Quakers in Moyallon

Vol. 3 No. 3 - 1977

Quaker Influence in Moyallon

by W.H. Jackson

Members of the Society of Friends settled in Moyallon over 300 years ago and since then have wielded an influence over a wide area out of all proportion to their numerical strength. Their simple, honest form of worship and their day-to-day concern for the well being of their fellow men made them trusted and respected and they became natural leaders in the community.

One, Alexander Christy, founded a branch of the Society of Friends in Moyallon in the year 1675 and the present "Meeting House" was built in 1736. Many famous people have honoured Moyallon with a visit and in 1827, no less a person than Elizabeth Fry - the great prison reformer - passed this way and worshipped here.

Friends and linen

Most of the Friends were associated with the linen business. It was in Moyallon that the first Vitrol yard in Ireland was set up. Vitrol speeded the bleaching process and became a great asset to the linen manufacturers.

The Quakers were concerned for the welfare of their workers and it was from Moyallon that a Mr. Richardson went to Bessbrook and built a linen mill with a model village for the workers. This village was far ahead of its time and the workers of Bessbrook enjoyed living conditions far superior to any of their contemporaries in the United Kingdom.

Back in Moyallon a sort of Parochial Hall called The Reading Room was built for the spiritual and social side of life. Here undenominational services were held every Sunday night for over 100 years. Here too were held Conventions, lectures, Band-of-Hope meetings, entertainments and Christmas Festivities.

The Quakers have always been early in the field where education is concerned. The Friends' School in Lisburn is only one of the many good schools founded by them.

Friends Meeting House Moyallon

Away back in 1859, the Richardsons built the Old Moyallon School on their lands for the benefit of a wide community. Here also they founded a Sunday School and through it guided thousands of young people on their way to adolescence and the better life.

Mr S. Richardson

In 1932 the Richardsons built the New School close by the Old School and so the influence goes on. [photograph of Mr. S Richardson is shown left]

At the beginning of this [20th] century the Late Mr. Stephens Richardson came to reside in Moyallon. He was a fluent speaker, a successful businessman, a great bible student and was very enthusiastic about anything he put his hand to. He was made a recorded minister for The Friends and he put Moyallon on the map.

For many years he was chairman of the Portstewart Convention and we all know the tremendous work he did for the Cripples' Homes in Belfast and Bangor. In 1940 his great services to the Community were recognised by making him a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Armagh.

Mr Warmington

One other outstanding Quaker must be mentioned here - the late Mr. W. J. Warmington. For a quarter of a century Mr. Warmington taught, worked, prayed and made a lasting impression on the children of his school and the people of the neighbourhood.

Others have entered into his labours but his influence still lives on and generations yet unborn will still be influenced by the life and example of a man who gave his all - educationally, physically and spiritually to the service of Moyallon.