Magheramason Presbyterian Church
Victoria Road
BT47 2RX



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The Beginning - 1875     A Synopsis of the Struggle

Magheramason Presbyterian Church is situated just inside the county boundary of Tyrone on the main A5 road approximately 5 miles from the city of Londonderry and 9 miles from the town of Strabane. The Church buildings, and the adjacent Manse, are a prominent landmark for passing traffic on this busy carriageway, but more importantly the Church has provided a meeting place for local Presbyterians to meet for weekly Worship, Praise and Christian Fellowship for the past 136 years.

In the 1870s Presbyterians living in the Magheramason area began a campaign to have their own congregation. In August 1877 work began on a meeting house at Magheramason on a site granted by the Duke of Abercorn before a congregation had been formally constituted. In June 1878 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church agreed to the establishment of a congregation there. The opening service in the new church, the construction of which was almost entirely due to the efforts of the people of that area, took place on 17 November 1878, and a report of this ceremony in the ‘The Witness’, a weekly journal published in Belfast at that time said:

  • “After a struggle of unexampled severity, the congregation of Magheramason has forced its way, not only into existence but into recognition”.

This referred to the tortuous process in which local Presbyterians had been engaged for the previous three years with the then Glendermott Presbytery and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church requesting and appealing to be formed into a local congregation.

The following year the Rev. Thomas Boyd (1879-1884)  was ordained its first minister.

The manse was built in 1889. A hall was built alongside the church in 1959.


From about 1870 there was a growing desire among the people in the Foyle Valley from Grange to Newbuildings to have a church of their own, in a more central situation than Donagheady. But it was not until 1875 that something definite was done about establishing one. A meeting was held in the locality and this is a quotation from the record of that meeting:-

"At a Public Meeting held in Magheramason on Friday 15th Jan., 1875, Wm. McCarter, Esq. J.P. in the chair, the following resolution was proposed by Mr. James Crawford, Rossnagallagh, and seconded by Mr. Robert Mathers, Magheramason and carried unanimously viz. That it would be expedient for various reasons to erect a new Presbyterian Church in the neighbourhood.

First, there being no Church in connexion with the General Assembly within four miles; consequently many are debarred from being present at Public Worship who would under other circumstances attend regularly, especially the old, the young, the poor and the infirm.

Second, that there is an influx of strangers into the district, especially Presbyterian, who, if their spiritual wants are "not provided for, will, in all likelihood, be lost to the Presbyterian Church.

Third, the population being almost exclusively Presbyterian and it being almost certain that a large and respectable Congregation would worship in the new church when built and believing that it is not possible in any other way to overtake the religious wants of the community, we hereby pledge ourselves to further the movement in every constitutional way, and do everything in our power to accomplish the desired end."

At the same meeting a Committee of Management was appointed:-Victor Love (Foyleside), Victor Love, Jun., James Hatrick, Samuel Gamble (Menaugh), Robinson Osborne, Wm. McNeely, Joseph Mathers, James McIvor, Wm. Moorhead, Samuel Gamble (Coolmaghery), David Hall, W. J. Jeffrey, James Smith, James Crawford, David Hyndman, John McCorkell, Robert Hall, James Hall, Josias Rankin and James Torry.

Joseph Mathers and James Crawford were appointed Joint Treasurers, and Wm. McCarter and J. H. McIntyre, Joint Secretaries.

A sub-committee was appointed "to wait on T. W. D. Humphreys, Esq. J.P., with the view of obtaining a site in Perpetuity from His Grace, the Duke of Abercorn." Another deputation was appointed to wait on the Presbytery (Glendermott).

And so the first step was taken on what was to prove a tortuous road, culminating in the opening Service on 17th November, 1878.  Top of Page

By Ivor McNeely

When Magheramason Church opened in November, 1878, a report of the ceremony in The Witness, a weekly journal published in Belfast, said:

"After a struggle of unexampled severity, the congregation of Magheramason has forced its way, not only into existence but into recognition."

But we have to go back another three years - to June, 1875 - for the start of the struggle. 

An adjourned meeting of Glendermott Presbytery received a deputation requesting a new church at Magheramason, in the parish of Donagheady.

The presbytery, however, recommended that they should have no church, but a house, "suitable for a preaching station."

But the deputation stuck to their guns. Although there were two churches at Donagheady and two at Glendermott, the proposed site, they reasoned, was in a "populous district" and "at least four Irish miles" from any of the others.

It was also in the centre of a people exclusively Presbyterian "whose numbers are daily increasing by the influx of Scotch Presbyterian tradespeople to the village of Newbuildings."

The deputation gave notice of appeal, for they had with them a petition signed by 121 families who had already subscribed nearly £900 for building purposes-a sum, the deputation maintained, which would largely increase if the congregation was recognised by the General Assembly.

The petitioners-the majority of whom lived not less than three miles from any existing congregation-were made up of the members of five congregations, strangers and families unattached to any congregation.

The Derry Standard, reporting the meeting, said it understood that the petitioners proposed to give £100 to a minister, guarantee not less than £50 a year to the Sustentation Fund, and were determined, if the Assembly approved, to build on the site they had 'selected - with Sabbath and day schools in connection.

A few weeks later, the General Assembly met in Derry and at its eleventh session, on June 14, 1875, the appeal against the presbytery finding was heard. It was signed by Victor Love, James McIvor, John McCorkell and James R. McIntyre.

It was resolved that the appeal be dismissed and the finding of the Presbytery sustained. 

The affair dragged on for another two years.

In 1877, James McIvor and Joseph Mathers appeared at the General Assembly appealing for a congregation to be established. The Rev. A. C. Murphy was heard on behalf of the Synod of Derry and Omagh, and the Rev. F. Pettigrew on behalf of the Glendermott Presbytery.

It was moved and seconded that the appeal be sustained and that the Presbytery be instructed to proceed with the erection of a new congregation.

An amendment, that the appeal be dismissed, was later withdrawn and moved as follows: 

That as no new circumstances favourable to the erection of a congregation at Magheramason appear to have arisen in this case since the Assembly of 1875, it is resolved that the appeal be dismissed, that the Assembly adhere to its former decision that they direct the Presbytery to see that the religious wants of the people of the district be carefully looked after by the establishment of a Sabbath school, by occasional evening services and by such other ministrations as the presbytery may see to be desirable.

The amendment was carried, 72 for, 45 against. 

On August 12 that year, the foundation stone was laid for a new church. 

Another year passed but the people of this district were not giving up with their appeals. A new one came from "certain persons in the neighbourhood" to the Assembly praying for the supply of a preacher.

On the morning of Sunday, November 17, 1878, a crowd composed largely of "those comfortable sons and daughters of agriculture who are the pride and honour of our Ulster Presbyterianism", gathered for the opening service in the new church at Magheramason, three months after its dedication.

It had been built almost unaided by the people of the locality, and had been provided with preaching by Glendermott Presbytery.

The report in The Witness said there was nothing very imposing or pretentious about the structure.

It could accommodate 500 people and the pulpit was "elegantly furnished by funds collected by some ladies interested in organising the congregation."

The report went on: "Farmers gave labour as well as money, with the result that the church only cost £ 1,100- and is now almost free of debt.

"Excepting eight or ten, all the pews have already been let and there are 200 children in the Sabbath school, under William McCarter, Jun., J.P., superintendent, a lifelong labourer in this department of church work.

"The opening service was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Knox, who came among the congregation like an old friend. The evening service was held in First Derry when the Rev. Prof. Smyth, J.P., preached. The collection from both services was £101."

Thus, Glendermott Presbytery was able to report to the 1879 General Assembly that "they had formed the people of Magheramason into a congregation and were proceeding to the settlement of a minister over them."

That man turned out to be the Rev. Thomas Boyd, a licentiate of the Ahoghill Presbytery, who was ordained on June 18, 1879, and for five years worked to put the new congregation of 80 families on a sound footing.

When Mr. Boyd resigned on July 7, 1884, the congregation had been transferred to the Derry Presbytery, and beside the church a sexton's house, stables and a small hall had been built.

In January, 1928, with the Rev. F. W. C. Wallace as minister, Magheramason celebrated its jubilee-and invited Mr. Boyd, then retired, back to occupy the pulpit. The congregation had grown to 105 families.

Mr. Boyd told the congregation: "Fifty years ago a band of farseeing and practical men and women felt a new congregation was needed in the district and at once took steps to supply that need.

"In spite of no little opposition and disencouragement they soon saw their self-denying efforts crowned with success."  Top of Page



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