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Church History

The members of the Kirk Session.

Claire McElhinney is Clerk of Session.

Our Elders

Mitchell McKnight

John Moore

Arthur McFarland

Claire McElhinney

Sam Carson

Wesley Atchison

Gladys Cuthbertson

Joan Cummins

Robert McCay

Colin Jardine

Ronnie Keys

Uel Knox

Drew Hamilton

Ken Duncan

Sammy Gallagher

The People of Trinity Presbyterian Church Omagh

The People of Trinity Presbyterian Church bookTo celebrate to 250th anniversary of the opening of the first church/meeting house on the present site, the Church Session and Committee has commissioned a book that outlines the fullest possible history of the church and the congregations through the years.

This book is available for purchase from

Price: Softback edition £14stg plus £3stg for postage and packing (UK), Hardback edition £20stg plus £4stg (p&P) (UK).

Book Review

Acclaimed in an Ulster Local History Trust review as being "on a par with the best church histories on Ulster congregations in recent years", this book tells about the development of Omagh as seen through the eyes of ordinary Presbyterians.

The centrepiece is colour photographs of the congregation at worship. In the New Testament "the church" is always "the people". From its cover, to the last page this 184 page book respects this concept.

The book traces the history of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Omagh and its people since the site was purchased in 1752 to the present time. It outlines the reason behind the establishment of the Church and attempts to place this in the context of the development of Presbyterianism in Ireland and, more specifically, the Omagh area.

It highlights the key stages in the development of the Church. The book gives profiles of members of the congregations through the years and highlights their positions, influence and contributions in the wider Omagh communities where they lived and worked.

The Church's progress is framed against similar Church developments in the Omagh area and other significant national and international events.

The impact on Trinity of the Revival, rail transport, church instrumental music, World Wars, the 'Troubles' and the Omagh bombing are considered from the viewpoint of ordinary Presbyterians in a local community.

The diverse nature and make-up of the congregation is examined, revealing a continual change in personnel and families through time and the impact that such change has had.

According to Church records, the first meeting-house became dilapidated in appearance in 1855 and it was demolished and rebuilt. The new church had a gallery and was heated by two fireplaces and two stoves.

There was no musical instrument in the new Church , and the choir, who sang a limited number of Psalms, sat in the gallery above and behind most of the congregation.

Lighting was by candles and oil lamps, which were succeeded by gas and later, in the 1930s, by electricity.

A major extension in 1901 saw the removal of the gallery, the addition of two transepts, a new entrance porch at the front and a Minister's room and two new entrance doors at the rear.

The church building today is little changed from that time.



Trinity Presbyterian Church is the oldest Church in Omagh which is still on its original site. In 2002 its congregation celebrated the 250th anniversary of the acquisition of the present site at James Street, Omagh. "Trinity" was originally known as "Second Omagh" Presbyterian Church so that is where this brief outline of its history begins.

The records of the Second Omagh Presbyterian Church date back to the year 1752. Omagh was not a pretentious place in that decade of Tyrone history. On 4th May 1743 the town, consisting of fifty or sixty thatched cottages, was almost wiped out by fire in the space of one hour. The old Presbyterian Church (located at Old Bridge Road), the Parish Church, the Gaol, the Courthouse, and a couple of private residences that had tiled roofs were the only buildings to escape.

The reason for the establishment of a second Presbyterian congregation in Omagh was a very human one - the dissatisfaction of a large minority (fifty families) of the older Church over the selection of the Rev Hugh Delap as their minister. This rift occurred in June 1751. The leaders in the secession were Mr. William Scott and Mr. James Nixon.

In 1752, Messrs Scott, Nixon and others, appeared before the Synod of Ulster and, on behalf of the fifty families "prayed to be erected" into a separate congregation. The application was granted and they were annexed to the Presbytery of Strabane. On 17th July 1752 the present site at James Street, Omagh was purchased.

The Ordinance Survey (1834) records that "the new house was built by subscription in 1754" and it "cost 600 pounds and stands on the road to  Dromore...the Second Congregation amount to 372 persons... The stipend of the Minister is 30 pounds with 50 pounds Regnum Donum added... The Church was repaired and ceiled in 1830 at an expense of 62 pounds".


The first two ministers, Rev Robert Nelson and Rev David Gilkey served the congregation for almost 100 years. Rev Robert Nelson was a Tyrone man, a son of Wm. Nelson, Urney. He was Licenced in Letterkenny Presbytery and ordained here in July 1754. He continued an active ministry till he passed away on 8th April 1801. He received his education at Glasgow University, as did his successor, the Rev David Gilkey, a native of Glendermott and son of Andrew, a farmer. Mr Gilkey was ordained on 3rd February 1803. His ministry lasted thirty-eight years, but towards the end the strength of the congregation declined "owing to their minister's interpretation of Church principles being too elastic for their tastes". Mr Gilkey retired in 1841 and died on 15 May 1850.

Dr Gamble, in his travel writing of the year 1810, stated that in Omagh "the bulk of the inhabitants were Presbyterians". We know that the Second Church had 139 families in 1814, but, as stated previously, this number fell away considerably a few years later when the congregation disapproved of the theological tendencies of their minister. For comparison in the year 1833 First Omagh congregation had 300 families.


On 2nd February 1842, the Rev Josias Mitchell, born Newbliss, Co Monaghan was ordained as assistant and successor to Rev David Gilkey. It was during his ministry that the present church was built. The new building cost £1000. The present church was opened for public worship by Rev Dr Henry Cooke on 7th September 1856, the new building being on the same site as the older one erected in the year 1752.

Rev. Mitchell retired on 16th December 1879, when his assistant and successor, the Rev. Thomas Hamill. was ordained. Mr Mitchell passed away in July 1882. Three of Mr Mitchell's daughters married clergymen - the Rev J C Clarke, D.D., the Rev George McFarland, B.A., and the Rev Samuel Paul.

The Rev Thomas McAfee Hamill, M.A. born 30 March 1853 was the son of James Hamill, Bally money. He was Licenced at Route Presbytery on 6 May 1879 and installed as minister of Second Omagh later that year. From Second Omagh he was called to Lurgan on 12th February 1884 and was later appointed Professor of Systematic Theology in the Presbyterian College, Belfast (1895-1919) and Moderator of the General Assembly (1915/16). Mr Hamill died on 17 February 1919.

Rev. Hamill was succeeded in Omagh by the Rev William Johnston, B.A. Mr Johnston, was the son of James Johnston, Burren, Ballynahinch. He was Licenced at Down Presbytery on 29 April 1883 and ordained on 30th September 1884. Mr Johnston remained in Omagh for exactly three years when he moved to Wolverhampton. He died on 10 January 1945.

His successor, the Rev James Alexander Campbell, M.A. born 13 November 1858 was the son of James Campbell, Ballinasloe. He was educated at Queens College, Galway and Licenced at Athlone on 7 August 1883 and came to 2nd Omagh from Stewartstown.  He was installed on 27th March 1888, but resigned on 15 April 1890 to become the Minister of Sandymount in Dublin. Later years (1903-1917) were spent in South Africa and two years in Liverpool. Mr Campbell died on 4 September 1919.

On 3rd July 1890, the Rev Robert Wallace, born 1845, son of Robert, Castleblayney. and Licenced at Newry Presbytery on 5 June 1869 was ordained. He had been the Minister of Ballygoney from 24 July 1873. Mr Wallace remained until his death on 20th January 1898.


The Rev George Thompson, born Eglinton and educated at Magee College was Licenced at Glendermott in 1880. Mr Thompson was Minister of Newtowncunningham - later to have D.D. added to his name - was installed as Minister of the congregation on 7th April 1898, and had a very fruitful ministry for ten years, ending on 14th April 1903, on his acceptance of a call from Cliftonville, Belfast. Dr Thompson was Joint Convenor of the Foreign Mission in 1909 and followed in the footsteps of an earlier Minister of Second Omagh, Rev Dr T Hamill, and became Moderator of the General assembly in 1923. He died on 1 Sept 1946. In 1901, during Dr Thompson's ministry, the Church was enlarged by the addition of transepts, entrance porch, and Minister's room, which enhanced the architecture of the building.

The next Minister was the Rev W J Baird. B.A. born 31 December 1866 at Ardstraw, educated at Queens University, Belfast and Licenced at Strabane

1904, having accepted a call from the congregation of Agnes Street, Belfast.   He resigned from there on 26 July 1932 and died on 3 May 1944. Mr Baird was succeeded in Second Omagh by the Rev H W Morrow, M.A., who was born on 11 December 1857, son of William, Magherascouse, Ballygowan. He was educated at Queens College, Galway and Queens University, Belfast. Licenced at Comber Presbytery on 26 May 1884 he was Minister of First Markethill until 19 October 1904. He was installed on 16th November 1904. Much efficiency marked the work of Mr Morrow as pastor of Second Omagh Church. He was also an assiduous student and received a D.D. in 1919. Dr Morrow published three volumes of sermons. It was during his ministry that the congregation's name was changed from Second Omagh to Trinity, Omagh. He resigned from Trinity, Omagh on 4th October 1926 and died on 19 October 1934.

Rev J H R Gibson, M.A., son of Rev John Gibson, Annahilt, was educated at Magee College and Trinity College, Dublin. He was Licenced at Ballymena Presbytery in 1915 and ordained at Granshaw, Co Down, on 19 April 1916. From Granshaw Mr Gibson was installed at Trinity on 9th February 1927. When Rev S Anderson, Drumlegagh, who had charge of Gillygooley congregation, accepted a call to Granshaw, Co. Down, the congregation of Gillygooley was put under the care of Rev Gibson in September 1928.

Rev Gibson's abilities as organiser, his diligence, and his enthusiasm for the Church's aims and ideals, led to his appointment to the position of General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1942. He received a D.D. from Trinity College, Dublin in 1943 and, in 1950, was chosen as Moderator of the General Assembly.

Rev R H Pinkerton, B.A. of Muckamore Presbyterian Church, Co Antrim and a native of Armagh came to Omagh with the enthusiasm and vigour of youth to take up the work of the pastor and teacher that had been faithfully continued by earnest men for almost two centuries. He was installed as Minister of Trinity on 27th January 1943 and was also given charge of Gillygooley Church. The congregation of Gillygooley wholeheartedly decided to continue with the same arrangement where the minister of Trinity also served Gillygooley. During Rev Pinkertons years as Minister, extensive repairs and renovation work were carried out to both Churches.

In the years up to 1952, memorials were added in the form of plaques, stained glass windows, a pipe organ and a Communion Table, adding tradition and beauty to the Church. Rev Dr J H R Gibson returned to take part in the unveiling and dedication of windows and the Communion Table.

In 1952, to mark the Bi-centenary, the Church was refurnished with carpets and cushions.


During 1957 the members of the congregation undertook the extension of the Church Hall, by voluntary labour, to provide additional accommodation for the Sunday School and also a modern kitchen. All this work was done in fifteen months, the materials costing over £3,000 and this was paid for during the year. The extension was opened and dedicated by the Moderator of the General Assembly for that year, the Right Rev Professor R J Wilson.

In 1959, the Manse was repaired and modernised at a cost of approximately £2,000. Following further deterioration of the building, the manse and some adjoining land at Coneywarren, Omagh was sold for £10,000 and a new manse was built on an adjoining site at a total cost of £13,125. The new Manse was completed in February 1973.

In 1962, the stone work of the Church building had suffered extensively from the ravages of time, and a contract was placed for the complete renovation of the stonework. The roof of the Church also had extensive repairs and woodwork treated for woodworm damage. When that work was completed the interior walls were re-plastered, providing a cavity to eliminate dampness which had been a source of trouble for many years. At that time also, the choir box was enlarged to provide space for the memorial gifts of a font and lectern, and the interior of the Church was re-decorated, the pews being quite dramatically changed by painting to their present light grey colour. The Church grounds were levelled and a car park established, with a boundary wall, to complete the scheme of work. As services could not be held in the Church during these major operations, by kind permission of the Session and Committee of First Omagh Presbyterian Church, Trinity services were conducted by Rev Pinkerton at 10 am in First Omagh Church for three months. Trinity Church was re-opened and dedicated by the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Reverend John T Carson, B.A., D.D., on the 3rd December 1969.

At the end of June 1970, Mr Pinkerton was installed as Minister of Edenderry Presbyterian Church, thus ending another chapter in the history of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Mr Pinkerton was succeeded by the Rev R W W Clarke, M.A. who came to Trinity from Dundalk and was installed on 12th May 1971. Mr Clarke was the first occupant of the new manse which was completed in 1971 shortly after his arrival. Mr Clarke was a popular Minister both within Trinity and in the wider Omagh community. During his ministry a further extension to the Church Hall was planned and completed, the Church organ was fully restored and he was largely responsible for the promotion of the healing ministry within Omagh Presbytery.

 On his retirement in 1992, Mr Clarke was succeeded by the Rev Robert Herron, the current Minister. Mr Herron's previous ministry had been in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. Under his leadership and ministry, Trinity's Church services have been gradually reshaped and modernised. Mr Herron has also been a prominent figure in the post-Omagh bomb period bringing a message of reconciliation, co-operation and hope to the local community. In its 250th Anniversary year Trinity has a congregation of 330 families.

Trinity Church acknowledges the original work by the late Ross Henderson from which much of this information has been derived. 'A History of the Congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland 1610-1982' has also been a useful resource.

Rev Robert Herron OBE

Rev Herron is a native of Comber, Co Down. Married to Sheena with three grown up children, he took over as minister of Trinity in 1992. Under his leadership and ministry, Trinity's Church services have been gradually reshaped and modernised. Currently, Trinity has a congregation of approximately 300 families.

Rev Herron has been a prominent figure in the post Omagh bomb period bringing a message of hope, reconciliation and co-operation to the local community.  He is also currently the only person from the West of Northern Ireland to be a member of the Education Board for Northern Ireland.

On 12th June 2015 he was awarded an OBE in the Queens birthday honours for his outstanding services to education.

The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland

Who are we? How did we get here? What is Presbyterianism? We all want to know something of our past and where we have come from. Who were our forbearers and what were they like?  So if you would like to learn more of where Presbyterians come from and how they came to Ireland the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland can help.

Founded in 1907 the Society seeks to explore and promote an understanding of the history of Presbyterianism in Ireland.  This is achieved by various means, including the collection and preservation of printed material, archives and artefacts, the production of publications and an annual programme of talks and outings.

There has been a Presbyterian presence in Ireland since the early 17th century, mainly in the north of Ireland, due to successive waves of immigration from Scotland.  Restrictions  on Presbyterian worship and a series of bad harvests coupled with rising rents, resulted in Presbyterians emigrating in large numbers in the 18th century to colonial America where they were largely responsible for the establishment and development of American Presbyterianism.  For over 400 years Presbyterians have played a major role in the political, economic and social life of Ireland, especially in the historic province of Ulster, as well as in the United States of America.

Ask for a free copy of ‘The Story of Presbyterians in Ulster: A pocket History and Heritage Trail’ obtainable either from the Presbyterian Historical Society or from the Ulster Historical Foundation, 31 Gordon Street, Belfast, BT1 2LG.  Postage is extra.

If you would like to find out more about the history of Presbyterianism in its various branches or about the history of a congregation or details of the career of a Presbyterian minister or you want to write a history of your congregation or you are exploring family and local history or maybe you are a student needing information for a dissertation on some aspect of Presbyterianism in Ireland, either go to our website ( or contact us personally.  The Society can also offer to give talks to church groups.

If you are producing a congregational history or you have already produced a history and if your congregation has compiled an index to your records the Presbyterian Historical Society would be very grateful to have a copy for our library.

You would also be very welcome to visit us at 26 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN

Our opening hours are:

Tuesday:      9.30am - 1.00pm and 1.30pm - 4.30pm

Wednesday: 9.30am - 1.00pm and 1.30pm - 4.30pm

Thursday:     9.30am - 1.00pm

Directions to get to 26 College Green which is off Botanic Avenue and runs alongside Union Theological College

By car: There are limited parking facilities in the vicinity but parking is free in any of the adjoining streets.

By rail:  Botanic station is on Botanic Avenue and is a quarter of a mile from College Green.

By bus: From the city centre take Metro 7A or 7B service and alight at College Green stop on University Avenue.

Hazel McCay

Niall Henry

Alfie Sayers

Dawn McClung

Johnny Moore

Our Elders Emeritus

Noel Donald

Charles Graham

John McCandless

Ronnie Orr

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Trinity Presbyterian Church Omagh