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Drooth, dreams and temperance

The Digger looks back at the thorny issue of alcohol and the church

The Cruiskeen Lawn Whiskey jug that helped quench the drooth of some of the Fourscore men.
The Cruiskeen Lawn Whiskey jug that helped quench the drooth of some of the Fourscore men.

ON the 6th April, 1816 it was reported by the Belfast Newsletter that the innkeeper at Dundrod, David Mairs, lost the thatched roof from his dwelling house and adjoining barn during what was described as a "singular weather phenomenon."

The report states that "a severe shower of hail, accompanied with loud peals of thunder, a body of matter was observed resembling a little dark cloud stretching itself to the ground and wreathing like that part of a water-spout which may be seen in a fluctuating state before it bursts."

Some of the thatch from Mr. Mair's homestead was located three quarters of a mile away.

Almost 20 years later the Ordnance Survey Memoirs make a brief reference to the "hamlet of Dundrod" and informs us that Dundrod "is merely a collection of 12 dirty-looking cottages and one two-storey house occupied as a whiskey shop."

The only public building is the Presbyterian Meeting House, which was erected in 1827.

The Ordnance Survey memoir writer makes the observation that in the surrounding district "all classes are industrious, peaceable, honest and obliging, frugal and charitable. They are rather given to whiskey drinking and generally on quitting places of worship resort to the alehouse, an establishment which is always to be found in the immediate vicinity of meeting houses and chapels "

The Dundrod alehouse may have survived what could be termed as an "act of God" in 1816, but it would be eventually closed down by "a man of God" almost 40 years later.

The first minister at Dundrod, William Loughridge, was succeeded by William Magill in 1840. The local alehouse was a thorn in his side and there was friction between himself and members of the orange lodge in the area - LOL 73. This lodge had been in existence some 30 years prior to the establishment of the Meeting House in the area. The Rev Magill was reported to be instrumental in the removal of the public house, much to the annoyance of some of the local brethren.

After the public house was closed the Orangemen built a hall in the vicinity of the Meeting House and the Rev. Magill records that it served as " a rallying point for the brethren, who, night after night met with fife and drum, and noisy clamour to annoy the quiet dwellers in their homes...."

He further added - "I have never been a favourite with the Orangemen of the District as I had been instrumental in suppressing a public-house at the gate of our church in which they were in the habit of assembling and had long been an intolerable nuisance. During the Religious Revival of 1859 the Rev Magill noticed a change in attitude on the part of the local Orangemen. He had been asked to hold a prayer meeting in the newly erected Orange Hall, also officiating to them on the 12th of July that year.

In May 1903 it was reported that a visitation of the Dundrod Presbyterian congregation by the Templepatrick Presbytery took place during the ministry of the Rev. James Little. It concluded with congratulations from the visitation to "the congregation on their position in relation to the temperance question." The Rev. Little was succeeded by David Corkey in 1911. A notebook in the possession of his grandchildren includes an interesting passage relating to a dream he had in 1913. He may well have been keeping the notes to use in a future sermon.

"Saturday, 16th August, 1913, Dreamed last night I was arranging for a party in the Manse -one or two coming over who were great friends of mine but who take a little drink - they hinted that I must have a little for them if they come. So I thought I would get a little just for them - bought a long bottle of whiskey with a sealed cork in it - then began to puzzle how I would give it to those who wanted it.

"It would never do to open it amongst them all. I could feel how vexed Mr. Kennedy would be and how he would look at me pouring it out, so I decided to have it in another room by itself to which I could invite those who took it. But then I began to feel that some of the young men who had never yet tasted it would begin to slip out for a smoke perhaps and go in and take some drink for the fun. Then if any of them turned out drunkards they would always be casting it up to me and others saying 'I got my first drink in the Manse'. So I decided I would have no drink no mater who I offended. I took up the bottle, went out, swung it over my head and smashed it against a wall and sent word to those who had wanted it that I would have no drink but I hoped that they would come to the party all the same."

The Temperance movement would have been pleased with his actions. They had a different battle on their hands during the First World War. In 1918 adverts were appearing in the local press inviting reader to sign up to the Ulster Temperance Reformers movement and to attend the 'Great Prohibition Demonstration in the Orange Hall, Lisburn on Thursday, 28th February' during Ulster Prohibition week. It was a hard hitting campaign advertisement - "To save ships - we are cutting down on munitions, meat, bread, sugar, we are slowing down America's Army, then why in the name of Heaven is drink using one million tons of shipping this year?" It appears that LOL 73 at Dundrod took on the title of a temperance lodge. That move appears to have won favour with the ministry in Dundrod and the Rev. Corkey became a member of the Institution.

In 1927 members of the Dundrod Temperance LOL 73, agreed to put a portrait of the Rev. D.S. Corkey on their banner. The unfurling ceremony was performed by Mrs. William Corkey on Wednesday 6th July, 1927.

It was reported that George Thompson, JP, WM presided at the ceremony and paid tribute to the Rev. Corkey, who he said "exerted a great influence as a member of the Orange Institution after he returned from the war. Their new banner would perpetuate the memory of the best friend they ever had.

It was reported that on the 10th January 1925, LOL 351, another lodge in the immediate district would also take on the temperance title. It was renamed Ballydonaghy Temperance.

Today, you could pay a hefty sum at auction for an empty Cruiskeen Lawn Whiskey jug. There is one I know of in the district bearing the Belfast company name of Mitchell . These jars, made by Midland pottery, contained a blended whiskey. An empty jar was useless to some of the Orange brethren of the Fourscore - LOL 340.That lodge did not follow the example of LOL 73 and 351 in their quest for temperance.

A long day in the fields followed by a long walk or bicycle rice to the monthly lodge meeting at the Fourscore was trying for any man. If you had known where to look in that area some 100 years ago you may well have found the Cruiskeen whiskey jar secreted by a sympathetic local for the benefit of quenching the 'drooth of a few of the local brethren. That same jar is on display in one of the homes in the district. It has been empty for many a day and the men who discreetly availed of its contents are all gone.

Thanks again to the granddaughters of the Rev. Corkey for their assistance in preparing this article and permitting access to family documents.

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