The Clergy


The relationship between the clergy and their flocks was generally good. The Catholic clergy around Toome were remembered for being regular in their visiting and enjoying a good relationship with the local farming community. Brian McCann recalls the time that he was asked by Father Sloan to go round the sick of Cargin parish and let them know that he would not be visiting them that day because his father had died.

The relationship between the clergy and their flocks was generally good. The Catholic clergy around Toome were remembered for being regular in their visiting and enjoying a good relationship with the local farming community. Brian McCann recalls the time that he was asked by Father Sloan to go round the sick of Cargin parish and let them know that he would not be visiting them that day because his father had died.

Mickey Gribbin remembers that after a pig was killed he would be sent to the priest with its liver as a gift. Other interviewees had their own memories of the ministers of their childhood. Frankie Dale describes the Rev. Robert Elliott of Duneane Presbyterian Church as a ‘great man’. At that time the minister of Duneane had his own manse farm where he kept pigs and chickens. The local farmers helped him with ploughing and the harvest. Mary Moore calls the Rev. John Armstrong of Kilbride Presbyterian Church ‘a nice big man’. In Whitehead Presbyterian Church, Sheila Herdman remembers that the Rev. William Stewart would interrupt his sermons to warn the boys in the gallery to be quiet.

Though his ministry in Kilbride Church of Ireland ended over sixty years ago, the Rev. John Redmond is still fondly remembered by many older people in and around Doagh and not just by the members of his own congregation. According to Wallace Fenton, on whom he was a strong influence, he was ‘a great old warrior’. He had been a chaplain in the army in the First World War and afterwards rector of Ballymacarrett in east Belfast. While in Ballymacarrett he had organised a mission which left a deep impression on people. Among those who attended were men who had stolen items from the shipyard; he arranged for these to be returned. However, his health had broken down and so he was moved to Kilbride, a smaller rural parish, beginning his ministry there on 5 January 1930. At this time he was a Curate in Charge, but five years later on 30 April 1935 he was instituted rector of Kilbride.

Kilbride was a poor parish when Redmond arrived, in need of much work and finance. The previous rector, the Rev. Parker Erskine Major, was a wealthy man who gave much to the church out of his own funds. Redmond, on the other hand, had to regularly appeal for money. In making an appeal, he would say, ‘I don’t want pennies, I want silver’, as a result of which he was known affectionately as ‘Silver John’. Wallace remembers that Redmond was active in having new houses built in Doagh in the 1930s. ‘Out-looking in his ministry’, Redmond also provided facilities in Cogry where people were in need of practical help and was highly thought of there as well. He also promoted social and sporting activities which were additionally a means of raising money. There was an annual cycle competition in May/June, though it was nearly always a wet day giving rise to a local saying: ‘It’s Redmond’s sports [day], it’s bound to be raining’.

Wallace Fenton recalls the way Rev. John Redmond provided housing in Doagh

When he came to the parish the housing situation in the area was apparently pretty grim and very few people would have had sufficient room in their homes to facilitate the needs of their large families. And he thought it was necessary for the church and himself to get involved in building houses. So he acquired a portion of land on the Burn Road in Doagh now known as Edenmore Terrace and he built six or eight houses there and he put bathrooms in the houses and that was almost unknown in this district. Most people had a bath out in the shed … Edenmore was one of the first places in Doagh to have bathrooms and Mr Redmond was responsible for that and it was then called the Church Houses.


Mr Redmond never owned a car, but walked throughout his parish, often accompanied by his Great Dane. Every Tuesday morning he walked to Kilbride School for Religious Instruction with the Church of Ireland pupils. He left his dog with Isabell Cooper’s mother while he went into the school. She was terrified of the dog, but she did not like to refuse him as he was a well-liked man – ‘everybody’s friend’. He was only in the school for half an hour or so, and during this time Isabell’s mother would feed the dog her bread to keep him settled. Mrs Redmond was English and much younger than her husband. Wilma McVittie describes her as ‘lady-like … a lovely woman’. Isabell Cooper recalls that ‘she was a very good woman with young ones’ and took an active part in the running of the Brownies and Guides in Kilbride. Mr Redmond’s farewell service in Kilbride was held on 30 September 1951.

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