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

Rev Henry Montgomery and the Shankill Road Mission

Remembering the Reverend Henry Montgomery
Founder and First Superintendent
of the Shankill Road Mission

Montgomery Blue Circle Plaque On Monday 10 March 2014 the Ulster History Circle placed a plaque at the Albert Hall, 110-120 Shankill Road, Belfast, in memory of the Rev Dr Henry Montgomery, 1847-1943, founder of the Shankill Road Mission.  There were speeches from Chris Spurr, Chairperson of the Ulster History Circle, from William Humphrey, MLA, and from the Rev Jack Lamb, minister of Townsend Street Presbyterian Church and a member of the Shankill Area Social History Group (SASH) who did the unveiling of the plaque.

Those who gathered at the event were then invited to an illustrated lecture in Townsend Street Presbyterian Church Hall given by Stuart Irwin whose MA dissertation was on the Shankill Road Mission and who provided a fascinating insight into the work of the Mission and the inspirational role of the Rev Montgomery in meeting the spiritual and practical needs of the people on the Shankill.

Cover of Henry Montgomery BookletThe occasion was also an opportunity to distribute a booklet “Shankill Road Shepherd” produced by SASH about the Rev Henry Montgomery.  A copy of this booklet is now available in the Presbyterian Historical Society Library and Archive.  A fuller account of the history of the Shankill Road Mission can be found in “Shankill Road Mission: 100 Years of Caring” which can also be consulted in the Society’s Library and Archive.

The massive increase in the population of Belfast during the 19th century from 19,000 to 250,000 resulted in a boom in church building but despite this increased provision there remained many working class families who were unconnected to any church. Stirred by the large number of non-church going people as he walked one Sunday evening from Royal Avenue to the Shankill Road, the Rev Montgomery was convinced of the need to reach these people with the message of life.  He got involved in the work of the Belfast Town Mission and through his ministry in Albert Street Presbyterian Church sought to reach out the thousands of people who were flooding into Belfast to work in the textile mills.

To further his urban mission work he established a tent mission in 1896 and with money raised largely by his congregation a permanent building was built that opened in 1898.  The plans incorporated a large assembly hall – the Albert Hall – capable of seating 2000 people, a Sunday school, medical facilities, a soup kitchen, classrooms and recreational areas.

Shankill Road MissionIn 1902 Montgomery resigned as minister of Albert Street congregation and became a full-time worker with the Shankill Road Mission which then became an organised congregation in 1907.  By 1912 the church had grown to 500 families and in that same year Montgomery, in recognition of his work with the Mission, was made Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  From the beginning Montgomery’s vision was not only to evangelise the people but also to meet their physical needs.  For example – there was an annual Christmas supper and distribution of Christmas parcels; and he organised trips to the seaside to enjoy the fresh air at Bangor.

The many tributes paid to the Rev Henry Montgomery on his death in 1943 is indicative of the respect and esteem in which he was held by the people on the Shankill Road.

“Many people lined the streets in the area where Dr Montgomery had spent a long life of devoted service; blinds were drawn, doors of business premises were shut, and there were other evidences of the deep respect in which citizens, without distinction of creed, held the memory of the man who had long ministered to their spiritual and temporal needs.”

Even to this day the work of the Rev Montgomery is still fondly remembered in the area and he remains one of the great inspirational figures of Belfast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is only fitting that a plaque should be placed to commemorate the Rev Montgomery, affectionately known as the “Shankill Shepherd”, and to acknowledge the many lives that he touched throughout his life.

Ulster History Circle website

The Dictionary of Ulster Biography

Shankill Road Town Mission: Religion and philantropy in Belfast – Stuart Irwin

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

3rd Annual Whitelaw Reid Memorial Lecture

This year’s Whitelaw Reid Memorial Lecture, entitled
The Ulster-Scots and the Second American War of Independence, 1812-1815
will be delivered by Dr John McCavitt.

The lecture takes place on Thursday 27 March 2014 in the Board Room of the Presbyterian Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place, Belfast. The evening will commence with light refreshments from 7.00pm, followed by Dr McCavitt’s lecture at 7.30pm. Entry to this event is free and everyone is welcome. Please register by noon on Wednesday 26th March 2014.

Dr McCavitt is a noted authority on the period, who has authored numerous publications and lectured extensively on both sides of the Atlantic; he is also a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Ulster-Scots Academy. Through this lecture Dr McCavitt will provide a fascinating insight to the role played by Ulster-Scots in events such as the Battle of Baltimore, the burning of the White House and the Battle of New Orleans, which made Andrew Jackson an American national hero.


The Whitelaw Reid Memorial Lecture commemorates the life of Whitelaw Reid, a Scotch-Irish journalist, politician and diplomat who edited the New York Tribune before becoming a candidate for the Vice-Presidency of the United States and then the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom. In March 1912 Whitelaw Reid delivered a famous address entitled “The Scot in America and the Ulster Scot” in the Assembly Buildings.

Ulster-Scot Agency website

The Scot in America and the Ulster Scot – by Whitelaaw Reid

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

PHSI Lecture – 20 March 2014

on Thursday, 20 March 2014

in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Rosetta Road, Belfast – 8.00 pm

The Rev James Hamilton, 1600 – 1666, Minister of Ballywalter, 1626 – 1636

by Mr Mark Thompson

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

Presbyterians in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1700

Conference: Presbyterians in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1700
Queen’s University, Belfast
Friday 12th – Saturday, 13th September 2014

This interdisciplinary conference will describe and analyse the development of Presbyterian ideas, identities, networks, and communities in the early modern trans-Atlantic.

Speakers who have already confirmed their attendance include Francis Bremer, Polly Ha, Laurence Kirkpatrick, Scott Spurlock, Elliot Vernon, and Michael Winship.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in an edited volume under the title, Presbyterians in the trans-Atlantic world, 1550-1700.

This conference is 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).

The organisers, Crawford Gribben and Scott Spurlock, welcome proposals (approx. 200/250 words) for individual papers, or for panels of three papers with a chair, related to the conference theme. All proposals should be sent to Crawford Gribben [] by 1 April 2014.

View the Conference page.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website

“Ulster and Scotland” Conference – 25-26 March 2014

The PHSI will be participating in the Exhibition associated with the Conference
Ulster and Scotland – Ulster-Scots Contributions to a Shared Inheritance
being held on Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th March 2014
in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

Ulster and Scotland Conference

The Exhibition will take place in the Grand Ballroom on the first floor
of the Europa Hotel on Wednesday 26th March.
The exhibition will run from 9.00am – 5.00pm.

See the Conference Flyer (pdf) for full details.

Go to the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland website


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