Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Reflections

Today is St Patrick’s Day (17th March) but it comes in the midst of our growing awareness of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Among other things it looks like this virus is going to put the normal operation of churches out of action. Earlier today the Church of England announced the suspension of its Sunday services and a number of other denominations in Britain and Ireland have since followed suit. In their letter the Archbishops of Canterbury and York talk of putting less emphasis on weekly worship and more emphasis on giving daily prayers and support to those around us. I am sure this is a model that others will take up and although we face a lot of difficulties there are ways we can develop new forms of ministry that reach out to people and provide meaningful support in these testing times.

I uploaded a video to our new You Tube channel reflecting on this situation:

 

Over the weekend before St Patrick’s Day, in our Downpatrick Church, we had to take down the venerable old horse chestnut that stood at the back of the church. Sadly it was rotten in many places and was becoming a danger. Its age has been estimated at 300 years, so it is probably as old as the church itself. You can see the growth rings in the side view of the trunk telling us of the changing patterns of growth in each different year. It had surveyed the world through rebellion, industrial revolution, famine, two world wars and all the countless human experiences that have gone on in the church, as well as provide generations of children with conkers. We will now have to consider planting new trees to replace it.

Tree 02

Tree 01

From the Archives

Clough Flower Service 1954

Clough 1956 01

James Robinson lent me this Calendar from Clough dating to 1956. As the caption says it shows the Sunday School before the Flower Service in July 1954. I think the Rev George Buckley made a Calendar for each year he was minister of Ballee and Clough and I will search out any more of them that we can post online. But this one is particularly interesting because it shows the members of the Sunday School. The Flower Service was an important annual service in Clough in those days and many members remember it. Mr Buckley took the picture one year and used it in the Calendar eighteen months later. I am sure everyone in the photo can be identified and a great many of them are regular attenders in the church to this day. It would be nice to put a name to each of the children so that we can post those online too.

Clough 1956 02

 

Downpatrick: Then and Now

I am grateful to Mary Stewart and Thelma Lowry for the next image which is of the interior of Downpatrick in 1967 immediately following its previous renovation and redecoration in the 1960s. This picture was taken on the day of Thelma’s wedding in the church:

Church renovations 1967

As can be seen the colour scheme is quite different to what we are used to today as this picture taken by Down County Museum in 2014 shows:

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In the five years since this picture was taken a number of features have changed, including the addition of furniture and wall plaques. The ‘Squire’s Gallery’ is tidier too! But there is a different feel entirely to the interior, which is believed to be one much closer to the original interior of 1711.

Christmas Events at Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough

In December we had a number of successful special events beginning with the Downpatrick Table Quiz at the Lakeside Inn on Saturday, 7th December. There were 80 – 90 people present and £781.50 was raised for church funds.

Downpatrick Table Quiz

Picking the prizes for the draw 

On Wednesday, 11th December we held our joint Candlelight Carol Service this year at Ballee. John Strain was the organist and once again we were delighted to welcome the Laganvale Ensemble under the direction of Gareth Downey to play for us. Equal numbers of readers from all three churches took part and were: Robert Neill, Eleanor Baha, Thomas Rooney, Elsie Nelson, Sarah Rooney, Mary Stewart, Sophia Cleland, Eve Lightbody, and Donna Lightbody.

Ballee Candlelight Carol Service 2019 band 01

Laganvale Ensemble preparing for the Candlelight Carol Service at Ballee

Ballee Candlelight Carol Service 2019 readers

The readers at the Candlelight Carol Service

Clough Church held their Christmas Carol Service on Sunday, 15th December when the service was led by the children of the Sunday School who provided readings, poems, songs and solos to retell the Christmas story.

Clough Carol Service 01

Clough children at the Carol Service

The Sunday School led the Ballee Carol Service on Sunday, 22nd December at the end of which everyone was delighted to receive a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

Ballee Carol Service

Santa comes to Ballee

At the Downpatrick Carol Service on 22nd December the Sunday School made a presentation to Bertie Taylor of £1,000 raised for the life-changing operation needed by nine year old Ben Taylor. Bertie gave the congregation an update on Ben’s progress since his operation and thanked everyone for their support.

Downpatrick Carol Service 2019

Participants in the Downpatrick Carol Service together with members of the Taylor family (Photo: Mary Stewart)

Buildings of South County Down

I was very pleased to be among those invited to the launch of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s  new book Buildings of South County Down at Ballydugan Mill on 1st May 2019. It is a splendid book written by Philip Smith and beautifully illustrated throughout in colour by Alan Turkington. It describes itself as not claiming ‘to be an exhaustive record of its particular area, but rather a selection giving a broad overview of the built heritage of the southern half of Down’ and it is a very comprehensive collection of significant buildings both large and small, public and private.

Ballydugan Mill on the day of the book launch

The churches section numbers 25 buildings and contains no less than three Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches which is a very significant representation and indicates the historical importance of what is, nevertheless, quite a small denomination. Both Downpatrick and Clough feature in the book, the Clough meeting house being photographed just before its recent repainting which means it doesn’t look its best but that can’t be helped. Leafing through the book it is interesting to see the number of other buildings that have a link with Downpatrick and Clough churches – the Murland Mausoleum has a photograph and a number of houses appear which were once the homes of prominent members including the homes of the Murlands themselves and the nearby houses of Nutgrove and Mount Panther, once the dwelling places of leading members of the church. Both Nutgrove and Mount Panther are painted on the First World War memorial in Clough.


Dr Edward McParland, Vice-President of Ulster Architectural Heritage introduces the book

The book contains much information that is new to me. I didn’t know that the now ruined but still impressive edifice of Mount Panther was named after the ‘local legend of the “Great Cat of Clough” a monstrous feline said to have once terrorized the area’. I also did not know anything about Marlborough House which seems to have originally been built by Rev Thomas Nevin sometime before 1728. The entry on the Downpatrick Church states that ‘the church is said to have been built in 1711 at the beginning of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin’ but it seems clear from the presbytery minutes that the new building and the new ministry did coincide quite closely. However, one interesting thing about Marlborough House is that it was built quite near to the site of the original seventeenth-century meeting house, although Buildings of South County Down says that Nevin acquired the land from Brice Magee, a local apothecary, so it can’t have been the site of the original manse.

The other Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in the book is Rademon which has a number of very attractive photographs included with its account. The photograph of the interior of Downpatrick taken by Alan Turkington did not make the final cut but it is interesting to look at the interiors of Downpatrick and Rademon. Although the buildings are separated by over 75 years and it is not at all difficult to differentiate one from the other it is instructive to compare the two interiors which are very similar in layout and design and probably also dimensions:

Interior of Downpatrick (Photo: Alan Turkington)
Interior of Rademon (Photo: Alan Turkington) page 30

But the book contains much more than churches. As well as houses (grand, middling-sized and small) there are antiquities and fortification, public buildings, commercial buildings, follies, monuments and memorials. Anyone who enjoys looking at the built environment around them will enjoy this book and find plenty to enlighten them about buildings in the locality of south Down.

Postcard from Downpatrick. Then and Now

In the last post I included a scan of a newly acquired postcard of Newry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. It is one of only a handful of Edwardian postcards featuring Non-Subscribing Presbyterian (NSP) churches. In this post I include a scan of a postcard which I purchased a few years ago but which is one of the rarest to feature NSP churches:

Downpatrick Postcard

I have never seen another example of this postcard of the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick. It has not been posted but was published by Lawrence Publisher of Dublin, probably c.1905. It is a colourised image, although it is not badly done, but that does suggest that there may also be ‘Real Photographic’ copies of the same postcard. The same publisher also produced postcards of the Cathedral and St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Downpatrick. Not surprisingly the various views of the Cathedral are very common, it being a popular tourist destination because it houses St Patrick’s grave. The postcard featuring St Patrick’s Catholic Church is far less common but not as rare as the picture of the nearby Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

The archive of the publisher of this postcard is held in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) in Dublin. There they hold 40,000 glass plate negatives made by the Lawrence studio between 1870 and 1914 of places all over Ireland. Over 19,000 images in the Lawrence Collection have been digitised and can be viewed online. The Collection includes six images that are labelled as depicting Unitarian churches. This is how most of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches would have been known at the time but although this list includes Downpatrick, Newry (a different, wider view than the one in the previous post by an unknown publisher), Comber and Dromore, it also includes pictures of what the catalogue claims to be the Unitarian churches of Kilkeel and Portadown, indeed Unitarian is written on the photographic plate of the Kilkeel image. However, since there has never been a Unitarian/Non-Subscribing church in either place this is clearly an error. In fact the Kilkeel church has a visible date stone of 1832 which also names it as The Church of the United Brethren. However, in addition to the four correctly identified churches there is also a fifth example of an NSP church in what the catalogue calls the Presbyterian Hall, Larne but which is labelled on the plate as the ‘Old Presbyterian House, Larne’.

The image of Downpatrick which is now held in the National Library of Ireland was reproduced in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian magazine of July 1909 where it was attributed to Baird of Belfast:

Downpatrick July 1909

Inevitably, because it is taken from a magazine, this image is a lot less clearer than the image held in Dublin but it is an identical picture, even including the same title and identification code of ‘1697 W.L.’ which is cropped from the printed postcard. It also has an addition in the bottom right hand corner where the words ‘Baird, Belfast’ have been added.

The online digital image which can be seen on the NLI site is mostly very sharp (there is some blurring of the foliage) but you can clearly see the eighteenth-century foot scraper on the main steps into the church. However, in the colourised postcard and the magazine image this kind of detail is lost. But still the original is not a bad image. It is strange though the degree to which the ivy was allowed to run riot on such an ancient building. All of this was removed a long time ago. It is amazing how much cleaner the meeting-house looks without ivy creeping around it and these following photos, taken in 2008 (above) and 2017 (below), give a good contrast to the Edwardian postcard and show details such as the foot scraper and some of the other changes that have taken place around the building in recent years.

Downpatrick ext 2008

The Church in 2008

Downpatrick26Nov2017 02

The Church in 2017

 

Downpatrick Postcard crop

Detail from the postcard c.1905

Downpatrick entrance gates September 1909

The view from the gates to the church. From the ‘Non-Subscribing Presbyterian’ magazine, September 1909

 

Mausolea in Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough

The three Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches of Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough each possess interesting graveyards housing the last resting places of centuries of church members, including many notable figures. The graveyards are remarkable too for the wide variety of tombs, stones and other memorials. Of especial note are the mausolea mostly dating from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries.

Downpatrick has a large number of what Professor James Stevens Curl describes (in Mausolea in Ulster, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1978) as being of ‘the barrel-vaulted variety, rather like a Nissen-hut’. These type of tombs appear to be local to the Downpatrick area, there are other examples in the locality but the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Stream Street has the largest number of examples of them, tombs built by local merchants including the Potter, Morrison, Quail, Rowan and Gordon families. The Quail tomb is dated 1800. The Morrison family tomb is located in the graveyard exactly opposite the house on Stream Street where the family then lived, so every day they gazed out of the window at a rather stark reminder of their own mortality.

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Downpatrick tomb, possibly that of the Potter family

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Quail family tomb

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Gordon family tomb

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Morrison family tomb opposite their residence

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Downpatrick tomb, inscription not legible

There is another example of such a tomb at Ballee.

Ballee across graveyard 2004 04

Side view of the tomb at Ballee

Of particular interest to architectural historians are the two tombs at Downpatrick described by Professor Curl as consisting:

of square bases, with panelled sides, surmounted by pyramids having concave sides derived from early mausolea in the Kedron Valley, Jerusalem.

The link with the Kedron Valley is particularly intriguing.

Dpk M 08

Dpk M 09

The two concave tombs at Downpatrick ‘derived from early mausolea in the Kedron Valley, Jerusalem’

But by far the grandest tomb is to be found at Clough. Professor Curl describes it as:

A work of Victorial funerary architecture in full bloom…The grand ‘Order’ of consoles instead of pilasters or columns; the massive vermiculated rustication of the entrance; the shrouded urns; and the remnants of neoclassical form give an indication of the ‘fat atmosphere’ of funerals so typical of opulent burial in the nineteenth century…The funeral pomp of the Murland mausoleum at Clough is something one might expect to find in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise or in one of the great American cemeteries, rather than in a small rural churchyard in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne.

The Murland family were local mill owners and members of the church at Clough. The Memorial at Clough is now in need of conservation and the Follies Trust is hoping to tackle this in forthcoming months. On Wednesday, 13th March 2019 there will be a public lecture at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church at 7.30 pm by Dr Finbar McCormick on the topic of ‘Mausolea & Memorials to the dead in Ireland’. Everyone is welcome and the talk will be followed by refreshments.

Dr McCormick is a senior lecturer in the School of the Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University, Belfast and former Chair of the Discovery Programme. The Follies Trust writes:

The talk will look at the history and development of memorials to the dead in Ireland and beyond. It will show how the Reformation changed people’s attitude to commemorating the dead and will demonstrate how Presbyterianism in Scotland played such an important role in the development of the modern mausoleum. Dr McCormick will also show how classical ideas had such an influence on mausoleum design as can be seen in the magnificent Murland mausoleum at Clough. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society list describes the mausoleum as ‘the phenomenal Murland vault of about 1860, furnished with all the pompe funebre of the classical manner, with trimmings.’ It was designed by Thomas Turner and is a fine example of the genre.

The Follies Trust leaflet contains illustrations of the tomb and information on how to make a donation to the project if you wish. It can be downloaded from this link:

Follies Mausoleum Flyer

 

Christmas in Lecale 2018

Some images from the Christmas services and special events at Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches.

Clough Carol Service  01.jpg

Participants in the Clough Carol Service

(click here for more pictures from Clough Carol Service)

Ballee Christmas 2018 02

Ballee Christmas 2018 03

Santa visits Ballee following the Carol Service

Downpatrick Christmas 2018 01

Choir singing in the Downpatrick Carol Service

Downpatrick Christmas party 02Downpatrick Christmas party 05

Downpatrick Christmas party

Clough Christmas party 09

Clough Christmas party

(click here for more pictures from Clough Christmas party)

Candlelight Carol Service at Clough

This year’s joint Candlelight Carol Service between Clough, Ballee and Downpatrick congregations was held on Wednesday, 12th December at Clough. We were again delighted to welcome the Laganvale Ensemble and their conductor Gareth Downey to lead our worship. The Christmas story was re-told through a succession of readings which were given by readers from each of the churches – Thomas Rooney, Elsie Nelson, Sarah Rooney, Sophia Cleland, Marion Moffett, Jayne Caven, Tierna Kelly, Annabel Cleland, and Mary Stewart. Alfie McClelland played the organ. It was a wonderful evening, the sound of the band filled the church most effectively.

Candlelight Band 02

The band playing during the service

Candlelight Readers 01

All the readers on the evening plus the band with conductor Gareth on the right and organist Alfie on the left

Candlelight Band rehearsing01

The band rehearsing before the service

Dedication of the Roll of Honour

Dedication Downpatrick 18th November 2018 table 03

Decoration around communion table

Dedication Downpatrick Order of Service

Order of Service

On Sunday, 18th November the First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick hosted the service for the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the dedication of the new Roll of Honour of all the men and women who served in the war.

Dedication Downpatrick 18th November 2018 table 01

The service included Biblical readings as well as poetry from the First World War and extracts from the diaries and writings of Nurse Emma Duffin and Captain J.S. Davidson, who was killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme. Laura Patterson was the organist, Jack Steers played the Last Post while Laura Neill played a lament on the pipes after the dedication of the Roll and at the start of the service.

Dedication Downpatrick 18th November 2018

Some of those taking part in the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

Those who took part in the service included (left to right) Rev Paul Reid (Larne) who led the congregation in prayer, Jeffrey Martin who read the extracts concerning Captain Davidson, Rev Brian Moodie (Dromore) who read from the diary of Emma Duffin, Rt Rev Colin Campbell (Moderator, Holywood and Ballyclare) who dedicated the Roll, Rev Dr David Steers (Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough) who conducted the service, Rev Rosalind Taggart (Templepatrick) who read John ch.15 v.1-17, Rev Norman Hutton (Newry, Banbridge and Warrenpoint) who preached, Laura Neill who played the bagpipes and Sue Steers who read In Flanders Fields. The Rev Bridget Spain (Dublin – not shown in picture) read Micah ch.4 v.1-5.

Dedication Downpatrick 18th November 2018 poster

Poster, including picture of Downpatrick Church member Rifleman John Hayes, supplied by Richard Edgar

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Some images from before and after the service (Photos: Jeffrey Martin and Mary Stewart)

 

Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

The Roll of Honour for the First World War of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland is now ready and will be dedicated at the service at Downpatrick on Sunday, 18th November at 3.00 pm.

Everyone is welcome at the service which will also commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The Roll contains an introduction and two sections. The first is a list, by congregation, of all the men and women, with their service details where known, who are known to have served in the First World War. The second part is an alphabetical list of all those who gave their lives in the Great War. The book runs to 50 pages and everyone who attends the service at Downpatrick will receive a complimentary copy. Thereafter the book will be available for purchase at a cost of £5 (postage not included). All profits from sales of the book will go to the Poppy Appeal and Help for Heroes.

Front Cover 02

Front Cover

Back Cover 02

Back Cover

Service to Commemorate the Centenary

of the end of the First World War and

Dedication of the Roll of Honour

in memory of all the men and women of the

Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

who served or gave their lives in the Great War

Sunday, 18th November 3.00 pm

at the

First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Stream Street, Downpatrick