A career associated with snow.

Many years ago Ian Paisley stood outside Stormont ready to throw snowballs at the then Irish Taoiseach Séan Lamass. On Friday of last week the snow again intervened when the Free Presbyterian Church were due to elect a new moderator.

Although there have been requests for Paisley to stay on and he will not comment; it seems likely that there will be a new Free Presbyterian moderator who is not also heavily involved in politics.There is a common misunderstanding amongst those outside the fundamentalist evangelical community that the Free Presbyterian Church preaches a great deal of politics. Whilst it is true that Rev. Ivan Foster seems to be so inclined; (though I have never attended the Kilskeery church and, as such, am loathe to comment) many Free Presbyterians are interested in the preaching of the gospel and have little time for politics. Indeed though the Free Presbyterian Church may once have been seen as the DUP at prayer that can hardly be entirely the case now with DUP members such as Peter Weir being Presbyterian, Arlene Foster being Church of Ireland and Nelson McCausland being Independent Methodist (and a good preacher and theologian in his own right). Also of course one of the DUP’s nemeses Jim Allister is a member of Ballymena Free Presbyterian Church.

An additional surprise for many outside the fundamentalist evangelical community in Northern Ireland is that the Free Presbyterians are by not the most doctrinally conservative or hard line. Free Presbyterians generally take a relatively relaxed view of women wearing trousers (at least outside church) and indeed women have been known not to wear hats in church. By comparison the Brethren and Independent Methodists would be stricter, though in fairness the Brethren deny being a denomination and of course the Independent Methodists (or Indies for short) are not Calvinist.

Many within the Free Presbyterian Church may well welcome the very clear separation of church and politics as it has been suggested by some that although Dr. Paisley is widely regarded as one of the best preachers of the gospel in Northern Ireland; his involvement in politics may have made some of the task of evangelism especially to Roman Catholics, politically liberal Protestants and outsiders more problematic.

  • Rory

    In the unlikely event that I decide to have a sex change and convert to Free Presbyterianism in the same week it is comforting at least to know that I might attend the Sunday service at the Martyrs’ Memorial Church wearing culottes and sans chapeau.

  • Dewi

    “Free Presbyterians generally take a relatively relaxed view of women wearing trousers (at least outside church) and indeed women have been known not to wear hats in church”

    Surely you jest !!!

  • Máirseáil Uí Néill

    tá brón orm, i know this isn’t particularly relevant to this thread and if it is removed i’ll understand i just haven’t worked out how to post an individual topic as opposed to replying to one.

    but it would seem that snow distrubed more than the Free P meeting

    PSNI response to suspected drugs find not up to the mark

    Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile has expressed his utter dismay at the PSNI response to what local people suspect was another drugs find in the Short Strand area.

    A small sealed bag containing traces of a white powder was found by a local resident in the same area as a similar find a few weeks back, close to the Doyle Youth Club.

    The Sinn Féin’s East Belfast Representative said,

    “This is a worrying development given that this package was found in the same area as one a few weeks back, located just beside the Doyle Youth Club where children are gathered most nights of the week.

    “I commend the vigilance of the resident who found this package and would call on parents to talk to their children and warn them about the dangers of drugs.

    “If it does indeed emerge that this bag, and the last one, contained drugs then this is a worrying pattern and shows very clearly that people are targeting children within the area; we as a community must not allow that to happen.

    “The response of the PSNI last night was not as commendable, having arranged to pass the package on to them with a member of the Short Strand Drug Awareness Programme, they then refused to come to the meeting because young children were throwing snowballs at them!

    “This beggars belief and I dread to think if the same excuse would be used had someone been attacked or worse.

    “I, the SSDP Worker and the resident who found the package were then forced to find another location in which to meet the PSNI and pass the package, which we believed may have contained drugs, over to them.

    “We reiterate our party’s position to work with the PSNI to provide an effective and accountable policing service but the PSNI have a long way to go in gaining the confidence of this community and attitudes like those displayed last night do nothing to earn that trust.” CRÍOCH

    if this can be moved then all the better, but when i read this i thought it was nuts!!!!

    maith sibh

  • working

    It would seem as well as those wishing Paisley to stay on that Jim Allister’s office assistant gets the time to post on the Free P website too. Can’t be much work going on there these days.

  • USA

    That is hilarious Turgon, best piece of satire I have read in years. Er…you were joking, right?

  • i think

    Dear Turgon(though I have never attended the Kilskeery church and, as such, am loathe to comment)Iwould say that its about the only thing you know little or nothing about that you are loathe to comment on.Sorry joke joke only joking we all know how truly fair of mind you are.Hmmm and jim alister to as well i think.

  • fair_deal


    Welcome to the blogging team

    “Independent Methodists would be stricter”

    Glad to see they haven’t let standards slip since I last attended 😉

  • “An additional surprise for many outside the fundamentalist evangelical community in Northern Ireland is that the Free Presbyterians are by not the most doctrinally conservative or hard line.”


    (I am right in saying Gillespie is a Free P, am I not?)

    And what was it Ian Paisley said about line dancing?

    It’s “sexual gestures and touching” are “an incitement to lust.” Line dancing?! Lust?!

    “Free Presbyterians generally take a relatively relaxed view of women wearing trousers (at least outside church) and indeed women have been known not to wear hats in church”

    In any other context I’d assume that was an attempt at satire. I hope to God it is.

  • fair_deal


    There are Presbyterian congregations who still do not permit dancing in their halls. I was involved in an Ulster-Scots event that had to be cancelled because of objections to the Scottish country and Highland dancing that was part of the entertainment. in the past Presbyterian objections to dancing were so strong it led to the old joke about presbyterians objecting to sex standing up in case it led to dancing.

  • susan

    Well, I would like to see us all et us all let Turgon be Turgon for awhile, and not just because he had the good grace to begin with a reminder that the First Minister was not always above lobbing snowballs (among other objects) in his salad days.

    It is more likely we’ll learn something we didn’t know from someone posting from within the Protestant evangelical community about the Protestant evangelical community than from much else of what passes for expert commentary these days.

    Besides, Mick and Pete are too slick and modern to ever let us know when it’s safe to take the trousers off.

  • Why the Free P Church didn’t call its outgoing moderator to account whilst he was still in office is beyond me. Politely indicating it was time for a change was far more than the Chuckle Brother deserved.

  • Token Dissent

    Well said Susan.

    I didn’t know that Allister was a member of the Ballymena congregation. A future Independent/Trad Unionist candidate for North Antrim perhaps?

    Who are the runners and riders for the Moderator post? Any Kremlinologists out there picking up smoke signals?

  • susan

    “outside the fundamentalist evangelical community”


    Turgon, out of interest, is it considered polite to say “fundamentalist evangelical community” nowadays? I am Catholic, but when I was a little girl I remember Paisley et. al. used to make quite a distinction between fundamentalists (such as himself) and evangelicals “Emphasis is on the ‘geli,’ he used to say back then.

  • McGrath

    It is odd how Protestants of one denomination pick apart Protestants of another. Makes you wonder what would have happened if there were no Catholics around.

    Thanks for the post Turgon, you have reminded me / given me some insight into the mind sets of some groups within our society. Obviously a group that frowns upon women wearing trousers needs to be handled delicately!

  • Turgon

    susan, McGrath and others,

    I am not exactly clear on the etiquette of posting on one’s own blogs. I am still on a very steep learning curve. As an aside it took about six hours to create the two blogs and post them. Okay I may improve with time but tonight I may well just watch TV.

    I am really a partial outsider on this part of Northern Ireland’s culture. Without boring you all with a biography I was raised in a pretty liberal home and attended a Presbyterian Church. Country Presbyterian Churches are, however, often very traditional and essentially quite similar to the Free Presbyterians.

    At university many of my friends were Brethern, Free Presbyterian etc. Much later I married an Independent Methodist who had been a full time worker for her church (hi all those who now know exactly who I am). She was raised in an extremely strict background and in a very little way is a rebel.

    I have little concern regarding trousers, dancing or television etc.

    Yes the blog is a little tongue in cheek but I think it is worth pointing out that there is a sub culture in Northern Ireland which many only see through the prism of DUP politics. This sub culture is often not very interested in politics at all and the Free Presbyterians are by no means the most strict in terms of dress, what social events they will attend and a number of other issues.

  • susan

    “There is a sub culture in Northern Ireland which many only see through the prism of DUP politics. This sub culture is often not very interested in politics at all”–Turgon

    Turgon, that is indeed an interesting distinction (at the very least to me), and I thank you for pointing it out.

  • McGrath


    My thanks were sincere.

    Most churches don’t preach politics, right up to the point when something in society starts to affect their sensibilities. Some churches have more stringent sensibilities that others, hence the likelihood of them becoming more political than others.

  • Dewi

    “I am not exactly clear on the etiquette of posting on one’s own blogs”

    Turgon – smash the borgeous blogging norms! Post when you like! Change the subject in the third comment or on any old whim! Make ur cmmts in txt spk! Become the existentialist Slugger blogger!

    Alternatively ask Elenwe kindly to not wear her hat in chapel. Once a year.

    Kind Regards and looking forward to as many blogs on Tolkien as we have on spaceships.

  • Rory

    Good man, Dewi. You have best well expressed that which I believe (and hope) is in all our hearts.

    Give us more, please, Turgon.

  • Dewi

    And while you are there Rory is there anywhere between Kings Cross and Euston where I can get Sausage Beans and Chips for tea? Fed up of curries, Italians, Kebabs etc…..

  • Dewi

    Welsh Culture alive and kicking in Argentina – nowt to do with this but they tell me it’s snowing in Patagonia – fabulous choir.

  • Rory


    Between King’s x and Euston as you walk I’m blank as to a greasy spoon, but if you turn left out of K’s X and go to the entrance to King’s Cross Thameslink there is a small “British” full breakast gaff (Italian owned and run of course) that will do you “very ‘andsome, sir”.

    Or your money back – from me!

  • Dewi

    Thanks Rory ! – I’ll try tomorrow !

  • Harry Flashman

    Seriously, greasy spoons are hard to find around King’s Cross these days? My goodness, that tells us a lot about modern London.

  • Rory

    Yeah right, Harry. The Sioux were also hard to locate around the Dakotas after the guys that that paved the way for MacDonalds to eliminate small London caffs got busy.

    You should be cheering – it’s the inevitable progress that you so often insist we must accept and love – because it’s good for us. Innit?.

  • dewi

    Hells Bells Harry – only wanted advice !

  • Harry Flashman

    Sorry, didn’t mean to sound grumpy, I’m just amazed that in King’s Cross of all places there are no greasy spoon caffs left, I mean that’s like discovering there are no balti houses in Birmingham’s Edgbaston any more.

  • Rory

    I do hope that you noticed, Harry, that in the first paragraph of my response to your first post I included an extra “that”.

    See – you wouldn’t get that in yer global capitalist, portion control Kentucky Fried Budgerigar outlets. Would ye?

    Its only ’cause yer a regular customer.

  • The Dubliner

    I’m warming to this “sub-culture” that Turgon speaks of wherein women have a strict dress code that is dictated by men. It appeals to my conservative instincts. The reality, alas, is that, with the exception of a few jumpers, my wife has bought everything in my wardrobe. The jumpers were gifts from my teenage daughters.

    The church and state angle is interesting given that the head of the Executive is also the head of a church, yet that aspect, much debated elsewhere, isn’t a factor in NI’s political domain.

  • Harry Flashman

    I hadn’t noticed Rory, thank you, I will always be grateful for that that that you gave me extra.

    As regards blaming the Golden Arches for the demise of tatty London caffs, as usual your blame is misplaced. As Dewi points out its not the warmongering neo-con Haliburton funded Ronald McDonald who’s wiping out the traditional greasy spoon but those damned Turks and Eyeties and Curry wallahs who are coming over here and stealing all our prime corner catering locations.

    What to do? Maybe nationalise all the remaining greasy spoons, subsidising plates of bacon, eggs, sausages and beans as a strategic part of a world beating British economy?

    Or perhaps deport the newcomers, insist that only cups of tea served in chipped mugs in which the spoon can stand up by itself can represent the true spirit of Britain?

    What’s it to be Harold Wilson or Enoch Powell, Hutton or Hitchens? The interminable dichotomy, or do we just go with Maggie and let the customers decide for themselves?

  • joeCanuck

    Congrats from me too, Turgon, on your “elevation”.Well justified and deserved.
    Hadn’t heard that one about sex standing up, FD. Very funny.

  • Sorley

    I think its good to have someone who has a knowledge of a rather misunderstood community to provide a viewpoint, maybe quite different than some people who read this would ever encounter. In regard to the Free Presbyterian Church being not the most hardline church I would agree, and go even further and say its not even the most hardline Presbyterian church in the UK. I would argue that the Free Church of Scotland and an Eaglais shaor chlèireach (I’ll use the Gaelic name so we aren’t talking about two different churches with the same name) are both far more conservative than the Free Presbyterians, try going shopping on the Isle of Lewis or North Uist on a sunday. Also the Free Ps in Northern Ireland sing hymns, which is a big no no for both Scottish denominations.

  • joeCanuck

    sing hymns, which is a big no no for both Scottish denominations.

    I didn’t know that any church frowned on singing.
    Even I, an athiest, will go into a church to hear evensong if I’m passing at an appropriate time.

  • Sorley

    Sorry Joe I seem to have given you the wrong impression, there is in fact singing but it is just of the Psalms. The rather unique way the metrical Psalms are sung in Gaelic is actually something tourists sometimes come to see and I think there are CDs of it sold in some places.

  • Part Time Brummie

    Harry Flashmans comment on Birmingham and the earlier talk of “caffs”, reminded me of a cafe in Birmingham close to Hill St/Queensway junction. I am not totally convinced of beans with fry, but I can live with it, however I was surprised to see the tomato was of the plum variety straight from the can and heated in a saucepan.

    Before being sidetracked I was originally intending to contribute to the religious debate, with my late fathers refusal to eat shellfish based on biblical instruction, but his love for bacon,egg,and sausage.

  • Dewi

    Interesting from Sorley – from Wiki

    “The northern parts of the Western Isles (particularly Lewis and Harris) have been described as the last bastion of fundamentalist Calvinism in Britain…………….
    It has also generally been considered unacceptable for people to appear in church improperly dressed, although this is slowly changing. Violations of this nature might include the failure by women to wear a hat, or trousers being worn instead of a skirt, or the wearing by worshippers of either sex of informal clothing such as jeans.”

    Could anyone tell me the theological background to the hat thing ?

  • Rory

    The only problem with your argument, Harry that “its not… Ronald McDonald who’s wiping out the traditional greasy spoon but those damned Turks and Eyeties and Curry wallahs “ is that most of the greasy spoons in London are in fact owned and run by…er…“those damned Turks and Eyeties and Curry wallahs”. We’d be lost without them.

    Turgon’s new contribution is certainly a welcome blast of fresh air that’s much needed to dispel our stuffiness.

    Like the best of essayists he eschews polemics in favour of quietly and modestly sharing with us his experience and his world view based on that. He doesn’t demand that we adopt that view and indeed is often quite tentative in expressing it, wondering if perhaps he may not be right.

    The greatest faith, like the greatest science, is always filled with doubt and it is that doubt which remorselessly drives the never ending search for truth.

    More please, Turgon.

  • Chuckle Vision


    “It would seem as well as those wishing Paisley to stay on that Jim Allister’s office assistant gets the time to post on the Free P website too. Can’t be much work going on there these days. ”

    I doubt he has much control over what his staff do to amuse themselves on Christmas Day.

  • Sorley

    Dewi, 1 Corinthians Chapter 11 verses 2-16. I think it used to be more widespread amongst Protestants, I would guess that Wales might have a history of it due to your history of non-conformist Christianity.

  • Dewi
  • Delta Omega


    Congratulations – finally someone putting a fundie view across – makes a plesant change from the usual whataboutery. I might even start to read Slugger again.

    I would agree with your comments having been in presbyterianism, free P, indie and brethern in my religions life to date. Some brethern are so tight that they squeak when they walk. There is however still a lot of politics preached from Free P pulpits – Willie McCrea being a prime example and the reason why I left his church. The whole escapade about them removing an elder because he disagreed with the political viewpoint was anti-scriptural and downright disgraceful.


    The hat think is a reference to a woman’s subjection to her husband, and therefore only really applies to married women. According to scripture if a women prays with her head uncovered she dishonours her husband. If a man prays with his head covered he dishonours God


  • Dewi
  • bollix

    I’m afraid I have to point out a serious factual error. The sex standing up joke is actually a jewish one.
    It is a mitzvah (duty) in Judaism for husband and wife to give and receive sexual pleasure. So this young couple go to their rabbi and ask him: can we make love missionary style like the christians? yes. And is it permitted to give oral pleasure? yes. And also in the manner of the beasts? yes. And how about standing up? NO!! THAT COULD LEAD TO DANCING!!

    Turgon, how about a thread on the children of hurin?

    Finally on topic, I think that Halles Era Plymouth Brethen are possibly the most hard core of religious fundamentalists in NI. (not sharing swimming pools with the unsaved, and i seem to recall something about sewage pipes not mixing, and no houses which are attached to the unsaved).
    good to see a splinter between religion and politics. it helps the shatter the illusion that there are simply 2 monolithic positions of “us” and “them”.

  • The Dubliner

    Plus, Bollix, the sex right is reversed in Judaism compared to Christianity, i.e. it is the duty of the husband to satisfy his wife’s sexual needs and not vice versa (the Talmudic onah). So, the rumours are true: Jewish men make the best lovers – or, rather, I wish someone would to start such rumours.

  • Part Time Brummie

    Can any one tell me about the “workers”, “cooneyites”,and the “two by twos”

    No anti semetic jokes about four by twos please.

    If possible also “those without a name”

  • Rory

    Yes, Part Time. Here is everything a man would wish to know:


    I like it that despite apparently having at least 23 names: The Black Stockings, The Church Without a Name, Cooneyites, the Damnation Army, Dippers, Go Preachers, Irvinites, The Jesus-Way, Nameless House Church, The New Testament Church, No-Name Church, The No-Secters, The Non-Denominational Church, Pilgrims, The Reidites, The Secret Sect, Tramp Preachers, The Testimony, The Truth, The Way and Workers, they still contrive to be identified as THE CHURCH WITH NO NAME.

    But then I suppose the practice of all the many other most un-Christ like people insisting that they are the only true Christians dictates that anything goes.

  • PaddyReilly

    Are the Irvinites not commonly known as the Catholic Apostolic Church? Or is there some split which divides these two denominations?

  • Sorley

    Actually PaddyReilly they are two entirely different groups, the Church with no name is called the Irvinites, while the Catholic Apostolic Church is called the Irvingites. I don’t think they share any common history and their beliefs are quite different. Quite understandable that they get mixed up though, the only difference in the name is miniscule.

  • Rory

    I don’t know, Paddy Reilly and it is difficult to find a “2×2” to ask.

    I think it might be a little like the homosexual practice of “cottaging” in public urinals – its safer to wait until you are the one who is approached.

    But, what would I know of these things?

  • Turgon

    The question of the 2x2s is most interesting and I know little about it. Firstly they deny having any denominational name and so have various names applied to them. They seem most concentrated in Fermanagh. Elenwe who despite her protestations knows a lot of theology maintains that they deny the divinity of Christ and are essentially Unitarian. They also apparently deny the atonment. Thus they follow “The Jesus Way” and try to live good lives in order to be saved; essentially a gospel of salvation by works. She will openly admit that this is what she has been taught but she has never been told these things by a Cooneyite.

    In practical terms Elenwe is friendly with one Cooneyite young woman and we have (very friendly) business dealings with another Cooneyite family. However, they are very private about their beliefs and as such I cannot comment at all on what they claim to believe.

    I enclose the wikepedia link on Cooneyites and an article by an evangelical christian group which analyses their position from the point of view of regarding them as essentially a cult:


  • Rory

    “Salvation comes to us, not through grace alone, but self-effort is also needed. Salvation can never be a certainty as it will only be decided at the moment of death, and there is certainly no hope of salvation outside of their community.” – one of the tenets of doctrine that the Reachout Trust article considers to be held by the Cooneyites.

    Strangely, this is a strikingly similar message to that which I was given by our lay monk religious instructors at my Catholic schools.

    It was not until I was fifteen that I one day challenged old Brother Eusebius on the issue of the unlikliehood of salvation outside the “One True Church” of Rome. (I suspect that Eusebius actually considered that it was more impossible than likely but was constrained from so saying by the current line being delivered in Catholic Ireland).

    Since, whatever of doctrine, it was also drummed into me from an early age that conscience must be one’s ultimate guide, I asked:

    “Surely, Brother if a Protestant, a good man, believes sincerely in his own conscience that, say, the Presbyterian Church is the One True Church then he could only but find salvation through following that conscience and adhering to that church?”.

    I could see immediately that he was stuck and I used his hesitation to press him for an answer. He finally, sheepishly conceded that, yes, I made a good point but it was a more sophisticated matter of “informed consience” and recklessly refusing to listen to “The Truth” (as preached by His Holiness the Pope).

    But Eusebius did give me a bit of a look after and I knew that I was going down as “troublemaker” in the Big Black Book.

    Still, I liked old Eusebius and remember him fondly. He never leathered me without just cause and he did have a sense of humour founded on his observation of the sheer ridiculousness of the human condition.