John revisits memories as First Dromore marks centenary

Rev Frederick McConnell, minister of First Dromore (1952 to 1976) pictured with Miss Sadie Stronge (Sunday School Teacher) and John McGrehan (Sunday School Superintendent).

The Rev Donald Patton’s book ‘The Church on the Hill - A Short History of First Dromore Presbyterian Church 1660-1881’, records: “The building was completed in 1915, and today stands proudly as the legacy of wise and faithful forefathers.

“It is an impressive structure, listed now as an historic building, built of dark blue whinstone rock, relieved by white limestone dressings.

“The pews are of pitch pine and it is capable of seating 800 worshippers comfortably. Special services were held in the new building in November 1915 . . . ”

Former Dromore man and local church historian, John Kelly, was moved by the occasion of the church’s 100th anniversary to revisit some of his own childhood and teenage memories of First Dromore during the 1950s and 1960s.

He writes: “When I attended First Dromore (1948 to 1969), the minister was the late Rev Frederick McConnell. When I commenced Sunday School, the Superintendant was the late John McGrehan and the primary Sunday School was held in the Choir Room at the rear of the Church.

“In about 1956, I moved to the ‘Big Sunday School’ in the Old School, demolished in the late 1950s. When my Sunday school class moved into the new Church Hall in about 1960, my teacher was the late Miss Sadie Stronge. My class included sons of well-know Dromore shopkeepers - Alexander Thompson (whose parents owned a greengrocer shop in Gallows Street) and Peter Osborne (whose parents owned a confectionary shop in the Square).

“We were all very fond of Miss Stronge and even when we were in our teens and the age to attend Bible Class, we stayed an extra year in her class . . . Sadie Stronge, renowned for calling her Bible her ‘sword’, was Sunday School teacher at First Dromore for 45 years; she died in February 1997. After leaving Miss Stronge’s class I attended the Boys’ Brigade Bible Class, under the tuition of its chaplain, the Rev McConnell. My BB Captains included the late Beattie Johnston and Ronnie McCandless . . .

“In about 1968/69 I was a member of the Church Dramatic Society headed up by the late Fred McCarroll, the then Principal of Dromore Central Primary School . . .

“When I was in my teens the late Samuel Wethers, the then Church Organist, asked me if I would join the Church Choir. He gave me vocal coaching each Sunday afternoon and I can clearly recall him sitting at the piano as I repeated the scale time after time . . .

“My father, who was a church elder, died in April 1984 and my mother died in July 1990 and both are buried at First Dromore Cemetery.

“I always greatly enjoy my return family visits to First Dromore for special services and events which allow me to recall many happy memories spent at this magnificent church building which was opened for worship a century ago - ‘Happy Birthday First Dromore’.”