History of Macrory Memorial
History of Great George's Street and Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Churches and Their Ministers 1882 to 2005
The Rev Thomas Toye
Macrory Memorial Church had is origin in Great George’s Street Church, which was founded by the famous Rev Thomas Toye. Born in Clonakilty Co. Cork on 6th. October 1801, he became an itinerant preacher and in this capacity visited Belfast several times. In 1841 he settled in Belfast and after study offered himself to the Belfast Presbytery where he was accepted as minister without charge.
He was the eldest of three children; two boys and one girl. His father was a public officer in County Cork for many years. Thomas was reared in connection with the Episcopal Church and he remained a member until circumstances arose which caused him to separate from it. However, he always maintained friendship with the local rectors and on occasions assisted them.
From the age of seven he suffered from periodic attacks of asthma which continued throughout his life; He had a liberal education and was noted for his quickness of perception and remarkable memory. For health reasons his doctor recommended it would be better for him to move from Clonakilty,, where the atmosphere was damp, and move to a drier area; Accordingly his father arranged for him to move to Mallow with an uncle. His uncle, Dr. Justice, was a member of the Independent Church and in due time Thomas became a member.
The Episcopal Church was strong in County Cork and a revival of religion led by rectors, began in the area. Thomas Toye was affected by this and on 18th. June 1818 he made the decision to accept Jesus into his life .It was intended he would enter the law profession, which meant studying at Trinity College Dublin. His health however would not allow him to attend lectures. Instead he devoted his life to spreading the good news of Christianity. He became active in the Independent Church in Clonakilty, serving as Sunday School teacher and assisting the minister, The Rev. Dr. Burnett, by visiting the sick.
He also helped establish a branch of the London Missionary Society. His zeal led him to establish a weekly Scripture reading meeting and in 1832 he commenced holding meetings in his own house; His fame as a preacher was becoming widely recognised; The Wesleyans approached him to enter their Ministry, but he did not fully agree with all their views. His own views were Calvanistic and he was greatly influenced by the Puritans especially Baxter and Owen. He agreed with their opinion that the reformation of the church was incomplete. He also differed from the established church on points of ritual, purity and doctrine, he held them to be at variance with New Testament principals. After the Bible his most constant companion was Baxter’s “ Saints Everlasting Rest” .
As an Independent minister he was frequently invited to conduct services in the Independent church in Cork where he attracted large attendances. His work so impressed two of the leading Independents, Drs. Burnett and Ulwick that they ordained him as an Independent minister, despite a lack of collegiate education in theology. As an Independent minister he frequently conducted services for the Rev. Dr. Hill the Presbyterian minister in Cork city. Dr. Hill became a great friend of Mr.Toye and his influence may have been influential in inclining Toye towards Presbyterianism.
Mr Toye’s wife came from Belfast and they often visited the city where he became friends with some Presbyterian ministers who invited his to preach in their churches. In 1834 he left Clonakilty to settle permanently in Belfast. Many Presbyterian ministers befriended him and admired him and, as a consequence he studied the Westminister Confession of Faith and the method of Church Government which he considered to be scriptural. It became his wish to become a Presbyterian minister. With the aid of his many ministerial friends he offered himself to the Presbytery of Belfast and was accepted.The Rev Toye commenced his ministry in a large loft in an unoccupied house in James Street. Soon this was not adequate for the growing number of worshipers and a decision was made to build a church and manse, which were completed in 1842 in Great George’s Street. On 31st. March 1842 the Rev Thomas Toye was installed as it’s first minister.
Not only did the conduct services in Great George’s Street but his mission extended to Greenisland often holding services in Greenisland railway station waiting room. The congregation of Great George’s Street grew steadily. In the late 1850’s it became necessary to increase the seating capacity. A gallery was erected and the congregation decided to build a schoolhouse. These additions cost money and the work cost over £1,000. Most of the work was carried out by three members of the congregation .When the work was completed a sum was still owing . Through the kindness of a Mrs. Herron, a close friend and supporter, the amount owing was paid and the church was free of debt. Mr Toye always seemed to inspire people to give generously.
His ministry was always based on his desire to win people for Christ and he never spared himself even though he suffered from his frequent attacks of asthma. These made him very tired but he never failed to fulfil an engagement.
He was always conscious of the needs of the poor and would purchase foodstuffs out of his own pocket which left his own finances in a perilous state. At one time aid came quite unexpectedly: his congregation presented him with a purse containing almost £100 pounds, surely evidence of the respect in which he was held.
In 1857 the United States experienced a revival of interest in religion. Eventually this spread to Ireland The revival began in the Kells and Connor area: it spread to Ahoghill where the first instances of protestations took place - these later became a common occurrence.
Mr Toye was that most unique of Presbyterians of his day and age in that he understood what the man in the street needed and what he wanted. He had the common touch and spoke the common tongue. It was that rare combination which made him so effective in the ’58 revival. As the revival spread to Scotland Mr Toye took part in it. He preached a number of services especially in the Glasgow area, Glasgow City Hall, on Glasgow Green, at a theatre, in halls and in private houses; On one occasion he was presented with a silver inkstand inscribed:
“To Rev. Thomas Toye a token of gratitude from the friends in Glasgow many of whom have heard the word of God from his lips and have believed"
He also visited Edinburgh and last visited Scotland in September 1869.
In addition to his ministerial commitments he wrote a great number of tracts often published at his own expense. ,He prepared these himself and they contained Scriptural text, comments and on some occasions poems written by himself; When meeting people in the streets, in shops, when travelling on a train, or boat taking him to Scotland he handed out these leaflets;
Some examples of these tracts still exist;
His style of preaching was entirely his own. On the Sabbath he referred it to his “Market Day” It is recorded that he would often greet the sexton before the service with a pleasant remark, such as: “Well is the shop open - I wonder if we will have a good market today.” He liked to smoke his pipe and was known for announcing a particularly long Psalm and going into the Minister’s room for a smoke. He claimed that it helped his asthma. His friend Dr. Cooke did not encourage him.
His remarkable memory enabled him to quote widely from the Bible. He never wrote his sermons in detail, only sketching outline references. His sister recorded on one occasion she saw notes he had prepared for a sermon but in fact preached on an entirely different topic.
In late 1869 Mr Toye’s health began to deteriorate. During the winter months, with the cold and dampness the attacks of asthma became more frequent, the pace of his work, visiting, conducting mid-week meetings and two Sunday services began to take their toll. Earlier that year he had an accident in the street, on his way to visit some of his church members. He was badly shaken: this accident contributed to his death, which took place just a year later. Although in constant pain and very week he prepared his notes for his sermons for Sunday 15th.May 1870 , but passed away peacefully at 10am that Sunday morning.
The Rev. Toye disliked horses and carriages at funerals. On the day of his funeral the coffin was taken to the church and carried by office-bearers of the church the whole way to the grave.
An extract from the Evangelical Witness in June 1870 reads: “On Sabbath morning the 15th, at ten o’clock, he died, in his sixty-ninth year. He was buried in the cemetery on the Antrim Road on Tuesday the 17th. The funeral service was conducted in the church by Dr. Morgan and at the graveside by Mr. Mcnaughton. A great concourse of people, from all sections of the community, densely filled the streets, accompanied or stood in the thoroughfares. And as the body was laid in the grave all the spectators said in their hearts “Blessed are they that die in the Lord”.
The Rev. Thomas Toye was a product of his time and generation. His work laid the foundation for the congregation which eventually arose in Duncairn Gardens as Macrory Memorial.
The Rev. Samuel Hamilton
Following the death of the Rev. Toye, the Rev Samuel Hamilton was appointed minister. The son a manse he commenced his ministry in 1870. His ministry was so successful that it was necessary to enlarge the building to cope with the growing numbers. After almost three years Mr Hamilton received a call to the Scotch Church in New York. He demitted his charge in Great George’s Street on 7th. May 1873 to continue his Christian service in the United States.
The Rev. J B Wylie
The Rev. Wylie, like the Rev. Toye had been an Independent minister before applying to the Presbyterian Church to be admitted as a minister. He was admitted as “ minister without charge” in June 1873 after service in Cork and Kingstown. Called to Great George”s Street, he was installed on 30th. March 1874.He ministered with great ability and eloquence until ill-health forced his early retirement in 1891. He told the congregation he thought a younger and fitter man should be appointed . After his retirement he continued to take an interest in the congregation as senior minister until his death in 1919.
Mr. Wylie had a great interest in the temperance movement and became editor of the leading temperance journal of the time.
At this time there was an influx of Presbyterianism into the north of Belfast which arose from the Scottish emigration into Co.Antrim. it was felt there was need for a new church in the Antrim Road area. The Belfast Presbytery set up a committee composed of ministers ,and elders to explore the possibilities for a new church. The Rev. Wylie was a member of this committee which eventually led to the formation of Fortwilliam Park Church in 1885.
During this time Great George”s Street lost members as people moved out of the densely populated streets of the industrial area of York Street. Many moved to suburban developments but found transport back to Great George”s Street difficult. Many found it more convenient to become associated with the “extension” church in the locality of their new homes.The loss of members coincided with Mr. Wylie’s ill-health which prevented carrying his duties out to the full. When he retired in 1891 the congregation had been reduced to about 120.
Rev. Joseph Northey
A unanimous call was made to the Rev. Joseph Northey to be assistant and successor to Mr. Wylie.and he was installed on 22nd. May 1892. Thus began a long ministry which lasted almost 40 years.
Born in Glentogher Co.Donegal on 22nd. May 1862he was educated in Londonderry prior entering Magee College to study for the Presbyterian ministry. He was licensed by the Donegal Presbytery in 2nd. Raphoe church in 1885. In the autumn of that year he received an invitation from the Ballymote congregation to act as stated supply for one month. This supply was to lead to his being offered a call to be their minister. Two years later he became minister of the united congregations of Turlough and Castlebar. His ministry there was short for in 1890 he was called to a larger congregation in Ballinsloe.
He became involved in the life of the town . He introduced singing classes, in the schools and in the town, which he conducted himself. He, himself, had a very good singing voice. At a concert, a pianoforte solo was give which led to a hotly debated issue in the General Assembly, as the use of musical instruments was not really approved.
Mr. Northey held strong views on church unity and the Methodist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian often worshiped together. This unity was continued when Macrory church moved to the Duncairn Gardens.
Great George’s Street congregation issued an unanimous call to him in February 1892 and he was installed on 4th April 1892, thus began his long ministry in Belfast.
Mr Northey’s impact on the congregation was immediate. It was reported that numbers had increased by about one third during the year and collections had almost doubled. A gifted preacher he was in great demand in other churches, especially for rallies and evangelical services. His interest in education continued as Great George’s Street had their own national school in Nelson Street of which he became manager. He took an interest in two other schools in the area, the Nautical School in Nelson Street and the Ladie’s Industrial School in Fredrick Street;
These were not his only interests. Like the Rev. Wylie he was interest in temperance so much so thet he did not approve of fermented wine being used for communion.
When in the West of Ireland the Rev. Northey was chaplain to a large asylum and also to soldiers in a large military barracks. His experience in this type of work led to his nomination by the Belfast Presbytery as assistant chaplain in the Belfast prison on the Crumlin Road. The nomination was approved by the Prison Board and he commenced his duties on June 1893. When the position of chaplain became vacant in1902 he secured the appointment which he held until two years before his death. It is recorded that his ministrations to the prisoners was well received.
He was a believer in involving as many members of the congregation in the activities of the church.
When in Macrory, as the congregation grew, he encouraged the formation of a Company of the Girl Guides, the Boys’ Brigade, a band of hope (a temperance organisation) the Ladies’ Association ( the forerunner of the P W A ) , Junior and Senior Christian Endeavours and Young Mens’ groups. He was a person of great energy and when at Magee College he played rugby for the college.
Shortly after he came to Great George’s Street a Mr Edmund Macrory offered a site in Duncairn Garden to the Rev. Dr .Crawford of Berry Street church. They however, were unable to dispose of their property and so were unwilling to move . Mr Northey immediately became interested and became the instigator of the move from Great George’s Street to Duncairn Gardens. The Presbytery saw the opportunity for a church extension when a piece of ground was offered to them. A church, seating around 850 persons was built on land granted free of charge by the Macrory family. The new church would cater for the remaining families of Great George’s Street congregation.
The Great George’s Street property was valued at £2,225 but as the congregation wanted it to be used as a mission station it was bought by Presbytery for £ 800. The new church cost £ 4,500 which meant the new congregation began with a large debt. Various efforts were made to meet the debt. Sales of Work, Guest Teas, individual donations, ‘buy a brick’ schemes a collecting boxes. Mr Northey himself raised £1,150 by spending a year delivering lectures in North America.
A major effort was required to reduce the debt and this took the form of a massive Bazaar entitled ‘Our Empire Bazaar” held in the Ulster Hall on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8th; to 10th; November 1894. many churches helped including, Duncairn, Belmont, Elmwood, Ballymacarrett and Fisherwick. assisted. The amount raised is not known but the debt was greatly reduced . However the debt was not cleared until a few years later.
The move was not without controversy. The new church could not be called ”Great George’s Street” as the title was still held by the original buildings. At the opening it was called “The new church in Duncairn Gardens” and an advertisement later the same year called it "Duncairn Gardens Presbyterian Church”. There was considerable controversy over the name and a meeting of the congregation, voting 120 to 26 memorialising the General Assembly to adopt the name Macrory Memorial. After much discussion between Presbytery and the general Assembly the name was adopted. Mr Wylie, the senior minister of Great George’s Street was not in favour of the new name but in time came to accept it.
Mr Northey served Macrory Memorial with outstanding qualities of leadership from his installation on the 4th April1892, until his death on 27th September 1931 a ministry of almost 40 years. His congregation in Great George’s Street grew from roughly 120 to over 500 in Macrory Had it not been for his vision there may not have been a Macrory Memorial Church.
In memory, the congregation erected a memorial tablet in the original church, destroyed in the air raids in 1941.and was unveiled on Sunday 6th. October 1935, by his daughter Mrs Craig.
The tablet was inscribed:
Erected by the members of this congregation
To the glory of God
And in recognition and remembrance of
The Rev. Joseph Northey.
Born Glentogher, Co.Donegal, 3rd May 1862
Ordained Balymote 3rd March 1886
Installed Great George’s Street 4th April 1892
Died 20th September 1931
For over 39 years he was pastor and spiritual guide to his people. During his ministry the congregation was transferred from Great George’s street and these magnificent church buildings were erected which are a monument to his untiring energy, enthusiasm and leadership.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
Rev. W G Wimpress
After the long ministry of Mr Northey the congregation experienced a very short one of less than a year. Mr Wimpress had been a Methodist minister before being accepted into the Presbyterian church and ministered in Townsend Street church and called to Macrory, he received a call to go to Trinity Church Bangor.
He came with the reputation of being an outstanding preacher and attracted large congregations. When he came to Macrory the communion roll stood at 204 and when he left it was 219. At one communion alone 63 new communicants were received.
During his ministry the old manse “Mosaphir” on the Cavehill Road which had served for over 30 years was sold and a new one in Slievemoyne Park was purchased.
Rev. J A Donaldson
The congregation had no difficulty in obtaining a successor for Mr. Wimpress. Within two months a call was given to the Rev. Albert Donaldson assistant minister in Great Victoria Street church. Unable to accept the call until he was licensed Macrory decided he should be their new minister and he was licensed on 9th; May and on the 24th. June 1933 was ordained in Macrory.
During his ministry new members joined the church and by April 1936 the numbers had increased to 395, the highest up to that time. A new pipe organ was installed during his ministry. In May 1936 he received a call from Great Victoria Street and resigned after almost three years.
The Rev James Patterson
Following two short ministries the congregation experienced one lasting 24 years. These years turned out to be the most momentous times both in the history of mankind .and Macrory Church.
A call was made to the Rev. James Patterson then minister of First Killyleagh Church and he was installed on 29th June 1936.
Mr Patterson had to face the inevitable differences between a smaller congregation situated in a country town and a large city church with multiple organisations. In 1936 the congregation numbered 530 families but the transition from small to large was speedily accomplished .
The numbers continued to increase but with the clouds of war approaching in 1939 Mr. Patterson was given permission by the Kirk Session to accept a chaplaincy in the London Scottish Regiment. When war broke out his place in the congregation was ministered to by the Rev. Samuel Duff, later minister of Templepatrick Church. Mr Patterson was invalided out of the army in 1941 and returned to his parish.
After his return the church and halls were completely destroyed in the air raid on Belfast on the 4/5 May 1941. This destruction meant that many records were destroyed and only the pulpit Bible, which had been presented to the church by the Macrory family in memory of the Rev. Northey, was saved.
The words of Jesus given in Matthew Chapter 24 verse 35 seemed prophetic: "Heaven and earth shall pass away , but my words shall not pass away."
The Duncairn Gardens area bore much of the brunt of the attack and 62 members of the congregation were killed and many injured. Others had their homes badly damaged so that many were scattered from the area. On the following Sunday the services were held in the Sinclair Halls on the New Lodge Road. eight members were in attendance. ( The writer of this website, as a small boy, was present with his mother) The services continued to be held in these halls until the numbers gradually increased. In October, Duncairn church extended an invitation to join with them in their worship. This invitation was accepted. While the “union” was harmonious Macrory needed more scope to develop it’s own social and corporate life and to retain it’s own identity.
Arrangements were made with the Belfast Education Board for the use of Mountcollyer School on the Limestone Road. There the work of the congregation, though still restricted, could be given the opportunity to develop. The first services,in Mountcollyer, were held in November 1994. This was to be the “home” of the congregation for the next 8years. The arrangements were not ideal. The Central Hall, where services were held was cold and draughty in winter and facilities for the various organisations not really satisfactory. Throughout however, the congregation remained loyal and steadfast in their faith.
The Chief Central Committee in London responsible for the rebuilding of damaged buildings declared that the church was a “repair job” within the meaning of the appropriate act. Consequently they reported that the task of rebuilding could be undertaken earlier than originally anticipated.
As the foundations were found to be intact and required only minor alterations it was agreed that the new church could be built on the original foundations. In 1945 the Presbyterian Commission became involved and informed the congregation they should prepare plans for a new church; Progress was slow due to the short supply of building materials, housing being given top priority. The Government refused to release materials for building churches. At this stage the congregation was approached and asked to consider a move to a site further out the Antrim Road. Discussions were held but when put to the congregation they were turned it down. The people wanted to return to their former heritage. The matter was not yet settled. There were those, (not members of Macrory,) who did not wish the building in Duncairn Gardens The matter was debated in June 1949 at the general Assembly. After giving an impassioned plea by Mr. Patterson, in a speech noted for it’s lucidity and eloquence, the General Assembly gave permission for the church to be built on its former site.
When the decision of the General Assembly became known the congregation redoubled it’s efforts to raise funds with a Re-habilitation Fund, members immediately increased their givings. Many gifts were promised to the church. Mr Patterson had connections with American technicians based at Langford Lodge near Crumlin. Having pastoral care with some of them they, on occasions attended the services. They gave a gift of £100, the money going towards the cost of the new pulpit Money problems were not over. The War damage Commission’s money would not completely cover the cost of the damage. The question arose over whether the pews were a fixture or a fitting, as the amount of compensation for these differed.. From the monies given to the church the congregation had to return £563 which the Commission decided had been overpaid. They regarded the pews as fittings not fixtures.
The work started at once on plans prepared by architects Messrs Hobart and Herron with Messrs Wm. Logan & Son the builders. Mr Logan was the managing director of the firm and a member of the Committee of Macrory. The cost of the new building was £32,000.
A problem arose regarding the organ. An order was placed with a reputable firm of organ builders in England and a first payment of £604 was made. Unfortunately the firm went bankrupt shortly afterwards and despite efforts no compensation was received Mr Patterson travelled to England to speak with the firm but to no avail.
The official opening took place on Saturday 3rd. May 1952 .A special service of personal dedication by the members was held on the previous Wednesday which was conducted by Mr Patterson. The Moderator designate of the General Assembly, the Rev. John McKean performed the service of dedication. The opening ceremony was performed by Mr. W D Nesbitt who had been associated with the church for 60years and as treasurer for many years.
The foundation stone was laid by the Rev. Dr. D G Erskine, minister of Rosemary Church and the then Moderator of the General Assembly.
Externally the new church was very similar to the old one, having been built on the original foundations. Internally there were many differences. The seating was arranged to allow for a central aisle which lent itself to ceremonial occasions. There was no gallery as in the old church. The pulpit was centrally placed and balance by a reading desk one side. The chancel window, subscribed to by members of the congregation in memory of those members who had been killed in the air raids, was designed by Messrs W F Clokey and was regarded as a work of outstanding merit. Below the window was a plain wooden plaque bearing the words:
To the glory of God.
Erected by those who were spared
In memory of those who were slain.
The congregation had entered into their own sanctuary after “11 years in the wilderness.”
The congregation had a church but no halls Discussions still took place with the War Damage Commission to obtain a license to replace the old school rooms. Mr Logan kindly donated a hut which he placed in the grounds and which provided some useful and needed accommodation. Some organisations were forced to meet in outside rented premises.
With the congregation steadily growing between 1951 and 1952 when the new church opened over 90 new families joined. The halls were needed urgently, and a visit of the Presbytery confirmed this .Finally on 1955 permission was granted to build. The cost of the halls was £16,000 against £11,000 grant by the War Damage Commission. The Kirk Session and Committee decided that the halls were essential and a Hall re-building fund was started. It was so successful that by the end of 1956 the cost was almost met, the remaining debt being only £101. This amount was quickly cleared. Members continued to subscribe so that by the end of 1957 there was an amount which could be used for further development. The halls were opened by Mrs. Patterson on Friday 6th April 1956 and dedicated by the Very Rev. Dr. McKean. The Kirk Session expressed the wish that the halls be named after him, in recognition of his efforts in securing the rebuilding of the church and halls. Mr. Patterson declined the offer as he held the halls should be known as The Macrory Halls. In 1977 Mrs Patterson agreed the halls should be called “The Patterson Halls” in memory of her husband. After the morning service on Sunday 4th. December conducted by Rev. Dr. J Davey, Mrs Patterson , in company of the Patterson family and many former members, performed the naming ceremony and unveiled the following plaque:
These Halls are named
The Patterson Halls
In memory of
The Rev. James Patterson, BA, Hon C.F.
3rd February, 1906 to 10th October 1975
Minister of Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church
From 29th June 1936 to 3rd April 1960.
This plaque was unveiled by Mrs. A K Patterson
On 4th December 1977.
By 1958 Mr. Patterson’s health had begun to deteriorate, He had a serious operation in that year followed by a long period of convalescence. To the regret of the congregation he intimated that he would be applying to the General Assembly in June 1959 foe leave to retire. The Assembly granted him his permission . Mr; Patterson continued as minister until April 1960. It had been a ministry of almost 24 years, a ministry which was broken by adversity, the outbreak of war, the destruction of the church and halls , but a ministry in which he showed great courage and tenacity.
In his last message to the congregation before his retirement he wrote: “ I thank you for all your kindness to me over nearly a quarter of a century. No minister could have a more loyal and devoted congregation. We have had many trials and hardships to face, but we faced them together, and by The grace of God we will overcome them. Our struggles bound us closer in love and determination.”
Upon retirement Mrs Patterson and he went to live in Cushendall Co. Antrim and occupied the pulpit on several occasions and was always pleased to do so.
Rev. C A M Meldrum
When the vacancy, following Mr. Patterson’s retirement, was announced there were sixteen applicants ,from several well known and established ministers; The choice of replacement fell finally on the Rev. Morwood Meldrum at that time minister of First Monaghan church. His nomination was unanimously endorsed by the congregation and he was installed on 7th. September 1960.
Under Mr. Meldrum’s leadership the congregation continued to grow until in 1967 it numbered over 600 families, the highest in the history of the church. With the increased membership there was an increase in the number of organisations. Junior and Senior Dramatic Societies were formed, a Sunday Evening Youth Fellowship , a Young Wives’ Fellowship and an Interdenominational Thursday Womens’ Hour. The increase meant that accommodation was at a premium. The Dramatic Society had to seek rented accommodation elsewhere. The possibility of adding extra space to the halls was explored by adding an extra story to the main hall. Plans were prepared and costs projected but unfortunately these plans coincided with the outbreak of disturbances and rioting. This had a great effect on the life of the congregation. With it’s position in Duncairn Gardens, on the “peace line” between two opposing factions, the area beside the church in Edlingham Street became known as “gun alley” due to the number of incidents which took place there.
As Macrory’s parish lay on both side of the Duncairn Gardens the greater part lay between the Gardens and the New Lodge Road. In that area there were more than 120 families. In the weeks following the internment riots over 90 of these families were forced out of their homes .in Spamount, Stratheden, Upper Meadow and Hillman Streets. They dispersed all over the city and further afield; Many kept their connection with Macrory, but eventually it proved too much for them to retain their membership.In 1966, of approx the 120 of members who lived within this area by 1973 there were none
Services were often interrupted by disturbances and the organisations operated under severe difficulties which resulted in a falling off in numbers. Members often had to be escorted to and from meetings On one occasion those attending an evening service had to remain in the church, after the service finished , until the shooting outside had stopped.On one occasion the Rev. Meldrum had to go outside the church to persuade a mob to stop their stone throwing. The service continued peacefully.
Mr. Meldrum sought to maintain peace in the area. To this extent he sought the assistance of The Revs McMorran (Duncairn Presbyterian) and; Clayton Stevenson ( St. Barnabas) to help set up the local Duncairn Gardens “vigilante” group His work was recognised by a former member, living outside the area and writing in the Belfast News Letter, of the work he did to hold the church and congregation together as well as reassure the residents of the area.
His work outside Macrory consisted of being assistant clerk for North Belfast Presbytery for many years, being responsible for Presbytery visitation. He was also Moderator of the Presbytery and the Synod of Belfast. He was awarded the M B E in the New Years Honours in 1974 for his various services to the community and for his work in the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department.
In 1974 Mr. Meldrum demitted his charge in Macrory on being called by the Board of Social Witness to be Director of the Northern Ireland Council for Social Services.
The Rev. Meldrum upon retirement lived in Ballyclare. Unfortunately, he died as the result of a vehicle accident, in October 2002.
Rev. W McComish
After Mr Meldrum’s departure in November 1974 there was a long vacancy before a call was made to the Rev. William McComish. Mr. McComish was the minister of Kells and Ervey congregations He was no stranger to the area of Macrory having been brought up in the Duncairn congregation and in 1974 served in Macrory under the Home Mission scheme.
He showed great interest in the welfare and work among the youth of the congregation and took a practical interest in the Saturday Evening Youth Fellowship. He restarted the Young Wives Group and to encourage Bible reading he prepared, each year, a series of daily readings which were distributed to members of the congregation.
Links were retained with his previous churches and on occasions the choir visited them and led the praise. Like Mr.Meldrum he endeavoured to let other churches realise the problems with which Macrory had to contend. To this extent a number of elders spent a weekend in Dublin as guests of Abbey Church where the then Clerk of Session spoke at the morning service.
On 1st May 1977, being the nearest Sunday to the 25th Anniversary to the opening of the new church, special services were held. A souvenir booklet was been produced giving a brief outline of the history of the congregation .The booklet contained a message from her Majesty the Queen. The Kirk Session had written to the Queen on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of her accession to the throne. In addition it contained messages from Mr. Roy Mason, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Alderman Miles Humphries the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Right Rev. Dr. Jack Weir Moderator of the General Assembly.
Mr. McComish played an active in the various courts of the church, both in Presbytery and Assembly. For three years he was clerk to the North Belfast Presbytery.
Disturbances in the area had improved but not ceased. On occasions meetings had to be abandoned . The local Republican Club formed a “vigilante” patrol during the times of services to allow them to continue peacefully. A committee minute of November 1976 noted “ a letter of thanks be sent to the leaders of the Republican Club in the area responsible.”
Mr.McComish had earlier studied in Geneva and was working on a thesis dealing with the Reformation when a call came to him from a church in the city, offering him a chance to continue his research. After much deliberation he accepted the call, Resigning from Macrory in March 1979.
Rev D E K Mock
The tenth minister in the long history of Great George’s Street and Macrory was the Rev. Desmond Mock. He was installed by the North Belfast Presbytery on 30th. April 1980. He was the seventh minister of the churches to have either been born in the South of Ireland or was a minister there when called. Mr. Mock was minister of Greystones Church, set in a quiet beautiful peaceful surroundings. Previously he had served in Fourtowns and Poyntzpass and from 1974 in Greystones and Arklow. To come to Macrory with it’s difficulties presented a real challenge which he met with courage and determination.
One of his most outstanding features, during his ministry was his care of the people. He always emphasised that Macrory should be known as “ the caring church” .He proved this with practical help either for financial, housing or guidance about social problems Each year he made over 300 house calls plus hospital visits. Interdenominational links were fostered by the Thursday Women’s Hour
The troubles caused the congregation numbers to decline, from over 600 families in 1967, in 1984 they had dropped to 190. By 1986 however they had risen by 30 which may not seem large by other congregations standards but significant to Macrory, struggling to maintain a presence in the face of adversity This was due to the work of Mr. Mock by conscientiously visiting the congregation, particularly the housebound and elderly.
Always looking to the future he encouraged the formation of a Forward Planning Committee "to seek ways for the future of the church." Many meetings were held with various bodies of the Presbyterian Church and links with other churches were discussed. Many proposals were made including remaining as we were, or amalgamating with another church or churches.
In January 1991 Mr. Mock informed the Kirk Session that he intended retiring from active ministry. The Kirk Session received his decision with much regret. Prior to serving as a Presbyterian minister he had given long service as a Squadron Leader and flying instructor in The Royal Airforce.
Mrs. Mock often helped Mr. Mock with the duties involved with the church. On occasions, like Mrs Meldrum before her, she played the organ for Sunday services and the piano for the Thursday Hour. Together they were a formidable team.
Upon his retirement Mr. and Mrs Mock went to live in Newcastle Co. Down. He returned on several occasions the conduct services which gave him and the congregation much pleasure.
The Vacancy 1991
With the retirement of the Rev. Mock the Presbytery appointed it’s Vacancy Commission, with the Rev. James McAllister as its convener.
The Forward Planning Committee, previously organised by the Rev. Mock, met the Union Commission on 21st. January 1992, to seek permission to call a minister. The decision was, that permission was give to call an ordained assistant minister under the direction of Mr. McAllister. The Commission would review the appointment at intervals. The following evening the 22nd; the Kirk Session met to look for a suitable candidate. The Rev. McAllister suggested some names of those who might be interested . Among those was the Rev. Lesley Carroll, then assistant minister in Rosemary Church.
After hearing Miss. Carroll preach in Eglinton Church on Sunday 26th. The Hearing Committee on Sunday 2nd. February unanimously agreed to issue a call to the Rev. Carroll to be the assistant minister or in reality the minister.
Rev. Lesley Carroll
Miss. Carroll, a native of Coalisland was brought up in Newmills Presbyterian Church. She involved herself in many of the activities in the area having connections with Dungannon Parish Church and Dungannon Presbyterian Church.
After finishing her education at Dungannon High School she went to Plymouth University where she graduated in Humanities and Religion Education. Her studies at Union College led to a Bachelor of Divinity degree . She also became a Licentiate (LLCM) in speech and drama of the London College of Music.
Prior to becoming assistant in Rosemary she was engaged in work in the Ards peninsula with the Rev. Russell, minister in Ballywalter In this capacity she visited caravan and camp sites and also conducted services in Millisle church. In 1988 she was appointed assistant minister in Rosemary church with the Rev. John Dunlop. During holidays in Eglinton she conducted services for the minister.
Her induction service was held on Wednesday 26th February 1988 preaching her first service on Sunday 21st March 1992. The week after her first service the 150th anniversary was held on Saturday 28th March 1992.
Many innovations were developed to involve, not only the church in events , but with the area outside the church. A Summer Club was formed, Spring Harvest events in Ayr, in Scotland ,were attended, contacts were made with St. Luke’s congregation in Milngavie, on the outskirts of Glasgow. Some members attended their services and some of them came to Macrory. On one occasion they attended a Conference at Corrymela accompanied by their hosts.Visits were arranged for them which included a tour of Belfast City Hall courtesy of the Lord Mayor and also to the Ulster Folk Park at Cultra.
Resulting from these visits a delegation, including a number of prominent Scottish ministers and lay people, under the auspices of the Scottish Assembly’s Justice and Peace group came to see how Macrory managed to survive in such a troubled area.
For over five years the Rev. Carroll faced the challenges of the area, never afraid to confront those who were intent on violence and ministering to those who were affected by threats, bringing them God’s message of hope and comfort.
Upon her retirement recognition was paid to her pastoral work within the parish. She had an easy manner which made it easy for her to communicate with both old and young. At the farewell meeting, presided over by the Rev. Desmond Mock, many tributes were paid to her. The then Clerk of Kirk Session, finished his remarks with the words with which he had welcomed Leslie at the beginning of her ministry:
I said to the man at the gate of the year:
“Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown”, and he replied,
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be better to you better than light and safer than any known way”.
The Rev. Carroll remained as minister until 31st September 1997. The Rev. Carroll’s retirement was caused by the formation of a union between Macrory. Newington and Sinclair Seamen’s churches.
The Vacancy 1997
In view of the overall situation of many of the congregations in north Belfast, the North Belfast Presbytery formed a Strategy for Mission Committee with the Rev. James McAllister as Chairman and the Rev. Colin Morrison as convener. Its task was to examine the needs of these congregations and prepare an action plan. The result of this was that after numerous meetings Macrory, Newington and Sinclair Seamen’s churches were given the option, among many ,of uniting under one minister but still retain their own individuality. The date of union to be 1st July 1997.
After the Union Commission had approved the terms of the union the North Belfast appointed a Vacancy Commission. The Rev. James Neilly was appointed as convener.
Having grown up in the area he was familiar with the churches and was able to give wise guidance while dealing with the problems of supplying ordinances for five services each Sunday, making hospital visits, arranging for the call of a minister and the purchase of a manse. In addition he had to chair meetings of the combined Kirk Sessions as well as Session and Committee meetings of each individual church.
In November Mr. Neilly reported, to a combined Kirk Session meeting, that three applications had been received for the position as minister. Other name could be suggested at the discretion of the elders, some names were proposed for Mr. Neilly to contact. The meeting was warned that it might take some time to obtain a settlement as it now more difficult to get ministers to come to a city congregation than in the past.
In January 1998 the Sessions met again. They were informed that the three ministers were willing to be considered. It was agreed that interviews be held, but consequently none proved suitable.At a later meeting Mr. Neilly informed the combined Kirk Sessions that the Rev. T W A Greer ,minister in the united charge in Aughentaine and Cavanaleck had indicated his interest. It was agreed to meet him. After meeting with him the joint hearing committee reported that they were very impressed with Mr. Greer and proposed that he be accepted as sole nominee for the position as minister. The proposal was seconded and endorsed. Mr Neilly arranged for Mr. Greer to preach in each of the three congregations on Sunday 21st. June and that a general meeting of the three congregations would be held on Monday 22nd June to consider if a call should be made to the Rev. Greer.
The Rev. Ken Doherty, Moderator of the presbytery presided. It was unanimously agreed that Mr. Greer be called to be minister of the three congregations. Those present signed the call sheets which were also available in each of the three churches on the following Sundays. The call was presented by the Rev. James McAllister, accompanied by the three Clerks of Session , at a meeting of the Presbytery of Omagh.
Meantime steps were being made to purchase a manse. After inspecting several houses the choice lay between Jordanstown and Whiteabbey. Finally a decision was made on the property in Whiteabbey, at 23 Sequoia Heights.
The Rev. Greer’s installation took place on Friday 2nd October 1998 in Newington Church attended by members of the three congregations. The Rev Ken Doherty Presided, Rev. James Fullerton preached the sermon. After the constitution of the Presbytery and questions to the minister elect, Mr. Greer signed the confession of Faith. The charge to the minister was delivered by the Rev. J W Neilly.
The combined choirs of the three churches ,under Mr. Grey, Newington’s organist, led the praise singing the anthem” The Beauty of Holyness” The clerk of Macrory , on behalf of the three congregations extended a warm welcome to Mr. Greer. Refreshments were provided after this.
The Rev. Greer commenced his ministry at a united service on Sunday 4th October in Sinclair Seamen's Church. The three Clerks of session took part in the service. Mr. William Crawford (Macrory) , Mr. Samuel Cowden (Newington) , read the scripture lessons and Mr David Davis ( Sinclair Seamen's ), led the intercessory prayer. The combined choir under Sinclair Seamen’s organist, Mr McIntyre, sang the Introit: “The Lord Is in His Holy Temple” and an anthem: "Lead me Lord."
Rev. T W A Greer
Mr Greer was been born in Ballymena and was brought up in 1st Ahoghill congregation. After Graduating in Law from Queen’s University he entered Union Theological College to study for the Christian ministry. Mr Greer became assistant in Greenwell Street church Newtownards,first as part-time then full time from June 1989 to April 1993. In June 1991to June 1992 the Rev. Dr. Sterritt, minister of Greenwell Street church was Moderator of the General Assembly and during that year Mr. Greer was designated as the Moderator's Assistant.
With a congregation of almost 1,000 families this was excellent experience for his introduction to team ministry being attempted in Macrory, Newington and Sinclair Seamen's. In February 1992 he was called to the congregations of Cavanaleck and Aughentaine, near Fivemiletown and installed as minister on 23rd. April 1993.
Under the terms of the Union Commission decision, an Associate minister was to be appointed. Before such an appointment could be made, it was necessary that some assistance was provided for the work of the three congregations to be carried on. The Rev Donald Byers was appointed as assistant and proved very suitable and his visitations to the members of the three congregations was much appreciated. Upon receiving a call to Molesworth Street Church Cookstown, Mr. Greer demitted his charge on 27th September 2001 and was installed on 28th September 2001.
Once again Macrory found itself without a minister. The Rev. John Dickinson was appointed as Convenor of the vacancy. He continued with this appointment until he became minister of Carnmoney Church. He resigned his Convenorship having gone to a congregation with a large membership. The Rev. Carroll was appointed in his place. During the years up to October 2005 the church carried on its normal work. Services continued each week, organisations continued with their work with the assistance of much pulpit supply. In all, 12 different ministers occupied the pulpit during these four years.
The Rev. Dr. Terry McMullan came in 2003 as an assistant and became in essence minister. He took many services resulting in the reduction of pulpit supply.
The final Service of Thanksgiving was held on Sunday evening the 9th October 2005. It was conducted by the Rev.Dr. RTJ Mc Mullan who opened with prayer and the Rev. JW Neilly did a Bible reading, the Rev. LE Carroll led with prayer and the Rev. D Byers gave a address. The Clerk of Session, Mr. William Crawford also contributed a address.
The congregation consisted of present and former members and members of neighbouring congregations.
The United Bowlers Mail Voice Choir led the praise. The hymns sung were: "Too God be the Glory," "O Lord my God," "Sing a new song to Jehovah" and "Now Thank we all our God." Mr. Robert Briscoe BMus (Hons) Dip ABRSM Macrory's organist was the accompanist.
The evening ended with supper being served in the Patterson Halls.
The Macrory Connection
The Macrory family settled in the 18th. Century in the area bounded by the Antrim Road, Carrick Road, New Lodge Road and Edlingham Street It was an area occupied by several large houses, one of these being Duncairn House ,the home of the Macrory family and was owned by Mr. Robert Macrory. . It was from this house that Duncairn Gardens got its name. It was situated close to where Macrory Memorial Church was built.
Robert’s grandson, Adam John, was born in Castledawson on 13rd.May 1779. Educated at Crumlin Academy he entered the legal profession. He became a partner with a Mr Wright before establishing his own firmness. He was a friend of the Rev. Dr. Cooke and was interested in Presbyterian affairs This involvement led to his being instrumental in helping to establish May Street church and having Dr. Cooke installed as its minister. He also became the solicitor of the General Synod of Ulster and of the General Assembly.
The 19th century was a period of contention in Presbyterianism; This arose because of the spread of Arianism and the debate about non-subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith.
A major case involved the congregation of Clough in Co. Down. Along with Dr. Cooke Adam Macrory played a vital legal role; Threats of churches being closed because of their beliefs led to Mr. Macrory presenting the case for the Synod of Ulster at the Summer Assizes in Downpatrick. The general Synod of Ulster at its Annual Assembly in 1836 paid tribute to the work done by quote, “ A J Macrory Esq. ----- “ whose generosity and efficient service in this case are eminently entitled to some lasting testimony of gratitude of this Synod”. Many other tributes to his talents were paid.
At the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the new church in November 1894 the Belfast News-letter recorded, “ The new church will not only be a living monument to the generosity of Mr. Edmund Macrory, but will have associated with it the name of his respected father”.
Adam Macrory was involved in many civic matters in Belfast. The Belfast Charitable Institute, the Society for the supply of water for Belfast, later to become the Society for Water Commissioners . He was Chairman the Royal Botanic and Horticultural Organisation which led to his interest in the cemetery at the corner of the Antrim Road and Clifton Street. He gave his expert advice as to which plants and shrubs should be planted there.
Mr Macrory’s other interest was in medical provision. The main hospital was the Belfast General , founded in 1792. He was elected to the committee of the hospital in 1850 and later to the Board of Management when he became its Honorary Secretary .In 1875 due to persuasion from Adam, the hospital was granted a Royal Charter. In recognition of the work done by him a Macrory Memorial Fund was established and a plaque was later hung in the board room of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
In professional life he founded the firm of Macrory, Boyd and Macrory with offices in Rosemary Street Belfast and in William Street Dublin. His two sons followed him into the profession . Edmond, who became a Q C practiced as a barrister in the Inn of the Temple in London, while Robert qualified as a solicitor.
In the Adair Belfast Street Directory 1860/1861., Mr Adam Macrory was described as: “No ordinary man. It had pleased God to endow him with a marvellous constitution both physically and mentally. He was able to live a life of intellectual and bodily activity to which few men are equal. In private life he was a staunch Presbyterian. He devoted Sunday evenings to reading the Bible to the aged of the Charitable Society’s House”.
It was fitting that Macrory Church and congregation should be called after a man who was a champion and defender of Presbyterianism and who always had the interest of the people at heart.
In 1941, the church (including the war memorial), school and church halls were all destroyed during enemy air attacks on Belfast and 62 members of the congregation were killed, with almost 100 being injured. After the war, the church was rebuilt and opened in 1952.
The Macrory Memorial and Fortwilliam Park congregations were amalgamated in 2005 to form Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church.