The Reverend James Smyth, Minister of Drimbolg between 1827 and 1869, was much-loved in the local community. This website has previously covered his time in charge at Drimbolg, and referenced the many hardships and the wonderful progress made during the 45 years leading the church.
A very kind reader of this website, from New Zealand, in March of 2020, sent me two very old images related to the Reverend Smyth. After recently cleaning them up a tad in photoshop, they were amalgamated into one. Here is a photograph of the beloved Drimbolg preacher’s daughter, Sarah Smyth. She is seen along with her husband, the Reverend Joseph Fraser-Hurst.
Sarah’s maiden name was Smyth. She was the daughter of Reverend J. A. Smyth of Drimbolg.
Sarah and her husband Joseph spent several years, 1883-1888, in Dunedin, New Zealand. He was the Minister of the Reformed Church at Caversham. They eventually came back to Ireland. They resided in Cork, where they spent the rest of their lives. They had no children.
Joseph’s brother Hugh Fraser-Hurst married Maria Smyth of Lisdoonan, Saintfield, in County Down. Joseph and Hugh’s Aunt Elizabeth Stoeckel, nee Livingston, married Maria Smyth’s Uncle William Kennedy Sloan of Ballyrush, Comber, in County Down.
Anyroads, back to Drimbolg and Sarah’s father, James Smyth.
Here’s an obituary that I encountered, while perusing old archives some years ago, on the Reverend Smyth. It was in the Journal of the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter (pages 161-2, May 1858, Volume XIII edition). But first, as a reminder, here is his family headstone at Drimbolg.
The Late Rev. James Smyth of Drimbolg
Mr. Smyth was born at Cardougan, in the bounds of the congregation of Ballylaggan, in the month of March (we have not been able to ascertain the precise day), 1800. As his death took place on the 29th of December, 1873, he was at the time in the 74th year of his age.
He was baptized by the Rev. Joseph Orr, his predecessor in the pastorage at Drimbolg.
His mother’s maiden name was Margaret McMillan. His father, Alexander Smyth, is described as having been a man eminent for piety and faith, who literally walked with God.
As James was the younger of two sons by a second marriage, the elder being called Joseph, his father was accustomed to give him the fondling name of his “little Benjamin.” He was early dedicated to the ministry of the gospel.
The father died during James’ session at the college, but, as he was about to leave home, his father (then confined to his bed), called him to his bedside, and, with earnest prayers for the divine blessing upon him, dedicated him anew to the ministry. This could not fail of making a solemn and lasting impression upon the youth, nor can we suppose that the dying prayers of such a parent would be left fruitless of result in his subsequent life.
His preparatory classical education he had from the Rev. James Bryce, of Killeague, father of Dr. R.J. Bryce, of Belfast, and other sons who have risen to eminence; a man to whom many ministers have stood indebted for their knowledge of Latin and Greek.
Royal Belfast Academical Institution
Mr. Smyth’s studies in arts were prosecuted in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, where he occupied a very respectable position in all his classes, and in some, we are informed, stood at the head. Theology, he studied in Paisley, under Dr. Andrew Symington. He received a license to preach on the 4th May, 1824; and, after having preached with great acceptance in various congregations of the church, a call was presented to him from Drimbolg on the 20th March, 1827, which he accepted, and he was ordained there on the 26th June, of the same year.
The first sermon he delivered after his ordination was from the words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”
The last time he officiated in public was in delivering a table address at the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, in his own church, in May, 1869 – so that he was for a period of forty-two years in the active discharge of the duties of the ministry, or, dating from his license, forty-five. In 1835 he was Moderator of Synod. The present commodious house of worship of Drimbolg, which was built between thirty and forty years ago, was erected mainly through his exertions.
As a preacher, our departed father was very attractive. There was no attempt at oratory, but the great effort was to exhibit Christ as the sinner’s Refuge and the sole Foundation of the believer’s hope. His discourse was always touching, pointed, and thoroughly scriptural; his language plain and simple; his manner earnest, affectionate and impressive.
Were we asked to define in one word the chief peculiarity of his pulpit ministrations, we would say it was pathetic. In look, intonation, gesture, there was as much of pathos as to arrest the attention and keep it fixed, while he abounded in illustrative anecdote – a method which has a special charm for most minds.
In his father’s home, and in the “fellowship meetings,” he had early been made familiar with the doctrines of grace, and with the principles of the Covenanted Testimony, of which, as a genuine son of the Second Reformation, he was on all occasions the faithful and fearless advocate. As a pastor, he was in “labours abundant,” seeking with untiring zeal and industry to promote the best interests of young and old.
In social and domestic life, he was ever pleasant and cheerful, a most affectionate husband and father – almost incapable alike of giving or taking offence; in speaking of other men, never censorious, but always more ready to cover or extenuate than to expose or aggravate their faults.
In private, he was a man of genuine piety, of prayer, and faith, with a conscience singularly tender on all points, and much given, like David of old, to commune with his own heart upon his bed. A highly valued friend (both his and ours) writes that, on one occasion, when remaining over night at his house, he asked him next morning how he had rested. “Not much sleep,” was the reply, “but I would not exchange last night’s sweet communion with precious Jesus for an earthly kingdom.” Throughout life he sought to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with his God.
The close was in harmony with the character of the previous life. Since 1869, as will have been perceived, Mr. Smyth was unable to take part in official duties – chiefly through failure of memory, his bodily health continuing good.
His last illness, which was simply the debility of old age, lasted about three weeks, and then he passed away in peace and in the hope of a glorious immortality.
There is nothing of the sensational in such a life, none of the stirring incidents by flood or field that are so attractive to multitudes. But how incomparably more glorious may be the record of it on high? Who can tell how many fruits of such a loving and peaceful ministry had already preceded, and were waiting on yonder “shining shore” to give an ecstatic welcome to their former earthly guide? Or how many yet may follow to form his crown of joy? How much more enviable such a lot than that of those who are the most conspicuous figures in the arena of war or statesmanship, or even in that of literature, art, or science? Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.