Book marks 150 years of Bellville

BELLVILLE Presbyterian Church, in the heart of the Montiaghs area, was packed to capacity on Friday night for the launch of a new book to mark the 150th anniversary of the church’s founding.

The book, written by Brian Cassells, one of Ireland’s leading experts on the country’s waterways, who was born in the Montiaghs district, is called ‘The Light Still Shines’.

Mr Cassells still worships at Bellville, situated in the area where he grew up and attended Sunday School.

Among the attendance at the book launch were families who worship at Bellville, and former members living in other parts of the borough and further afield.

They were joined by people belonging to other Protestant churches, and the Roman Catholic Church.

The informal proceedings were introduced by the Rev. William Harshaw, minister of Bellville and Waringstown Presbyterian Churches.

Mr Harshaw said the lovely book, as well as a history of the Bellville church, was a social history of the Montiaghs area, and of their church’s part in the entire community.

“I thank Brian on your behalf, and congratulate him on producing this book,” he said.

Lurgan historian, Mr Frank Corry, who wrote the foreword to the new book, said Mr Cassells is a long-time colleague and friend.

Mr Corry said Bellville Presbyterian Church is situated in an area with a very strong Catholic community, and fairly strong Church of Ireland community, and Bellville church had also made an immense Christian witness.

Mr Corry said the book title ‘The Light Still Shines’ is very appropriate, and he said that in the last 20 years there had been a question mark over the future of Bellville, and he paid tribute to the people who had shown such faith and determination to ensure that the church survived.

He said he rejoiced with the minister, the elders and the congregation, as they celebrated 150 years of worship and service to the community.

Mr Corry said “I look on the small Bellville church as a beacon on the landscape”, and he told the meeting that while researching material for a book in 1996, he had received a warm welcome from the Bellville people, and help with his research.

He said people like Mervyn King and Robert Russell made him most welcome, and he said that since that initial meeting his friendship his relationship with the Bellville congregation had flourished.

He had the pleasure of providing a number of winter lectures to cross-community groups in the church hall, something which contributed to his own better understanding of Presbyterianism.

He said that Brian Cassells book is a valuable history of Bellville church during the past 150 years, and also of the social history of the Montiaghs.

Mr Cassells, in thanking Mr Corry for his comments, also thanked Mr Mervyn King for his help in setting out the text, and supplying most of the photographs in the book.

He also thanked his lifelong friend Jack Parks for his advice, and local historian Ann Stevenson for researching the Bell family, and making all her material freely available.

Mr Cassells gave a power point presentation on the history of Bellville, highlighting families and individuals connected with the church, as well as various buildings and places of interest in the general Montiaghs area.

Tea was served by the ladies of the congregation, in the adjoining church hall, and many copies of Mr Cassells were sold.

Copies of the book, priced at £10, can be ordered from Mervyn King, 29 Ardmore Road, Derryadd, Lurgan, and are also available from Newell’s newsagents, 4 Queen Street, Lurgan, and Castle Hardware, 7 Market Street, Portadown.