The story of Presbyterianism in Keady began in a most unusual way with Dr. Steel Dickson as their first Minister. He was born on Christmas Day, 1744. The son of John Dickson a tenant farmer on the Kiln Road, Ballycraigy, Carnmoney, Co. Antrim. His mother was Jane Steel. As was customary the wife's maiden name was combined with the husband's surname.
In his youth he was indebted to Rev. Robert White the Presbyterian Minister of Templepatrick, who taught him the structure of Latin and Greek languages as well as logic, metaphysicis, moral and natural theology. Steele Dickson says he taught him not only to reason, but to think, he also learned a considerable knowledge of medicine. Mr. White also tutored David Manson the education reformer. He went to Glasgow University in his 17th year and matriculated in 1763. His Professors were Mr. Moorehead and the famous Dr. Adam Smith. The Principal of the University remained his lifelong friend and correspondent. John Millar, Professor of Law, influenced him in the literary and political world. He directed young Dickson to Jurisprudence, the principles of government and the different forms in which it may be constructed and administered.
After matriculation he was prevailed upon by Mr. White to become a candidate for the Ministry or as Dickson says much sooner than he intended or ought to have done." He passed the usual trials and was licensed in March 1767. He went through the whole of his College course with such distinguished success as to attract the notice and call forth the warmest encomium of the different Professors. They afterwards conveyed to him a strong proof of their esteem and approbation, by conferring on him (without asking for it) the Degree of Doctor of Divinity.
In the year 1771 he was called to the congregation of Glastry, in the barony of Ards, Co. Down. He married Isabella Gamble. They had two daughters and four sons. The eldest son, a surgeon in the navy, died in 1798. Another son went into business, and a third was an apothecary. There he remained until 1780.
It was while at Portaferry that he took a deep interest in political speculations.
The Rev. Joseph Smith of the Temple Church, Keady, died on the 20th July 1795. The country was in the throes of political agitation. Two candidates applied for the vacancy. One was Rev. Dr. Steele Dickson of Portaferry. He had a following in the congregation. The other candidate was Rev. Henry McIlree, of Vinecash. Tyrone Presbytery refused to ratify the choice that had been made of procedures. The Installation was declared null and void. The congregation was placed in the hands of a commission for twelve months.
Now Mr. McIlree's friends were rewarded for their constancy and faithfulness. They got a promise that he would be re-installed and that they would be placed under the Monaghan Presbytery. Dr. Steele Dickson's friends were also satisfied by a promise that he would be organised into a new congregation. In 1802 leave was granted to erect a church in the village of Keady and this new congregation was placed under the Presbytery of Tyrone.
He was installed on 4th March 1803 and the church was completed in 1808. Although Steele Dickson approved of the Regium Donum and received full receipt of it during 1780-1790, he was denied it at Keady after his release from prison due to the influence of Robert Black and Lord Castlereagh. Many of his colleagues differed from his political contentions; they found him to be a man who had a genuine philanthropic kindness of heart and ardent desire to promote the progress of moral and intellectual knowledge. All had respect for the purity of his mind, and the profoundness of his researches into the elements of language and the principles of morals.
He had a pastoral charge of Second Keady for 12 years and was obliged, at length, by age and infirmity to retire. Here he lived in that state of pecuniary embarrassment and poverty which events produced. He went to reside in Belfast l8l5~l824 supported by charity. He died on 27th December 1824, in his 79th year and was buried in a pauper's grave in Clifton Street graveyard. The Rev. W. D. McEwen delivered an eloquent address.
Rev Dr William Steel Dickson D.D.
The second Minister was Rev. Joseph Jenkins. He was licensed in Armagh 1814 and was ordained on March 1816. In 1827 he was one of those who protested against the action of the Synod calling upon members to declare their belief in the Trinity. During his ministry the National system was established in 1831. The Presbyterians were opposed to the system. They fought a vigorous campaign to have the regulations changed to suit them. This campaign was successful in 1840. The date of the Presbyterian National School beside 2nd Keady Church is 1841. In 1926 when the school was closed, Mr. Anderson, B.A., and his wife, formerly Miss Manseed transferred to Keady Parish School. They retired in 1938; Rev. Jenkins retired on 2nd May 1854 and died on 30th August 1862.
He was followed by Rev. George Steen, licensed by the Free Church of Scotland who was received by Belfast Presbytery and ordained in Keady on the 9th November 1854. Somewhere between 1854-57 the present church was built, also the manse in 1859. The church cost £800 less 4 pence. The present manse was built circa 1859.
During this period Mr. William Kirk, a native of Lame in Co. Antrim trained in the linen business and acted as an agent for one of the Belfast Banks. He subsequently settled at Keady where he most successfully carried on the linen business. Some years before his death he purchased the Keady Estate comprising about 11,000 acres. The town of Keady grew from a poor village into a place of considerable size, with a thriving population.
It was a pleasant sight to see Mr. Kirk on the Lord's Day sitting in Second Keady Presbyterian Church like a patriarch, in the midst of his tenantry. He met for worship with the farmers and cottiers on his estate. He was a Justice of Peace, a member of Grand Jury of the County Armagh. He was returned a Deputy-Lieutenant of the County. In 1868 he was returned a third time as M.P. for Newry. For 40 years Mr. Kirk's name was associated with the advancement of the best interest of Ireland, both in matters of Church and State. Irish Presbyterians are indebted to him for such a representation of their claims before Parliament, as they have rarely enjoyed in their political history.
His contributions to the Church and Manse Funds marked an era in Presbyterian liberality. He was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Orphan Society and chairman of the Bible and Colportage Society for Ireland. He was a trustee of the General Assembly's College at Belfast and was to its funds a most liberal contributor. He took a deep interest in the movement on behalf of increased ministerial support for Presbyterian ministers and was one of the warmest advocates of the Sustenation Scheme adopted by the Assembly in lieu of the Requiem Donum as well as the Sustenation Fund. He died on 18th December 1870 and was laid to rest in the family vault in Second Keady graveyard.
A public meeting was held on 2nd January, 1871 to erect a fitting memorial to the late William Kirk, M.P. Rev. Steen proposed and the Very Rev. P. Kelly, P.P., seconded that a Gothic style of architecture was erected in front of the Town Hall and Markets.
Mr. Steen retired on the 7th September 1897 and went to live at Ilford, London, where he died on 8th June 1914.
Rev. George Steen , M.A.
His successor was Rev. Samuel Hans Martin, licensed in Dromore, 1898, who was ordained in Keady on 30th March 1898. Union Commission as from 1st March 1923 united the congregation of Second Keady and Drumhillery and the Rev. Martin was installed in Drumhillery on 3rd May 1923.
He served Keady for 49 years, retiring on 30th November 1946 and he died on the 16th March 1952. His son, Dr. Norman Samuel Martin, P.R.C.S. was the famous Orthopaedic Surgeon in the Royal, City and Musgrave Hospitals. He pioneered the well-known hip joint operations. He was buried in Second Keady graveyard in August 1991.
After Rev. Martin's retirement the union was severed and Drumhillery became a separate congregation.
Rev. Samuel Hans Martin
Rev. Charles Geoffrey Chart licensed in Ards 1945 was born in South Africa and brought up in First Bangor congregation. He was ordained in Keady on 19th November 1947. He became Stated Supply of Tassagh by arrangement of Union Commission from 1st February 1964. He was an outstanding authority on Church Law. Owing to ill health Rev. Chart sought and obtained leave to retire on 30th June 1971 and returned to live in Bangor. He died on 31st July 1975 and was laid to rest in Second Keady.
Rev Charles G. Chart M.A. M.LITT
The congregations were without a Minister till 1975. Rev. William Robert Lindsay licensed in Templepatrick, 1970, ordained assistant 12th January, 1971 in Glengormley congregation, was installed in Second Keady and Drumhillery on the 12th September, 1973. The union between Drumhillery and Middletown had been dissolved and Second Keady and Drumhillery again united. The congregation exchanged the Old National School, which they used as a hall, for a piece of ground adjacent to the Church. They erected a new hall, which was dedicated and opened by the Moderator of the General Assembly The Right Rev. Howard Cromie, D.D. on 20th June 1984.
Rev. Dr. Robert Lindsay
Rev Ian Dennis
Rev Jonathan Alexander Curry:
Ordained 1998 2nd Keady and Drumhillery
1998 - 2004 2nd Keady and Drumhillery
- present 1st Magherafelt.
Ordained 1974 Great Victoria Street, Belfast, Asst. - Installed 1976 Glenwherry
1994 - 2009 1st Donaghadee
2009 - present 2nd Keady and Drumhillery.
Clerk: Presbytery of Ballymena, 1983-1994
Convener Chaplains' Committee 2004-2005
Presbytery of Armagh, 2010 - .
Rev James Gordon
Today the Irish Presbyterian Church, which is a founder member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, has over 560 congregations in 21 presbyteries throughout Ireland with over 300,000 members. The Church has been much involved in education, evangelism, social service and world mission in India, China, the Middle East, Jamaica, Africa, Indonesia, Nepal and Brazil.
In our Christian worship, the preaching of the Word of God is central, in a setting of prayer and praise. There is no fixed liturgy. Prayers and hymns, psalms and paraphrases, Scripture reading and sermon are adapted to the needs of the occasion.
The word 'Presbyterian' describes the form of our Church government which emphasises the individual and corporate responsibility of members. Ministers and members must share in the organising and running of every aspect of the Church's work. Locally this means the provision of worship and teaching along with pastoral care while the corporate work of the Church involves social action, evangelism, mission at home and overseas, training of ministers and working with young people and children.
The best test of our Church and its members lies in what their faith compels them to do for others, not just what has been done for them as individuals. The King and Head of the Church loved us and gave Himself for us so that we should no longer live for ourselves. We are called to service.
The Church's administrative centre is in Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast and the present General Secretary is the Rev. Dr. Donald Watts.
The Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Ireland
As was announced immediately following his election at the beginning of February the next Moderator of the Presbyterian Church will be Rev. Ivan Patterson, minister of Newcastle Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Patterson was nominated by 12 out of the 19 Presbyteries and will take up office on the 6th June in succession to Dr. Norman Hamilton who continues as Moderator until that time.
Rev. Roy Patton, minister of the Ballygilbert congregation received 3 nominations, Rev. Joseph Andrews of Ballee, Ballymena 2 votes, and Rev. Roy Mackay, Second Comber and Rev. Rob Craig, Kilfennan, Londonderry tied on 1 vote each.
Commenting on his election Mr. Patterson who has been minister of Newcastle for the last 20 years said, "I am absolutely overwhelmed to be elected as Moderator. I am very happy to serve the Church and to represent its members but am somewhat daunted by the thought of the year ahead."
Voting for each candidate was as follows:
Rev. Ivan Patterson (Newcastle) 12 Presbytery votes: Armagh, North Belfast, East Belfast, South Belfast, Carrickfergus, Coleraine/Limavady, Dromore, Dublin/Munster, Iveagh, Omagh, Route, Templepatrick
Rev. Roy Patton (Ballygilbert) 3 Presbytery votes: Ards, Monaghan, Newry
Rev. Joseph Andrews (Ballee, Ballymena) 2 Presbytery votes: Ballymena, Tyrone
Rev. Roy Mackay (Second Comber) 1 Presbytery vote: Down
Rev. Rob Craig (Kilfennan, Londonderry) 1 Presbytery vote: Derry/Donegal
Rev. Ivan Pattersondescribes his ministry as "conservatively biblical with a strong evangelical outlook. I get great satisfaction from helping people and would love them to become more knowledgeable about the God of the Bible and the implication of that for their lives.
"We cannot expect people to come and find us so we have to be open to be found. That means being active in our communities, making our Christian voice heard and having confidence in Christ to share our faith through being involved in what is going on outside the walls of our Church as well as inside."
To emphasise this his congregation of some 350 families has just completed a development programme creating a new reception area and other facilities that make their church, which faces directly on to Newcastle Main Street, an open and welcoming building for everyone, everyday.
Born on 15th January 1949, Mr. Patterson was brought up in the Co. Antrim village of Buckna where he attended the local Presbyterian Church. After schooling at Rocavan Primary School, Ballymena Intermediate School and Ballymena Technical College he worked as a television repair engineer before continuing his studies to gain admission to Queen's University. After graduating in semitic studies he completed his training for the Presbyterian ministry at Union Theological College gaining a Masters in Theology in 1979 and also studied for a short time at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Mr. Patterson was ordained in 1980 and served for two years as assistant in First Bangor Presbyterian Church before becoming minister of the Bushvale congregation near Ballymoney in 1982. In 1991 he was called to Newcastle Presbyterian Church.
Throughout his ministry Mr. Patterson has taken particular interest in youth work and overseas mission. He served as convener of the Presbyterian Church's Youth Board between 1989 and 1993 and was the first chairman of Youth Link, a body set up by the Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Churches to provide support and training for youth leaders and community relation experiences for young people.
He has also travelled to Kenya, Nepal and India to see church work there and has a particular interest in Romania, establishing a twinning arrangement between his church in Newcastle and a congregation of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Hodos, Romania.
Mr. Patterson who is currently Clerk of the Iveagh Presbytery, is married to Maureen and has one married son and two grandsons.