Rev James Morrow

March 1930 – November 1931

Tenth Minister of Ballywillan Presbyterian Church

Mr Morrow was minister at Ballywillan Presbyterian Church for only 20 months.  He was born at Limavady in 1893, the youngest son of Mr Henry Morrow of Ballynahery, Limavady.  An able student, he won many prizes and distinctions during his academic courses at Magee College , Derry, and Trinity College , Dublin .  He obtained his M.A. and L.G.S.M., the latter in elocution.

Rev Morrow was licensed by the Presbytery of Limavady in 1919 and ordained in 1921 in Sloane Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, where he ministered for the next eight years.

On 3rd October 1923 at 1st Presbyterian Church, Moneymore, the Rev Morrow married Elinor Hester (known as Birbie), youngest daughter of Dr William McIvor of Moneymore.  Dr McIvor had been a coroner of South Derry for a number of years.

In 1930 Rev Morrow accepted a call to Ballywillan Presbyterian Church and was installed on 6thMarch 1930.  The Chronicle report on 8th March 1930 mentions that the service was conducted by Rev T Dowey, Moderator of the Coleraine Presbytery, while the sermon was delivered by the Rev George McDowell, the new minister of 2nd Kilrea & Boveedy.  The Rule of Faith was read by the Clerk of Presbytery, Rev D.H. Dewar, Ballywatt and the installation prayers offered by Rev W. Brown, Limavady and Rev R. Anderson of Richview, Belfast .  The charge to minister and people was given by Rev J.S. Pyper, Portrush.  Subsequently the ladies of the congregation entertained the visiting clergy and friends, numbering over 100, to lunch on the Arcadia Café, Portrush.  In his speech Mr Morrow thanked the members of the Congregation for the trust they had reposed in him and hoped they would never have cause to regret it.  His great aim would be what it had always been, to present to the people Jesus Christ, not as a vague personality, nor as the Jesus of history merely, but as a living Saviour.

Mr Morrow said that in coming to Ballywillan, he knew he was coming to a Church hallowed by the most sacred associations.  A Church that for almost three centuries had as ministers, some of the ablest and holiest men of God the Church had produced, none of whom was more esteemed than his immediate predecessor, Mr H. Wells, whom he was glad to see with him that day.

The Chronicle reports finishes by saying that later in the evening Mr & Mrs Morrow were welcomed at a Congregational social meeting.  An enjoyable programme was contributed and during the course of the evening Mrs Wells and Miss K. Smyth, on behalf of the congregation, presented Mr Morrow with a beautiful pulpit gown.

When the Morrows came to Ballywillan first, the manse was lit by oil lamps, and they had no running water.  They had two children when they arrived, Harry, the eldest, later a dentist in Belfast , and Joy, only four when she lived here, who later married a chemist in Newry.  Noel, born a few weeks after the Morrows left Ballywillan, became a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital and later married William Cowie, an engineer.  The youngest child, Enid, also trained as a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital and later married an accountant in Dublin .

Mr Morrow is described by members of the congregation as being a small man who could often be seen hurrying along with his coat tails flying.  He had no car but as he did possess a bicycle he cycled he cycled daily, winter and summer to the harbour for a daily swim.

Mrs Morrow is described as a very nice person with fair hair, whose health unfortunately was not at all good while at Ballywillan.  When her doctor advised a change, and Rev Morrow was offered Warrenpoint, he felt that for her sake he should make the move.  At a meeting of the Kirk Session on 27th October 1931 a vote of sympathy was passed to Mrs Morrow in her very serious illness and the hope expressed that she would soon be restored again to full health.

Mention is made in the Kirk Session minutes of a special meeting of the Congregation called by Mr Morrow on 24th May 1931 after the close of service.  He explained why he thought it desirable to change the time of the Morning Service during the months of July and August from 12 noon to 11.30 a.m.  Mr Morrow felt that the earlier time would enable visitors to Portrush to join in the services at Ballywillan.  After a full and frank discussion in which any member who chose could take part.  Those opposed to any change were asked to stand up.  Nine stood up and subsequently when the objectors reasons were found to be very trivial, it was unanimously agreed to commence the service at 11.30 a.m. for the months of July and August.

Mr Morrow resigned from Ballywillan on 30th November 1931, having preached his last sermon on 22nd November 1931.  He was installed in Warrenpoint on 2nd December 1931 where he continued to swim daily.  He and his family were highly regarded by the congregation at Warrenpoint.  The ‘History of Congregations’ says that “he never gave anything in the worship in God’s house which was not costly to himself”.  His daughter Joy knows of two clergymen who have told her that it was at one of his services that they decided to study for the church.

Due to ill health, the Rev Morrow retired as senior minister at Warrenpoint on 31st March 1959 and went to live in Bangor .  On 22nd October 1963 in the 71st year of his life and the 43rd year of his ministry, the Rev James Morrow passed away.

This information was compiled from:

Ballywillan Church Kirk Session Minute Book
Coleraine Chronicle & Constitution archives, Irish Library, County Hall, Coleraine.
Notes by Mrs S. Johnston on conversations with older members of the Congregation.
‘History of Congregations’, Presbyterian Historical Society.