Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Presbyterian Church Instrumental Music Controversy pt 2

By “The Man in the Street.”

As I have indicated, the feeling of excitement throughout the Church was great at the time, and we had many pamphlets on the subject, the only one of which I can recall being one by Professor Wallace, but I know there were others. The subject was discussed in the papers, though, perhaps, less at this time than since “The Witness” came into existence two years afterwards, of which I shall have something to say by and bye. It was the chief topic in congregations and among Presbyterians, either corporate or individual. “Liberty” and “Purity” had become watchwords at that time as descriptive of the two parties. There was scarcely a Young Men’s Association connected with the Presbyterian Church that did not debate the question at its meetings. We debated it in Duncairn, where, apart from other reasons, the prominence into which Mr. Thomas Sinclair had sprung in the Church, as well as that attained by its minister, the Rev. T. Y. Killen, special interest attached to the subject. I was myself for the first time caught in the vortex of debating excitement. Our young men’s society arranged a debate on the subject, with Mr. Sinclair to lead off on the “Liberty” side. At the last moment he was called away on business, and I was asked to take his place. The honour was as great as the responsibility was appalling. I had never taken a leading part in a debate before, and thought I would prepare a speech for the great occasion. I kept writing away, but only to find that my introduction would have occupied as much time as was allotted to me altogether; and so had to trust to a hesitating tongue and inadequate thought and information for giving the lead. And a poor lead it was. I boggled through for a quarter of an hour with a consciousness of having made a poor exhibition of myself and my cause. But worse was to follow. I had only arranged for one or two speakers to follow me on my side. But to my surprise my friends the enemy, and chief among them my best friend and companion, Hugh Jamison, brother of the minister of Rasharkin, had a whole relay of speakers arranged for. The result was that while I believe the majority of the audience were on my side, the majority of the speakers were on the other side, and, I am afraid, the best speaking, too. There were nearly two speeches on the “Purity” side for one on mine. It was after ten o’clock before the time came for my reply. Between shame at what I regarded as my failure both of speech and organisation, and a resolute determination to make amends at the finish, I could scarcely keep my seat for the previous half-hour. When my time came I rattled off all I knew as rapidly and confidently as I could. Beyond the fact that I kept harping on the harp and kept watching the clock for time and the faces of my audience for signs of weariness, I was conscious of nothing when I sat down but that I had been talking. I could no more have reconstituted that speech than I could have converted Hugh Jamison or Mr. Petticrew. How the vote went I cannot remember. But I fought shy of debates on that question, or, indeed, any other of the kind, afterwards.

It was different with the Assembly of 1872 so far as perfection and the marshalling of forces were concerned. There were no end of speakers and no end of speaking and no end of marshalling forces. Attempts were made to have the speeches limited, and I think a limit was fixed, but, like many other rules, it was, I suspect, more honoured in the breach than in the observance. According to form, the question arose on the report of the committee of which Rev. Dr. Knox was convener, and the moving of the reception of the report should have fallen on Dr. Knox. But, as a matter of fact, the report in committee had been carried by a majority against him and his friends. Professor Wallace, Rev. W. F. Stevenson, Rev. Jas. Gibson, and Mr. Wm. Shaw, elder, with Dr. Knox himself, had dissented from the report. Dr. Knox had given the name of the dissenters in his report, and the Rev. Archibald Robinson protested against that, and this led to some heated remarks, in the midst of which the Moderator (Rev. Dr. Richard Smyth) said — “May I request that you will not allow feeling to get up so soon.” In the end Dr. Knox did not move the reception of the report — only presenting it, and this duty fell to the Rev. Francis Petticrew, who at the first and till the end was the acknowledged leader of what was known as the Purity party. Tall and dignified, straight as an arrow and firm as steel, solid and scholarly, Dr. Petticrew (he was not D.D. at the time, but in his and other cases I shall continue to use the names that were more familiar to the present generation) was an ideal leader of any cause. He was not only a man of principle, but a man of consistency, a man of intense earnestness, to whom truth and duty were more than life. If Dr. Petticrew had lived in the days when men were sent to the stake for their principles, he would have faced the stake with the heroism of a martyr and the hopefulness of a saint. He was not as ready in extemporised debates as some others, but when he prepared a speech it was a complete and perfect speech. I could not recall even the number of speeches he made in the Assembly and elsewhere, or the number of articles he wrote during this controversy. II It was remarkable, however, that while the bases of his speech were always the same, the superstructure was different, forceful in argument, unsurpassed in its sincerity and earnestness, and finished in style. And as he filled so large a share in the controversy, let me say here that at the end he was the same noble, high-minded Christian gentleman, as noble and dignified in defeat as he was high-minded and honourable in victory.

Setting out with the Assembly resolution, of which, I think, Dr. Cooke was the father, that the common law of the Church excluded instrumental music, he appealed to the Old and New Testament, holding that it was only for the temple that instrumental music was prescribed, and that there was no example of it in the New, and argued that those who proposed a change were bound to justify the change, which they had hitherto failed to do, and thus he claimed that, even if lawful, a practice should not be introduced which would offend the consciences of many worshippers.

I need not say that the speech created great enthusiasm among the Purity party, and was listened to with great respect by the other side, a courtesy which that leader always received, as was his due. The Rev. James Rogers, Glascar, seconded the resolution. Then Mr. Thomas Sinclair, known to this generation as the Right Hon. Thos. Sinclair, mounted the platform. Mr. Sinclair was then a young man on the right side of thirty, but he had already taken the place of leadership as by natural selection. His brilliant service in the financial settlement of the Church, as well as his high Christian character, Presbyterian loyalty, and statesmanlike sagacity and cultivated eloquence, had secured for him a respect and influence which grew with his growth and remained to his death. Dr. Petticrew and he were honoured graduates of the same — Queen’s — University, and in personal and ecclesiastical relations it might be truly said that each loved the other more than himself. These two withstood each other face to face all through this controversy, and their relations to the end were those of the truest Christian affection, Christian brotherhood in the highest and best sense of the term. It was my privilege to have known both very intimately, and to have had opportunities of knowing how each regarded the other, the respect and affection each had for the other, and the regret each felt that there should be any differences between them in regard to the services of a Church they both loved so dearly. I have heard the majority of the speeches of Mr. Sinclair on questions of Church and State, and I could not say there was any difference in tone and character or ability from one period to the other. His early speeches had a literary tone and feeling begotten of his university training, but they were never the flamboyant speeches of a young man. Large views, a high sense of duty in Church and State, a high sense of individuality, responsibility, and of public duty animated him in youth as in age. If polish might be regarded as a speciality of youth, it was as marked a characteristic of Mr. Sinclair’s age. In the memorable speech on this occasion, a cultured speech, the youth was father to the man, loyalty to Church above all and before all. His declaration at the close of a magnificent speech was like the man — “If the issue of this question be the use of an instrument or the peace of the Church. ‘Perish the instrument, but God save the Church.’ ”

Professor Wallace, who carried the weight of great learning and a philosophic mind into this controversy, seconded Mr. Sinclair’s amendment, which was as follows — “That the report be received and the committee discharged, and that the General Assembly believing it to be the duty of Christian people to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of the lips giving thanks unto His mine, do not feel called upon to legislate regarding certain ‘circumstances’ concerning the public worship of God in this ordinance, such as the employment of precentors and choirs and the use of instrumental aid, believing that these circumstances are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.”

The debate was continued for the whole forenoon sederunt on Thursday, the whole forenoon sederunt on Friday, and from nine o’clock on that evening till cock crowing in the morning. Amongst those who took part in the debate were Rev. Dr. Gardner Robb, of Clogher; Rev. Dr. Killen, Comber; Rev. J. L. Rentoul, Garvagh; Rev. G. H. Shanks, Boardmills; and Rev. W. Kirkpatrick, Dublin, in support of Dr. Petticrew; and Rev. Dr. Watts, Rev. Professor Macloskie, Rev. L. E. Berkeley, and others contra.

It was not till after three o’clock on Saturday morning that the vote was taken. There was an electric feeling in the House at the time, as, indeed, there was during the whole night. This was the first occasion on which the subject was discussed on its merits. And it was a memorable discussion. I cannot say how many debates, both in day and night, that I heard in May Street and elsewhere on this subject. But none impressed me more than this. One thing these debates did for me was to enable me to realise as I never had done before the great ability, and, especially the debating ability, of the Assembly of those days. The newspapers gave very full and fair reports of the debates, but no effort to represent in black and white the speeches, whether in full or in summary, could give any adequate  idea of the character and effect of the speeches. It requires the living voice, the crowds, the atmosphere, and the feeling and spirit of the moment to enable one to fully appreciate tho character of a speaker or its effectiveness. Oft times the speeches that read best in the Press are not the most effective on the platform. It was not only in the ranks of the Presbyterian Church but outside them that the speeches and debates left an impression. It is true some captious outside critics commented on the strength of the language at times used and the excitement that prevailed, but I question if any other body of the time, ecclesiastical or lay, could have produced, an equal number of men to make an equal number of able speeches; and the heat and excitement that prevailed were simply indications that the debates were not academic displays, but discussions that went to the heart and life of the Church.

While the first debate left the deepest impression on my mind, the longer the discussion lasted the greater my admiration grew, and if as a Presbyterian I felt gratified at the manner in which harmony developed out of what was a critical and divisive controversy, I retain a general sense of pride and satisfaction at the high character of the oratory the subject developed. And what was true of the first debate was true of others. Some of the best speeches, delivered in the middle of the night, seldom saw the light of day, except in the baldest summary. The newspapers had to go to Press before the debates closed, and sufficient for the work of the day was the reporting thereof. I re-read, however, the published reports of this first debate, and found them still readable, though many of the arguments have an old world ring about them now, and some of the phrases rather an archaic character.

It was towards the close of the debate that one of the exciting incidents or scenes of the debate took place, and it is indicative alike of the attention and the tension. While the Rev. L. E. Berkeley was speaking he referred to the fact that Dr. Robb had looked scornfully at the tuning-fork he had in his hand. Dr. Robb waxed indignant at this and at a comparison the minister of Lurgan had drawn between him and Goliath attacking David. This intervention raised a mild storm, but the Moderator allowed Mr. Berkeley to finish in peace.

The vote was then taken by the old and tedious process of calling the roll, and occupied the greater part of an hour, which was an hour of intensely suppressed interest and excitement. In the end 145 voted “amend,” and 180 “not,” which meant the defeat of the “liberty” party by 35 votes. The cheering of the victorious party was loud and vociferous. It was the first real test vote on the merits, and the first victory I went to Dr. Petticrew and his party,

The Rev. Dr. Charles Morrell, of Dungannon, whose portly presence and genial and moderating humour often relieved the dulness of the House or the tension of a moment, then came forward to move as a second amendment that the report be received and the committee dissolved, and that the Assembly declare that vocal music is the only music in the public worship of God authorised by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Mr. J. P. Corry seconded the amendment. There was another roll call and another vote on this amendment, which had the extraordinary and unexpected result of ending in a tie — 152 on each side. If the excitement was great before, it was, if possible, greater now. It was suggested that the Moderator should give a casting vote, but he said while he would be prepared to do so if necessary he would prefer to refrain. He was not pressed, and after some discussion he suggested that it would be better to let the question remain as before for another year,  with the understanding that no action be taken during the year either to put out or put in an instrument. In this way the first great instrumental debate ended.

To be continued at a later date...



From The Witness, 12th October 2017



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Presbyterian Church Instrumental Music Controversy

by “THE MAN IN THE STREET.”

Now that the holidays are over and “Southern Presbyterian” is himself again, I feel stimulated to resume some of my old activities and take up the thread of my musings, which the General Assembly interrupted. I felt for the time that the work and interest of the present Assembly was enough for my readers and myself, and I am not quite sure that either of us has discharged our full duty to it. But, I fear, as it has been in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, failure of duty will be the badge of too many of the sons of men, and even the sons of the Presbyterian Church.

While I was thinking over what branch or period of the past Assembly life and work I should take up a clerical friend suggested that the instrumental music controversy had become sufficiently ancient history to be discussed with ecclesiastical and philosophic calm, and, at the same time, sufficiently modern and interesting to make the controversy and its personages and incidents interesting to the present generation. To those who knew the great men of that day the story might recall interesting memories, and to those of the new generation it might be of interest to know something of the giants of the old day, and how they wrought and fought for what each believed to be the right. Looking back over that controversy extending over two decades, thinking of the feeling that produced it and the heat it inspired, the sanctity of use and wont on the one side, and the stimulus of new ideas and ideals on the other, I often wonder how it came to an end without a rupture and leaving so few bitter memories behind it. It is when men think strongly and feel strongly they speak strongly, and there was as much strong speaking and writing during this controversy as ever marked any controversy, ecclesiastical or political. And yet amid it all so powerful was respect for honest conviction and so deep the respect and veneration of the leaders in the controversy for each other’s sincerity, and reverence for God and the Church, that I do not think a private friendship was broken during the entire period, or a word uttered — except now and then in the heat of debate, and at once apologised for — that left any embittering memories behind it. Apart from what the general public knew of this, I can bear testimony such as few others could have had opportunity of doing. I was, perhaps, thrown more into personal contact with the leaders of both sides than the average man. I had most familiar and intimate converse with them not only in regard to the controversy, but in regard to the opponents of each in the controversy, and I can say this, that I never once heard the leaders on either side speak with anything but the greatest respect of the spirit and the motives of those on the other side. In the old days Professors Killen and Watts, Dr. Heron, Rev. Dr. T. Y. Killen, and other, leaders of what was called the Instrumental Music Party dropped into my office for a chat, as did also Dr. Petticrew, Dr. Corkey, Rev. Dr. George Magill, and others on the other side, and frequently some of the friendly rivals met and discussed matters together in my room. And they discussed it on all occasions like Christian gentlemen, each respecting the other's position, and each dealing with the question from the point of view of principle and the interests of the Church and truth. But I can go further and say that each of these and many others that I could name, in speaking of their opponents on the question,  never once spoke disrespectfully or unappreciatively of the other, and if I had no other means of forming an estimate of the tone, character, and dignity of the leaders of the Church at that time, I had ample to satisfy me that the leaders of that time, and not least the leaders in this great controversy, were men of whom the Church had reason be proud. Their ability and example were not only great, but inspiring.

As the source of great rivers are found in mountain streams, the great controversy had its fountain and origin in two simple-looking lines hidden away in the report of the Synod of Armagh and Monaghan. The Synod reported inter alia that “they agreed to refer to the Assembly the case of Enniskillen Presbyterian Church, where instrumental music was employed in the celebration of the praise of God during public worship.” I doubt if many at the time realised how great a storm this little breath of music was create. It is said of troubles that they do not come alone. So far as the Assembly of 1868 is concerned, it had to do with questions compared to which this seemed little indeed. The whole question of the threatened Regium Donum was to be raised, and the ministers and elders had come up from all parts of the Church to consider the attitude on that great question. That issue excited and divided the Assembly, and raised controversies which lasted many years. But these, like that on instrumental music, have all mingled with the azure of the past, and newer and different issues, some, however, no less far-reaching, now occupy the attention of the Church.

There was little more than skirmishing on this first occasion, parties having apparently not got quite in line, but the trend of feeling on one side, at least, may be gathered from a statement of the Rev. J. B. Rentoul, that when other Churches are running Rome-wards he thought it was their interest to adhere closely to the principles of their forefathers and worship God in their simple style. After some skirmishing, the Rev. John Rogers, Comber, moved “That a committee be now appointed, with powers to suspend action in this case, to examine the simple question of the use of instrumental music in public worship, declare the whole law of the Church in this matter, with the course that should be pursued, and report to the next Assembly.”

The Rev. Dr. Cooke, who appeared in this Assembly for the last time this year, moved the following amendment — “That the common law of the Church excludes the use of instrumental music in the public worship of God, and that Presbyteries be requested to conform to the law.” The amendment was carried. I cannot say how far the personal influence of Dr. Cooke may have been responsible for this. I well remember his appearance on the occasion. His voice was feeble, but his spirit was as strong as ever. It must have been saddening to the old of the time that the venerable leader who had so often commanded that and other Assemblies by his eloquence was only able to utter a few sentences. But they were clear and crisp, and carried great weight at the time, and the words of the amendment that the common law of the Church was against instrumental music rang in speeches and re-appeared in pamphlets for many years. The next General Assembly had to chronicle the illustrious leader’s death, and pass, as it did, most appreciative resolutions as to his worth and services.

The Rev. Mr. Maclatchy, a very fine, cultivated minister, venerable in years, and strong in personality, was minister of Enniskillen Church. It was freely stated at the time that he had been obliged to use the instrument on account of the difficulty that was found to get the praise service properly conducted otherwise. And I find that in the following Assembly, that of 1869, he said that he had determinedly objected to the use of a harmonium, but had difficulty in getting a precentor, and frequently had been unable to have any praise at all. It was the Clogher Presbytery that first raised the issue, and I do not think I am doing any injustice to his memory or to the facts in stating that the Rev. J. Gardiner Robb, who for years was one of the most brilliant opponents of instrumental music, was responsible for the introduction of the question into the Clogher Presbytery, from which it extended to the Synod and the Assembly. He certainly held strong opinions on the subject, and defended his opinions in the Assembly while he lived with a vigour and eloquence worthy of any man or any Assembly.

The next year the congregation of Enniskillen sent up a memorial to the Assembly explaining their difficulties and asking permission to use the harmonium. The Rev. Kennedy M'Kay, a miracle of eccentricity and fluency, moved that the prayer of the memorial be dismissed, and that a commission be appointed to confer with the congregation. Rev. Dr. Knox moved an amendment that a commission be appointed to visit the congregation, and have a conference with a view to the removal of the instrument. A discussion in private followed, resulting in the carriage, in public Assembly, by a majority of 253 to 4, that a commission be appointed to take charge of the matter and report to next Assembly. This was done, and the next year, 1870, Dr. Knox reported that the commission had attended, and recommended that it would be inexpedient to interfere with the use of the harmonium in the congregation. The previous question was moved by Rev. Dr. J. M. Killen, Comber, and carried by 67 against 46. This just left matters as they were. This decision took place in the second week of the Assembly, which explains the comparatively small vote. In 1871 the subject again came up, and Dr. Knox repeated his motion, that it would be inexpedient to interfere with the use of the harmonium. Dr. Gardner Robb, who took a leading part in this question, demanded that if an instrument was to be introduced it should be done in a right way. Some advocated delay, but Rev. F. Petticrew (he was not D.D. at the time) opposed any delay or staving off, but the previous question was again carried.

In 1872 the first of the many really great debates on the issue took place. It was started on a report of the committee, presented by the Rev. Dr. Knox, which stated that “as the common law of the Church excluded the use of instrumental music, and that all congregations should conform to it, the committee was of opinion that no further legislation was necessary.” There was a very large attendance of ministers and elders from all parts of the Church, and the atmosphere was electrical. Feeling on the subject had been developed by speeches and pamphlets, and the excitement not only in Belfast, but throughout the Church was great. The Rev. Professor Smyth, then of Magee College, Derry, afterwards M.P. for the county, was the Moderator of the year. Arrangements had been made for a field day. And it was a field day. Not only a field day, but a field night. The debate opened on the first Wednesday of the Assembly and occupied the entire sederunt. It was then adjourned till Friday, the whole forenoon of which it occupied. In the evening there was an interval to hear the English deputation, which consisted of the Rev. Dr. J. Thain Davison, Rev. Dr. J. O. Dykes, and Mr. Ed. Jenkins, author of “Gink’s Baby,” a political brochure that commanded great attention at the time. Mr. Jenkins was member for Dundee, and a son-in-law of the late Mr. Philip Johnson, J.P., of Belfast. The instrumental debate was then resumed and continued without intermission till half-past five o’clock in the morning. The newspapers of the day and my own memory were more suggestive of six o’clock, but I accept the statement of the Minutes. At any rate, we all went home with the milk in the morning, women as well as men, for some noble and and enthusiastic women, if I remember aright, remained to the last. At least if they were not there in the flesh, they were in the spirit, for the women in many cases, and especially on the instrumental side, were, if possible, more earnest and enthusiastic than the men.

To be continued...


From The Witness, 5th October 1917.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

"Somewhere"


Tho’ I’m sitting here in Ireland,
   My mind is travelling far,
To a place that’s known as “Somewhere,”
   In the language of the war;
Where the sons of dear old Ulster
   Their spurs of honour won,
And were crowned with fame immortal
   For their deeds of valour done.
            Brave sons of Ulster!
               Heroes every one!
            Fighting for your country
               Till the vict’ry’s won.

And ever o’er the ocean wide
   Our thoughts to “Somewhere” roam,
To where the brave lads nobly fight
   Far away from home, sweet home.
They heard the clarion call of war,
   They went to stand or fall;
For heroes Ulster’s brave sons are,
   God bless them, one and all.
            God bless our soldiers
               As they bravely fight
            For the cause of freedom,
               Gird them with Thy might.

There are sacred spots in “Somewhere,”
   Where the dear ones softly sleep,
And until their Captain calls them
   There the angels vigil keep;
Not a strain of strife disturbs them
   Tho’ the guns fire thund’ring near;
There they sleep until the morning
   When their Captain’s voice they hear.
            All their toil is o’er,
               Now they softly sleep;
            And the angels o’er them
               Still their vigil keep.

Margaret S. Quigg


Poem: The Witness, 17th August 1917


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Blarney Castle (1832)


There is not one of our readers who has not heard of
"The groves of Blarney,
  They are so charming."
and the subject of our wood-cut might naturally tempt us to be mirthful and extravagant. But despite of Milliken’s excellent song — we are not in the vein, and feel more disposed to melancholy than gaiety at sight of a noble castle, the seat of one of the most ancient, and most unfortunate princely families of Ireland — the Mac Cartys of Desmond.

The castle of Blarney was founded about the middle of the fifteenth century by Cormac Mac Carty, or Carthy, surnamed Laider, or the strong, descended from the hereditary kings of South-Munster. He was also founder of the beautiful abbey and castle of Kilcrea, the nunnery of Ballyvacadine, and many other religious houses, in the former of which he was buried, and in which his tomb was till within a few years to be seen, bearing the following inscription:—
"Hic. Jacet. Cormacus. fil. Thadii. fil. Cormaci. fil. Dermitii. magni. Mc. Carthy, Dnus. de. Muscraigh. Flayn, ac. istius. conventus. Primus. Fundator. An. Dorn. 1494."
The castle remained in possession of his descendants till forfeited with the extensive estates belonging to the lord Muskerry and Clancarthy, in the war of 1689, after which it came into the possession of the Jeffrey's family, to whom it still belongs. A pension of three hundred a year was however allowed to this unfortunate nobleman, on condition of his leaving the kingdom. "With this," says Smith, "he retired to Hamburgh on the Elbe, and purchased a little island in the mouth of that river, from the citizens of Altona, which went by his name." He died here October 22, 1734, aged 64, leaving two sons, Robert, a captain in the English navy, commonly called Lord Muskerry, and Justin Mac Carthy, Esq. Lord Muskerry having fallen under suspicions of being attached to the house of Stewart, "which had on a former occasion," remarks Charnock, in his Biographia Navalis, "proved the ruin of his father, was ordered to be struck off the list of naval officers, on the 16th July, 1749. He afterwards entered into foreign services."

The military and historic recollections connected with Blarney are doubtless of sufficient importance to give an interest to the place: but to a curious superstition it is perhaps more indebted for celebrity. A stone in the highest part of the castle wall is pointed out to visitors, which is supposed to give to whoever kisses it the peculiar privilege of deviating from veracity with unblushing countenance whenever it may be convenient — hence the well-known phrase of "Blarney." The grounds attached to the castle, as I before observed, though so little attended to, are still beautiful. Walks, which a few years since were neat and trim, are now so overrun with brambles and wild flowers as to be passed with difficulty. Much wood has also been cut down, and the statues, so ridiculously enumerated in a popular song, removed. A picturesque bridge too, which led to the castle, has been swept away by the wintry floods, and, with the exception of a small dell called the Rock Close, every thing seems changed for the worse. In this romantic spot nature and art (a combination rather uncommon in pleasure grounds) have gone hand in hand. Advantage has been taken of accidental circumstances to form tasteful and characteristic combinations; and it is really a matter of difficulty at first to determine what is primitive, and what the produce of design. The delusion is even heightened by the present total neglect. You come most unexpectedly into this little shaded nook, and stand upon a natural terrace above the river, which glides as calmly as possible beneath. Here, if you feel inclined for contemplation, a rustic couch of rock, all festooned with moss and ivy, is at your service; but if adventurous feelings urge you to explore farther, a discovery is made of an almost concealed, irregularly excavated passage through the solid rock, which is descended by a rude flight of stone steps, called the "Witches' Stairs," and you emerge sul margine d'un rio, over which depend some light and graceful trees. It is indeed a fairy scene, and I know of no place where I could sooner imagine these little elves holding their moon-light revelry.



From The Dublin Penny Journal, 8th September 1832.



Friday, 14 July 2017

A Case of Local History

Neill's Hill Station and surrounding area. OSNI Historic Third Edition Map 1900-1907.

When looking into the history of a local area information can be found in some unexpected places.

As an example I present the case of Boyd v. Keenan in 1908.

This case, covered in the court reports of the major newspapers, was a suit for the recovery of moneys relating to the maintenance of a road, but in doing so, however, it gives some insight into the area around Neill's Hill and the transcript below is that from the Irish News, 20th May 1908.

Neill's Hill was a railway halt on the Belfast and Co. Down Railway which ran from Comber to Belfast. Situated in the townland of Ballycloghan it served the nearby village of Ballyhackamore.


The contemporary map above shows the station and surrounding area, and would indicate that the sandpits mentioned were situated between the station and the Knock River at Clara Park. The area now known as Sandhill Gardens and Sandhill Parade.


BOYD V. KEENAN.

This was a civil bill action in which Henry Boyd, William Sinclair Boyd, and Robert Boyd, of 93 Ann Street, agents, sued Jacob Walter Keenan, 36 Corporation Street, shipbroker, to recover the sum of £45 9s 6d, money paid, laid out, and expended by the plaintiffs for the use of the defendant, at the request of the defendant, under an agreement dated 16th February, 1897. The case was tried before a jury.

Mr. T. J. Campbell (instructed by Messrs. Joseph Donnelly & Co.) was for the plaintiffs, and Mr. A. J. Lewis defended.

Mr. Campbell said they sought to recover £45 9s 6d, money actually paid for the benefit of the defendant under an agreement dated February 16th, 1897, and under which agreement plaintiffs were bound to keep a road in proper repair. The road was used by defendant in connection with an excavation of sand near Neill’s Hill Station. Defendant, who was a shipbroker, started business in the sand line in 1905, and he used the road to cart the sand from the place where it was procured. In the year 1897 the road in question was merely a private way, but since defendant began to dig and cart sand it had been used more than formerly. Heavy loads of sand were daily carted over the road, which was in constant need of repair. These repairs had been done by the plaintiffs, who now sought to recover for work extending over a period of twenty months.

Mr. Henry Seaver. C. E., deposed that the road was a little over three hundred yards in length, and led from Neill's Hill Station to some villas. Witness also deposed to the contract which was entered into in 1897 relative to the repair of the road being carried out by plaintiffs, and added that in 1905 defendant developed some sand pits which led to heavier traffic passing over the road than previously. The plaintiffs did not use the road themselves. Witness described the effect of heavy traffic passing over the road, and said more frequent repairs were necessitated. He supervised the work, which was done at the lowest possible cost.

Cross-examined by Mr. Lewis, witness said the cost of repair was not excessive, considering the amount of traffic passing over the road, which was constructed in the first instance for light traffic. He admitted the centre of the road was higher than the footpaths on either side.

Evidence was also given by Mr. Francis Quinn, who made the road, to the effect that the expenditure on the road was fair and reasonable. He also deposed to the agreement between Mr. Thomas Tier, who formerly owned the road, and plaintiffs.

James Shaw was also examined, and this closed plaintiffs' case.

THE DEFENCE.

Mr. Lewis, opening the case for the defence, said he and others were growing old in this litigation, about which there was one peculiar circumstance. It was that at no time had they seen any of the plaintiffs in the witness-box. Keenan was a man who began as a common soldier. He saved sufficient money to buy a little property, and he had his little all in that property at Neill's Hill. Originally the lease was granted by the representatives of Sir Thomas M'Clure to a man named Tier, who was bound by covenant to erect certain houses on the land. The ground, however, turned out to be of such formation that it was necessary to level it, and finally he sold to Keenan for £2,000. Keenan developed the property more rapidly than his predecessor, and began to export sand, which evidently the plaintiffs did not like. Continuing, Mr. Lewis said the matter would turn upon the construction of an agreement entered into between Tier and the plaintiffs, and he submitted that the proper interpretation of that agreement was that the plaintiffs should provide the materials necessary for the repair of the road, and that Tier or Tier's successors should provide the necessary labour. Mr. Lewis then read numerous correspondence bearing on the subject, and, continuing, said the case was like the story of the boy and the frog — it was fun to Boyds, but death to Keenan, and he submitted that there was not fair dealing.

Defendant, examined, said in 1905 he purchased Tier's interests in the estate. He developed sandpits in order to prepare the land for buildings, and plaintiffs also had sandpits in the neighbourhood. He alleged the plaintiffs first resisted his right to the road. In the terms of the agreement referred to, he applied to plaintiffs to supply him with gravel for repairs to the road, and they wrote telling him to take what gravel he required. He added that he was always anxious for an amicable settlement, and was still willing to pay his proportionate share of the cost of repair.

Cross-examined, witness said the plaintiffs wrote him to the effect that gravel was too soft, and that macadam should be used for repairs. He admitted his liability to pay a fair and reasonable price for the maintenance of the road, but he contended the account rendered was excessive.

Mr. Allan B. Stokes, C.E., was also examined. He was of opinion the road was not being kept in proper condition. The gravel to be found on the estate was suitable for repair work.

Mr. Robert A. Boyd corroborated the last witness as to the view that the road was not kept in proper repair. A sum of £10 8s would keep the road in repair for a year.

Benjamin Stafford, contractor, estimated bis price for adequate repairs for a year at £14.

His Honour having summed up, the jury retired to consider their verdict.

The jury found for plaintiffs in the sum of £31 1s, and His Honour granted a decree accordingly.

Irish News, 20th May 1908

Griffith's Valuation map
In this earlier map created for the Griffiths Valuation, Neill's Hill Station is indicated as a crossing although not named (the station being erected and opened in March 1890). The land there being leased from the Belfast and Co. Down Railway by Robert Boyd – although one would suspect it was not the same Robert Boyd named in the suit. The area at that time being largely undeveloped and Cadgers Loaney which became the Sandown Road.


Robert is also recorded as the leaser of section 6 in the adjacent townland of Ballyhackamore through which the railway continued.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Prayers for our Brave Heroes


            We say “God speed,”
            And smile, and strive
        To check each rising tear;
We clasp the hand, the hand so dear,
And try to banish doubt and fear,
When parting from our loved ones dear
        Who sail for distant lands.

            We pray God bless,
            And guard and keep
        Our loved ones on the deep.
As o’er the main with hearts so brave,
Our warriors speed with hopes full high,
To strive, to fight, perchance to die
        For Freedom’s noble cause.

            We yearn to hear,
            As days go by
        The tidings “All is well.”
While hopes and fears alternate rise,
And tears of longing fill our eyes
For loved ones dear ’neath foreign skies,
        Who fight for liberty.

            O hearts so brave
            On land and sea,
        We think of thee at home!
We can but wait, and watch, and pray.
That ’mid the tumult and affray
Thy Father’s arms may round thee stay,
        Whate’er the issues be.

            O King of kings
            Bid war to cease
        Since all the world is Thine!
O speed the day when right shall win
A victory over war and sin,
And Peace her golden reign begin;
        O speed that hallowed day!

MARGARET S. NORRIS.


Poem from The Witness, 13th July 1917.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A Letter from the Cat

Dear Editor, I hereby take
My pen in paw to say:
Can you explain a curious thing
I found the other day?

There is another little cat
Who sits behind a frame,
And looks so very much like me,
You’d think we were the same.

I try to make her play with me;
Yet, when I mew and call,
Though I see her mew in answer,
She makes no sound at all.

And to, the dullest kitten
It’s plain enough to see
That either I am mocking her,
Or she is mocking me.

It makes no difference what I play,
She seems to know the game;
For every time I look around
I see her do the same.

And yet, no matter though I creep
On tiptoe lest she hear,
Or quickly dash around the frame,
She’s sure to disappear.



Poem: The Witness, 25th April 1917.
Painting: Fairest of them all, Frank Paton.