Restored and Refurbished Meeting House with History Dating Back to 1660s

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), September 22, 2016 | Go to article overview

Restored and Refurbished Meeting House with History Dating Back to 1660s


A message came through to me this week that seemed to be a little bit inconsistent, even contradictory, till I delved deeper - "You are invited to commemorate the new meeting house being 200 years old!"

The note was from the Grange Quakers, near Dungannon, who've been renovating and redecorating their beautiful, ivy-clad meeting house on the Dreemore Road, not far from the M1.

A little, old, meeting house is still there, dating from 1756 and still in use, but the bigger 'new' one that's soon being commemorated was built in 1816 and has recently been extensively restored and refurbished.

On Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd October Grange Quakers are hosting a weekend of twin-track celebrations, marking the 1816 building's bicentenary as well as its rebirth!

There's a full history of Irish Quakers, who are also known as 'Friends', on Grange's website, and many books have been written about them.

There are about 1,600 members in Ireland, and about 340,000 worldwide.

We've all heard of Friends School Lisburn, one of nine Quaker schools in Britain and Ireland.

The famous Lisburn school was the brainchild of the prosperous, Quaker linen merchant John Hancock who bequeathed [pounds sterling]1,000 in 1764 for the purchase of land for a school for Quaker children.

Many local Quaker names were well-known in their various fields, such as the linen manufacturing Richardsons of Bessbrook, and Forster Green, the Belfast grocer, philanthropist and hugely successful tea and coffee merchant who was life Governor of the Royal Victoria Hospital and founder of Forster Green Hospital.

As well as the Friends Ambulance Corps, which operated from 1914-1919, 1939-1946 and 1946-1959 in 25 different countries around the world, internationally known Quakers include the chocolate barons - Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry.

U.S.A President Richard Nixon's mother was a Quaker and his father converted from Methodism to his wife's faith.

William Penn (1644 -1718), the English-born founder of Pennsylvania became a Quaker aged 22.

English prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a Quaker, and after his mother died when he was a child, heartthrob film-star James Dean was sent to a relative who raised him as a Quaker.

In today's celebrity-orientated era the star-studded list of Friends includes Judi Dench, Sheila Hancock, Margaret Drabble, Ben Kingsley and the late, great, Paul Eddington and Gerald Priestland.

The section of John Hancock's will in 1764 relating to Friends School specified that the school was to be regularly inspected by Quakers and that the headmaster was "to be a sober and reputable person."

This was very much in keeping with the views of the founder of Quakerism, George Fox (1624-1691) who was born in Leicestershire, England.

As a young man he became disillusioned with the religious life of his time. …

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