Downpatrick Harvest 2018

 

Dpk Harvest entrance

The First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Stream Street, Downpatrick held their annual Service of Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday, 7th October. The Church was beautifully decorated for the occasion at which the congregation welcomed the visiting preacher, Rev Roger McKee from Newtownards and Greyabbey NSP Churches, and the visiting choir, the Lindsay Chorale.

During the service Sunday School member Laura Neill presented a cheque for £450 which was raised by the children and young people of the congregation over the year for Air Ambulance NI. The cheque was received by Colleen Milligan the local Air Ambulance representative who spoke of the important work the charity is doing.

The theme of the decorations was ‘Traditional Harvest’ and the images here show some of the features included.

Dpk Harvest Pulpit

Pulpit and communion table

Dpk Harvest fruit

Dpk Harvest marrow

Dpk Harvest Communion Table

Dpk Harvest cabinet

Dpk Harvest knitted

Crocheted vegetables

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Some of the window displays

Dpk Harvest Air Ambulance Cheque

Laura Neill makes the presentation to Colleen Milligan of Air Ambulance NI. (Photo: Mary Stewart)

Dpk Harvest Lindsay Chorale

The Lindsay Chorale at Downpatrick, including John Dallas, conductor (extreme left), Sheelagh Greer, accompanist (second left), Rev David Steers, minister (extreme right), Rev Roger McKee, visiting preacher (second right). (Photo: Mary Stewart)

 

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New St Patrick’s Cross at Down Cathedral

 

Cross long view

I was very pleased to be amongst those present for the Civic reception for the new High Cross erected at Down Cathedral on 24th September. Based on fragments of an ancient cross kept in the Cathedral it is carved from Mourne granite, weighs five tonnes and towers over its immediate surroundings. It is an impressive structure, a work that eloquently reflects the legacy of St Patrick so close to his grave. The fragments that are inside the Cathedral were originally found on the site that is now marked as St Patrick’s grave and are thought to date from the eighth century. The pieces were digitally scanned and the decoration carved onto the new Cross to create a pristine replica of what may once have stood at the entrance to the Benedictine monastery which originally stood on the hill.

Cross reverse view

Cross front view

Cross speeches

Cross hand print

Hand print at the foot of the Cross for pilgrims

 

Downpatrick visit to Streamvale Open Farm

 

Streamvale arrival

On Tuesday, 21st August a party of over 50 adults and children enjoyed the Downpatrick Sunday School visit to Streamvale Open Dairy Farm. The weather was kind and the large party were able to enjoy the various attractions on offer including feeding all manner of animals (deer, Highland cattle, sheep), tractor rides, sheep racing and a whole lot more. It was a hugely enjoyable day out for everyone and a big thank you to Annabel for arranging the coach.

Streamvale Highland Catte 02

 

Streamvale dog display

Dog display

Streamvale sheep racing

Sheep (and goat) racing

Streamvale waiting for tractor

Waiting for the tractor

Streamvale tractor turning

Streamvale tractor drive 01

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Tractor drive

Streamvale deer

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Feeding the deer

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Streamvale feeding Valois sheep

Valois Blacknose sheep

Streamvale feeding cattle

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Highland cattle

 

Downpatrick Treasure Hunt 2018

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Sending the cars out from the Lakeside Inn at the start of the Treasure Hunt

The Downpatrick congregation held a very successful and well-supported Treasure Hunt on Saturday, 4th August. With a new route taking us in part through the town and up to Struell Wells with thirty-eight fiendish questions devised by Marion and Anna the journey took approximately one hour and back at the Lakeside there was a very welcome hog roast for participants. A large team made sure everything went smoothly with cars being timed out and back in again and everyone enjoyed a really excellent evening. Renie entertained everyone with her playing and we were again very fortunate with the weather. Thanks goes to everyone who helped in any way including those who donated prizes and to Margaret and Geoffrey for making the Lakeside Inn available to us. We also raised, at the time of writing, around £850 for church funds. A very successful evening.

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Ballydugan Lake

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Struell Wells, where St Patrick sang Psalms and prepared to Christianize Ireland

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Greeting the cars on their return

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Recording the returning cars’ times

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Queuing for the hog roast

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Making the draw for the ballot

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Inside the marquee

 

Swans and cygnets (Photos: Jack Steers)

Inch Abbey, county Down

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Inch Abbey is located in what is a still remarkably peaceful and secluded setting. Founded by John de Courcy in the 1180s as his atonement for his destruction of Erenagh Abbey on the other side of Downpatrick, Cistercian monks were brought here to populate it from Furness Abbey in Lancashire. According to the tourist board it is (along with Grey Abbey on the Ards peninsula) “the earliest example of Gothic architecture in Ireland and finest example of Anglo-Norman Cistercian architecture in Ulster.” There was a monastery on this site before the present monastery, a timber church and ancillary buildings surrounded by an earth bank, founded as early as 800 AD. But this was plundered by the Vikings on at least two occasions and destroyed before its re-establishment under John de Courcy.

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The nave

The view across the Quoile to Downpatrick and its cathedral gives an idea of its location near to the main settlement but quite separate from it.

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Looking across the Quoile to Down Cathedral

The cathedral was also originally established as a monastery by John de Courcy in the 1180s with Benedictine monks from St Werburgh’s monastery in Chester (see https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/chester-cathedral-refectory/).

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Entrance to the chancel

IA Inch Abbey base of columns at entrance

Base of column

The Cistercians followed a strict rule, with much silence, little music and a self-sufficiency that eschewed the use of meat. There would have been a plentiful supply of fish for them here, the site originally was an island.

IA Inch Abbey chapter house

Chapter house

Around the ruins of the Abbey there are the remains of what have been identified as the kitchen, a bakehouse, a guest house, the infirmary and a well. The Abbey was dissolved in 1541.

IA Inch Abbey well

Abbey well

St Patrick’s Day, Downpatrick 2018

Preparations underway

Preparations getting underway in the town

 

Going up to the Cathedral

Going up to the Cathedral for the service

 

Congregation photographed

The congregation gather for a photograph inside the Cathedral

 

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Processing up to the grave after the service

 

Laying wreath

Visiting Bishop Alf Cooper from Chile lays a wreath

 

St Patrick's grave

St Patrick’s grave outside Down Cathedral

 

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The giant statue of the saint

Downpatrick First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church

Downpatrick 1 Oct 2016

Downpatrick is one of the finest 18th-century T-shaped meeting-houses in Ireland. Built in 1711 at the start of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin, a pioneer Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister who became a founder member of the Presbytery of Antrim, the church is one of the most notable buildings in this part of county Down.

It is not a new thing but it is worth flagging up the 360 degree virtual tour of the interior which was put online courtesy of VirtualVisitTours. The panoramic view can be explored here:

http://www.virtualvisittours.com/downpatrick-first-presbyterian-non-subscribing-church/

 

 

‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. Poppy dedicated at Downpatrick

 

An important part of the remembrance service at Downpatrick NSP Church on Remembrance Day, Sunday, 12th November 2017 was the dedication of a new memorial to Rifleman John Hayes of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles who was a member of the congregation who was killed in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme on 31st October 1916 at the age of just 24. The memorial contains a ceramic poppy from the Tower of London. The Tower was the location for ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ an impressive special installation produced at the start of 2014 which contained 888,246 hand-made ceramic poppies, one for every man or woman from Britain and the Commonwealth who died in military service in the Great War.

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Poppies at the Tower of London, 7th November 2014 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The poppies were designed by Paul Cummins and each one was individually hand made by a large team of volunteers so that no two flowers are the same. The poppies gradually encircled the Tower, creating a spectacular visual display and a moving location for personal reflection. The scale of the installation, containing so many individual poppies, was intended to bring home the magnitude of the event commemorated and over five million people travelled from all over the world to see the display. It was an impressive creation which continues to have a profound effect. All the poppies were sold to members of the public in memory of those who died, raising millions of pounds for service charities and extending the practical effect of the memorial all over the country which is how the poppy came to Downpatrick. Thelma Lowry, church member and a niece of John Hayes, bought one of the poppies and presented it to the church on behalf of her family in memory of her uncle.

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Memorial, First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Downpatrick

The church has a war memorial from the First World War containing the names of the 32 members of the congregation who served in the First World War as well as the three members who made the supreme sacrifice – Craig Nelson, Francis McMurray and John Hayes.

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Cover of the church’s leaflet about the three members who lost their lives in the First World War. For more details see:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/three-lives-remembered/

At the service Jack Steers played the Last Post on the trumpet and Laura Neill played ‘Abide with Me’ on the bagpipes following the dedication. This new memorial is a family memorial but of a church member who was killed during the Battle of the Somme over one hundred years ago. As such it ties the church into a remarkable act of remembrance that began at the Tower of London but which has travelled around the world taking poppies from the installation back to the cities, towns and villages which were once the homes of those who were killed in the Great War.

A special site now records the locations to which the poppies have travelled:

https://www.wherearethepoppiesnow.org.uk/the-poppy-map/

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Memorial plaque

Pew Numbers

 

It is hard not to imagine that every feature of dissenting meeting-houses has been subject to some serious scrutiny at one time or another. The regular publication of surveys of non-conformist churches and the work of the Chapels Society are testimony to the ongoing interest that there is in these types of buildings. But I was led to reflect on one aspect of the history of old meeting-houses that may not have had too much attention over the years by the ‘discovery’ recently of a long discarded pew number in my church at Ballee.

It wasn’t really a discovery since I and many people knew it was there all along but, for the first time, I took a close look at it and realised that it is a work of art in its own right. When the Ballee meeting-house was refurbished in 1912 they replaced the old box pews with ‘modern’ open ones. They may have re-used the timber from the old pews to make the new ones, they certainly used the old pews to make partitions and features in the rooms they created in both ends of the long arm of the ‘T’ of the church.

This number 12 is in the inside of a cupboard in the vestry. When you look at it, a lot of the wood which was used there and in the library and in the store room at the other end of the church, must clearly have once formed the original box pews, probably dating back as far as the early eighteenth century. Much of it has been stained a very dark colour but in some places the original colouring can be seen and there are two places where the pew numbers are visible. One is a slightly faded number 22 but the other is this one inside the vestry cupboard.

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Inside the cupboard

It has been protected from the sun for over a hundred years and it is clear that at some point after it was painted on the door of the pew when in situ someone had carefully left it untouched when re-varnishing the rest of the door. An expert could probably date this number more or less exactly. I would guess it dates from the end of the eighteenth or the start of the nineteenth century. It is certainly very carefully done. It must have been an important project for the congregation at that time to see that their pews were so clearly labelled, and done in such an attractive manner.

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A panel high in the corner of a store room – number 22

For most types of dissenting congregations pew numbers and pew rents were a central feature of the finance and management of a church or chapel. Who owned which pew and who sat where were important questions so their clear numbering was an important thing. For the historian financial records of pew rents are an important source but I can’t remember much discussion of the way numbers were added to pews.

In the nineteenth century, and probably before, it was possible to buy ceramic or brass numbers to fix on pew ends or doors. But very often the numbers were painted on. The pews in Ballee today are all unnumbered, as they are in Clough. In Downpatrick, which still has its original box pews, the numbers have all been removed downstairs but they survive in the galleries. These are very neatly done and to me look like eighteenth-century adornments.

Some of the Downpatrick numbers

But the now almost completely vanished pew numbers from Ballee must have looked very impressive. I will look out for more examples of historical pew numbering from now on.

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Number 12

Events in July at the Lakeside

 

In July we had two highly successful events at the Lakeside Inn, Ballydugan. We were blessed by good weather on both occasions and both events were really well supported.

The first, on 8th July, was a joint Afternoon Tea for members of Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough. This was a very pleasant gathering at which a special presentation was made to Myrtle for her thirty years as treasurer of the Downpatrick congregation. As always the lake looked particularly impressive and we were joined (see picture at the top of the page) by the swans, their cygnets and a heron.

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Inside the marquee

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Cakes

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Afternoon tea

On 22nd July we held our Treasure Hunt and Hog Roast. This was another wonderful occasion with many people participating and around £1,000 raised for Downpatrick church funds. It was an especially beautiful night to be travelling around the countryside of this part of county Down and we are indebted, as ever, to those who set the tricky questions, those who marked them, the team who set the cars on their way and those who helped with the parking. Dr Milhench and his family won the Treasure Hunt and very kindly gave the prize back to the church. As always the Lakeside Inn is such a tremendous venue for occasions like this and we are grateful to Margaret and Geoffrey for hosting the event so wonderfully well.

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Setting off from the car park on the treasure hunt

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Annabel, Marion and Margaret

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Gathering after the treasure hunt

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Renee on the keyboards

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Queuing for the hog roast

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Announcing  the results and the winners