Mosside Presbyterian Church

Building a community of faith to grow with God


Mosside History

In March 1789, when secession Presbytery of Derry was meeting at Garvagh, a deputation from Mosside presented a memorial for the "supply of sermon." the names of 65 people were attached to the memorial, and when a vote was taken the prayer of the petitioners was unanimously granted. Consequently, on the 26th of April 1789, the first sermon by a Presbyterian minister was preached in Mosside. For four or five years thereafter, Mosside was very much like a mission station, under the care of the Burgher Presbytery of Derry, worshipping without either a building or a minister.

The first minister was the Rev Thomas Bell, who was ordained in Mosside in May 1794. Regarding his early life little is known, except that Mr Bell came from Ballybay in county Monaghan. In 1790 his name also appears on the roll of students attending the Divinity school at Selkirk. Four years after arriving in Mosside the 1798 Rebellion broke out across Ireland. And while the country was divided in their loyalty between the United Irishmen and the Crown, it seems that in Mosside Mr Bell managed to avoid any political controversy, retaining the support of the congregation throughout this period.

Under Mr Bells leadership the congregation set about building a place of worship. A plot of ground, a Cunningham acre in area, containing the present church and adjoining graveyard, was leased to them forever by Mr Daniel McKay, at the nominal rent of 2/6 per year, a rent which was never asked for and never paid There, midway between the present church and the road the first church was built. It was a long, narrow building roofed with small thick slates. It had a door at each end with a pulpit in the middle. The floor was earth, the seats were narrow and high backed and were fixed in position by posts, driven into the ground. There was no heat and no ornamentation, but for over 50 years this was the church that served the Presbyterian congregation at Mosside.

After 47 years ministry in the village Mr Bell died on the 1st May 1841, aged 74 years and was buried in Billy Old cemetery. On the 26th April 1842 the Rev Robert McConaghie was ordained. The service was attended by so many people that after the sermon everyone had to move outside for it to continue in the open air. It was the start of a ministry marked by energy and vision. First of all, the congregation set themselves the task of building a new place of worship. This was necessary as the old meeting-house was in a very dilapidated condition, yet it was also a major undertaking for the congregation, because as one source at the time comments the congregation though embracing a few in comfortable circumstances, are generally poor and have suffered much by the late agricultural calamities. A foundation stone was laid on the 11th August 1848 by Mr Montgomery of Benvarden and on Tuesday 5th August 1851 a dedication service took place led by the Rev Dr Henry Cooke. Building the church, however, had incurred a large debt for the congregation, and although they had given much in the terms of money, time and labour the amount fell far short of what was required. So like many ministers of his time, Mr McConaghie embarked on a preaching and lecturing tour of Scotland and America to raise money for the project that had been undertaken. This tour was so successful that after returning home it was found that he had raised sufficient money not only to free the church of debt, but also enough to build a school as well. Shortly after the church and school were completed, Mr McConaghie took on another major project. He purchased a farm at Glasseneerin and set about raising money to build a manse. This was completed in 1855 and again to help pay for the cost, Mr McConaghie set out on another lecturing tour through Scotland to clear it of debt.

In 1859 a revival began across Ulster. In Mosside the church was not able to hold the crowds who came to hear the word of God, and so throughout the summer and autumn of 1859, the meeting-house green in front of the church was used to address the people who came night after night to hear the gospel. Many lives were changed and in the years that followed so great was the increase in numbers attending Sunday services that if was found necessary to build two side-galleries inside the church. In 1879 Mr McConaghies ministry ended and he died on 2nd April 1880, being buried in the graveyard adjoining the church he helped to build. A period of eighty six years is covered by the ministries of Mr Bell and Mr McConaghie.

The next minister of Mosside was the Rev J C Johnston MA. He was brought up in the Clogher Valley. In the congregation of Ballygawley. After graduating from Queens College Belfast in 1874, his first charge was in Mosside, where he was ordained on the 21 January 1880. He stayed in Mosside until 1890 when he accepted a call to the congregation of Lower Abbey Street Dublin. After Mr Johnston came a young licentiate, Mr Thomas Heney, BA from Dunadry. He was one of three brothers who entered the ministry and was ordained in Mosside in November 1890.This was the commencement of a long and happy ministry, lasting forty years, during which Mr Heney was greatly appreciated for his preaching and pastoral care. He retired in 1930.

A short vacancy ensued, following whish a call was extended to Mr William John Hemphill, BA who was ordained on 23rd August 1932. During his ministry the church was renovated with the installation of a new pine ceiling, new lead windows, and the introduction of a new organ played by Mr Hempills wife. He also helped form the first BB Company which met at the village hall Liscolman. Mr Hempill served the congregation until 1960, when he accepted a call to lylehill. Following Mr Hempill, came, the Rev Ian S McDowell,BA, BD who was installed on 11th May 1961. At this time the old school was returned to church ownership and converted to a church hall. Mr McDowell moved from Mosside 1966 to take up a charge in Molesworth congregation and then later to work for the Christian Ain. Subsequently, The Rev John T McCullough, BA was installed on 14 August 1967. During his time, work on the old school was completed with the addition of a new kitchen and toilet block in 1968, also the interior of the church was remodelled and re-furnished in 1971. Mr McCollough also showed considerable initiative in developing youth work in the congregation, especially by establishing the "Crows Nest" youth club which met in an outbuilding at the manse.

In 1972 Mr McCullough left Mosside for Strand congregation in Belfast and the Rev W E R Barton, MA was installed in the following year. In October 1973, the BB was again organised in Mosside and has met ever since. Similarly in October 1979 a GB company was formed with Mr Bartons wife, Maud, being instrumental in its success. A new church hall was built in 1981, with extensive renovations to the church taking place in 1989. Following Mr Bartons retirement in 2000, Mosside became united with the Toberdoney congregation. In this process the difficult decision was made to sell the Mosside manse that had been built by the Rev McConaghie and for the minister to reside in the Toberdoney manse. Subsequently, the Rev Cecil Grant, MA, LLM, MDiv, PhD was ordained and installed at Mosside in July 2003. In 2005 Mosside took the major step of purchasing land from the former primary school adjacent to the church. This has significantly enlarged the church premises and the congregation are currently considering plans to extend and develop its facilities for future needs and in light of its mission in the area.

The following represent members of Kirk Session: Martin Adams, James Barr, Maurice Cochrane, Edwin Getty, Samuel Hill, William McAlister, Hugh McCracken, David McKeown, Mrs Mabel Morrison, Robert Morrison and Neill White.

Original chapter by the Rev W J Hemphill.

Revised chapter by the Rev Dr Cecil Grant.