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Banagher: A goodly heritage

Into the twentieth century


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Mr Williamsonís ministry in Banagher lasted 24 years and coincided with a drop in numbers from 202 families to 150 families in 1904 due to the unsettled times in rural Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century and the attraction of emigration to North America. Nevertheless, Mr Williamsonís period is associated with ambitious building and renovation schemes. The interior of the Church apart from the Gallery was completely refurnished. The style of pews in the Gallery was once the style throughout the whole building. During the summer of renovations in the early eighties, the Church services were held in the Manse barn. Also during Mr Williamsonís stay, the Fishmongers Company handed over the property of the Church buildings as a gift to the Congregation and also the Manse in 1892. The Congregation at their own expense built the Century Hall in 1900 and Banagher Congregation was equipped with Church buildings that were the envy of many a congregation at that time.

 

The additional strain of the building works carried out in the service of Mr Williamson must have severely undermined the health of the minister for he had just gone to Portrush for a short holiday in 1904 when he died suddenly at the age of 59. His wife, Annette Graham of Claremont, Londonderry and daughter Eleanor Elizabeth survived him. His daughter married George Craig J.P. of Drumcovitt in 1907 and from that union Mr Williamsonís memory survived to help fashion the Christian traditions that are still very evident with us through our Session Clerk, Mr S. G. M. Craig J.P.

 

The Reverend James Thompson Heney was ordained in 1906 and succeeded Mr Williamson. His was a long ministry at Banagher though he was offered a call to 1st Coleraine within a year of coming to Banagher but declined to the delight of his people and continued in active service until he retired in 1946.

 

Bachelor ministers of Banagher have found their hearts strangely warmed towards the locality for three of them married local girls. Mr Heney married Mabel G. Warnock of Straidarran. During Mr Heneyís ministry the property of the Church and Hall were added to by the generosity of a highly respected member, Dr David Thompson of Fincairn. Dr Thompson presented the Church with an excellent two manual pipe organ in 1930 and a hydro electric scheme to provide electric power for its use. In 1933 he further helped the congregation by building an annex to the Century Hall to provide a kitchen and cloakrooms. Mr Heney is remembered with great respect for his faithful service. He retired to Portstewart and died 10 years later in 1956.

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