Centenary Book of the First Presbyterian Church Portadown

Chapter VII


Complimentary reference has already been made to the work of the Committee in the early days of Mr. Elliott's ministry, which goes to show how helpful such an organisation can prove to be. There were times and congregations when committees held a somewhat nebulous existence, only called together at rare intervals to ratify or legalise some action of the minister, or to grant him permission to carry through some proJect. Now-a-days conditions are different and even the most autocratic of ministers have learned that the more the monetary affairs of a congregation are left in the hands of the committee the greater will be the success and the harmony of the congregation. It is very gratifying that of late years the claim of women to election has been conceded, and the hope is expressed that all over the Church the recognition of their manifold labours will receive acknowledgment by allowing them to share, equally with men, the responsibility of managing the secular affairs of every congregation.

While one would like to make some reference to many of those who have given generous service to this congregation, want of knowledge will hinder to a great extent. An attempt is, however, made in a few instances. Samuel M'Cullough, who heads the list of subscriptions to the new church, was a hotel keeper in Woodhouse Street in the house at present in occupation or Mr. P.J. Sheil. He was a very active business man and in the secular affairs of the church he gave willing and diligent service. In addition to giving liberally himself he was instrumental in collecting a large number of subscriptions from business firms and acquaintances. His sons emigrated, so that there are now no male relations in this country. A brother named Abraham also served on the committee, and for a time acted as treasurer. John Fulton, who gave active service for a number of years, was a merchant who built up a very large business. He was the father of Mr. W.G. Fulton, and the late Mr J.C. Fulton. L.C. Wilson was in business in Woodhouse St., and of his generosity left the congregation a legacy of £250. The Saundersons also lived in Woodhouse Street, and conducted a business there. A sister named Susan left a legacy of £100. The Renshaws had a public-house in Woodhouse Street, as, indeed, had some other members of the congregation, but it must not be forgotten that in those early days it was quite a popular belief that piety and punch were not inseparable.


In the first Minute Book no name appears so frequently as that of Bright. In the very first page of the first available book there is a list of the committee for the year 1856-7, in which the name appears of David Bright. After the name there is the word "Chairman." How far back one would require to go to reach the time when this gentleman first appeared in the capacity of a member of committee it would be hard to discover, but this date seems to have been near the close of his useful life. The last meeting he attended was that held on 1st March, 1858. A few years later the name of his son George appears, followed by that of another son, William Henry, and both of these names appear with regularity for many years. These gentlemen were builders, and to them fell the honour and responsibility of building the Manse, the new Church, and in later years the new Schools. To this must be added many works of minor importance requisite to maintain and improve the property. Mr. George Bright remained unmarried but not so his brother, who married a Miss Atkinson, by whom he had a most interesting family of six sons and two daughters. All of these showed great aptitude for learning, and nearly all took Collegiate courses. They are now scattered over many lands as become men and women of parts, the one representative of the family still in Portadown being Mr. J. Sydney Bright, B.A., Solicitor, who exhibits a lively interest in a congregation to which so many of his forbears belonged. Another son, Dr. W.H. Bright, married Mr. Macaulay's eldest daughter, and is at present practising in London. It is pleasant to record that Mrs. W.H. Bright is still a member of the congregation. A little incident is told of Mr. and Mrs. Bright when they presented one of their sons for baptism. Mr. Elliott asked the usual question "What is your child's name?" and got the reply "George." Dipping his hand in the water Mr. Elliott proceeded "George Leonard Dobbin Elliott, I baptize thee," etc. Until he left Portadown, and possibly until this day he was called and known as " Elliott" Bright.

Mr. Hugh Wallace came to reside in Portadown about the year 1861, where he established himself in a hardware business, which in a few years grew to large dimensions. He was born in Clontibret, County Monaghan, the youngest member of a large family. One of his brothers was the Rev. R Wallace of Coleraine. Married shortly after his arrival in Portadown, he became the father of three sons and six daughters, whose presence in the Sabbath School and Church was an inspiration alike to teachers and minister. A devoted Christian, as well as a man of enthusiasm and enterprise, he gave active and willing help to the Presbyterian Church, of which he was a loyal member. He proved an active agent in helping the congregation to clear off the debt with which it was heavily burdened when he became a member. As was natural he took a lively interest in Sabbath School work, acting as a teacher and subsequently as Superintendent for several years before his death. The welfare of the town lay close to his heart, and he took a lively interest in civic affairs, acting as a Town Commissioner, and serving a term as Chairman. He was also a Magistrate for the County. He was struck down very suddenly, and died after a very brief illness in the prime of life, on 19th January, 1886. He was laid to rest amid universal expressions of genuine sorrow, and regret that a life so full of promise should be cut off in the noon time of its power. Two of his sons are members of the medical profession in Bristol, while his second son and namesake succeeded to the business. Possessing many of the same gifts and much of the enthusiasm of his father he gave promise of a long life of usefulness, but he, too, was cut off at an even earlier age to the intense regret of the community.

Another of the men whose memory is very deservedly held in high esteem as an active worker in connection with the congregation during the earlier ministry of Mr. Macaulay is Mr. Joseph Fleming, who for a period of something over twenty years carried on an ever increasing drapery business in the town. Mr. Fleming was born in the neighbourhood of Limavady, where his father occupied a large farm, and was an elder in the congregation of Balteagh. Both his parents were very devout Christians, observing family worship twice daily. Joseph, the youngest, after serving his apprenticeship, came to Portadown about the year 1875. He promptly identified himself with the Sabbath School and became its secretary under Mr. Wallace.

On the lamented death of this gentleman Mr. Fleming was chosen Superintendent, which position he filled with great efficiency until his death in 1898. During his twelve years of service he devoted himself most assiduously to the duties devolving upon him, attending punctually and regularly, visiting teachers and scholars when sick or absent and by his love for the children, his kindly disposition, and his frank and open manner he drew to himself both teachers and scholars in a confidence and affection which increased year by year. As a member of committee he attended regularly, and gave sympathetic and generous help to every project that was for the benefit of the congregation.

He was possibly the first member to adopt the system of devoting a tenth of his income to the Lord, and thus it was always a pleasure to go to him for money. He had a special box -- the Lord's Treasury -- although he never called it this -- and it was never empty. Like his predecessors in the office of Superintendent he was called away suddenly after a short illness in the prime of life -- he was only 48 -- and at a time when his influence as well as his usefulness in the town had reached a commanding position.

Mr. John. Malcomson is one who eminently deserves mention. Unlike many of those to whom reference has been made he was a baptized member, his parents residing in the neighbourhood of Drumnagoon. After his school days the young lad served his apprenticeship to the linen business, and after some time began business as a handkerchief manufacturer. In this he proved very successful, and he built the block of houses known as Windsor Terrace, where in the rere of the one in which he resided he had a well equipped factory. He was happily married, and as the years passed ten bright-faced winsome children graced the home. It was the delight of the Superintendent to welcome a large contingent of them to the School each Sabbath morning. Mr. Malcomson held the Church and its minister in very high esteem. He was truly "a minister's man," and the bond of affection between them was very strong. Like Barnabas of old "he was a good man," and had the welfare of the members at heart. He and the minister sometimes knelt in the office in prayer for an erring brother, or for blessing on some special work going on.On the death of Mr. Geddis he undertook the secretaryship of the committee, and subsequently the treasurership. In both capacities he proved very successful. No minutes since 1855 are so legible or so full, and they are a pleasure to read. In 189S he transferred his business and residence to Belfast, and the congregation was thus deprived of his help and influence.

Mr. David Graham and his brother R were the proprietors of the Spinning Mill, which they acquired in the seventies. Mr. Graham appears to have been elected on the Committee for the first time in 1877, and from that time he gave much attention to the affairs of the congregation. Prior to coming to Portadown he had resided in Belfast, and was a member of Townsend Street congregation, where he had acted as Superintendent of the Sabbath School. When he settled in Portadown he showed himself to be a man willing and eager to work. In addition to helping in the Sabbath School and Congregation he carried on a. Bible Class for his workers and all others who chose to attend. When the U.P. Church came into the market he purchased it for the use of this class. After carrying on the work here for a number of years he had unfortunately to abandon it owing to a break-down in his health, and the building was sold. Mr. Graham was a man of outstanding ability, fervent zeal, and unbounded energy. One teacher who served under him declares him the best Superintendent he ever knew. He continued his interest and financial help to the congregation until his death, his enforced confinement being a source of great regret, which he yet bore with Christian fortitude.

Mr. John Lockington was elected on the Committee in 1907. He had come to town as Postmaster some time earlier. He was a great acquisition, as he proved himself to be a man of much energy and resourcefulness. He will be remembered most as the person through whose energy an organ was installed. At the annual meeting at which he was elected he was instrumental in having a resolution adopted requesting the Session "to take into consideration the desirability of introducing hymns and instrumental music into the public worship." As a consequence the Session issued voting papers to the members with the result that the voting was almost equally divided for and against. In the circumstances the Session wisely decided it would not be prudent to sanction any change. Undeterred by defeat Mr. Lockington made another effort two years later, when he approached the Session with a memorial signed by 210 stipend payers out of a total of 240. On this occasion the Session assented to the prayer of the memorial. With great promptitude and zeal Mr. Lockington had a committee formed, with Mr. A.G. Sloan as treasurer, and in a short time had secured promises for almost the entire cost amounting to £700. The introduction of the Hymnary took place a year later. As might be expected, there was some little dissatisfaction, but all such soon disappeared. The same energy that characterised Mr. Lockington in this matter was exemplIfied in his business life. After a short term in Portadown his ascent on the ladder of promotion became more rapid, until he held the chief position in some of the largest Post Offices in England. His retirement was recently announced.

Mr. John Acheson joined the congregation in 1882, and was elected on the Committee the following year a position he held till his death in 1914. A son of the Manse, and brought up under Christian influences, it was but natural that he should exhibit a love for the House of God, and a willingness to attend its services, and give of his time and money towards its maintenance. These things Mr. Acheson did all through life, and as his business prospered so did his givings expand. His giving to missions rose to a high standard, and he was no less generous to local objects. It is a singular coincidence that a short time before his own death, and when Mrs. Acheson was very ill, he spoke to two members of the congregation and urged them to clear off a debt, offering as an inducement to contribute one-third of the amount. The effort had hardly concluded when he was suddenly and very unexpectedly called home.

Mr. Samuel Wilson. -- For many years there were two gentlemen of this name members of the congregation and serving on the committee. The one usually designated senior was a grocer, and lived next door to the church. He possessed many admirable qualities of head and heart; as a sermon taster he was in the same class as Ian Maclaren's celebrated character, Mrs. Macfadyen; he could repeat long portions of Mr. Elliott's public prayers, and was a great admirer of the leading public men in Church and State, perhaps his greatest favourite being Chas. H. Spurgeon, whose teaching and preaching greatly appealed to him. In the early days of the Young Men's Debating Society, held in the Institute, he was frequently in evidence, and his speeches were looked forward to with expectancy. In these and other ways Mr. Wilson was a well known citizen with whom it was a profitable pleasure to hold converse.

The other Mr. Wilson was in the linen business. He came to the church in 1866, being appointed to the position of Precentor in place of his brother-in-law, Mr. Samuel Magowan, who had resigned, to take up a similar position in First Lurgan. Mr. Wilson held the position for thirty-four years. During this long period he trained and maintained an efficient choir, finding new members to supply the places of those who fell out, and doing all this to the satisfaction of the worshippers. On his resignation in 1900 he received a public testimonial and presentation for his long and faithful services. In addition Mr. Wilson served on the committee and taught in the Sabbath School.

On Mr. Wilson's resignation he was succeeded by Mr. William Maconachie, who acted with great efficiency as Precentor for a period of nine years, and on the installation of the organ he was appointed organist, a position he still occupies. In this latter capacity Mr. Maconachie holds a high place in the estimation of the congregation.

When writing about Precentors it is but right to state that the predecessor of Mr. Magowan was named John Harris. The date of his appointment is in the misty past, of which there is no record, but it is certain he led the praise in the first built church. There is a reference to him in a Minute dated 23rd August, 1858, when the committee appointed a sexton at a salary of £4 annually. The Minute proceeds: "John Harris is to get £6 p. annum as precentor, two pounds being taken off on account of the new sexton being appointed." A further Minute of 5th February, 1861, records the fact that, owing to unsatisfactory service, the committee dispensed with the services of this sexton and appointed John Harris in his stead. One cannot help wishing that on this occasion John Harris had the upper hand and got his £2 back again as well as the full salary as sexton.


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