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History

...A little piece on our unique building

It wasn’t always a restaurant!

The Presbyterians congregation of Mullingar worshipped in this building for almost 200 years .

In August 1821, the landlord of Mullingar, Lord Granard, granted a quarter of an acre as a site for a Presbyterian church.  The lease was for 61 years at five shillings per annum.  The Presbyteries of Dublin gave the congregation €25 towards the erection of the building and the church was opened in March 1825.  The first Minister of the congregation was Reverend Alexander Gibson from Co. Donegal. During his ministry, in 1840, Mullingar became one of 430 congregations in the newly united Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Because of the Scottish origins of Irish Presbyterianism and the Ulster-Scots background of many ministers who served here, the church was often referred to by Mullingar folk as “the Scots Church”.  Local Presbyterians were represented in the farming community, in the trades and professions and in the British army regiments stationed in Mullingar barracks.  In the last decades of the 19th century, the congregation averaged 70 to 80 souls. An official residence for ministers and their families – The Manse, was built beside the church in 1863.  The end of British rule in 1922 led to a reduction in numbers.  However the Mullingar congregation adjusted to the new political order and continued to play an important role in Westmeath society.  During World War II, the congregation increased as Irish soldiers stationed in the town attended services.

The longest serving Minister during the 20th century was Rev James Black, who was here from 1938 until 1960.  The Black family dog known as “Hitler” would often attend the service!  A large tortoise belonging to the family was often seen wandering around the church grounds.

In March 1971 the church organist, Susan Graham made local history when she was ordained to the Eldership.  She was the first female Elder in the history of the Mullingar congregation.

The Manse was sold in 1960 following Rev Black’s retirement and it was not until Rev Stephen Lockington became Minister in 2002 that Mullingar had a resident Presbyterian Minister again.  In the first decade of the new millennium, Mullingar became one of the fastest growing towns in Ireland and Presbyterian community group as well.  By 2006, 37 families attending the church and the congregation was the largest in the history of Mullingar Presbyterianism. Having outgrown their building the decision was taken to build a new church. The church building was sold in 2012, having served the congregation for 187 years.  On Sunday, April 15th, 2012 the final service was held when the preacher was Right Rev Dr Ivan Patterson, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Credit | Ruth Illingworth.