Donaghey Congregational Church
Mr. Hugh Kelso was the local publican. Coming under the influence of the Revival
of 1859, he found peace with God through personal trust in Christ Jesus as his
Saviour. He sold his business and became involved in Christian work in the local
area, encouraging those who had also professed faith in Christ as Saviour to meet
regularly for worship on Sundays and for prayer and Bible study during the week.
The Rev. Kelso aged 32
The public house in Tullyhogue near Donaghey, that Hugh Kelso owned before his conversion
during the 1859 Revival, can be seen on the extreme left of the picture.
A church fellowship was organised and, eventually, Donaghey Church was erected
and opened on 11th May, 1862 with Mr. Kelso as the first pastor, his salary being
guaranteed by six local farmers who were the first deacons.
THE STORY IN MORE DETAIL-TAKEN FROM THE RECORDS OF 1859
The house at Spamount near Donaghey where the church was formed
Extract from The
Independents in Ireland by Alexander Cairns:
Mr. Hugh Kelso writes: "Well do I remember that first Sabbath evening when I
met on my way to a Sabbath School some distance from Donaghey one of the
teachers to whom I in part opened my mind and talked about the propriety of a
prayer meeting, when, to my surprise, he told me one had been for some time in
existence, but had well-nigh gone down for want of leaders. After obtaining my
consent to address the meeting that evening, he said the thing was of the Lord's
appointment. The meeting was very small and the people cold and without life.
Our next meeting was larger but I was told I must take some other place for my
services. I went to another part of the country, a door was opened for me, I found a
number of friends anxious to hear and, the house being too small, I proclaimed the
Gospel in the open air. The evening was beautiful- the people felt the presence of
the spirit - many were converted and continue faithful until now-walking in the
fear of the Lord."
Of these converts Mr. Bain writes: "The people seemed knit to Christ and to one
another in the Lord".
DONAGHEY INDEPENDENT CHURCH
(copied from the earliest church records)
This church which may properly be termed the fruit of the Revival of 1859 had its
origin in the effort of its present Pastor, Revd. Hugh Kelso, who was himself
brought to the Saviour in the February of that year. His steps being directed to this
neighbourhood in the month of June where he first preached Christ to a goodly
number of the present Congregation-when the foundation of our present church
was laid. From that time onwards he continued both on the week as well as on the
Sabbath evenings to hold such meetings from house to house till at length a plot of
ground was obtained whereon the present Chapel and Manse were erected in 1861
by his own effort. On 3rd March, 1861, the Church was formed in the house of Mr.
James Little of Spamount (link to Home page -picture of house and see below) by
Rev. James Bain of Straid Congregational Church, County Antrim when fifteen
souls were united in fellowship and on 19th April our temporary place of worship
was opened by Rev. J. Bain. Our second communion was observed in June when
eight were admitted to our membership.
THE DAY OF THE FORMATION OF THE CHURCH
IN MR. LITTLE'S HOUSE AT SPAMOUNT (near
Sunday, 3rd March, 1861
Mr. Bain writes: "On the morning of The Lord's Day, March 3rd, 1861 I went in
company with *Mr.Gibson and other friends to the house of Mr. Little of
Spamount, Donaghey for the purpose of the formation of a Christian Church on the
recognition of some professing faith in Jesus, being united together in the bond of
Prior to the time of our meeting I conversed with the proposing members
individually. All seemed warm, earnest and prayerful in the object of their desire
and seemed to rejoice in their anticipated pleasure, while they were full of earnest
hope for the progress of the Saviour's kingdom in the neighbourhood.
The scene will long be remembered with deep and holy interest by all who were
then present and who, for the first time, enjoyed the privilege of Christian
The parlour and kitchen made up our assembly rooms (another room is mentioned
later in the report), a table and chair our desk.In the morning I preached from
Psalm 119, verse 105. The audience was deeply affected
Sermon over, the proposing folk were individually asked to state their reason for
thus seeking union as a Christian Church for the satisfaction and confidence of all
present. The people retired for a few moments and then returned, the intending
members of the church taking the forms in the middle of the parlour while the
others occupied the rooms on either side, filling every place while many stood at
the door. After singing the 133rd psalm, and an address on the church polity and
doctrines of the Independents, I gave to each the right hand of fellowship and then
commended them unto God in prayer after which all shook hands together. We
then sat down to partake of the ordinance of The Lord's Supper, twenty five in
number. Thus has been constituted this little hill of Zion which may the Lord bless
and sanctify and enlarge with all the graces of His Holy Spirit.
It was a season of deep and holy interest-of pleasurable enjoyment and one which
will be long remembered as a time of Divine manifestations."(*great grandfather of
the late Rev. W.A. Kennedy of Larne and Ballycraigy Congregational Churches)
The services, so far as ministers could be obtained, were held in Mr. Little's until a
house was fitted up in Donaghey.
9th July, 1861 - Laying the foundation stone of the new churchMr. Bain writes:
"The morning was fine......The meeting was opened with prayer, then the laying of
the stone by the lady of Thomas Greer Esq., Tullylaggan House. The ground was
Mr. Greer's. Mr. Lord's address- on the principles of Independents and their place
in Ireland. Mr. Bain followed on the doctrines and privileges of the church and its
In the stone a bottle was put with the date and sketch of the origins of the church
Another very large and important meeting was held in the evening at which
Messrs. Lord and Bain addressed the people and good was done....."
OPENING OF NEW CHURCH BUILDING
11th May, 1862
The church was opened by Rev. T.G. Manley of Dublin, then secretary of The Irish
Evangelical Society. The newly formed church invited Mr. Kelso to accept the
pastorate of the church. Upon his acceptance, he was ordained in the presence of a
very large congregation on Tuesday, 12th May, 1863.
Rev. Kelso continued at Donaghey for 10 years, until January, 1872. He records
that during his ministry 65 people were admitted into fellowship of the church. 7 of
these had died, 4 went to America, 2 to Australia and 16 had been dismissed!
Rev. Kelso's grave at Clonoe, Co. Tyrone
SOME MORE INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS from
The average Sunday offering in 1862 (the year the church was opened) averaged
between 1 shilling (now 5p) to 7 shillings and 2and a half pence on a Sacrament
Sunday . A note inserted beside several 'low' offerings indicates 'wet Sunday'. The
offering at the opening ceremony, after expenses were deducted, was a hefty £16,
17shillings and 6 pence. Offerings for the year 1863 totalled £6, 1 shilling and 7
pence and included a donation of £1 and 3 shillings from an outside source. Light
for the year cost 8 shillings (48p) and coal 5shillings and 6 pence.
When the minister, Rev. Kelso went to London in 1864 to collect money for the
church his travelling expenses amounted to £8, 7 shillings and 6 pence.
Cost of building the church and manse in 1862 was £700. A wall cost £3 and
For the year 1872 offerings were less - £3 and 10 pence for the year!In that year
the minister's salary was £11, 3 shillings and 4pence - his income for the
year!Postage and writing materials for the same year (1872) amounted to the grand
sum of 2 shillings (10p).
DONAGHEY NATIONAL SCHOOL
Records of a church - related Primary School ('Day School') commence on 1st
August, 1874. "Expenditure incurred by fitting up school room and commencing
school" (which included 9 months of the teacher's salary) amounted to £20, 8
shillings and 6 pence. That also included all the school fittings at £6 and 3
shillings.Two pairs of clogs were purchased at 6shillings (30p). Fuel for the school
year came to 10 shillings (50p). The teacher's name was D.H. Kelly.
THE CHURCH CARETAKER of 1903
A solemn undertaking by the newly appointed caretaker, Thomas Spratt, was
recorded: "I, Thomas Spratt, do hereby accept the post of sexton in connection with
Donaghey Congregational Church at the rate of two pounds per annum to be paid
quarterly and promise to faithfully perform the duties connected with the office's
said duties as follows:1. To sweep out and dust the church each week2. To set,
light and attend to the fires in church every Sunday and in the school room every
Thursday from October to April3. To file, trim and light lamps in church as often
as desired4. To thoroughly clean and scrub the church and school room once every
six months5. To clean windows when needed6. Attendance at church and lectures
or tea meetings outside of these duties enumerated above to be paid for extra out of
expenses of said lecture or tea meeting.7. Three months' notice on either side to
terminate the agreement.
References are made to two Congregational churches which are now closed. On
8thMay, 1910 Rev. James Gray, who had been minister of Donaghey for six years,
accepted a call to Richill Congregational Church, Co. Armagh and on 29th March,
1932 friends and members of Donaghmore and Donaghey Congregational
Churches met in the manse at Donaghey to make a presentation to the minister of
the two churches, Rev. Norman Burns, on the occasion of his leaving to take up the
charge of a larger church in England.
The Story Of Donaghey Congregational Church
Born in Revival