Centenary Book of the First Presbyterian Church Portadown

Chapter VIII


In the early New Testament Church the ministry of woman took definite shape, and according to their experience and ability they gave help in various ways. Nearly every woman mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles is associated with some form of Christian service. The primitive Churches were hives of industry, and the work carried on in them was largely of such a character that women could take a prominent place in it. For the most part this consisted of acts of charity done for the benefit of poor and suffering members. But while this was so it is clear that in other ways the diversified gifts of devoted women were found in active operation. In the minds of most people the name of Dorcas takes first place as the lady of the needle, and her self-sacrificing and loving service in supplying garments made by her own hands will ever enshrine her memory in loving affection and inspire others to follow her example. The work of Phoebe, described by Paul as "our sister" and "a servant of the church," is of a different character. She apparently visited churches carrying messages of cheer and comfort, as is shown by Paul's description of her "a succourer of many and of myself also." Then again, there is Priscilla, the instructress, along with her husband, of Appolis, referred to as helper, who as an educated woman held an unique position as the first woman missionary.

To all these women of the Apostolic Church the story of Mary and her box of spikenard would be familiar, as would also be the high enconium pronounced upon her action. Like her they would gladly and willingly lay upon their Lord's altar the sacrifice of loyal and loving service.

It can be readily imagined that during its entire history the women of this congregation rendered willing help. It is only, however, during the ministry of Rev. Dr. Macaulay that any special mention can be made as to the work and the workers. It will be a labour of love to refer to some of those who because of their many deeds of benevolence and philanthropy, as well as by their example of holy living, are held in affectionate remembrance by those who knew them. Many of those who engaged in active service during the later years of Dr. Macaulay's ministry are still so employed, but it is chiefly to those who have passed away that reference will be made.

For many years two organisations were in active operation -- the Dorcas Society and the Young Women's Guild. The claims on the former society were not very numerous but it can be said that to no family was the excuse valid that its members had not proper clothing to enable them to attend the church. Formed as an educational organisation, before the days of Technical Schools, the Young Women's Guild proved very helpful, and as can be imagined soon outgrew its original object, and during each session active work was carried on in the production of clothing and fancy work, the sale of which provided funds for Missionary as well as for local objects. As was natural, Mrs. Macaulay took first place and gathered around her a band of willing workers whom by her presence she encouraged to noble service. Not once nor twice did these ladies shoulder the responsibility of clearing the church of debt, when by some extraordinary expenditure a heavy responsibility lay upon the congregational committee.

One of the most active and one to whom the church and its minister were especially dear was


It was a pleasure to approach Mrs. Bell for help. Possessed of a spirit of generosity and a heart overflowing with sympathy and good nature, it was well nigh an impossibility for her to say no. And then she did work putting her whole energy into every enterprise. It could hardly have been otherwise for the motive power was love and a high sense of duty.

Of those who gave active service and attended with great regularity the meetings of the Guild was


She had many home claims, but while these were not neglected she had, like Mrs. Bell, an unbounded sympathy for the sorrowful and the bereft. In cases of sickness amongst her numerous acquaintances it was a question whether she or the minister would arrive first, and indeed sometimes the intimation came to him through her. With Mrs. M'Kinney the visit did not end with an expression of sorrow. Her sympathy took a more practical form. Whatever help was necessary was willingly rendered, and many a tired mother or nurse got helpful sleep just because she was in charge. The Christ spirit was embodied in this lady to such an extent that it had to find an outlet.


Memory dwells affectionately on the labours of the late Miss Bright. From the earliest days of Mr. Macaulay's ministry her life of quiet yet constant service made her an outstanding personality. Quiet and unobtrusive in manner, she shrank from publicity, exemplifying in her character the dictum of the Wise Man that "before honour is humility." She did not seek for work but work sought her. It became quite a natural thing for office-bearers, when any little bit of extra work cropped up, to say: "Oh, we'll just ask Miss Bright to see to that." It was not difficult to discover the motives that prompted her to service. Love to Christ was the ruling impulse, and this coupled with loyalty to a congregation in which her father was a prominent member led her to give ungrudgingly of her time and energy. For many years she acted as the agent of the Orphan Society, collecting all the subscriptions as well as interesting herself in the welfare of the children of the congregation who were beneficiaries of the Society. Needless to say she was a Sabbath School teacher, and long before the advent of Christian Endeavour, as well as afterwards, she carried sunshine and comfort to many a sick bed, as well as to destitute homes. She was always in request when social functions were being organised, and to secure her help was a guarantee of success. The Dorcas Society and The Young Women's Guild had in her an active worker and a wise counsellor.


On this lady's work and influence much might be written and yet the half left untold. Richly endowed mentally, and highly educated, she willingly laid her talents at her Master's feet and gave freely of her time and energy to His service. The daughter of Rev. Dr. Glasgow, one of the two pioneer missionaries to India, she was naturally much interested in Missionary enterprise, and all through her life by her voice and pen, as well as by her gifts, she wielded a powerful influence in creating and fostering the missionary spirit throughout the entire Church, but especially in her own congregation. In this work she was ably assisted by her husband and in later years by some of the members of her family. The cause of temperance had in her an enthusiastic advocate. She took an active part in the formation of the Irish Women's Temperance Union, spoke frequently at its meetings, and during her Presidential year visited the branches. She also conducted the quarterly journal with much acceptance. For many years she taught a young women's class in the afternoon Sabbath School. She was held in much affection by those who passed through her class, and for whose welfare she evinced sympathy and concern long after they ceased to be members. In all the other activities in which women were permitted to take part she rendered willing and helpful service.

Although all through her life Mrs. Acheson devoted a considerable portion of her time to outside affairs it was in the home she found her real sphere of work and her greatest happiness. Two sons and five daughters came to bless and brighten it, and to their upbringing and training she freely gave of her energy and talents. At school and college they took foremost places, and to hardly another home in Ireland did such a wealth of prizes and scholarships come. To prepare and equip her children for their life's future was her highest ambition, and she lived to see them all successfully started on the journey. She was laid aside by a lingering illness, and a few months before the end came she was called on to experience the grief of parting from her husband, who died suddenly from an attack of pneumonia. Thus in one year the congregation were bereft of two of their most prominent members and their most generous supporters.


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