Tuesday, 8 June 2021

The Livingston Centre

Balloo House (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

On Monday, the 7th June, 2021, I lunched with the Rev Dr Stanley Gamble, Rector of Killinchy, at Balloo House, County Down.

Stanley and I share a deep passion for heritage, particularly in Northern Ireland.

Balloo House (Image: © Rosalind Davies)

After lunch we drove the short distance to the village of Killinchy, which overlooks beautiful Strangford Lough, where Stanley showed me the new community hub at Killinchy parish church.

We toured the former rectories in the village, of which three remain; the Georgian rectory, however, was demolished after the 2nd World War.

The Livingston Centre is now a focal point for a whole range of community activities, including a permanent exhibition on the life of the Rev John Livingston and his distinguished descendants, who include one man who helped draft the American Declaration of Independence and later negotiated the Louisiana Purchase; one who signed the Declaration of Independence; and another who was a key aide to Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans and later served as his Secretary of State.

Livingston Centre , Killinchy Parish Church (Image: Ulster-Scots Agency)

This new hub in the village received financial assistance from the Ulster-Scots Agency.

Stanley remarked at the time:-
‘‘Everyone at Killinchy Parish Church is delighted with the progress of the Livingston Centre and we are all looking forward to seeing it finished and starting on the next chapter, supporting the development of our community in all sorts of ways, not least through greater appreciation of our Ulster-Scots heritage." 
"The Reverend John Livingston is rightly regarded as the first incumbent of three churches in Killinchy, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church and the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, and we hope that our shared history and identity will serve as a unifying force in the local community.’’
John Livingston was one of the first Scottish ministers who came over to Ulster, occupying a pulpit in the established Church of Ireland years before an organized Presbyterian denomination was established.

At the Livingston Centre (Image: Rev Dr Stanley Gamble, 7th June, 2021)

He was part of a group of Presbyterian clergy who, faced with growing hostility from the Anglican communion, organized the Eagle Wing expedition of 1636, the first planned attempt by Ulster-Scots to travel to America.

The expedition failed and Livingston eventually died in exile in Holland; he and his family, however, have made an indelible impression on the history of Ulster and the United States.

Livingston Days festivals, to celebrate the life and legacy of John Livingston, as well as connecting the local community with their broader Ulster-Scots identity, are now held annually.

The last programme included a tattoo held at Killinchy Primary School, featuring the talent of a range of local bands including Killinchy Silver Band, Cleland Memorial Pipe Band and Lord Londonderry’s Own CLB Flute Band.

This was followed up by a Family Fun Day, with a range of exhibitions and talks on an Ulster-Scots theme.

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