THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: ‘The British Legion stands for a better world’ preacher tells congregation at Portavogie

From the News Letter, July 20, 1936

Fishing trawlers in Portavogie Harbour. Picture: Brian Little/News Letter archives
Fishing trawlers in Portavogie Harbour. Picture: Brian Little/News Letter archives

More than a hundred members of the British Legion attended a drumhead service at the Green Presbyterian Church, Portavogie, the previous afternoon, when the new standard of the Kircubbin branch was dedicated, reported the News Letter.

Among the branches represented were Belfast, Comber, Newtownards, Ballywalter, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor, and Helen’s Bay.

The men were lined up in the PE school grounds, under Messrs T. Mahood and T H E Pearcy, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Kircubbin branch.

A Canadian ex-Serviceman, Mr Palmer, was also present.

They were inspected by Lord Londonderry, who was accompanied by Lord Bangor, president of the Northern Ireland area, Brigadier-General H G Young, CIE, DSO, vice chairman; and Captain J M Blakiston-Houston.

A contingent from Bangor included Captain W H Keenan, president, and Mr T Henderson, who acted as standard-bearer.

Mr Walter Davidson carried the new Kircubbin colours, with Messrs Andrew Filson and John Mageean acted as the guards.

The procession from the school to the church was headed by the Portavogie Flute Band.

Major Ferguson, secretary, and Captain T H Mayes, treasurer, of the Northern Ireland area, also attended.

In the church, Lord Londonderry read portion of scripture, and Reverend Canon Elliott, CF, vicar of Ballymacarrett, performed the dedication ceremony, and gave an address.

The following ministers also took part in the service: The Reverend Daniel Palmer, Cloughey and Portavogie Presbyterian Church: Reverend Alexander McCrea, MA, principal of Edghill College; Reverend S Stevenson, Glastry Presbyterian Church; and Reverend H T Cotter, rector of Ballyeasborough; Miss E Adair presided at the organ, and Mr V McNeill, Newtownards, sounded the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’.

A collection was taken up in aid of the Earl Haig Fund.

Canon Elliott in his address, said the British Legion was not ashamed to take its stand on the religion of Jesus Christ.

He said: “With the dedication the colours we rededicated ourselves to the high traditions of the British Legion.

“One of our mottoes is loyalty of the King-Emperor and we return special thanks that His Majesty had escaped injury last week.”

Canon Elliott continued: “It is the custom of the British sovereigns to move among the people in trust without bodyguard. When King George visited Belfast and when King Edward, as Prince of Wales, opened Parliament Buildings they were not surrounded by guards. King Edward has that courage required for kingship.”

Urging the congregation to remembrance of the men who served, the preacher quoted the famous dispatch of General Nugent, after the Battle of Thiepval, that “nothing finer had been done in the War than the attack by the Ulster Division”. While, King George, in a message to Lord Carson, said: “The men of Ulster had proved how gloriously they could fight and die.”

Pleading for the outlawing of war, Canon Elliott, said there was no reason but selfishness why “war should not be thrown into the limbo of forgotten things like duelling and slavery”.

He concluded: “The British Legion stands for a better world and to try and free it from the curse of strife and bitterness.”