I recently attended the annual Harvest Thanksgiving in Glacknadrummond Church, which is situated about 2 miles from Culdaff. The sermon was delivered by the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland so it was an important event. Afterwards, I met Rev. Alison Gallagher, the minister in charge and enjoyed the hospitality provided by the congregation. It was my first visit to a Harvest Thanksgiving in any church and I was impressed with the harvest decorative displays. It was a joyful celebration for all who work on the land and enjoy its fruits. As a resident of the district, I knew almost everyone in the church and met a number of former students of the school where I worked. The building has been used for worship for over 100 years and many of the artefacts associated with its construction are preserved. I recall seeing them during the centenary celebrations some years ago.
Prior to the construction of the church, a local resident Charles McCandless proposed in 1850 to have a school house erected in the vicinity of his home. The Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society was active in Inishowen preaching the gospel prior to the Great Famine and the Protestant School in Culdaff village was often used for prayer meetings. Poverty was rife so fund-raising was a challenge. Charles McCandless secured a site from Robert Young of Culdaff – a member of the Church of Ireland – and a school capable of holding 200 pupils was built. A master’s house was attached. The new school was under the patronage of the Primitive Methodist Society which made a small contribution to the cost. Services were held weekly in the school house and a Sabbath School was also in operation. Plans for the new building were drawn up by a Derry architect J. H. Bible and the building was erected by Alex Ferguson of Derry. (I think the firm of Bible belonged to the company Bible and Simmons of Derry which had an office in the Diamond until recently; the poet James Simmons is a member of the latter family).
A local minister Rev W. Flaherty, a native of Co. Offaly, collected £34 in Dublin for the new school. R. Young paid £5. Miss McCandless in Mass., USA contributed £5. A total of £36 was collected in Inishowen and about £40 was outstanding when the building was completed.
The official opening of the school took place on 9 June 1857 so in 2017, it will be the 160th anniversary. A Presbyterian community in Scotland offered to pay £30 per annum for a teacher. A teacher called Lindsay worked here for a period. As the school was also used as a place of worship, it did not come into the national school system run by the Commissioners of National Education and consequently, problems arose in running the school. The school in fact became established as a place of worship rather than a school and it formed the nucleus of the modern church at Glacknadrummond. The Methodist congregations attend worship at Whitecastle and Moville also. Over many years I got to know most of the ministers of the Methodist congregations as they would arrive on a weekly basis in Carndonagh Community School to provide religious instruction for students of their congregation.