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:
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.
BEGINNING - 1875
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,
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
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
SYNOPSIS OF THE STRUGGLE
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
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
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
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
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
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
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