|Tamnaghmore Friends Meeting House, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland||25 July 2008 © Robert F S Sinton|
TAMNAGHMORE PREPARATIVE MEETING 1983
The history of Tamnaghmore Meeting is tied up with the history of the Sinton family and I feel I should apologise, perhaps more particularly to Tamnaghmore Friends, if what I have to say sounds very personal. The situation is made even worse by the fact that my grandfather was also called William Henry.
The family have been closely connected with Moyallan meeting – I say ‘closely connected’ because my great, great grandfather [Benjamin Sinton 1755 – 1836] was disowned for indelicate behaviour (which we will not go into!) and my great grandfather [David Sinton 1792 – 1860] was not a member of the Society and, in fact, never joined. However, he married Sarah Green, a keen Quaker, who brought up her seven children as Friends, attending Moyallan meeting, the journey to the meeting being made, in the early days, on foot. [about 5 miles]
William Henry, the youngest of the family, was born in 1841 and seems to have had an unsettled relationship with his meeting. Moyallan has always had the support of some substantial, wealthy Friends – first the Christies, then the Wakefields and, more recently, the Richardsons. I think William Henry may have resented the lifestyle of these wealthy Quakers and we find that, at the age of 28, he transfers his membership to Richhill. My suggested reason for this transfer is pure speculation – perhaps the family tradition that, as Moyallan was numerically a very strong meeting while Richhill was struggling, William Henry wanted to support the weaker meeting – we are about the same distance from both – but I have some support for my theory. You are familiar with the book “The Quakri at Lurgan and Grange”. This tells, in the form of an epic poem, of two Quarterly Meetings which were held in 1877 and 1882 where there was great controversy in the Society regarding the introduction of music and singing into our schools and meetings. To support my thesis I would like to read you a few lines from “The Quakri at Lurgan”. (read page 96 – 97) Grandfathers contribution may have been more pointed than to the point but I think it supports my reasoning.
In 1883 William Henry married Lucy Chapman [1853 – 1933] – an aunt of Georges – and in 1888 they transferred their membership back from Richhill to Moyallan. It didn’t work. In 1900, William Henry, Lucy and their five children again transferred from Moyallan to Richhill.
By this time Tamnaghmore meeting was in existence. Early in 1901 we find that the ‘Allowed’ meeting at Tamnaghmore is transferred from the care of Lurgan Monthly Meeting to Richhill Monthly Meeting. In 1906 Tamnaghmore became a preparative Meeting.
Although 1901 appears to be the first official reference to Tamnaghmore in Friends records, it had already been in existence for some time. My great uncle, Benjamin, [Benjamin Sinton 1824 – 1908] mentions in his diary that he attended the meeting at Tamnaghmore in 1890 and it may have been in existence before that – this year could be our centenary – who knows?
Tradition is that the intention was not to establish a Friends meeting at all. There are still a few cottages around the meeting house. I can recall a further nine houses which were occupied in my youth and my father remembers another four or five which were before my time – all within a few hundred yards of this meeting house. The people who lived in these cottages did not have the quality of clothing which was considered suitable for attending Mullavilly church and a ‘come as you are’ meeting was started to cater for this community. The older walls of the meeting house are still the original mud of which McMahons farm house was built. The McMahon farm may have been the eight acre field on the other side of the road.
Tamnaghmore meeting was always had a strong evangelical bias. The Sunday evening programmed meeting probably existed before the Meeting of Worship and still meets regularly although, over the years, the attendance has varied. The is a story that, at the time when William Turtle of Mullavilly and my grandfather were sharing responsibility for the meeting, attendance became very small. William Turtle is reputed to have suggested to my grandfather that perhaps it would be judicious to close the meeting. He received the reply “The Lord told me to open the meeting and until the Lord tells me to close it I will continue to attend it, even if I do so on my own”. This he may have done and in time the numbers picked up.
The next phase in the life of the meeting could be said to have started in the early 1920’s. The legendary W. P. Nicholson was conducting an evangelical campaign in Portadown and my parents, John H and Dorothy M Sinton, were converted at those meetings. They entered the life of Tamnaghmore meeting with zeal and enthusiasm and, as a result of their efforts, Christian Endeavour was introduced to Tamnaghmore. In its hey day there were three C. E. Societies, all large and flourishing. The Senior and Junior Societies still meet regularly.
Another feature of this period was the Sunday School. This was held on Sunday afternoons and catered for young people of all ages from the village of Laurel Vale and the surrounding countryside. In the early 1930’s there were around one hundred and thirty names on the role and, to accommodate these, the meeting house was enlarged. The original back wall was situated where the metal pillars are now supporting the roof. So the room, at that time, was increased by about half. Unfortunately the Second World War brought about changes in habits and interests. Numbers fell off and the Sunday School closed in the 1940’s.
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