A fond tribute to an earnest warrior

Mr Ernie Monteith

On Saturday morning the news of the passing of Mr Ernie Monteith of Tullyrush, Beragh, was brought to me. It stilled my heart and mind as I immediately recognised that one who had played a major part in the formation of Omagh Free Presbyterian Church had gone to his eternal reward.

Born in 1926, the same years as Ian Paisley, he had almost reached the 100 year mile-stone.

I first met Ernie when he came on occasions with family members to the Free Presbyterian Church meetings in Lisbellaw. The witness there had begun in February 1967. Ernie and His wife Mollie, who went to be with the Lord last February, had long been unhappy with the increasing ‘false ecumenism’ of their church, the Church of Ireland. Being fervent believers they were enthusiastic supporters of the witness and protests against the modernism and apostasy of the mainline denominations by Dr Ian Paisley.

Ernie, of his own volition and encouraged by Dr Paisley, bought the site on the A5, Beltany Road, presently occupied by Omagh Free Presbyterian Church, and arrangements were made for Dr Paisley (who had agreed) to come and conduct a gospel mission on the site in a large tent which seated many hundreds.

Dr Ian Paisley back in those days.

The tent was burned by republicans subsequent to the mission but not before the ‘the fire of God’ fell upon the meetings in it.


In preparation for that mission, prayer meetings were organised in the Monteith farmhouse at Tullyrush and Rev John Long and I led those meetings. Concerned Christians from the area assembled there for some weeks before the mission in the late Autumn of 1968 and I have the happiest of memories of the meetings in the Monteith home; the wonderful gospel mission when some 180 souls were saved; the subsequent formation of a congregation and the weekly church prayer meetings held temporarily in the old band hall in the car park behind High Street in Omagh. Whenever I meet any of the older members of Omagh, mention is made of those meetings in the ‘Band Hall’!

On 15th December 1968, having been placed by Presbytery as minister in charge, I constituted the new Church in Omagh Orange Hall.


A large wooden portable hall was erected on the church site in June 1969 and it  met the needs of the congregation until a permanent building was completed. It was opened by Dr Paisley on Saturday 24th April 1976.

From the Omagh witness there sprang the churches in Castlederg and Sixmilecross.

Ernie was elected an elder in the infancy of the congregation and served as Clerk of Session for many years and only a few years ago stepped down from his duties as an elder.

Following those days in 1968, my family and I were in the Monteith home on many occasions and our boys have many memories of the activities they happily engaged in on Uncle ‘Narnie’s’ farm, for he always found time to show them around and have them engage in some of the tasks of a farm, the tractor rides and the foddering and  rounding up of cattle and sheep and moving them to fresh pasture. My wife Ann and I have never forgotten the many kindnesses shown to us by Mollie and Ernie and never will.

I had a last time of fellowship with him at the end of January and he was well able to recall the turbulent and contentious days at the commencement of the Omagh congregation.

Omagh Free Presbyterian Church

He certainly ‘fought a good fight and kept the faith’. He has undoubtedly laid up for himself “a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge”, shall give him at that day, 2 Timothy 4:8.

To all of the wide Monteith family we offer our sincere sympathy on the passing of their loved one of whom all in our family circle had the deepest respect and regard.


Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)

The funeral for Mr Monteith took place in Omagh Free Presbyterian Church on Monday 15th April and the service may be viewed here.

Funeral for Mr Monteith