Ballymagarrick Gospel Hall, Northern Ireland

The townland of Ballymagarrick (meaning ‘the settlement of freckled Hugh’) lies in County Down, Northern Ireland, a few miles south of Belfast and within easy reach of the new City of Lisburn. It was in the 1880’s that a small assembly was planted here as the result of gospel tent meetings conducted by an evangelist named James Campbell. Research has shown that a small wooden hall (which for some reason was also referred to as ‘the tent’) was constructed on the site at the Hillsborough to Comber road by Joe Oliver, brother of the Irish evangelist, David H. Oliver (1852- 1932). Two of the ‘founding’ brethren were Hugh Graham Maxwell from Drumbo and Alexander Crawford whose grandson, Will Gilliland, has been in fellowship in the assembly since 1942.

In 1926, the wooden hall was demolished and a more solid building erected. Joe Oliver re-modeled and extended the wooden hall for use by Lily and Joe Frazer as a dwelling house prior to their emigration to Australia some years later. The 1932 Declaration of Trust, signed by Alexander Crawford, Hugh Graham Maxwell, Thomas Graham, Gawn Graham, William McGeean, Samuel Glenn, Samuel Spence, and Matthew William Johnston, describes the land on which the hall was built as ‘all that piece or parcel of ground containing ten perches or thereabouts statute measure situate immediately adjoining the County Road leading from Hillsborough to Comber upon which is erected Ballymagarrick Gospel Hall’.

One of the above-named trustees, Thomas Graham (otherwise, ‘Farmer’ Graham) lived on a farm a few miles from the hall off the Knockany Road. He was a capable evangelist and teacher of the word of God and conducted gospel meetings around the countryside with blessing in the salvation of souls. Although little can be established regarding gospel meetings in the early years, it is known that the late John Hutchinson conducted very well attended meetings in 1938 resulting in the salvation of quite a number of individuals many of whom are still alive and in assembly fellowship. Again, fruitful gospel meetings were held in 1942 by Joe Stewart and Thomas Wallace. In 1945, Eddie Allen and Kerr Duff conducted further meetings. In subsequent years others such as William Bunting, Robert Curran, William Johnston, James G. Hutchinson, Tom McKelvey, Eric Wishart, Robert Craig, Tom McNeill, John Hawthorne, Bill Bingham, William Fenton, Archie McClean, David Gilliland and Albert McShane have been respons-ible for gospel meetings. The assembly has also benefited from many ministering brethren over the years, including, over the last decade, Archie Carew, Jim Baker, Jack Hay, Sam Jennings, John Grant, Jim Burnett, David Gooding, Roy Hill and David Gilliland.

Numerically, it seems that the assembly has had a steady average of between fifty to seventy in fellowship. At present there is a regular children’s work and Sunday School. A Bible Class has also been ongoing for a number of years. A recent programme of Saturday night Ministry Meetings throughout the winter months have an average attendance of 300 or more. It has been encouraging to see the numbers of young believers who attend these meetings and the interest shown in the Scriptures. The annual Conference, held on 12 July, attracts a large audience. The Sunday night gospel meetings are well attended and the assembly is praying for a display of God’s power and bless-ing in gospel meetings which commenced in January 2003, involving Roland Pickering and Thomas Wallace.

The assembly was planted in the aftermath of the 1859 Revival which had already dramatically affected the surrounding area. It is estimated that, overall, 100,000 souls were saved in 1859 alone. Surely we should crave such re-markable Holy Ghost power again, both individually and collectively. Finally, it is imperative to realize that the foregoing is, most of all, a tribute to the grace of Almighty God ‘who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages, but is now made manifest through the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath nullified indeed death and hath brought life and incorrupt-ibility to light through the gospel’, 2 Tim. 1. 9-10, Newberry Bible.