 1816. Mr. Birch, Sen., died on 10th November 1820 and his grandson was suspended for drunkenness on 13th May 1823. He died on 3rd October 1823. He was replaced by Rev. William Craig of Carnmoney who was installed on 26th December 1823. During his ministry, the church was built in 1826. Mr. Craig died on 22nd December 1871 and the congregation was much disturbed by disputes as to his successor. In the end there was a large secession to the Reformed Presbyterians who illegally took possession of the meeting-house and held it until legal proceedings made them give it up.
A long vacancy followed before Rev. William Shepherd of Stewartstown (2nd) was installed on 23rd September 1874. He removed to Ballyroney where he was installed on 27th April 1880, and Rev. John Richard McCleery of Cootehill was settled here on 27th September 1880. He was not long here until he was called to Killyleagh (1st) where he was installed on 7th August 1883.
The sixth minister was Mr. Edward Ekin (lic. Tyrone), ordained 26th March 1884. It was said of Mr. Ekin that “his preaching was intense with a passion for souls”. After nine years he resigned on 26th July 1892 when he was called to Coagh. He was followed by Mr. William Martin (lic. Limavady) whose ordination took place on 22nd March 1893 and whose ministry was shorter still. He resigned on receiving a call to Second Randalstown on 8th October 1895 to be followed by Mr. William George Glasgow (lic. Tyrone) on 25th February 1896. Mr. Glasgow died in this charge on 25th January 1918.
Mr. Franklin Sidney King Jamison (lic. Newry) was the congregation’s next choice and after his ordination on 19 July 1918 he remained here till his death on 5th September 1942. He was followed by Mr. William Wilson (lic. Belfast) whose ordination was on 18th February 1943. Owing to ill-health he had to retire on 30th September 1959 and his successor was Mr. Ronald Joseph Wilson (lic. Belfast). Ordained on 3rd March 1960 he removed to Portstewart on 6th December 1967.
The Rev. Andrew Peden McComb, minister of the Church Extension charge of Craigavon, was then called and installed on 14th November 1968. Extensive property renovations took place during his early years and a new church hall was built in 1974. Mr. McComb became Convener of the General Assembly's Committee on Divine Healing and retired from the active ministry on 30th September 1981. The gallery of this church was adapted for use as a local History Gallery in 1980. Mr. McComb retired from First Dromara in 1981 and died in 13th October 2003. His successor, the Rev. Frank McKeown, formerly Assistant Minister at Rathcoole Presbyterian Church, was installed in 1982 and resigned on 7th December 1987 when called to Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church.
The present minister, the Rev. Shaw Thompson, who was ordained in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards on 1stFebruary 1987, was installed at First Dromara on 14th April 1989. During Mr. Thompson’s ministry the church has witnessed a growth of 50%. A new manse was built in 1991, and in 1994 the meetinghouse was renovated, carpeted and new heating and electrical fittings installed. A new hall and adjoining suite of rooms were opened on 1stJuly 2000 and a new car park added in 2003.
Short History of First Dromara Presbyterian Church (Published in the Dromore Leader on Wednesday 13th December 2006)
First Dromara congregation was originally part of Dromore. In 1713 the Synod of Ulster made it a separate congregation, annexing to it the townlands of Tullyniskey, Enock, Fedoney and Carnew, belonging to Magherally; and Kinallen, Leppock and the upper half of Ballykeel, belonging to Dromore congregation. The first minister, the Rev John Campbell, was ordained in December 1715. Mr Campbell was succeeded in turn by Rev John King (1726-1762), James Jackson Birch (1764-1816) and James Birch Black (1816-1823).
There is no information as to where the early ministers lived. The first manse that can be traced with certainty is Marybrook Farm, which the Rev James Jackson Birch purchased in November 1795 for £300.
The fifth minister, the Rev William Craig was installed in December 1823. When he went to Dromara the congregation, then one of the largest and richest in connection with the Synod of Ulster, worshipped in an old thatched church. The present Meeting House was built in 1826 at a total cost of £2,035. The largest contributor was the Rev William Craig who “forgave” stipend to the extent of £272 - more than three years income. The old meetinghouse and session-house was sold for £68. After leaving the manse at Marybrook, Mr Craig moved to Pine Hill where he lived until a manse was built at Tullyniskey in 1858 at a cost of £600.
Mr Craig died in December 1871 and the congregation was much disturbed by disputes as to his successor. The minority of the congregation, backed by the General Assembly wanted an immediate settlement. A majority party however, wanted to wait until a student called William Wilson had completed his studies and was available for a call in 1873. They took possession of the church, during which time the minority party held services in a barn granted by Joseph Bell of Bellfield.
In February 1874 the majority party held a meeting at which resolutions were passed renouncing their connection with the General Assembly and expressing their desire to be received into the Reformed Presbyterian Church. On the advice of the Presbytery they decided to withdraw from First Dromara Church building in May 1874 and worshipped in the open air during the Sabbaths of June. A wooden hall, erected in a plot of ground across the road from the church, was opened in July 1874. Their first minister, the Rev Torrens Boyd was installed in February 1875 and the present Reformed Presbyterian Church was opened in February 1877.
As a result of the split, First Dromara congregation was reduced to only 55 families. The sixth minister, the Rev William Shepherd was installed in September 1874. He left in April 1880 and was succeeded in turn by the Rev John Richard McCleery (1880-1883), Rev Edward Ekin (1884-1892), Rev William Martin (1893-1895), Rev William George Glasgow (1896-1918), Rev Franklin Sidney King Jamison (1918-1942), Rev William Wilson (1943-1959) and Rev Ronald Joseph Wilson (1960-1967). During the early years of the Rev Andrew Peden McComb (1968-1981) extensive property renovations took place; a new church hall was built in 1974 and the gallery of the church was adapted for use as a local History Gallery in 1980. Mr McComb was followed by the Rev Frank McKeown (1982-1987).
The present minister, the Rev Shaw Thompson was installed in April 1989 and during his ministry the church has witnessed a growth of 50%. The 1858 manse at Tullyniskey, now a listed building, was sold in July 1989 and a new manse was opened in December 1990. In 1994 the Meeting House was renovated, carpeted and new heating and electrical fittings installed. A new hall and adjoining suite of rooms were opened in July 2000 and a new car park added in 2003.
The above short history was compiled with the assistance of the Rev Shaw Thompson and the Rev Prof Robert McCollum from a book entitled ‘A History of Congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’ and a booklet entitled ‘1st Dromara Presbyterian Church 1713-1963’ by Aiken McClelland.