Central Presbyterian Association War Memorial Hostel, Belfast.
The Man Behind the Presbyterian War Memorial Hostel, Belfast.
Rev. Dr. A. F. Moody, M.A., senior minister of Cliftonville Presbyterian Church and an ex-Moderator of the General Assembly, celebrates his ministerial jubilee today [December 8, 1949]. He was ordained and installed by Derry Presbytery on December 8, 1899, as minister of Knowehead, Co. Donegal. Of the many congratulations which he received today none is more sincere than a simple message from the residents and staff of the Presbyterian War Memorial Hostel, Howard Street, Belfast.
“And thank you for everything,” it added, but Dr. Moody is as pleased as if somebody had presented him with one thousand pounds, because the Presbyterian Hostel occupies a very big place in his life. It is “his child,” as somebody has said. To him more than any other man it owes its existence in its lusty upbringing.
When the First World War ended in 1918 the question arose of a suitable war memorial to Irish Presbyterians who had made the supreme sacrifice.
“Let us have a practical memorial,” said Dr. Moody. “Something that will remind us of our gallant dead and will at the same time serve the needs of the living.”
And he laid before the General Assembly the scheme for the hostel- a home-from-home for young Presbyterians from all parts of Ireland who found themselves strangers in a great city, far from the influence of home and loved ones.
It was a great conception, agreed the Assembly, a conception of which they thoroughly approved, but what about the money? Great conceptions cost a great deal of money.
“Well, what about it?” said Dr. Mooney as confidently as if he had the money in this hand. “it will cost over £80,000, but the money will come.”
And the money did come. The coast actually came to £86,000, and in the year 1920 £86,000 was almost a staggering amount. Every penny of it, however, was given quickly. “And given cheerfully,” says Dr. Moody.
The story is one of the romances of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. First in the field was the Mr. Frank Workman, D.L., with the gift of £1,000, followed by four further cheques for £1000 each-a thousand for each £5000 of the first £25,000 raised by the Church.
Many other generous donors came forward including Lady Smiley of Larne, who contributed £2,500, and Mr. John Sinclair, D.L., who gave £1000, while Sir Henry Musgrave at his death left the fund over £4000.
When £30,000 was reached building operations were put in hand. An ideal site was secured at the cost of £10,000. This was directly opposite Church House, headquarters of Irish Presbyterianism, and also convenient to the city centre. In addition the adjoining block was rented and later bought out.
At a brilliant ceremony on May 23, 1923, the foundation stone was laid by Admiral Earl Beattie, and three years later (June 8, 1926), the building was opened by Mrs. Frank Workman. A dignified pile in red sandstone seven storeys high, it made a picture which contrasted charmingly with the grey loveliness of Church House across the street.
The hostel combined the amenities of a modern hotel with the quietness and restfulness of an old country mansion, and was an immediate success. The accommodation consists of 122 rooms for boarders-72 for young women and 54 for young men-while a number of rooms were also provided for visitors staying for a limited period.
In addition, a private suite of two bedrooms and sitting-rooms were reserved for missionaries of the church home on furlough. The money for this was subscribed as a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Park of the Rosemary Street congregation. Every room in the building, in fact, was named after some benefactor-an appropriate method of perpetuating their generosity.
Several lounges were provided for rest and recreation. A quiet room was provided for study. There was a well-equipped library. A spacious public restaurant was located on the ground floor, while on the flat roof a delightful garden with seats was laid out, commanding an excellent view of the city and its environs.
In the planning of all this Dr. Moody, as Convener of the Committee in charge, paid a leading part, assisted by the late Rev. J. G. Paton, M.C., of the Malone congregation, who had had a distinguished career as an Army chaplain in the war. As the man who had conceived this great enterprise, Dr. Moody was, of course, the natural choice as its first Warden. After careful consideration, however, he decided that a businessman was required, rather than a clergyman, and Mr. Hugh Morrison was appointed. The first matron was Mrs. Kell.
Since then the hostel has never looked back. Young people coming to the city to study at the University and at the various colleges or to take up business appointments were eager applicants for rooms from the very beginning. The result is that rooms are constantly occupied except during the summer vacation when the rooms thus vacated are available for visitors.
The demand indeed has been such that four years ago the committee purchased at a cost of £20,000 extensive warehouse property adjoining it in Brunswick Street. When the time is opportune this will be reconstructed to provide increased accommodation, which is badly needed.
The hostel, however, is not merely “a place to stay.” It is also the centre of a busy round social and religious activities designed to appeal to young people of every taste. They include discussion groups, a mixed choir, a dramatic society, badminton, table tennis, and church and social work, as well as membership of the Central Presbyterian Association across the way. The devotional side occupies an important place in the life of the hostel, there being a prayer and study circle, while every evening at 9-45 prayers are held in the Cuthbert Room, a little custom which is greatly appreciated by the boarders.
The homely atmosphere, too, is a notable feature of the communal life in the hostel. This says much for the friendly and hard-working staff headed by the warden and secretary (Mr. Thomas Rainey, M.S.), and the matron (Mrs. T. D. O’Hara, M.I.H., Dom.Sc.) who are ideally fitted for their jobs.
Today the hostel has entered a new epoch because the post-war years have brought some pressing problems. It is well equipped, however, to meet the challenge. It is the home of a happy and contented little community-it is paying its way, and it is fulfilling to the letter its main obligation-to provide comfortable accommodation in Christian surroundings for the young people of the Church coming from the country.
“And for much of this we have to thank Dr. Moody,” says the Warden.” It was his vision and his courage that brought this great building into being, and raised it to its present success. That is why on this day of days in his ministerial career we say to him from the bottom of our hearts “Thank you for everything.”
WORLD WAR 2 TABLET UNVEILED
REV. R. DAVEY’S TRIBUTE.
“There are those who in the disillusionment so widespread in our time ask was it worth it all. Did these fallen really achieve anything by their sacrifice?” said Rev. R. R. Davey, M.B.E., B.A., Dean of Residence, Queen’s University, speaking at the unveiling and dedication of a memorial tablet in the Central Presbyterian Association Rooms, Howard Street, Belfast, on Friday [November, 17, 1949] to the members who had made the supreme sacrifice and to those who served in the 1939-1945 war.
He said there were many answers they might give. The fallen had given us back our self-respect. Could the nation or this generation ever be without hope for the future when they recalled that it was this generation and their fellows who fought the Battle of Britain, who turned the defeat of Dunkirk into victory and who kept the lifeline of the nation intact the relentless battle of the Atlantic Ocean? They did not give their lives in vain, because what they fought and died for was a very real and precious thing.
“As one who had some firsthand knowledge of the oppression, the tyranny and the barbarism of the enemy,” said Mr. Davey, “I feel we must thankfully remember what might have been. Through the toil, pain and loss supremely of those who gave their lives, today we still have in spite of all the critics and pessimists, those things which we cherish most dearly in our way of life-freedom of speech and criticism, freedom of worship and security to live our lives without fear. We are still valued as individuals and not merely as the tools of State.”
Mr. S. T. Irwin, C.B.E., M.P., President of the Association, who presided, said Mr. Davey’s name was held in high esteem and affection for his service to the Church and State.
The tablet was unveiled by Mrs. John M’Caughey, the ceremony of dedication been performed by Rev. James Haire, M.A., B.D. A two-minute silence was observed.
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