Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970

Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970 

“Our greatest need is for a larger sense of responsibility for our church and her welfare on the part of every church member and more workers, more people, who are prepared to give their time and talents to the work of God and the service of their fellows in this place.”

(Refer to: Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary, History of the Congregation, p60) (Quote by, Rev. John Worthington Johnston. This man of God was installed in the Townsend Presbyterian Church on 28th March 1935. He was a Chaplain in the Parachute Regiment 1939-45.   When at war Professor J. Wilson took charge of the congregation. The quote above was written in a letter by the Rev. Captain John Worthington Johnston in 1945. The Rev. Worthington Johnston also wrote a book of poetry called, “The poems of a Parachute Padre”, first published in Belfast in 1943).

The door into the Church – Is still open in 2016


General Timeline for the history of the Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833-1970* *The Church still continues in its work to the present day  
    • 1833 – October 22nd - The Foundation Stone of the old church building is laid down by the Marquis of Donegall. Rev, George Belis opened the special ceremony, Rev. Dr. Hanna offered up a prayer and Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke delivered an address. Rev. Dr. Morgan concluded with prayer and the benediction. These ministers were all famous figures in 19th Century Belfast. “The company had not left the ground when there appeared a very beautiful rainbow – one of the most perfect we ever saw – which seemed suspended, as it was undoubtedly over the spot thus dedicated.”  Newspaper report quoted in, Rev. James McCaw Townsend Street Presbyterian Church Belfast, 1833-1933, p16.
 
    • 1835 – April 26th - The church was opened by Rev. Dr. Mcleod of Glasgow
 
    • 1836 – Rev. Josias Wilson of Drogheda becomes the first Minister
 
    • 1838 – The Church is re-opened by the Rev. Cooke and Rev. Morgan
 
    • 1841 – January 21st - The school buildings are opened
 
    • 1844 – October 28th - Rev. John Weir of Newry becomes the second Minister
 
    • 1847 – September 21st - Rev. William Johnston is installed as the new Minister
 
    • 1866 – January 1st – Henry Louden an elder of the church leaves to the church a generous gift of property for the orphans
 
    • 1876 – December 4th - The Townsend congregation is worshipping in the Working Men’s Institute as a new church is under construction
 
    • 1877 – August 25th – The foundation for the new church is laid and a speech is given by one Mr. John Sinclair from New York
 
    • 1877 – September 21st – Lecture hall and school buildings opened
 
    • 1878 – October 9th – The new church was completed and it cost an estimated sum of £11,210 13s 9d
 
    • 1879 – January – The Church Gate and the railing at the front of the Church were erected to remember Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston
 
    • 1892 – September Rev James McGranahan of Larne becomes the Minister of the Church
 
    • 1902 – June 17th Rev William Corkey from Cullybackey becomes the Minister of the Church
 
    • 1913 – Individual Communion Cups donated as a gift by Mr. R. McDowell
 
    • 1914 – February 8th – Stained Glass windows erected to the memory of Rev. William Johnston and Mrs. Sarah Johnston and to Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston and Mrs Frank Johnston by Mr. R.T. Martin. Further to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wallace by Mr. M. Luther Wallace. The windows were unveiled by the Rev. James McGranahan
 
    • 1920 – November 1st – Freewill offering system introduced
 
    • 1921 – November 13th Opening of Grand Organ and unveiling of Tablets in memory of the men from the Townsend Congregation who had volunteered to fight in the First World War 1914-18.  This point is noted in the work Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary History book, p10. “In the Nation’s hour of need Townsend Street Church played a part worthy of its great history. When the tocsin of war sounded in 1914 some 220 members of the congregation volunteered for active service of whom 36 made the supreme sacrifice. The congregation installed a Memorial Organ and Commemorative Tablet at a cost of £4000.”  Quote by Rev. Dr. T.J. Simpson Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly.
 
    • 1922 – March 15th - Stained glass window is erected by Mrs. R.T. Martin to the memory of her husband, Mr. R.T. Martin and her son Lieut. John S. Martin. This window was dedicated by the Rev. J.R. Prenter.
 
    • 1924 – July 9th - Rev. W.G. Wimperis becomes the Minister of the Church
 
    • 1930 – July – Restoration of the Church buildings. This is noted in the Church history, “The contractors for the stonework were Messrs. Dreyfus London, for the reconstruction, Messrs. Cairns, Belfast for the painting, Messrs Geo. Morrow and Son, Belfast and for the electrical work, Messrs. Graham and Zebedee, Belfast. Mr. W.J. MacGeagh, Ocean Buildings was the architect." (Refer to Townsend Street Presbyterian Street 150th Anniversary History of the Congregation, p46. This was a time in the history of Northern Ireland when there was an economic depression. The church raised in 1930 £5,000. This was quite a feat at the time. “Every organisation in connection with the church did its bit.”)
 
    • 1930 – October 30th – The reconstructed buildings are re-opened and used
 
    • 1932 – September 29th - Rev J.T. Hall is installed as the new Minister
 
    • 1935 – March 5th – Rev. John Worthington Johnston is called to Townsend Street to become the new Minister
 
    • 1939 – September 3rd - The Second World War begins. The Rev. J.W. Johnston volunteers for service as a Chaplain in the British Army
 
    • 1941 – The air raids over Belfast – The Belfast Blitz impacts upon the City of Belfast with deadly results.

      Blue plaque remembering Wilhelmina Geddes

 
    • 1943 - Rev. J.W. Johnston injured on war service
 
    • 1944 – April – The War Memorial Hall Fund is inaugurated
 
    • 1951- November 11th – Two War Memorial Tablets unveiled in memory of those who lost their lives by enemy action and to those who served in the War, whose names are inscribed thereon
 
    • 1952 – September – Rev. W.D.F. Marshall becomes the Minister of the Church
 
    • 1954 – June 6th – A Stained glass window is erected by the congregation to the memory of Rev. J.W. Johnston and is dedicated by the Rev. Principal J. E. Davey
 
    • 1965 – January 12th – The Rev. S.J. McCollum is installed as the new minister
 
    • 1970 – June 9th – Rev. W.M. Jackson becomes the new Minister
  As we have read since, 1833 this Church has worked for God in the area. By David N.K. Murphy, History Hub Ulster Member  

Messines: The Road to the Ridge

The Road to The Ridge #Messines100

At the start of 1917, both the 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) divisions were part of IX Corps in the British Second Army, commanded by General Plumer. The year 1916 had seen two of the three Kitchener divisions raised in Ireland taking hammerings in the Battle of the Somme and other engagements on the Western Front. Following the heavy losses, consideration was given to amalgamating the 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) divisions due, in part, to insufficient reserves and a drop-off in enlistment in Ireland. There were political and military objections to this move and it was abandoned. However, the divisions still had to be brought up to strength and this was achieved by drafting in men from, primarily, English regiments and both divisions received companies from the Channel Isles, segregated, of course! It is ironic that this decision resulted in both divisions losing their local identify during 1917.  This is apparent from a letter from Major Nugent to his wife dated 21st May 1917:

“I got a parcel of socks from Mrs Blackley in Cavan for the division but the scream of the matter is that Mrs Blackley sent them out through Lady MacDonald’s Committee instead of the Ulster one.” [Lady MacDonald’s Committee primarily provided comforts for the Irish Division.] “The dear ones of Ulster will become purple with indignation. The socks, of course, are contaminated and infected and unfit for an Ulsterman to wear, so I must give them to the Englishmen who compose nearly half of the ‘Ulster Division’!”

9th Royal Irish Fusiliers Football Team, Blacker's Boys

Football matches were played throughout the war and the team from 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers had a particularly fine record – they played 39 games, winning 30, scoring 137 goals and conceding 26.  On 25th April 1917, they defeated the team from 6th Connaught Rangers by 2 goals to nil, following that victory with 5 nil wins over the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 5th May and  the 7th/8th Royal Irish Fusiliers on 12th May 1917.  A newspaper report on one of the inter-divisional matches recorded one wag from the 9th as saying “I wonder whether we will be disciplined for fraternising with the enemy”.  This was an allusion to the political origins of the two divisions … they probably kicked lumps out of each other during the games, but a few weeks later they would be on the same side taking lumps out of the German Army! The Battle of Messines (7th to 14th June 1917) was a brilliantly planned and executed attack that resulted in the capture of the Wytschaete-Messines ridge south of Ypres, a feature that had given the British problems since 1914 and which was important to hold for future offensive operations in Flanders. It was one of the few successful stand-alone battles of the Great War. As usual, the battle was preceded by several days of heavy bombardments and the detonating of 22 mines under German trenches - four of mines failed to detonate, one in the ground over which the 16th (Irish) Division was to attack. IX Corps attacked the ridge over a frontage of 6,400 yards, with the 16th (Irish) Division in the centre and flanked by the 19th (Western) Division on their left and the 36th (Ulster) Division on their right. The 16th and 36th divisions captured the town of Wytschaete and the final consolidated line was, in places, 1000 yards beyond their final objectives – the “Black Line” from Lumm Farm on the map. Private Jack Christie from the Shankill area of Belfast, who had been a member of the UVF, was a stretcher bearer and said this of his comrades in the 16th division, “We should not allow politics to blind us to the truth about things, bravery and loyalty is not all on one side. We had the greatest respect for the 16th, except for the odd hardliner, but great regard for the 16th”. Another stretcher-bearer from the Ulster Division demonstrated that political allegiance had no place on the battlefield. Private John Meeke of the 11th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was awarded the Military Medal for rescuing Major Willie Redmond of the 16th Division – the Nationalist MP for East Clare, a member of Irish Volunteers and the brother of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Private Meeke, who had enlisted on 11th March 1916, was searching the battlefield for the wounded when he happened to see Major Redmond fall. Despite heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, Meeke made his way to Redmond’s position to render assistance, taking shelter in shell holes and other cover on the way. He arrived at the Major’s side without injury, and found him seriously wounded in the left knee and right arm at the elbow and weak from loss of blood. Meeke had one of the wounds dressed, and was working at the other, when a piece of shrapnel struck him on the left side, inflicting a serious wound. He was hit a second time but this did not deter him from his work, which he completed despite his injury. Meeke disobeyed a direct order from Major Redmond to leave him and struggled across the battlefield with his charge until he met up with Lieutenant Charles Paul and a party from the 11th Royal Irish Rifles who were escorting German prisoners to the rear. Together they got Major Redmond to the casualty clearing station located in the Catholic Hospice at Locre but he died later that afternoon.  John Meeke’s brother, Samuel, died of acute pulmonary tuberculosis on 19th January 1919, a fortnight after arriving home, and his grave in Derrykeighan Old Graveyard is marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. John Meeke was discharged due to wounds on 23rd June 1919, aged 25, with Silver War Badge number 506596 and died on 7th December 1923, being buried close to Samuel, whose headstone records John’s death. More recently, a public subscription organised by Robert Thompson resulted in the erection of a headstone to record details of John Meeke’s act of heroism.

Battle of Messines fatalities

Whilst it is always difficult to accurately determine fatalities for a particular engagement or battle, the following are details of fatalities between 7th and 14th June 1917 where the men are buried or memorialised in Belgium. It does not include men who died of wounds in the days and weeks after the end of the battle and, whilst there were also men who died of wounds in France during the period of the battle (for example Second Lieutenant Brian Boyd MM of the 14th Royal Irish Rifles), they have not been included as it is not always possible to identify whether the wounds were incurred during the battle or preceding the battle. British forces incurred 3,835 fatalities during the period of the battle, of which 383 (or 10%) came from the eight Irish infantry regiments, and Dominion forces suffered 2,075 fatalities. There would, undoubtedly, have been Irishmen and Ulstermen who died with the Dominion forces and with non-Irish regiments in the British Army. Of the 383 fatalities from the Irish infantry regiments, 144 were from the 16th Division, 186 from the 36th Division, with the remaining 53 being from regular battalions of the Leinster Regiment (24th Division) and Royal Irish Rifles (25th Division). For the 16th Division fatalities, 24 men were born in the province of Ulster, 56 were born in Great Britain, Guernsey and Malta, and 64 were born in other parts of Ireland – 39% of the fatalities were not born in Ireland. For the 36th Division fatalities, 103 men were born in the province of Ulster, 66 were born in Great Britain, two were born in the United States of America, and 15 were born in other parts of Ireland – 36% of the fatalities were not born in Ulster. For the 24th and 25th divisions, 15 men were born in the province of Ulster, 22 were born in other parts of Ireland, and 16 were born in Great Britain – 30% of the fatalities were not born in Ireland. Of the 142 Ulster-born fatalities with Irish regiments,
    • 57 born in Belfast
    • 19 born in County Antrim
    • 18 born in County Down
    • 13 born in County Tyrone
    • 10 born in County Londonderry
    • 9 born in County Armagh
    • 8 born in County Donegal
    • 5 born in County Fermanagh
    • 3 born in County Cavan
     
    • 1 died serving with Connaught Rangers
    • 2 died serving with Leinster Regiment
    • 1 died serving with Machine Gun Corps
    • 3 died serving with Royal Dublin Fusiliers
    • 32 died serving with Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
    • 11 died serving with Royal Irish Fusiliers
    • 2 died serving with Royal Irish Regiment
    • 89 died serving with Royal Irish Rifles
    • 1 died serving with Royal Munster Fusiliers
     
    • 24 died serving with 16th (Irish) Division
    • 15 died serving with 24th and 25th divisions
    • 103 died serving with 36th (Ulster) Division
*Fatality statistics based on data held on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Soldiers Died in the Great War databases. *Additional material from “Blacker’s Boys” by Nick Metcalfe and “Ulster will Fight – Volume 2” by David Truesdale (published for The Somme Museum) By Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster member.

Shankill Messines 100 – 10th June 2017

Please come along to support SHANKILL MESSINES 100 at Townsend Street Presbyterian Church on Sat 10th June.

10:30am Re-dedication of Shankill Road Mission Memorial
10:45am Presentation: Shankill Messines 100 by History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson

All day:
- Exhibition: Shankill Messines 100
- Exhibition: Poetry from the Streets
- Exhibition: Castleton Lanterns
- Exhibition: Argyle Business Centre's new Titanic Themed training hotel