Sydney Holt - Letter written on his tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland - June 27, 1985

Dear friends far and near,

The first convention for us in Ireland was Monaghan (Dunraymond) which is about 20 miles from the border into southern Ireland. Convention has been held here since 1920, and it is a most interesting place. The big two-story stone house and buildings enclosing a big courtyard was built in the early 1800s as a stagecoach inn for the stopover between Dublin and Londonderry in the north. Here they would have fresh horses, feed, and food and lodging for the passengers. Off the courtyard were rooms to park the stagecoaches, stalls and feed for horses, etc. Now 400 sleep in these rooms but they use a tent and some old mission portable halls for the rest of the sleeping quarters, as there are about 600 here. A tent is used for meetings. Sam Dawson (89, went into the work here in 1922, to Italy in 1926) showed me where he slept at convention here before going in the work. His brother Abram who has been in the work in England passed away the last day of this convention in England and Sam left. Robert and Elizabeth Jennings run a dairy farm here and milk 80 cows. His brother John preaches in Chile and Betty in Uruguay.

On Thursday, it was arranged for a young brother worker John Johnston to drive three of us to Galway to find the ruins of the old Holland home. The roads are very narrow and windy up and down the green hills and such a beautiful time of the year with rhododendrons in full bloom. We found the little village of New Inn and inquired at the post office where they told us how to find the Church of England where the Holland family went to worship. This is all very strong Catholic area, but the old church stands in good shape. Across from the church on the far side of the open field on a knoll is the remains of the large mansion of Lord Ashdown. He owned all the land for many miles around and Granddad leased the land and home from him where he lived and farmed. Grandmother sometimes played the piano for Lady Ashdown in the mansion and took the children there for parties. A farmer came along and was able to direct us to the remains of the Holland home a few miles away. Just the thick stonewalls remained and I couldn't make out where the gardens and tennis court used to be. They left here for Canada in 1906.

From there we went to Galway Bay, where we had a good fish dinner in a restaurant before driving a number of miles north to "Knockferry Lodge" on Loch Corrib (large lake just north of Galway Bay) where Mother's first cousin and son run a tourist house and restaurant. The lodge was built for Professor Nicholas Colohas as a fishing lodge and occupied by his son, Dr. Arthur Colohan, composer of the song "Galway Bay." However, he composed it in England where he lived and had his practice. We had tea and a nice visit with my second cousin, but his mother was in town for the day. John then drove us west towards the coast where we saw many digging peat (turf) where they pile it up to dry and later use it for fuel. It has about half the BTU's of coal, but is used by many in Ireland for heat.

Time ran out so we didn't drive 70 miles on south to Kilrush where Aunt Dora met William Irvine and his companion right after they came from Scotland in 1896. She was in her early twenties and working as a tutoress for a wealthy family at the time. She didn't have much fellowship until she started in the work in 1902 and came to Canada with a number of workers in 1905. Galway Bay is beautiful and a very large natural harbor. Columbus sailed into this bay and worshiped at a church before searching for the new world and discovering America.

On Friday, we had a workers' meeting at Monoghan (first they've had for years) with just the visitors speaking, but open for any to pray. This is the only convention in Ireland where all the workers are together, as the next three weeks there are two conventions on at once (seven conventions in Ireland, three in the south, four in the north). This is the last convention that I'll be with John Porterfield until our last at Dettingen, Germany August 17-20.

A brother worker by the name John Prendergast is at preps here and has a very interesting testimony. He just finished his first year in the work, is in his early thirties. He studied for four of the eight years in the order he was in to become a Catholic priest and got his degree in college when he decided not to go the last four years to become a priest. They advised him to further his studies in a college, but part way through he just up and left. He started selling World Encyclopedias and soon was supervisor over many salesmen. He found a good market in the Protestant schools and was working in another man's territory since he wasn't trying the schools. At two different schools in this territory he noticed two young teachers who stood out to him, and he felt must be of the same faith. Through these contacts, he started to attend meetings and wasn't long in making his choice. Now both of these teachers are in the work and the one, Cathleen Atkin, perhaps had the most to do with it. Four or five years after John made his choice, he too started in the work and seems very happy there.

Tom Clarke and I went 45 miles north to have a few days with Dave and Eunice Doak and their three grown children. Dave is a nephew of John Doak who labored in Nebraska and is buried there. They live in a beautiful two-story stone house 150 years old with five bedrooms upstairs. Each room has a lever you turn to ring for the servant (in the days when they had such). Some of the calf stalls used to be a garage for the carriage with living quarters overhead for the driver and family. Being near the border one is very conscious of IRA troubles, and in the past many car bombs have gone off in their little town destroying lives and buildings. No cars are now allowed into downtown area without being searched and the police buildings are all protected with walls and closed circuit T.V. So far 2,447 have been killed (1,698 civilians, 381 army and 368 police) by IRA activity. Six police have been killed just in the last few weeks. Ruth Doak works in a little bank in a village and one day some IRA men came in and shot over their heads giving them five minutes to get out. The bomb went off and burned the bank building to the ground.

It was interesting to see Fermanagh convention grounds since we won't be there. John Reid and his sister live here and such a beautiful entrance and very large trees, neatly trimmed hedges and all. Convention has been here since 1940, when it was moved from a farm not far away. The train ran through this farm and Wilson Reid talked to a headman on the railroad and they built a loading platform for the train to stop right at the grounds to let folks off and pick them up. The railroad called it the "dippers' stop" as the friends here are often called "dippers," since we baptize by immersion. For 17 years, the railroad has been discontinued.

We got to see the Crocknacrieve convention grounds where convention was held for a month each year about the turn of the century and where Aunt Dora Holland attended. It was here in 1903 that Granddad was called to come, as Aunt Dora was so ill they thought she wouldn't live. Granddad didn't profess then but George Walker told me of seeing him there. The house is like a mansion with a very large courtyard enclosed by two-story buildings. Saw the hill where many went to pray and have quiet time. No doubt it was on this very hill where many workers prayed to be willing to leave their homeland and bring the gospel to so many other parts of the world in 1905. The folks living here now don't profess. A few miles away over rolling hills and very narrow roads which are typica1 of Ireland we saw the humble stone ruins of the home George Walker grew up in. Also, John Doak's old home and Norman Nash's (Ecuador).

One day we attended a funeral in Draperstown of an older saint. The coffin was shaped narrow at both ends and wide in the middle with the lid completely removed. Funerals are held in the homes here, and since the room was small, we all stood outside where the workers spoke. Many Catholic men (men attend but very few women) from the town attended. They make up a list of men relatives to take turns carrying the coffin on their shoulders, with the two men on opposite sides locking their arms and shoulders together. Carried it about 100 feet and then put it in the hearse. Then carried it a ways at the other end. Many walked the mile to the cemetery. At the main intersection in town two policemen directed traffic (did not have their flack jackets on, as was a warm day) and a third stood behind his car with his rifle ready and watching every direction. The IRA is after police and army men mostly.

Carnteel convention is very near the Republic of Ireland border. In 1902, the workers came to this little village owned and run by the Reids and had gospel meetings in the little schoolhouse the sister workers sleep in now. Wilson Reid labored most of his days in South Africa.There were 20 workers who went forth from this area. Ireland is the only country where workers weren't imported but rather exported! Convention has been here over 60 years, meetings held in a shed. None of the friends stay on the grounds because of IRA trouble. Each year they feel it may be the last year for convention, as the owner is in her nineties. It's like a little village and they have the store and P.O. Two nephews of hers had a big chicken and egg business and grocery. However, the egg business has moved to England and the other to the continent. We stayed in a very large home (homes here make most of ours in U.S. seem like cottages!). There are ruins of an old stone Protestant church in the village that the IRA burned down 100 years ago and is now a cemetery. Meetings and testimonies were very helpful.

Frank Thomas was helpful on the struggles, battles, and temptations Jesus had and how He got victory:

  • Matthew 4 (Luke 4) Temptations of the devil...victory through the word of God.
  • Mark 6 (John 6) Temptations of the world...victory through prayer.
  • Luke 22:42 Temptation of the flesh...victory by putting God's will before His own.

Preps at Gilroy and Orick will be on by the time you receive this. My thoughts and prayers go your way. Those at the Cork convention in southern Ireland last week said the helicopters were flying back and forth over the convention grounds, bringing in the bodies from that tragic air crash in the ocean off southern Ireland. Hope this finds all of you well and many thanks for your letters. Two more conventions in Ireland and then I fly alone to Norway with one day between convention here and convention there!

Your brother in Him,

Sydney [Holt]