For the majority of those interviewed church was a major part of their childhood. There are places of worship of a number of different denominations in and around each of the three villages. These were generally within easy, or relatively easy, reach of the attendees and most people walked or cycled to church, while a few would have been able to go there by car.

Interestingly, several of the Toome interviewees indicated that they remembered going to church by pony and trap or at least witnessing others do so. For example, George McCann went with his family to church at Cargin by pony and trap. Roisin McLernon travelled to church on a Sunday by pony and trap, but walked on other days, taking a short cut across the fields. When asked why this was so, she explained that the pony and trap was only used on a Sunday because that was when there were men to drive it.

George Laverty attended the chapel at Ballyscullion and remembers that there were facilities at it for tying up horses. As a boy of six or seven in the early 1930s, Cahal Boyd remembered that there were quite a few horse and jaunting cars that could have carried four or five worshippers. One particular man would have brought a load from Crosskeys to Moneyglass. Later buses were put on to bring people to the Catholic churches around Toome.

Church was attended nearly every Sunday and there were often other church-related activities during the week. Brian McKenna noted that the Catholic church in Whitehead was packed during the holiday season and reasonably full during the rest of year. Derek Lorimer recalled the road to Doagh ‘black with people’ returning from Kilbride Presbyterian Church. Those from Protestant backgrounds usually attended Sunday school before church. Involved in church life from a very early age, Wallace Fenton taught in the Sunday school in Kilbride parish church. For many people there was a very strict routine to Sunday. For others the day might not have been so regimented, but it was a day to be treated differently from the rest of the week and in particular it was a day of rest from regular work.

Isabell Cooper describes the Sundays of her childhood:

Sunday was a very strict day. … You got up on Sunday morning and got ready for Sunday school. You were there for 10 o’clock. You had to know your lessons for Sunday school – the teachers in the Sunday school were strict with you. … You came out of that and went down into the church – you had to be in the church for starting at 12 and you were in there until after 1, usually nearly the quarter past. And then you came home and changed your clothes … and you got your dinner – it was Sunday broth. And then after that you went to the mission hall for 3 o’clock for the afternoon Sunday school, and that was in for another hour. And then you came home. If my father had cattle grazing … away on the Rashee Road you had to walk away over there to bring maybe a couple of cows home to get milked and take them back again before you went to the evening church at 7. That was your Sunday. And if you weren’t going to your own church you went to the mission hall for half seven.

One of the highlights of the year was the Sunday school outing. Annie Hill recalls outings to Larne and on occasion a picnic near Ballynure. There were around 20 children on these outings and they played games such as rounders. She remembers enjoying what she called a ‘donkey’s lug’ – a long roll or scone with cream and icing. Trevor Monteith remembers Sunday school outings to Brown’s Bay on Islandmagee and Portrush. Growing up in Belfast, Wilma Shaw remembers that her Sunday school excursion from Newington Presbyterian Church in Belfast was to Whitehead: ‘When you arrived in Whitehead in those days and got off the train the flowers were everywhere, absolutely beautiful. We thought it was great because we didn’t have a garden at home.’

Though there was no Sunday school for Catholics, Cahal Boyd and the Gribbin brothers remembered that as children they went to confession once a month. Brian McCann recalls going to church every morning during Lent and then going on to school afterwards. Brian related that there was a Mass rock on his family’s farm where services were held before Cargin church was built. He remembers that older people walking past it would have lifted their hat or blessed themselves. Cahal Boyd recalled that on 29 June each year they walked from Moneyglass to Creggan – ‘that was some walk!’ as he later reflected.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: