Shankill Road Mission & the Shankill Village, Bangor

In March 2014,  the Ulster History Circle erected a plaque to the Rev Henry Montgomery who founded the Shankill Road Mission in 1896. See our previous post about the event..

One aspect of the work of the Mission was to provide holidays for poor children and for young men and women who lived in in the Shankill area of Belfast so that they could enjoy the fresh air at the seaside. Holiday homes were erected in Bangor known as the Fresh Air Colony (possibly aka the Shankill Village).


This article from the October 1932 edition of the Missionary Herald vividly describes this sphere of work of the Mission.

Cover - The Missionary Herald - October 1932

Article - Bangor Holiday Homes - page 1 Article - Bangor Holiday Homes - page 2 Article - Bangor Holiday Homes - page 3


The Missionary Herald 1827-1942 archive is held by the PHSI.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

The Chinese Labour Corps – new publication added to PHSI Library

For those interested in the First World War you may be interested in a recent acquisition to the PHSI library.

Book Cover ImageThe Chinese Labour Corps:
The Forgotten Chinese Labourers of the First World War”
is the fascinating and relatively unknown story told by Mark O’Neill of the contribution of thousands of Chinese labourers who supported the Allies war effort.  Largely illiterate they came to Europe to make a better life for themselves, totally unaware of the conditions under which they were going to have to work in.  Many died or were either injured or traumatised as a result of their experiences in digging trenches, working in factories, mines and repair shops and toiling in the fields and forests.

Mark O’Neill was inspired to write this story after learning that his grandfather the Rev WFS O’Neill was one of the missionaries in China who worked with the Chinese Labour Corps alongside the YMCA who organised for Chinese speaking missionaries and others to provide education, recreation and spiritual comfort to the Chinese labourers.

Also by Mark O’Neill:

Frederick – The Life of My Missionary Grandfather in Manchuria
The Rev FWS O’Neill, an Irish Presbyterian Missionary served in Faku, a small town in Manchuria from 1897 to 1942 and witnessed many of the great events that convulsed China including the Boxer Rising, the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. He also served with the Chinese Labour Corps in France in World War 1 for which he was awarded the Order of the Striped Tiger by the Chinese government.

(This book is available from PHSI  – cost £16.00 plus postage of £2.00 within the UK.)

New Book on the life of Irish Presbyterian missionary Very Rev Frederick W S O’Neill – PCI Mission Overseas news (archive).

Interview with Mark O’Neill on RTHK Radio 3 Bookmarks website (archive).

Other publications available from PHSI.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

Return to Cahans – walks and talks

The 2014 ‘Return to Cahans’ event commemorates the ‘Cahans Exodus’ of 1764 – see the Cahans Project website at for more information about the history of the Cahans community.

The next stages of the commemoration progress are -

Saturday June 14 – walk leaves Bessbrook 2pm and arrive Second Newtownhamilton Presbyterian for 8pm meal and talk on the home linen industry in the early 1700s. Also David and Debby Moore from Salem, New York, will give an audio visual presentation on Salem church and community.

Saturday June 28 – walk leaves Newtownhamilton 2pm and arrive First Castleblayney Presbyterian 8pm for meal and talk by the Rev Prof Laurence Kirkpatrick (Union Theological College) on Scots Presbyterians and their experience in early 18th Century Ulster.

Saturday July 26 – walk leaves Castleblayney 2pm and arrive Cahans 8pm for meal and talk on the early 1700s from a child or young person’s perspective by Brian MacDonald. (The 1764 party arrived at New York 28 July).

Anyone can join one or more of the walks, walking the whole way or part of it – all to commemorate 250 years since the ‘exodus’ people walked from Cahans to Narrowwater to sail to America. Some from Salem plan to take part, and others from the Cahans diaspora. Please let us know if you plan to share in any of the walks (

(The congregation and community in Salem will hold a commemoration there on Sunday 27 July, details of which are not yet available.)

Transcript extract about the Cahans Exodus – from the DIPPAM Irish Emigration Database.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

Paupers, Presbyterians and the Poor Law in nineteenth century Ulster

The next event in the Society’s programme is on Thursday 22 May 2014
in Union Theological College, Botanic Avenue, Belfast, at 8.00pm:

The Robert Allen Memorial Lecture
Paupers, Presbyterians and the Poor Law
in nineteenth century Ulster
- by Dr Olwen Purdue

 Lecturer in Irish Social and Economic History
at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Speaker’s details on the QUB staff information page

About the Robert Allen Memorial Lectures

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

St. George’s Belfast – Annual Lecture 2014 – 8 May 2014

Flyer for St. George's Annual Lecture 2014

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

PHSI Field Trip 2014 – Itinerary and Programme

Field Trip to visit
Churches and Sites
in the Belfast Area
Saturday, 14 June 2014

10.15 am Belfast City Hall in the Bobbin Coffee Shop for morning coffee
11.00 am Guided tour of Assembly Buildings
12.00 noon Guided tour of Belfast City Hall
1.00 pm Lunch and talk/tour of May Street Presbyterian Church
2.15 pm Coach to Balmoral Cemetery for a guided tour (weather permitting)
3.15 pm Coach to Dunmurry Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church for a guided tour
4.00 pm Coach to Knockbracken Reformed Presbyterian Church, College, Library and Bookshop for a guided tour
5.00 pm Coach to Orangefield Presbyterian Church for a guided tour and evening meal

Cost – £25 for the ‘Wheels and Meals’ option, £20 for the ‘Meals Only’ option.

Participants with special dietary requirements should advise the Society of these by Thursday 5 June 2014.

For booking of places on the Field Trip or any related enquiries – please contact
The Librarian, PHSI, 26 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN,
by email to or by telephone on 028 9072 7330.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

A Soldier of the Great War?

Flyer - World War I Soldier
A talk giving an overview of some of the many resources for finding your World War I ancestor.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 1.00 pm
in Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place, Belfast.

This event is free and open to all.

View the Facebook post.


Some useful websites to get you started


Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website


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