Our History Chapter 6 2017-03-21T13:46:06+00:00

OUR HERITAGE

 

Loughaghery Presbyterian Church

1750-1988

 

CHOIR

The first mention of choir was in “The Witness” on August 2nd 1895, when after the renovations, the choir space, which I have previously mentioned, was described in that paper. But in the first half of the 1800’s there was a precentor – Thomas Gracey. He is mentioned in connection with the Communion services and was paid 7s. 7d. for the extra work involved at that time.

 
There was no choir at that time, he, alone led the singing. There is no evidence to show when Thomas Gracey left the scene, but the next precentor mentioned was John Andrews of Clintagh. He was paid £8 yearly and resigned in 1911, but whether there was a choir or not is not clear.
 
 Money was apparently very scarce, for in March 1908 Mr. Andrews wrote to the Committee to say he had not received any salary for 1907 and that 3s. 3d. was owing from 1906. To meet this bill the committee arranged a special service. Rev. Gregg, Dromara preached at it on 18th June 1908. They had three hundred tickets printed and sold at six-pence each as well as special collectors. In future it was decided to collect from house to house for the precentor, at a time when no other collections, as stipend, sustentation or pew-rents were made.
 
From 1911 until 1920 there seems to have been no precentor, maybe they couldn’t get anyone. I am told Mr. R.W. Beatty, who had been in Anahilt, but had some dispute there, helped out at times, but he eventually went back to Anahilt.In 1920 Mr. W.E. Hawthorne, Cargycroy, was appointed at a salary of £15 yearly, and certainly by that time there was a choir. According to records he was asked to come along one night weekly and train any young people interested in music. W.E. Hawthorne was a character, but a born musician. He used a tuning fork, which gave the note middle C and from that he could transpose it into whatever key the tune was set in.
 
Usually he sang bass, and sometimes tenor, of if the sopranos were weak he joined them. One little weakness he had was arriving late, leaving the choir struggling on their own. On these occasions as soon as he came into the aisle he started singing, and sang right down to the front. But he was excused these lapses as he had his own problems, being a widower with four young children.
 
I remember one Sunday Mr. Moorhead had announced the Psalm and verses to be sung. The choir got to their feet but Mr. Hawthorne corrected Mr. Moorhead about the singing. I can still see Mr. Moorhead looking down at him over his glasses, and saying in his forthright way “Get on with your work.” There was nothing for Mr. Hawthorne to do but get his tuning fork going.
 
As a token of gratitude Mr. Hawthorne received a cheque for £22 at a social on 18th January 1929. This had been specially collected from the congregation.
09MrsIScott {Mrs. I. Scott with Miss M. Irvine, who has been a choir member for seventy-two years.}
As previously mentioned hymns were first introduced in 1938 under Rev. Creelman’s leadership. In 1942 the first organ was installed, after much deliberation and discussion and after a congregational vote by a majority of seven.

It was a pedal organ and it was dedicated on a beautiful mid-summer’s day – 21st June 1942, amid a great feeling of excitement. The choir sang two anthems, “How amiable are thy Dwellings” and “As pants the Hart” to packed houses. Mr. Robert Moorhead played for the opening Sunday. Miss Nora Moorhead was the first organist for five years until her marriage in 1947 at a salary of £26 yearly.
She was succeeded by Mr. W. H. Adams, Lisburn at £40 yearly. It was in Mr. Adams’ time that the present pipe organ was installed in 1951. It came from Mulavilly Church of Ireland, and our little organ went to Ballynahinch Congregational Church. Mr. Adams left in 1955 and our present organist Mrs. Isabel Scott began work, thirty-three years ago.

On 13th December 1981 the new choir room was opened, a wild snowy evening. To help with funds the choir beforehand held Sales in Lisburn Markets, started the collection of waste paper and held concerts. Our first effort was a -party on New Year’s night 1979. Everyone in the congregation got a printed invitation, but unfortunately the weather was unfavourable, roads were blocked with snow and temperatures were very sub-zero around minus 15. Fifty people turned up; we had an enjoyable night despite the snow and so began the Choir Room Fund.

The clock in the Choir Room was given by Jean Stewart (nee Scott) a previous choir member in memory of her parents. A plaque was donated in memory of Jim Eddie by his family. Jim had been a member of the choir since he was a lad of twelve until his final illness. Mr. & Mrs. Fred Clarke presented the blue curtains at the organ and choir seats at the same time.

Another person worthy of note is Minnie Irvine. She was a member for over seventy years from the age of twelve until lately, surely that must be a record.
10Committee {Committee & Session, January 1952.
Back Row: T. Gourley, J. McKibbin, D. Kirk, R. Irvine, D. Campbell, O. Green, W.J. Rainey, J. Murdock, R. Bell, Wallace Beatty.
Front Row: S. Rutherford, H. Scott, J. Eddie, J. Scott, Rev. J.H. Rankin, W. Irvine, S. Bell, J. McDonald, W. Rutherford, F. Magowan}
 
11ChoirRoom {Mr.McConaghy & Mrs. Scott in the new Choir Room, 1981}
12Elders {Elders in 1966 T. Gourley, T. Mitchell, J. Eddie, Rev. A. Crooks, S. Bell, R. Irvine. B. Graham}
 
The following lovely poem has a flavour of romance about it with choir connections.
The Old Elm Tree.
In Loughaghery Churchyard,
Where many memories lie,
There grows erect, majestic
A stately elm tree.
Its arms widespread extended,
Sweet cumbrous in the blast,
And lie in lazy dullness
When boreas has passed.Its graceful towering dome top
An airy lightness bears,
The golden tints of autumn
Its fading foliage wears,
Its trunk, its bole, its heavy limbs
Are massive as can be,
You couldn’t find a grander
Than our old elm tree.
One evening in the gloaming
At night the choir met,
For fun, as well as singing
Sweet times we’ll ne’er forget.
In sauntering slowly down the green,
I happened for to see
A maiden fair trip lightly
And hide behind the tree.

I thought she might be coaxing
But then it might be fun,
What tempted her, on seeing me,
Behind the tree to run.

Or else she thought to shun me
And wanted to be free
broke through all my shyness
And crept behind the tree.The tree became a trysting place
We met as lovers do,
We often sat beneath its shade
Our friendship to renew;
Sly cupid smote us sorely
That maiden fair and me
Then waved her wand and pointed
To the Church beside the tree.
Those long gone days are vivid
Their memory’s ever green
The days of youthful innocence
When love’s first blush is seen,
The winter snows are on us now,
And happy still are we
We bless the night when first we met
Beneath the elm tree.

And when this little flicker’s gone
That shades so dim a light,
When life’s frail curtain is withdrawn
That hides the day from night.
They’ll lay us gently in the dust,
Fulfilling God’s decree
To sleep the sleep of blessed hope
Beside the old elm tree.

(Author unknown)

 
 13Elm Tree
 
14Choir
15Choir2