The Reverend John Joseph Adams Rainey was a much loved minister at Churchtown Presbyterian Church in the village of Tamlaght O’Crilly, and preached there from 1933 to 1992. From his very first day, in 1933, he felt it an honour to have been asked to take charge of Churchtown.

This opportunity constitutes the greatest privilege I ever have had during life……I do look upon your asking me to be your minister in Churchtown as a great honour. To receive a call to perform that service from a church in one’s own presbytery is a greater honour still. A Presbytery which I love, and which I desire to see materially and spiritually blessed. Such an honour is unique, an honour of the first magnitude.

Early Days: Toome, Ballymena, Derry, Dublin & North America

He was born in 1905 and was brought up in the Grange congregation. Initially the young man had intended to be a veterinarian.  He studied at Ballymena Academy and later at Magee College. 

A Sunday School teacher at the Grange, Mr Robert Forbes, made a great impression on the young John Rainey.

He subsequently received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College in Dublin.  Rainey then went to Princeton in New Jersey to continue his training for the church, before going on to spend a year in Canada.   He completed his training for the ministry at Assembly’s College in Belfast, and assisted at the city’s Agnes Street and Oldpark churches.

Reverend Rainey

Reverend Rainey presenting David Porter with a gift on his retirement on Sunday 2nd January 1977, after 33 years as sexton in Churchtown.

Ordination Service at Churchtown

On Thursday 10th August 1933, John Rainey was ordained in Tamlaght, by the Ahoghill Presbytery, and appointed to take charge of Churchtown. 

The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Rev. J. Allan Rosa, who had left to be the minister of Dungiven.

The Reverend H. C. Mulholland had only five years earlier left the Churchtown pulpit, after some 44 years preaching in Tamlaght. Another notable preacher was the Reverend Robert Torrens, who had spent 37 years in Churchtown (1839 to 1876). 

Table: Preachers in Churchtown Prior to the Reverend Rainey

Rev. Andrew Mitchell October 1836 – August 1837
Rev. Robert Torrens June 1839 – December 1876
Rev. Robert John Smyth December 1876 – 1879
Rev. William James Stronge July 1880 – May 1883
Rev. Henry Cunningham Mulholland March 1884 – December 1928
Rev. John Allen Ross December 1928 – November 1931
Rev. John Joseph Adams Rainey Aug 1933 – 1992 or 1993

At his August 1933 ordination service in Churchtown, the 28 year old Mr. Rainey said:

Mr. Moderator and friends, I am really glad that now an opportunity presents itself to to ventilate my own sentiments at this stage in the ceremony to-day. This opportunity, I believe, constitutes the greatest privilege I ever have had during life, and, conscious of this fact, I rise to the occasion possessing an element of fear, yet if I know my own heart and mind, this peculiar fear is of an honourable sort.

I am not by any means afraid of my audience, but I fear least I should give articulation to some things I’d better refrain from saying, and again leave unsaid certain things which might merit expression.

It may seem strange, yet it is true, this is the first ordination service I have ever attended, and if the newspaper reports are reliable, I think I am justified in saying that on this occasion most young men seem to play a common record, giving more or less what constitutes their own autobiography. If you hope to hear mine at this moment, your hope is that of the hypocrite. It would be a dry story to the majority of you, as most of you know, so I will spare you the agony. (Laughter from the congregation)

However, I must say something about ‘my call.’ I do look upon your asking me to be your minister in Churchtown as a great honour. It always is an honour to receive the sacred trust of breaking the bread of life to any flock; that I believe.

But I realise that to receive a call to perform that service from a church in one’s own presbytery is a greater honour still. A Presbytery which I love, and which I desire to see materially and spiritually blessed. Such an honour is unique, an honour of the first magnitude.

Again, it is not every call that is unanimous, though most calls bear that label. I am told this call is, and in this fact I find inspiration and I rejoice and thank the congregation for making it so. (Applause from the congregation)

I am really glad to see so many of my own relations, friends and neighbours here to-day. Especially my own mother and sister, both of whom I have reason to be and am justifiably proud of, and for all they have done for me I to-day publicly return them my sincere thanks. (Applause)

I am saddened today by the absence of some friends whom I would have liked to have been present, and I dare not allow this occasion to pass without making some reference to two of them, and to humbly and sincerely lay a tribute to their sacred name.

Both gentlemen have gone to their reward, yet, they being dead, speaketh to a multitude of hearts inside the bounds of the Ahoghill Presbytery. Their work on earth is finished, yet their influence for righteous- ness still continues to live in many, and especially in my own. I refer to two distinguished Presbyterian elders, the late Mr. Robert Forbes, of Grange, and the late Mr. James Brady, of Portglenone. (Applause)

The former officiated as an elder in Rasharkin, and then in the Grange, where he became my Sabbath-school teacher. Humanly speaking, I would not be in Churchtown today, an ordained Presbyterian minister, if I had not sat at his feet. I owe more to him than I do to all the ministers and professors at whose feet I ever sat. He was not only a Christian, but he was a man to admire in every way. As a Sabbath-school teacher he excelled. He had a message and was in love his message, and presented faithfully those great objective truths of Christianity which make saving faith in Christ possible. As a leader in our weekly prayer meeting he was unique — well schooled in the art of prayer. He was a man sent from God. (Applause)

I also owe a great debt to the late Mr. James Brady, of Portglenone. Many a time when I stood at the cross-roads and needed advice, I received ready and sympathetic advice and encouragement from this veteran friend and leader and pillar of the Irish Presbvterian Church. (Applause). Of course Mr. Brady’s greatest and best work was amongst the young, and when acting as convener of the Sabbath School Conference. Under him it flourished financially and spiritually. In the opinion of all believing Christians it was in those days a half-way house to Portstewart Convention. (Applause).

I am grateful to the Presbytery of Ahoghill for all that its members did for me when I was a student and under its care, and in closing, let me say that I come to Churchtown, a very imperfect piece of humanity. I don’t come wearing the spotless robe of a blameless life. I come very faulty, very imperfect, but yet I am not downhearted. Though I have no confidence in the flesh, yet with all my failure I come boldly, because I have a perfect message to deliver.

God never has had a perfect messenger, except His Son, yet in every age His message was perfect. I hope and trust that you will not gaze too much at my failures, but that you will lift your eyes to Him and will feed your hearts upon the message He has sent you. Which message is the old story of the Gospel — God reconciling the world unto Himself by the death of his Son, the message which I myself received and believed in at the age of 16 years.

I hope that during my ministry in Churchtown that God’s kingdom will be extended, and that many of your sons and daughters, and old and young, under the preaching of the everlasting Gospel, find and love God and His Son. (Applause).

In concluding, I hope that I prove a not too unworthy successor to the men who had ministered at Churchtown before me. I cannot hope to follow in Mr. Ross’s steps, I lack his experience, but much as I have I will give. (Applause)

Fascinating Era

The Reverend Rainey’s career spanned fascinating times, the roaring 1920’s and the hungry 30’s, the early days of a young Northern Ireland, the growth of motor car use, the rise of Hitler in Germany, the second world war, McCarthyism, the cold war, the nuclear era, civil rights and the troubles.

Beep Beep, Yeah

With regard to motor cars.  The Reverend Rainey started driving in October 1933.   On 17th June 1936, he had an accident when going to the Ballymena show with two passengers, a Miss McKillen and his sister Miss Rainey.  He struck a taxi, after failing to fully stop and driving out from a side road onto the main Ahoghill to Ballymena road, near Gracehill.  He was charged with driving without due care.  The judge had some sympathy and the minister agreed to pay the court costs, plus an extra 9 shillings in costs.

King George VI Coronation

But getting back to this interesting period of history.  Several royal weddings, coronations and deaths, also occurred during Mr Rainey’s career.  

On Wednesday 12th May 1937, the coronation of King George VI took place.  The event was celebrated across Britain.  In Tamlaght O’Crilly, a procession was headed by a ‘King’ and Queen’ who were attired in appropriate Royal-like clothing, and who led the procession in, as the News Letter put it, “a gaily-decorated motor car and had a guard of honour with drawn swords.” 

There was a fancy dress parade, with prizes for the most original outfits.  Prior to the entertainment of the school children, the Reverend Rainey and Reverend McQuaide conducted a short religious service.  Proceedings closed for the day with a huge bonfire in the village.

A Bittersweet Forty Years Anniversary

The Belfast Telegraph in August 1973 reported that “Churchtown Presbyterian Church has made a cheque presentation to the Reverend J. J. Rainey to mark his 40th anniversary as minister of the congregation.”

Sadly, the following month, on 5th September, his beloved wife Rebecca (known as Ruby) passed away. 

A Life Remembered

John Rainey, after 59 years ministering in Churchtown, retired in 1992.  He continued to live on in the church manse until his death. 

He is remembered for many attributes – among them his zeal for life, always making time to speak to everyone, and a bond with rural life.  The latter is hardly a surprise, since he had grown crops, vegetables, and raised animals during the early parts of his life.  He had grown up in a farming community.

Other ministers, especially those starting out in their careers, were given much encouragement and Mr Rainey would often invite them to preach in Tamlaght.

John Rainey always had a great love for the countryside and it’s people.  Perhaps his greatest living monument are his daffodils.  He planted over a mile of daffodils, at the side of the road, from the manse all the way up to the village in Tamlaght. 

One of the main annual highlights was the Harvest Service in Churchtown.  The Reverend Rainey was in his element.

The preacher also supported the work of many foreign missionaries, and via the Tear Fund, assisted various projects in providing fresh water in third world countries.

Your Memories

I remember a lot of the people, including Reverend Rainey. He was often at the Mourns crossroads, when I was cycling past between my McCaughey cousins on the Killymuck Road and the Stewart’s at Brookfield, Drumard. He would stop you for a chat. A lovely man. Yes, I remember the daffodils – a beautiful show.May Milton

If you have any memories (or photos) of the Reverend Rainey, please add them below, or email me.