Centenary Book of the First Presbyterian Church Portadown

Chapter VI


The first available Minute Book of the Session begins in 1855, when there was an ordination of Elders. There are, however, some earlier records in the files of the Historical Society. It is there recorded that Hugh M'Aughtry was representative elder in the years 1823 and 1824, Hugh Matthews in 1825, John M'Aughtry in 1826 and 1827, and James Shaw in 1828. There is then a blank until 1835, when James Newell attended, with another blank until 1856 and 1857, when R Morrison was the representative. There is traditional information that there were two gentlemen who in all probability were members and possibly elders during these early years. Their names were William Hunter, of Knock, and Thomas Malcomson, Bocombra. One interesting fact is that a son of the former, and bearing the same name, married Mr. Malcomson's daughter. The second Wm. Hunter was one of those ordained in 1855, the others being James Renshaw, R Morrison, William Gilbert and John M'Ilveen. On 31st May, 1857, James Hall, Devon Lodge, was ordained.

The next ordination was on 15th October, 1880, when the following were ordained:-- William English, William MacKay, Richard Gilbert and David Geddis. In 1885 the number was reduced to two, Messrs. Hunter and Gilbert, both old men, and on 29th Nov., 1886, the following three elders were installed:-- Rev. James Glasgow, D.D., R Henry and W.M. Clow. Owing to the deaths of Messrs. Hunter and GIlbert, and Dr. Glasgow the Session was in the year 1890 reduced to two members. They were, however, assisted by Messrs. Samuel Sprott and John Young, M.A., elders from other congregations who had recently joined. On 16th September, 1896, an ordination service took place at which Messrs. Spratt and Young were installed, and Messrs. William Orr and James Wilson ordained. Mr. G.A. Armstrong, B.A., was co-opted in 1914.

The most recent election took place in 1915, when on 16th December the following were ordained:-- James Best, James Bryson, Wm. J. Moffett, Wm. J. M'Kibben, and Samuel Weatherup, B.A.

A brief reference to some of those who have passed away, so far as information has been procurable, may be made. The writer remembers the second Mr. William Hunter as a gentleman of a modest, kindly bearing and a benign countenance, suggestive of one who lived at peace with God and man.. He was held in high esteem by the ministers under whom he served as one, who by his life and conduct, commended the religion he professed and the Master whom he served.

The name of M'Ilveen appears very frequently in the records from the year 1855 onwards. In that year John was ordained to the eldership, and his brother Samuel was a member of Committee. At that time and for years afterwards they were the leading bakers in the town. They were very devoted members of the Church, giving their services very freely. They were men of high Christian character, and John is spoken of as a man who adorned his position as an elder.

Mr. William English came from Ballylough, Donacloney, and was a teacher. He lived in Church Street, was Principal of the Duke's School, and was married to a daughter of Rev. W.T. Dowling, who also taught in the same school. He was a man of energy, and amongst other enterprises conducted classes under the South Kensington Department of Education, gathering together pupils of all denominations. He is described as a man slow to anger and of a very kindly disposition, a man who set apart a portion of his income to unostentatious almsgiving. What leisure he had was devoted to raising the tone and brightening the lives of those around him. In 1882 he was appointed. Principal of York Street N. Schools, Belfast, and there, too, until 1889, when death suddenly terminated a somewhat brief career, his upright and honourable character won him general esteem.

Mr. David Geddis came to town in 1858, when he took over the Principalship of the School. He does not seem to have been elected on the Committee until 1868, when he was appointed Secretary. During his membership in the congregation he was a tower of strength, helping to the best of his ability. He taught in the Sabbath School, and also acted as its Superintendent. He is spoken of as a very superior man, a gifted and popular teacher, yet withal reticent and modest, a man who never sought prominence. He was one of the very few laymen who, when called on, conducted the Prayer Meeting either at the Church or in any of the districts where such meetings were held.

Mr. William MacKay was a Scotchman connected with the Flour Milling trade. While in Portadown he acted as a commercial traveller for the. firm of T.H. White a Co. of this town. Mr. MacKay was a most entertaining gentleman with a vigorous and well informed mind, with whom it was a pleasure to hold converse. One can well imagine that he would prove a very helpful member of Session. His daughter, in the person of Mrs. J.C. Fulton, is held in very high esteem in the town.

Mr. James Hall was, as stated, ordained alone in 1867. He resided in Devon Lane, Killycomain Road, and was connected with the Linen industry.He is described as of fine personal appearance and bearing, resembling the type of the old country Squire rather than the astute business man. He attended most regularly the meetings of the committee, helping in every object towards the betterment of the temporal as well as spiritual interests of the congregation. As Sabbath School Superintendent he was most popular, and was looked up to by the children with respect bordering on reverence. In the distributing of prizes their value was enhanced by the cheering and encouraging words spoken to him. Few men of his time presented religion in so bright and cheerful an aspect. In later years he took up his residence in Belfast andbecame connected with Elmwood congregation where, as in Portadown, he commanded the esteem of minister and people.

Mr. R Henry's position as a commercial traveller, covering a large portion of the country, prevented him from taking as active a part in the work of the congregation as he would have liked to do. He willingly conducted the Prayer Meeting when opportunity offered, and helped in the Sabbath School. He was most regular in attending public worship, and a generous contributor to Church funds. He was much attached to old forms of worshIp, and opposed to hymn singing and instrumental music. He left Portadown in 1907 to reside in Belfast where, in order to find a form of worship most congenial to his principles, he joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Dublin Road, where he still worships.


This gentleman came to Portadown in the year 1890 from the city of Londonderry to take over "The Portadown News" and the Printing business attached thereto. While in Londonderry Mr. Young was Mathematical Master in the Academical Institution and subsequently in Foyle College. He was a graduate of the first Queen's University, where he gained the Senior Scholarship in Mathematics and a Gold Medal and First Honours with both his B.A. and M.A. degrees. He was a fellow student of Mr. Macaulay, and the intimacy then formed continued and was strengthened in after life.

On his arrival Mr. Young identified himself with the work of the congregation, and as stated was installed in the eldership. His district comprised the business centre of the town, and this led him to take an interest in the young people who came to the banks and business houses. He found congenial employment in superintending the collections for the Orphan Society, and the distribution of the grants to those receiving aid therefrom. He also acted as Superintendent of the West Street Sabbath School, attending most regularly and inspiring his teachers with his own quiet enthusiasm and love of the work, and by his sympathy and kindness secured the affection of the scholars. For some years the state of his health prevented him from attending evening meetings, a privilege he would have enjoyed, and a regretful loss to many thus deprived of opportunities of acquiring knowledge and enjoying personal intercourse with one so highly cultured.

Mr. Young possessed a most charming personality. It was the writer's privilege to visit him frequently and to share his confidence and friendship. He was thus enabled to appreciate the greatness and the goodness of the man, his loftiness of purpose, his singleness of aim, and his devotion to the highest ideals of life.

Mr. Wm. Orr's connection was of long standing. So early as 1861 his name is to be found in the list of the congregational committee. He was proprietor of a large pawnbroking business. He was a most energetic worker, attending the committee meetings with great regularity, and willingly shouldering any responsibility placed upon him. He was also a teacher in the Sabbath School. After his retirement from business he was ordained to the eldership in 1896, and magnified his office. He visited the sick, relieved the wants of the poor, and was a great help to the minister.

Mr. James Wilson, who was ordained at the same time as Mr. Orr, was brought up in the congregation. For many years his father, Mr. Samuel Wilson, acted as Precentor. As a Sabbath School teacher and Superintendent Mr. Wilson laid the minister and congregation under a debt of gratitude by his zeal and assiduity, while the added duties of the eldership were carried on in the same spirit. It was with great regret the members of Session and Sabbath School teachers said farewell when Mr. Wilson left to take up his residence in Belfast. It is a joy to them to know that in a larger sphere -- Fisherwick Church -- Mr. Wilson has a more ample scope for developing the energies he laid so willingly at his Master's feet while here. It is an added pleasure that his son, James Somerville Wilson, who attended the day and Sabbath Schools here ere he entered College, is now the honoured minister of the congregation of Conlig.

The Rev. James Glasgow, D.D., after serving the Presbyterian Church for fully forty years.in the Mission field retired and took up his residence in Portadown, first in a house of his own, but subsequently, on the death of Mrs. Glasgow, living with his daughter, Mrs. Acheson. During part of this time he lectured during the session to the students in the Assembly's College on Oriental Languages. He was a diligent student all through his life, and enjoyed imparting to others the knowledge he had acquired. He joined the Church, attending with regularity and preaching occasionally. He willingly acceded to the request to join the Session, and was held in much esteem and great affection by those associated with him.

Representative Elders to Synod of Ulster and
to the General Assembly:
TO SYNOD OF ULSTER.1894 -- W.M. Clow
1823 -- Hugh M'Aughtry1895 -- do.
1824 -- do.1896 -- do.
1825 -- Hugh Matthews1897 -- William Orr
1826 -- John M'Aughtry1893 -- Samuel Sprott
1827 -- do.1899 -- James Wilson
1828 -- James Shaw1900 -- John Young, M.A.
1835 -- James Newell.1901 -- J.R. Henry
TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY.1902 -- Samuel Sprott
1856 -- R Morrison1903 -- James Wilson
1857 -- do.1906 -- Samuel Sprott
1860 -- John M'Ilveen1907 -- James Wilson
1862 -- do.1908 -- John Young, M.A.
1865 -- do.1909 -- Samuel Sprott
1866 -- James Hall1910 -- James Wilson
1873 -- do.1911 -- John Young, M.A.
1876 -- do.1912 -- Samuel Sprott
1878 -- do.1914 -- do.
1879 -- William Hunter1915 -- G.A. Armstrong, B.A.
1883 -- Richard Gilbert1916 -- James Bryson
1886 -- do.1917 -- W.J. M'Kibbin
1887 -- W.M. Clow.1918 -- W.J. Moffett
1889 -- do.1919 -- Samuel Sprott
1890 -- do.1920 -- Geo. A. Armstrong, B.A.
1891 -- do.1921 -- James Bryson
1893 -- do.1922 -- W.J. M'Kibbin.

In 1898 the Assembly enacted that Ruling Elders who are Conveners of any Mission or Committee should be ex-officio members, since which date Mr. Clow has not been a representative elder.


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