Northern Ireland news

Presbyterian church forced to close donates £40,000 organ to St Malachy's College

Rev Ken Doherty (pictured with Robert Briscoe) was at St Malachy's where senior prize day saw a procession accompanied by the newly installed Copeman Hart digital organ
Mairead Holland

AN organ worth £40,000 has been given to a Catholic boys' grammar school by its Presbyterian church neighbour which closed recently.

The instrument, which once graced Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church on Antrim Road in north Belfast, has now taken up residence down the street in the assembly hall at St Malachy's College.

The church was forced to shut its doors in October after 133 years due to a dwindling congregation, and has since merged with Whitehouse Presbyterian Church.

Since then, it has been finding good homes for some of its equipment and resources, including the 250 kilo organ which is just 10 years old.

 St Malachy's College in Belfast.

David Strange, head of music at St Malachy's College, said they were delighted with the "huge, generous gift", pointing out that the school and the church had a long association and been doing outreach concerts with each other for a number of years.

The church's organist and director of music Robert Briscoe has also been a visiting brass teacher at St Malachy's for the past 20 years.

Mr Strange said: "They wanted to find a good home for it and while we have a nice organ in the chapel we had always wanted one for the assembly hall.

"It really is a gesture of goodwill across the community."

The Copeman Hart digital organ was installed in December, with a specialist company brought in to set up the electrics and the speakers.

Portwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church on Belfast's Antrim Road which donated its organ after closing. Picture by Hugh Russell

And the instrument made its debut at the annual senior prize ceremony that same month, played by teacher Mark McGrath who directs the school choir.

The event was attended by Mr Briscoe and the Rev Ken Doherty, representing the church congregation.

The gift, along with two scholarships sponsored by a former pupil, also means that for the first year two students are able to avail of subsidised organ lessons.

"It's the first year of organ lessons and the new organ sounds great. The scholarships are to encourage organ playing in the school and to encourage those students to play the organ in their own parishes, and also to contribute to events in the school," Mr Strange.

 The church organ has been donated to St Malachy's.

"And if boys are considering places like Oxbridge where they have organ scholarships, it helps them in the application process."

The school plans to use the organ in its annual concerts and recitals and to open its doors to visiting schools who need to avail of it.

Other schools and groups which have received donations as a result of the church's closure are Our Lady of Lourdes (Park Lodge) Primary School, the Northern Ireland Hospice, Christian Aid, 174 Trust, Whitehouse, Saintfield Road and Helen's Bay Presbyterian Churches, The City of Belfast School of Music, Methodist College and the Now Group.

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