Bannside Library, 135-139 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast
Eileen Emily (nee Cassells) married Ian Richard Kyle Paisley on 13th October 1956.
They enjoyed a long and happy partnership which included their working side by side in both the Christian ministry and as elected political representatives. Eileen was elevated to the House of Lords in July 2009 taking the title Baroness Paisley of St. Gegorge’s in recognition of the constituents who first elected her.
The Face of Christ
Although we are told where Christ was born, the Bible does not reveal to us when His birth took place, but we know for various reasons that it was not in the month of December. However, the glorious fact remains that He came into the world to redeem us, He who divided the light from the darkness at the creation of the world said of Himself, “I am the light of the world’, and in the dark days of December we are reminded that the Incarnation took place at a very dark time in the history of the world, bringing light and hope, joy and comfort to hopeless mankind.
Like most mothers, my first glimpse of the face of each of my new-born babies is indelibly registered in my memory, and the same also applies to each of my grandchildren. As we look at their little faces we can see likenesses to parents, grandparents, cousins, and to older brothers and sisters.
Thinking about the birth of Christ, my thoughts turned to Mary, His Virgin mother, and how she felt when she looked for the first time on the baby face of the Son of God. That little face was like no other baby’s face. The Christ-child resembled no earthly person, because on His face was the ‘light of the knowledge of the glory of God.’ In Hebrews Paul describes Christ’s appearance as the ‘brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His Person.’
None of the people who saw Jesus as a baby ever described His physical appearance. Simeon and Anna, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, all worshipped Him and rejoiced at His coming into the world, but left us wondering as to His looks. As He grew older John the Baptist, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, His disciples, all the people He met, those He healed and raised from the dead, the lepers, the blind men, Pilate, the soldiers and a multitude of others, never refer to His looks. The only physical description we are given was at the Cross, and what a heart-rending picture that is.
The circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth are worth looking at.
Only a few people in the Bible were told by God that they would have a son. Abraham and Sarah, Zorah and Manoah, Hannah and Elkanah, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and of course Mary.
As our babies grow up we see them develop characteristics like ourselves – the colour of their eyes and hair, the way they smile, their actions and reactions, etc.
Of Christ’s childhood, we read that He was obedient to His mother and Joseph, and was subject to them. What humility showed in His boyish face, and what an example He was to the other children that Mary and Joseph had. His intelligent face must have impressed the doctors of law in the temple as He probed them with His questions and answered theirs, not just for an hour or two, but for three days!
What love and compassion shone from His eyes when He saw the great needs of the people among whom He walked and to whom He ministered.
His face was an attentive one too, as He conversed with the woman at Sychar’s well while she truthfully told her story to Him, and it was a forgiving face He showed to the woman taken in the act of adultery. However, it was a stern face that asked ‘Where are thine accusers?’ So stern, that those men disappeared from view, shame written large on their faces.
I often think how happy Christ was when He was surrounded by children. The love and joy in His face when he lifted the children up in His arms and blessed them must have been unforgettable to them and their parents. And what a restful face must have been His when He was in the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.
I wonder what the blind men’s thoughts were when they had their first look at the face of the Saviour. It was also a fearless face when he took the Pharisees to task for their hypocrisy, calling them whitened sepulchres. When we think that on the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elias and the Lord were discussing His death and what He should accomplish at Jerusalem, we read that His face was shining as the sun.
If we link this with Paul’s great statement in Hebrews 12, ‘who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame’, then we catch a glimpse of the submissive yet determined face of Christ. Think of the calm face His disciples saw on that storm-tossed boat, and of the weeping face everyone saw at the tomb of Lazarus. How many were with him to view His tear-stained face as he wept over Jerusalem. The hurt expression on His face when He turned and looked upon Peter after the disciple had denied knowing Him must have haunted the apostle for a very long time, yet that look was yearning and tender. When the traitor Judas left the Upper Room it was night, but Christ said ‘Now is the Son of man glorified.’ His sinless face was smacked, blindfolded, spat upon, and the hairs rudely plucked off it by sacrilegious hands. It was a regal face at the mockery of His trial, and serene when He was sentenced to the death of the cross. His mouth is described as ‘most sweet’ yet cruel hands tormented it with vinegar and gall.
Today Christ’s face is an exalted one, as He sits on His kingly throne in Heaven. The most wonderful thing of all is that He is coming back, and ‘when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’
What elevation for hell-deserving sinners! Our hearts should be overflowing with love for Him who gave His all for us and whose first advent is celebrated across the world at this time.
Like most people who have a garden, we love to dine ‘al fresco’ when the weather is fine. The appetising aroma from surrounding gardens is very tempting and encourages us to get the barbeque going and enjoy the pleasure of the great outdoors. As we were enjoying our Sunday lunch in the garden recently we could not help but remark on the beauty of the trees as a gentle breeze played through the leaves, the singing of the birds from the topmost branches, the industry of the bees as they gathered pollen from the blossoms and flowers, and we rejoiced in the pleasure a garden brings. We also reminisced about the state our garden used to be in when our children, especially the boys, invited all the other boys from the area to play ball. Cricket and football, tennis and croquet, skateboarding, cycling – you name it – all were enjoyed so enthusiastically that grass was almost non-existent. However, we preferred the garden being used by our children and their friends because they were safe and no lasting damage resulted – indeed the grass grew all to quickly when the children grew up. Gardens are meant to be enjoyed, but they do entail quite a bit of work. In the Bible there are interesting descriptions of many different gardens. We read of a garden of herbs and a garden of spices, a garden of lilies and a garden of cucumbers. There are fruit gardens and nut gardens – long before Cadbury’s fruit and nut bars were invented, and there are several references to the King’s garden and the Palace garden. We have also the garden of the Bridegroom, the garden of Uzza, and the Garden of the Lord. Some gardens are described as well-watered while another is the complete opposite – a garden without water. There are gardens by the riverside and gardens which were attacked with mildew, infected with diseases and infested by caterpillars.
These gardens are all very interesting, and are a picture of what the garden of our hearts and minds could be, should be, or should not be. But we will look at those matters on another occasion.
Of course, the very first Garden appears in the second chapter of Genesis, and is the first of four very special Gardens in the Scriptures.
After God made man He could have left him in Eden to fend for himself, but because of His love for him and all mankind, He ‘planted a garden eastward in Eden’ and into that beautiful garden he put Adam to ‘dress it and to keep it.’ The Garden of Eden was a perfect garden, because everything God made or makes is perfect as He is perfect. It was planted by God and contained everything that Adam and Eve needed for their sustenance as well as their pleasure, including a river to water it and the surrounding lands. Trees of all kinds, herbs, animals, all prepared, planted and supplied for the good of man, whom God created in His own image. There were also precious stones and gold in that garden. These materials were used in the breastplate of the High Priest. The Bible says that God has given us richly all things to enjoy. Gold, precious stones, money, possessions or positions, should be received and enjoyed with thankfulness, remembering God’s warning that the love of money (or gold) is the root of all evil. God’s provision of a garden and all it contained was an act of the love of God. Centuries later, when Christ walked through this world He uttered this great promise, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ What boundless love He shows to us in His preparation for our eternal comfort. And what a perfect garden is this Paradise He is even now preparing for those who love Him. The Garden in Eden had in its midst two trees, one was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the other was the tree of life. The Garden of God in Heaven does not need the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because there is no evil in heaven. The Bible says ‘nothing that defiles or makes a lie or works abomination shall enter into Heaven.’
The hymn-writer put it plainly when he wrote :
‘There is a City bright, closed are its gates to sin. Naught that defileth can ever enter in.’
Another difference between the Garden of Eden and the Garden of God is that there will be no serpent there. That old serpent, the Devil, will not be able to slither into the Garden of God as he slid into Eden’s Garden, but he will be in the place God prepared for him and his angels.
The Tree of Life which God had to protect with a flaming sword in the Garden of Eden will be in the midst of the Garden of God in Heaven. God never told Adam that he could not eat of it, but because he disobeyed His commandment about the other tree he could not be trusted to keep his hands off the Tree of Life. In Revelation we are told that those who overcome will be given to eat of that Tree. If Eve had overcome the three temptations with which Satan tempted her what a difference that would have made to the entire human race. Those temptations were Satan’s input into that garden of perfection, and which John speaks of in his first epistle – the lust of the flesh – ‘good for food’; the lust of the eyes – ‘pleasant to the eyes’; and the pride of life – ‘desire to be wise’.
The Garden of Eden was the place where the God of creation, the God who prepared that beautiful garden, gave His promise of the coming Saviour. No-one but God would have chosen the place of man’s disobedience and rebellion to give hope and comfort to sinful man. God alone knew what that promise would cost Him and what agony it would cost His only begotten Son, yet because of His great love for us, we read that He is preparing a place for us in that Garden of God so that we unworthy but redeemed sinners can be with Him for all eternity.
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world, He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass. He speaks to me everywhere. This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas, His hands these wonders wrought.
On the first Lord’s Day of August 1946 my husband preached his first messages as an ordained minister in the church known then as Ravenhill Evangelical Mission Church.
On 6th August, 2006 he celebrated his sixtieth year as minister of the congregation now meeting since 1969 in the new building known as Martyrs Memorial Church. It was a day of great rejoicing, and at the morning service a visiting gentleman came to Christ.
Anniversaries are traditionally given names, ranging from paper for the first anniversary right through to platinum for the seventieth. The best-known ones are of course Silver for 25th, Pearl for 30th, Ruby for 40th, Gold for 50th and Diamond for 60th.
With his diamond jubilee in mind I did a little research on diamonds which proved most interesting and informative.
Diamonds are formed about ninety miles deep in the earth, in temperatures around 1200 degrees celcius. They are the hardest material known to man and can only be scratched by other diamonds. Another name for diamond is adamantine, which means invincible. I was amazed to discover that diamonds are formed from the same matter as coal. When they are hewed from the earth or rock they are just a shapeless mass, covered in grit and mud, and are anything but beautiful. Only someone very specialised in the subject would know what they were looking for. We are advised by diamond merchants and jewellers to look for four things when buying diamonds – cut, colour, carat, clarity.
Cutting a diamond is the art and science which is used to shape and polish the rough stone to its ultimate beauty. It has nothing to do with the shape, and the quality of the light it reflects is best judged from above. The cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough diamond and sometimes as much as half of it must be cut away so that any flaws can be eliminated before it is cut and polished to show its brilliance and fire. The beauty of a diamond is its shine and sparkle, and unless it is handled by a master craftsman it cannot show these properties. Its light-source and the origin of this source is all important; without these its value is diminished.
Carat is the weight of a diamond, not the size. The term is a derivative of the word carob. The seeds of the carob are very close in weight to one another and were used in the old world to measure the weight of a diamond. Clarity has to do with the light that enters the diamond and how that light is reflected and refracted. Anything that disrupts the flow of light into the diamond causes light to be lost, and can affect not only its value but its beauty and desirability and how much light others are getting from the diamond.
I also discovered that diamonds are found in almost every colour of the rainbow.
Not only are these four Cs important when purchasing a diamond, but there is another C which most important – Cleanliness. This affects a diamond’s beauty as much as the other four Cs. Dirt or grease on top of a diamond reduces its lustre. Dirt absorbs light and this will be seen by onlookers. However, the market value is not affected by its cleanliness because it can be cleaned.
I also consulted the best Book of all, God’s Word. As I discovered a long time ago, this precious Book is a real mine of information, yielding a treasure-trove of priceless worth.
As early as the second chapter of Genesis we read of the gold and precious stones that were to be found in the Garden of Eden. God could have made gold and precious stones to grow on trees but he placed them underfoot. If our first parents had not sinned, Adam would surely have found these treasures when he worked in the Garden, turning over the rich earth. When we fail to turn over the pages of the Bible what precious jewels are lost to us!
The word ‘diamond’ is only mentioned in three Books in the Bible – Exodus, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and the word ‘adamant’ which also means diamond, in two Books, Ezekiel and Zechariah, and if you look at these scriptures you will discover many interesting things.
As I thought on the results of my research I found many similarities between a precious soul and a diamond. Like the diamond, we are by nature as black as coal, covered in dirt and grit. There is no beauty in us, and there is no light in us.
The Lord Jesus said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. As David said ‘He brought me up also out of an horrible pit and out of the miry clay.’ He delivered us from the darkness of our lost estate and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Our Great Master Craftsman had to remove all the mud and grit from us, then in His hands he cut and polished us so that we could shine and sparkle like diamonds in the surrounding darkness and reflect the light of His love to those around us.
Seventy years ago Ian was ordained to the Christian Ministry on 1st August, 1946, and each year on the first Sunday in August our church services marked that occasion.
For him it was an annual reminder of the solemn vows he took as a young man of just 20 years of age, and also a day of thanksgiving for another twelve months in the Ministry he so loved.
For us as a family it was a special day when we were joined by friends and members of our wider family who set the day aside to worship with us and join us at home for lunch, tea, and often supper as well!
Additionally our children were always excited in anticipation of whatever holidays were planned, as that first Sunday hearlded in our holidays. August was always our family’s holiday month when we strove to get a few weeks away from it all – sometime we did, and sometimes in our Province’s turbulent times, events delayed our plans. Whatever way it fell, August was at the least, a change in routine and at most a real time of refreshment.
The Scriptures teach us the importance of being zealously affected with a good thing. Ian certainly took that instruction to heart and in so doing kept us all zealous! Even our holidays were planned to include opportunity for seeking out Ian’s “gems”. We would find ourselves trekking up such places as Ruberslaw Mountain, while Ian told us of its Covenanting significance as he led us to “Peden’s Pulpit” among the summit rocks.
The children were taught the skill of taking pencil and charcoal rubbings from old grave-stones and from Memorials to men and women of historical and theological significance.
One one occasion Ian had read of a Memorial which was located in a remote part of a Scottish Island and he determined to try and find it. The children were tasked with helping locate it. A large unwiedly paper map, an old brass compass, a heavy volume containing its story and Ian’s ever present holiday binoculars all emerged from the boot of the car. Two days (two rather long days!) it was sighted – in the middle of a field of young bullocks! We had come this far, why on earth would we not now go on? “Just ignore them and they won’t do you any harm” was the assurance given by the kindly farmer whose field it was in, and who had spied us doing our recky.
Thankfully, he came with us, rugged hands holding back barbed wire, his well shod feet ignoring cow clap and enthusing about this monument that nobody had EVER before asked him to see! And there it was! Crumbling, weathered stones piled in a sort of heap surrounded by a little railing slowly succumbing to rust. Rubbings were taken, a long conversation held while we were blown about in a gale and the heavens opened to soak us thoroughly. Then the kindly farmer, who by now recognised Ian, led us on another hike to point out the locations of more stories about his land. He had a once-in-a-lifetime audience and he was going to make the most of it!
Years later, when travel became more accessible for families, our first European holiday was to Menton in the South of France, close to the Italian border. And why there? Because “The Prince of Preachers”, C H Spurgeon often, in fact annually, visited the place for sabbaticals! As one of our children said when they learned of our holiday plans that year “Well, thank you God for C H Spurgeon”.
Whatever your plans are for this holiday month, leave some space for zealous thanksgiving!
It was our practice, when our children were young, to stand among the crowd at Belfast City Hall for the annual Somme Commemoration every July. In the years following, Ian would stand with our children while I took part as an elected City Councillor. Of course we didn’t know then of the opportunities which would come Ian’s way in the years ahead to be a bigger part of maintaining the Somme Memorial both at home and in Europe.
Following these few words is a record written some time ago by our good friend Dr Ian Adamson OBE, recording the formation of the Somme Association.
This was a project dear to Ian’s heart and it forms an important part of his Legacy. He, and those others involved, understood well the words –
“Time, like an ever- rolling stream Bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.”
Therefore they took seriously their responsibility to keep these ‘sons’ alive in our time.
Of course this Somme Centenary year has added poignance to the diabolical bloody slaughter of those years.
Another generation has been passed the baton. It has been passed on having been sanded, oiled and varnished. The handle has been re-taped for a safe grip. Most importantly, they have received it willingly and with pride.
Naturally, this month my mind will recall the formal visits I made with Ian to the battle-fields of the Somme as well as our days as a young family among the crowds at the City Hall. But above all, I will remember his appreciation of the lives sacrificed and his unabated zeal to make that sacrifice a living part of our future. This month of July, which marks the beginning of the awful months of violent deaths which continued on through the summer until the autumn of 1916, may we all take time to honour Ulster’s brave sons and to cherish more our own children, and redouble our efforts to ensure that they, our precious dreams, are never borne away in the harsh morning light of warfare.
This photo was taken of Ian and Mr Hugh James Adam’s of Crossgar who served at the Battle of the Somme. Ian was presenting him with his 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme Commemoration medal. Hugh James was 101 years of age at the time. We knew him well as he served as an elder in our Crossgar congregation and was an inspiration to all who knew him. His personal testimony, having come through such as experience as a very young man, was all the more precious. I have no doubt he is still greatly missed not only by his family but in his neighbourhood and church.
The Formation of the Somme Association
by Ian Adamson
Three years ago, a Conference in Monte Carlo, Monaco…Ireland in the Decade of the Great War, 1912-1923: Towards Commemoration resulted in the publication of an important book Towards Commemoration: Ireland in War and Revolution, edited by John Horne and Edward Madigan, published by the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin 2013. I contributed a chapter on Somme Memories. I used this as the basis of a talk I gave in 2014 on William Sloan to the Men’s Group of my own Conlig Presbyterian Church, at the request of my relatives Cecil Connell and Heather Lyons.
William Sloan was born in Newtownards, County Down, in 1897. He was the only son of Anthony and Lizzie Sloan who lived in Roseneath Cottage, Main Street, Conlig, Co Down, near my father’s shop, at the corner of the Tower Road. This leads past Clandeboye Golf Club to Helen’s Tower. The couple were married on 24 August 1896 in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church. Anthony worked as a general labourer, and his two nieces Martha and Isabella, eventually became my two grannies. Anthony and Lizzie had two children, William and Lillah, to whom my grannies were therefore cousins.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War, at the age of 17, William enlisted at Clandeboye without his parent’s permission and, like other young men from Conlig, came home already wearing his uniform. He served with the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108 Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, aged then only 19 years. Initially, he was reported missing in action but his mother Lizzie never accepted that he was dead and until the day she died in January 1932, the front door of the cottage was left unlocked, day and night, just in case her son came home. He has no known grave and is commemorated at home in Conlig Presbyterian Church and in France on the Thiepval Memorial Arch to the Missing of the Somme.
But the story does not end there. Following William’s death, Lillah went with two of her cousins, my granny Isabella and her sister, Cecil’s granny, my Aunt Hannah, whose husband Herbie was in the 36th (Ulster) Division until the end of the War, to work on munitions at the Alfred Nobel Dynamite factory at Ardeer in Ayrshire, Scotland. When I was a boy, I used to deliver daily newspapers to Lillah in Roseneath Cottage. We often talked about her brother and she told me that we looked alike and that I reminded her of him – which is perhaps not surprising in view of the family connection. It was from Lillah, my Granny Isabella and Aunt Hannah that I learned most about the Great War. Granny helped inform my views on my identity as a British Unionist, an Irish Royalist and an Ulster Loyalist, as well as my own principles. Always, she instructed, vote for the “Cloth Cap”, the working class.
Only much later, however, did that interest in the war turn into something more active. In 1975 I was contacted by a leading French academic in the study of Ireland, Professor René Frechet, following the publication of my book The Cruthin – the Ancient Kindred (1974). This was the beginning of a long and productive correspondence that lasted until René Frechet’s death in 1992. It is no exaggeration to say that as Professor of English at the Sorbonne, and the spirit behind the University’s Institute of Irish Studies, set up in 1979, he served as guide and councillor to the increasing number of French students engaged in research into Irish themes. His Histoire de l’Irlande (1970) was only one facet of his numerous activities in the field of Irish studies. Professor René Frechet was instrumental in bringing Farset to France, through his friend Denis Dumortier.
Apart from his love of Irish literature – his translation of the poetical works of Yeats (1989) is a model of precision and sensibility – he followed closely events in Northern Ireland which he covered in a series of often outspoken articles published in the French Protestant weekly, Réforme. An acute knowledge of facts as well as an indefectible affection for every aspect of life in the region guided his particular interest in the North. As a young lecturer he had spent two years at Queens’ University Belfast. The experience he acquired, and the long-lasting friendships he made at that time gave him an indisputable authority to comment on developments in the political situation there. There is no doubt that it was through him that the point of view of the Ulster Protestant found its most articulate and sympathetic spokesman in France. His convictions and courageous declarations did much to counter-balance the, often superficial, representations of this community in the mainstream, essentially pro-Republican French press.
I was greatly honoured that René Frechet should take an interest in my work. Commenting on my Identity of Ulster [i], he wrote: “What an interesting, curious piece of work this is. Generally, if we are told it is not a question of a war of religion in Ulster, we are told about opposition between Catholics, whom people think of as mostly wishing for the unification of the island, and Protestants who want to remain British. Adamson however, does not militate in favour of the bringing together of two quite distinct communities. He says that their division is artificial, that they are all more or less descendants of pre-Celtic peoples, and in particular of the Cruthin, who were constantly moving backwards and forwards between Ulster and Scotland, where they were called Picts, a fact that did not prevent their homeland becoming the most Gaelic part of Ireland. “British”, as far as he is concerned, takes on a meaning that Ulster people tend to forget. Here are some interesting phrases for comparison. “‘Old British’ was displaced in Ireland by Gaelic just as English displaced Gaelic”; “the people of the Shankill Road speak an English which is almost a literal translation of Gaelic”; “the majority of Scottish Gaelic speakers are Protestants.” In fact the author is especially interested in Protestants, but those Protestants who have worked or are working towards reconciliation (could these even be the United Irishmen of the 1790’s?), for a co-operative movement, for a kind of popular autonomy or self-management. He shows the paradoxical confusion of antagonistic, partly mythical traditions, and is trying to convince people of the fundamental unity of Ulster”.
Throughout the 1980s, Fréchet followed my involvement in the creation of several community organisations to promote my ideals of mutual respect, common identity, co-operation and self-help. These included the Farset Youth Project. The idea behind the project was to bring together young people from both sides of the community and allow them to follow in the footsteps of Saint Columbanus from Bangor in the North of Ireland to Reims and Luxeuil in France, through St Gallen in Switzerland, to Bregenz in Austria, and finally on to Bobbio in Italy. In a country where violence was dividing the people, it was important to point to a shared past. This project became possible thanks in no small measure to the help of my friend Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich, whose foreword to the second edition of my book, Bangor Light of the World, in 1987 [ii] is testimony to his commitment to the cross-community line we saw as so vital. This book is now in its third edition.
On our way back to Ulster during our first trip to France with Young People from the Shankill and Falls Road areas of Belfast and from Tallaght and Inchicore in Dublin, during the height of The Troubles, I asked the group to make a detour to the Ulster Memorial Tower to explain the part played by Irishmen of all persuasions in the First World War in France, Belgium and the Dardanelles. From our Farset Somme Project developed the idea of a Somme Association, which was to be supported by an international organisation, Friends of the Somme. [iii] This Association took root at a press conference held under the auspices of the then Lady Mayoress, Rhonda Paisley, on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July, 1986, when a Somme Commemoration Committee was initiated.
Having grown up in sight of Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye, where the Belfast Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division had trained, and on which the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thiepval had been modelled, I proposed that museum complexes close to both towers could be built, that Thiepval Wood could be purchased and that Helen’s Tower could be opened up to the public under the stewardship of the Dufferin family. Ian Paisley explained his own position as a European MP and emphasised that this was a project to honour everyone who had fought at the Somme, both Unionist and Nationalist, Catholic and Protestant. He helped the project to achieve its aims through the good offices of the European Parliament, the French Embassy and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
On Friday 12th September,1986, I brought Dr Ian Paisley, MP, MEP, accompanied by his aide, Nigel Dodds, Fred Proctor and Jackie Hewitt to the Somme Battlefield, where they visited the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, the trench system at the Memorial Park Beaumont-Hamel and the Thiepval Monument. Dr Paisley confirmed he would arrange a meeting with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission about re-opening the Ulster Tower Museum and the provision of oral documentation and photographic displays which Farset Youth and Community Development would help to provide.
Dr Ian Paisley and myself at the Ulster Tower on 12th September, 1986 The Ulster Memorial Tower stands on what was the German front line during the Battle of the Somme, July to November 1916. It is opposite Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic charge on the 1st July 1916 and is in close proximity to the village of Thiepval. The Tower stands 70 feet tall and is a lasting tribute to the men of Ulster who gave their lives during the First World War. Its position on the battlefield is a permanent reminder of the 36th (Ulster) Division’s heroic charge at the Battle of the Somme on the opening day of that great offensive. The Ulster Tower was the first official memorial to be erected on the Western Front and was dedicated on 19th November 1921. The Tower itself is a replica of a well known Ulster landmark, Helen’s Tower, which stands on the Dufferin and Ava Estate at Clandeboye, County Down.
When demands grew for the construction of a publicly-funded battlefield memorial at Thiepval in honour of Ulster’s fallen, Sir James Craig proposed, at a meeting held in Belfast’s Old Town Hall on 17th November 1919, that the monument should take the form of a prominent Ulster landmark. The proposal struck a chord and Helen’s Tower seemed the ideal choice.
On Saturday 19th November 1921 the completed Tower was opened by Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, later to be assassinated by the Irish Republican Army. The principal room inside the Tower is a sixteen feet square memorial chamber, faced throughout in stone, with an inscription tablet in marble. The inscription reads:
This Tower is dedicated to the Glory of God, in grateful memory of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and of the Sons of Ulster in other Forces who laid down their lives in the Great War, and of all their Comrades-in-Arms, who, by Divine Grace, were spared to testify to their glorious deeds.
The upper portion of the Memorial Tower provides accommodation for a caretaker. By the late 1980s however the Tower had fallen into disrepair and public access was limited. We therefore created a Farset Somme Project early in 1988 and a meeting was called on 21st April that year of all people who had shown an interest in the project, with a view to informing them of the progress to date and hopefully to establish a support group to back us in our future work. It was hoped that by then we would be able to report onwhether the Department of Finance were prepared to meet the cost of modernising the interior of the Tower and whether my proposal to acquire Thiepval Wood had developed any further.
As a result we were able to employ a Supervisor, David Campbell, for our Farset Somme Project, under our General Manager, Jackie Hewitt. At a meeting of Farset on Thursday 8th December,1988, David was able to report that a Press Conference for the Somme Project had been held in the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Waring Street, Belfast, under the auspices of Lt-Colonel WRH Charley on Tuesday 21st June, 1988. Rev Dr Ian Paisley and the Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nigel Dodds had attended, announcing the re-opening of the Ulster Tower at Thiepval. This had been formally performed by the Lord Mayor following a service of Commemoration at the Tower on Friday 1st July,1988. Dr Paisley announced that the Department of Finance had agreed to meet the cost of interior renovations at the Tower, A video presentation and photographic then took place inside the Tower. As Chairman I thanked all those involved in the proceedings including the local representatives from throughout Northern Ireland.
Early in 1988, I published ,under my imprint Pretani Press, After the War came Peace? by my friend Lady Coralie Kinahan of Templepatrick .This was a marvellous historical saga set within the powerful drama of Ireland during and after the Great War. Coralie’s husband, Sir Robin, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast, brought me to Kensington Palace to introduce me to HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. And so, on 1 July, 1989, the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thiepval in France, the second Helen’s Tower, built by public subscription and completed in 1922, was re-dedicated under the auspices of our Farset Somme Project by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Hundreds of pilgrims from Ulster made the journey, among them veterans of the 36th (Ulster) Division and public representatives from throughout Northern Ireland.
We were delighted that the Duchess continued to be associated with our work by consenting to become the first President of The Somme Association, which I formally established in 1990. In the autumn of 2004 I was asked by the Royal Household to visit her in her private residence in Kensington Palace. I thanked her for all her work in support of the people of Northern Ireland. I kissed her and she smiled. We were further honoured that her son Prince Richard agreed to follow her in this role following her death in October 2004. He had opened our Somme Heritage Centre at Whitespots, Conlig in 1994. This also contains an exhibition on Nationalist and Republican Ireland, centring on the Easter Rising of 1916, to show both sides of the story as part of our shared history.
As founding Chairman of the Somme Association, I have travelled to France and Belgium every year since its inception to remember the ordinary soldiers from throughout Ireland who fought and died there. Prince Richard has accompanied us many times, officiating at our ceremonies of Remembrance in both France and Gallipoli, and meeting with President Mary McAleese in Turkey. In commemorating the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2008, I was especially privileged to attend three Services of Remembrance in Belgium and France. The first took place on Sunday 29 June at the memorial at Wytschaete (Belgium) for the 16th (Irish) Division, the Catholic and largely Nationalist division that had fought there alongside the Loyalist 36th (Ulster) Division at the Battle of Messines in June 1917.
Dr Ian and Baroness Eileen Paisley attended this service and Dr Paisley laid a wreath at the grave of Major Willie Redmond at Locre. I had been the first to lay a wreath there on behalf of the Somme Association. On Tuesday 1 July we attended the British and French Service at Thiepval Memorial led by the then Secretary of State, the Right Honourable Sean Woodward. As Chairman of the Somme Association I also officiated at the Ulster Tower Service in memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division and of their comrades in arms who had fought there at the Battle of the Somme. On Sunday 7 September 2008, the Association held a further service of remembrance at the 16th (Irish) Division memorial at Guillemont in honour its members who fought at Guillemont and Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. This service was attended by the Mayor of Derry, and by dignitaries from throughout Northern Ireland.
Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye contains a beautiful room in which are inscribed poems by Lady Helen Dufferin, Lord Alfred Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling, amongst others. Tennyson’s verse reads: Helen’s Tower here I stand, Dominant over sea and land. Son’s love built me, and I hold Mother’s love in letter’d gold. Love is in and out of time, I am mortal stone and lime. Would my granite girth were strong As either love, to last as long I would wear my crown entire To and thro’ the Doomsday fire, And be found of angel eyes In earth’s recurring Paradise. This poem is replicated in the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, but slightly altered to make it a fitting tribute to the Sons of Ulster and their comrades–in–arms who fought and died in the First World War: Helen’s Tower here I stand Dominant over sea and land Son’s love built me, and I hold Ulster’s love in letter’d gold.
This suggested to me the importance of literature as a means of understanding the experience of those who fought in the Great War and of paying tribute to them. To this end, I established the Somme Association’s “Battlelines” journal. This regular publication also kept the “Friends of the Somme” and general public informed as to developments within our organisation and included interviews with First World War veterans, biographies of Irish V.C. holders, features on cemeteries and memorials, reprints of prominent newspaper headlines and general historical articles. Amongst the soldier authors so remembered were Tom Kettle, journalist and professor at the National University of Ireland, who died as a Lieutenant with the 9th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Ginchy in September 1916, and Francis Ledwidge, who was killed while labouring with a working party in Flanders on 31 July 1917. These two poets were specially remembered at our services in 2008. Captain Lord Dunsany, Ledwidge’s patron and senior officer in the Royal Inniskillngs, wrote at the time: “I gave my opinion that if Ledwidge had lived, this lover of all seasons in which the blackbird sings would have surpassed even Burns, and Ireland would lawfully have claimed, as she may do even yet, the greatest of the peasant singers.”
On Monday 10 September 2007, Dr Paisley, as First Minister of Northern Ireland, and President Mary McAleese, as head of state of the Irish Republic, shook hands for the first time – another symbolic milestone on Ireland’s road to reconciliation – on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Somme Heritage Centre on the role of the 16th (Irish) Division and its largely Catholic and nationalist soldiers in the Battle of the Somme. President McAleese paid tribute both to the event and to the museum, stating that:
“It is an honour to be here at the opening of this exhibition commemorating the Battles of Guillemont and Ginchy, part of the heroic struggle of the Battle of the Somme fought over ninety years ago. Congratulations to Dr Ian Adamson, and all the members of the Somme Association for this labour of love, which allows the stories of those who fought and died to be honoured and respected and better known by a new generation.”
As Dr Paisley’s Advisor on History and Culture, this gave me the greatest of pleasure. The event also helped pave the way for the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to the National Irish War Memorial at Islandbridge, Dublin, on 18 May 2011, where I felt no less honoured to be presented to her by President McAleese on behalf of our Association. I knew that William, Lillah and Granny Kerr would have been pleased.
Sources [i]Ian Adamson, The Identity of Ulster: The Land, the Language and the People (Bangor, 1982); reviewed by René Frechet in Réforme, no. 1811, April 1982. [ii] Ian Adamson (1987), Bangor, Light of the World (Belfast, 1979). [iii] See Battle Lines: Journal of the Somme Association, no. 1, 1990.
For all involved in the Christian Ministry Easter is not only an important time in the Church calendar, but a particularly busy one too. It is a time when the attention of the entire world is reminded of the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The year after the Free Presbyterian Church came into existence in 1951, my husband established in the church what became our Annual Easter Convention. It commenced on Good Friday evening and ran through until the evening of Easter Monday.
Friday night opened with a Praise Service focused on the youth, and how to seek God’s will for their future. The Speaker on Friday evenings was Dr Brian Green from London, and there were always soloists, choirs, and musical family groups bringing appropriate messages. At the close of the meeting young people were encouraged to come and speak with one of the ministers if they wanted further guidance. As the denomination grew attendance at the Praise service also increased until extra seating had to be used to accommodate the numbers. As a result, many young people were called into full-time Christian service, both at home and across the world.
The Saturday evening meeting was about Missions. Missionaries from across the world related their interesting and touching stories of the blessings and trials of their endless work. They were greatly encouraged to know their work would be brought to God in prayer, and the convention gave liberally to ease the financial burdens they carried.
Sunday was a day of worship, and Monday was the big day with morning, afternoon and evening sessions.
Real work was accomplished through these convention meetings. In the weeks prior to the Convention special prayer times were held with additional prayer meetings taking place to ask for blessing on the services. Particular burdens were carried to Christ in those prayer sessions – burdens for young people, burdens for missionaries, burdens for neighbours and friends, burdens for foreign countries and for our own province and the entire island of Ireland.
The Convention grew from the first handful of people who met in the prayer room of the little Ravenhill Road Church to a Convention that filled the Ulster Hall and then our own Martyrs Memorial Church.
For over sixty years the Convention was packed to capacity with those who loved the Lord and desired to see His Name uplifted. My husband ensured it was a Convention which opened the eyes of the local church to the world. He invited Ministers and Missionaries from all around the globe to fellowship and to present their needs. It was not an insular Convention – it was visionary.
My revered Father-in-Law, Rev J. Kyle Paisley, opened the Monday Convention each year until he retired and the afternoon session was addressed by my husband. The Convention closed every year with the singing of “God be with you ’til we meet again.” It was highlighted by the waving of white handkerchiefs (they had to be clean ones!) as each chorus was sung. Guest speakers from around the world took part in every session.
Between each session the people were catered for, friendships were made and most importantly the church was built up and nourished. Those of us who look back on those rich times of the “days of God’s right hand” do so with gratitude, and are desirous to see the tide of such God-honouring blessing return to our beloved land.
I pray that this next generation might be thus engaged and blessed by the world wide vision, by the spirit of revival, and by the unity of purpose that were the trademarks of the Easter Convention my husband put in place. Without a vision the people are perishing!
This Easter – lift Jesus higher, lift Him up, let Him be seen!
I am often asked if I have a favourite hymn, and although there are many hymns that I love, my answer invariably is one penned by Charles Wesley, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain An Interest in The Saviour’s Blood”.
The first time I ever heard this hymn sung was also the first time I ever heard the man who was to be my husband, preach. As the hymn was sung my heart was more and more stirred with the overwhelming thought that when the Saviour was suffering the indescribable agonies of Calvary he was doing it for me. Since that evening this hymn became my all-time favourite, and still thrills my heart when I read it or sing it. I remarked to my brother, at whose suggestion we had attended the service that evening, how enthusiastically the minister let the congregational singing, and how stirring a message he preached afterwards.
Indeed, hymn singing formed an important part of every gospel campaign Ian conducted, and there were many tent missions held during the summer months. He also secured the services of a good musician and Ian’s ministry, people who came to Christ told us that they were first awakened to their need of a Saviour through a hymn they recall or even first learned in Sabbath school.
Good singing is an important part of our worship on earth, because we read in the Bible that we will sing the Song of Moses and of the Lamb. The Church of Christ on earth when worshiping Him in song are on in practice mode for when they will worship Him in Heaven.
Since Ian’s home going, this hymn, among others we both shared love of, is all the sweeter to me. Ian, through the grace of “sin’s forgiven” now is “clothed in righteousness divine”. His approach to “the eternal throne” has been travelled, he has “claimed the crown through Christ his own”.
Heaven’s hostility has been “quenched” for us all through the “atoning blood.”
Ian’s life was dedicated to spreading this wonderful news. Eternal security is free!
Read the hymn for yourselfAnd can it be that I should gain An interest in the Saviour’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain… For me, who Him to death pursued?
Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies: Who can explore His strange design? In vain the firstborn seraph tries To sound the depths of love devine. ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, Let angel minds inquire no more. ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; Let angel minds inquire no more. He left His Father’s throne above So free, so infinite His grace… Emptied Himself for all but love, And bloed for Adam’s helpless race: ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free.