Blue Plaques for a Hero and a “Moses”

Read all about it …
The Ulster Scot

The latest edition of The Ulster-Scot (13 September 2014) includes articles about Blue Plaques recently unveiled by the Ulster History Circle to perpetuate the memory of esteemed Ulstermen David Nelson VC and Rev James McGregor – one a hero from the First World War and the other a 18th century pioneer dubbed the Moses of the Scotch Irish in America.

Ulster History Circle

Ulster History Circle Blog

Ulster-Scots Agency 


Presbyterian Churches open during the EHOD 2014 Weekend

ehod2014The 17th European Heritage Open Days programme in Northern Ireland is being held on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September 2013. The EHOD 2014 Brochure (pdf) has been published detailing the 400+ properties and events due to open to the public free of charge. Several Presbyterian Churches are included among the 400+ properties and events listed.

  • May Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast
  • Sinclair Seaman’s Presbyterian Church, Belfast
  • Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast
  • First Presbyterian Church, Belfast
  • First Presbyterian Church, Armagh
  • Portaferry Presbyterian Church
  • First Presbyterian Non-Subscribing Church, Holywood
  • First Bangor Presbyterian Church
  • Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church
  • Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church
  • First Saintfield Presbyterian Church
  • Saintfield Second Presbyterian Church
  • Rademon Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Meeting House
  • First Derry Presbyterian Church

Take this opportunity to find out about the history of these buildings and congregations that have used them.

Check for any updates and amendments to the EHOD 2014 programme.

See also the EHODNI Facebook page for photographs and more details on many of the venues and events.


Lecture: The Rev Dr James Craig


The next lecture will be held on
Thursday 18 September at 8.00 pm
in Ballycairn Presbyterian Church, Ballylesson Road, Belfast

Dr Nicholas Railton (University of Ulster) will speak on
The Rev Dr James Craig, Evangelist, Church Planter and Missionary to the Jews“.

James Craig was the son of the Rev Samuel Craig, minister of Crossroads Presbyterian Church, Co Londonderry, 1805-54.  Educated at Old College Belfast and at Giessen in Germany, he was licensed by Belfast Presbytery in 1845. Shortly afterwards in the same year he was ordained and designated missionary to the Jews in Hamburg where he ministered for almost 30 years.  His time in Hamburg was not without controversy and difficulty, including rather strained relations with the Mission Board back in Belfast.

Come along and hear more of the story.

Ballycairn Presbyterian Church
53 Ballylesson Road, Belfast BT8 8JS

Co-ords: 54.543231, -5.941973

1. from Shaw’s Bridge – take Ballylesson Road B23 – 1 mile

2. from Ballylesson Road / Purdysburn Hill  junction – take Ballylesson Road B23 – ¾ mile

3. from Milltown Road – near Maxol petrol station, turn into Milltown Hill, curve right immediately and continue down Milltown Hill to Ballylesson Road. At Masonic Hall, turn left towards the Church for ¼ mile.


Presbyterians in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1700


 Presbyterians in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1700

 12-13 September 2014, Queen’s University Belfast

This conference has been organised by Crawford Gribben (Queen’s University Belfast) as part of the “Radical religion in the trans-Atlantic world: Ulster Scots perspectives” project, and is funded by the Northern Ireland DCAL Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots (2014-15).

All proceedings will take place in the Senate Room, Lanyon Building, Queen’s University Belfast. The conference is free and is open to the public.

 All enquiries should be directed to Crawford Gribben [ ].

Friday 12 September 2014

2:00pm          Welcome and first plenary lecture

Francis J. Bremer (Millersville University, PA),
“‘Congregational principles are lost in New England': The drift towards Presbyterian polity in colonial New England”

3:00pm-4:30pm   Session 1: English Presbyterians in the Atlantic world

Polly Ha (University of East Anglia),
“Presbyterians and the Prayer Book in the British Atlantic”

Elliot Vernon (Independent scholar),
“English Presbyterians and the Covenant” (tbc)

4:45pm-6:15pm   Session 2: Scottish Presbyterians in the Atlantic world

Andrew Robinson (University of Ulster),
“‘They hope to find an America in Scotland': An Ulster view of religious freedom on the eve of the Stuart Civil Wars”

Kathleen Middleton (Trinity College Dublin),
“Transatlantic sufferings:  The American colonies in post-Revolution Scottish martyrology”

6:30pm          Second plenary lecture

R. Scott Spurlock (University of Glasgow),
“‘Ascendency and exile: accounting for ecclesiological shifts in ‘Scottish’ Presbyterianism”

7:45pm          Conference dinner [all speakers are invited to attend dinner]
Molly’s Yard, Botanic Avenue

Saturday 13 September 2014

9:00am-10:30am    Session 3: Irish Presbyterians in the Atlantic world

Laurence Kirkpatrick (Union Theological College, Belfast),
“The Irish Mayfair: People, places and problems”

Robert Armstrong (Trinity College Dublin),
“Thinking like a Presbyterian: Irish Presbyterians in the British Atlantic world, 1689-1707″

11:00am-12:30pm    Session 4: Commerce and covenants in the Atlantic world

Craig Gallagher (Boston College, MA),
“Covenants and Commerce: Presbyterian Networks in the Atlantic world”

Michael S. Griggs (University of Edinburgh),
“The ‘Radical’ become Revolutionary: Violence as a Means of ‘Salvation’ within Covenanting Political Thought in a British Atlantic World, 1630-1750″

12:30pm    Lunch [available locally]

1:30pm-3:00pm   Session 5:

Thomas Donachie (Queen’s University Belfast),
“David Houston (1633-96) – Disquieter of the Peace”

Joseph S. Moore (Gardner-Webb University, NC),
“Covenanter factions in colonial Presbyterianism”

3:00pm          Closing plenary lecture

Michael Winship (University of Georgia),
“Hunting for ‘presbyterianism’ in puritan New England, then and now”

4:00pm          Conference ends


Quiet Peacemakers Art Exhibition at Urban Soul Café, Belfast

Quiet Peacemakers

Robin Morton, the Congregational Secretary at the May Street Church, has extended an invitation to view a special exhibition in the city centre.


The Quiet Peacemakers art exhibition by acclaimed local artist Susan Hughes, which was launched at 174 Trust during Community Relations Week in June, is now on tour.The display of oil portraits of the unsung heroes of the peace process is now on display at Urban Soul Café in the basement of May Street Presbyterian Church in the city centre. The café is open from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

The exhibition is of around 25 oil portraits and the subjects are those who have worked behind the scenes to promote reconciliation, such as Ken Newell, Lesley Carroll, David Jardine, Ruth Patterson, Harold Good, Fr Alec Reid.

Entry is free so come on down and have a browse through the paintings while enjoying a cup of that special Urban Soul coffee.

The exhibition will run until mid-September.

Logo - Urban Soul Cafe

About …

Susan Hughes

Exhibition Catalogue


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


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