The Sexton

THE DUTIES OF THE SEXTON OF FAHAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 

The committee and session on April 13 1904 defined these: - 
The walks to be scuffled and cleaned regularly. 
All loose papers to be cleaned off the church ground.  
The stables and all the church property to be locked each day before leaving.   
The church to be swept and cleaned occasionally and the pews to be dusted every week.  
The fires to be lit, every Sabbath morning at 10.00am, and before the service begins, the dampers are to be closed, all but about 1 inch, which is to be left open to keep the fires alive.  
The cinders and coke to be cleaned off the floor regularly, should any drop on them while firing up.   

The salary of the sexton was increased to £4.00 per annum.  But on July 2 1905 the secretary was entrusted to write the following to the sexton: - 

" That the committee regret extremely to see the walks and grounds of the church had been neglected; no effort having been put forth of late to remove the grass and weeds and scuffle the walks.  The committee hereby give notice that if this matter is further neglected and if the walks are not properly cleaned and attended to and kept clean during the time to come, they will employ a man themselves to clean them as often as they consider necessary and pay him out of the sexton's salary." 

At the next committee meeting they were happy to report the walks and grounds had been seen to.  On October 8 1905 the sexton was asked to put on the fire in the heating room of the church on the Saturday night and close the dampers all but one inch or so in order that the church is efficiently heated.  The sexton replied that he was unwilling to do this at the usual salary and asked for an increase of 12 shillings (i.e. 60p).  The committee refused this request.  The committee meeting on Friday 6 April 1906 was again unhappy with the performance of the sexton and sent him a letter.  On March 20 1910 the committee noted that the walks need scuffled. 

At the committee meeting of January 15 1911 the sexton complained about the small supply of fir and lack of coal for the fires.  The committee gave him 6 shillings (i.e. 30p) to buy these items and instructed him not to use coal when putting on the fire but to light it with fir and coke.  The fire was to be put on early on Sunday mornings, so that the church may be properly heated before the service begins, and that there may be no risk of the boiler making a disturbance during the service.  The sexton must have been thinking of resigning as he had written to one of the committee members.  So on October 8 1911 he was asked if he was giving up his duties.  If he was continuing as the sexton he would be required to light the fire not later than 8 o'clock on Sunday morning and kept up moderately so that the house might be well warmed in time for the service without forcing the fire to heat the house in a shorter time and causing the steam to make a noise in the pipes as it did last winter.  If the fire is not lit at 8 o'clock on any Sabbath then there is not to be any fire lighted that day.  On January 26 1913 the committee agreed to ask the sexton to light the fire the night before so as to have the church properly heated.   

In 1915 the church were offered a temporary organ to be used in the Sabbath Services from one of its members.  This seems to be the first time that this musical instrument was introduced into Sunday worship.  At the start of 1917 Fahan Presbyterian Church acquired a new Eskey Organ at the price of £40.00 which was donated by Mrs Kilpatrick (Pittsburgh) who had communicated with Dr Hamilton.  The actual installation of the organ cost £55.17.9 as erecting a platform and altering pews had to be carried out for satisfactory installation of the organ.  The money raised from its church members ensured that the church was not in debt due to this addition.  On January 7 1817 the committee decided to ask the sexton to kindle a fire on Wednesday or Thursday (during dull weather) so as to prevent the organ being affected by dampness.   

On May 13 1917 the committee granted a war bonus to the sexton which was potatoes to the value of £1.00.  Several members of the committee expressed dissatisfaction at the manner the sexton performed his duties.  A war bonus of £1.00 or equivalent was given to the sexton in 1918.  On February 10 1918 it was noted that the sexton had handed in the keys the previous Sabbath.   So the committee went looking for someone to undertake this duty at the remuneration of £6.10 per annum.  The committee at the next meeting (1 week later) accepted the resignation of the sexton and decided to advertise for the post.  The committee decided to write rules for this post so that they should be observed. 

On March 3 1918 the committee concerning the duties of the sexton approved the following rules: - 

            The fires to be lit every Sabbath morning at 8.30 during the winter months             November to April inclusive. 

            Dampers to be closed - all but one inch, which are sufficient to produce the            draught to keep the fire burning moderately. 

            The church is to be swept and the pews dusted every week. 

            The windows are to be kept clean, and left open for half an hour every       Sabbath morning before the service. 

            All cobwebs must be removed. 

            The walks must be scuffled and cleaned regularly. 

            All loose papers are to be cleaned off the church grounds. 

            The doors and gate to be locked immediately after the Sunday services and            other meetings.

            The grass has to be mown frequently. 

            One weeks notice, in writing on either side to terminate the agreement. 

The salary of the sexton was to be £6.10 per annum.  The former sexton agreed to these rules and was re-installed.   

At the committee meeting held on January 19 1919 the sexton was summoned and asked if he knew who had been cutting gaps in the hedge surrounding the church.  He stated that he was responsible so he was instructed to have the whole hedge cut neatly on the same level.  Complaints regarding the negligent way the sexton was performing his duties were made at the committee meeting held on December 23 1919.   At the October 17 1920 meeting it was noted that the doors and windows of the church had been left open on different occasions and the cleaning of the church had been badly neglected so the committee agreed to ask the sexton to retire from the office.  Mrs Bell or Mrs Wallace were both to be interviewed for this post so beginning the start of a new family taking on the role of sexton for Fahan Presbyterian Church.

On R238 from Derry to Buncrana at Tooban, Burnfoot 

Fahan 

Co. Donegal 

Republic of Ireland F93 XY65