Today, to mark its opening, with special guests Dr. and Mrs Bob Jones, Greenville, South Carolina, the Bannside Library Ltd presented its first two publications. In 1937, when he was eleven years of age, Ian Paisley received a copy of Canon Hugh Forde’s “Sketches of Olden Days in Northern Ireland” as a Sunday School prize. It was presented to him by his father Pastor J. Kyle Paisley, and was treasured all the days of his life. When planning the opening of his personal library for public access, he chose to reproduce this book to mark the occasion. He felt it was universal in appeal and a timely reminder of how greatly we need to treasure our rich inheritance and teach its cultural wealth to the next generation. He further requested that I write the introduction. The book has been reprinted under the title of “Northern Ireland, Our Lesser known Story” and this is my tribute to him in the book.
It is a great privilege for me to write a foreword for this little book on the history of Ulster placenames, a Sunday School prize which was treasured by my friend Rev Dr Ian Paisley, the Lord Bannside PC. I do this both in honour and in tribute to him. I was his Personal Physician and Advisor on History and Culture from July 2004 until his death on 12th September, 2014. Indeed a very close friend of both Dr Paisley and his family, I was deeply affected by his final illness and passing from this world to the next.
His great oratory and acute perception of the human condition made him the most prominent British politician of the second half of the 20th Century. But I will remember him particularly as a wonderful travelling companion to the bookshops we visited regularly both here and in Great Britain. He loved his books and his magnificent library. He was indeed the most intelligent and widely-read person I had ever met, a kindly and responsive man, for whom no request for assistance ever went unheeded.
On New Year’s Day 1985, Dr Paisley presented me with two special volumes from that library which he had himself written, America’s Debt to Ulster and The Massacre of St Bartholomew. These two historical treatises he loved, the latter especially as Eileen was of direct Huguenot descent. The history of Edward Carson and James Craig were also of special interest to him and he gave me a valuable photographic collection on the subject. And, of course, we cannot forget his deep knowledge of Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne.
On 1st July 1986, under the auspices of Rhonda, then Lady Mayoress of Belfast, we held a Press Conference to launch through the Farset organization what was to become the Somme Association. At this event in Belfast City Hall, Dr Paisley explained his position as a European MP and committed himself to help us refurbish the Ulster Tower at Thiepval in France and open a museum both there and at Conlig, County Down, where the original Helen’s Tower stands. He emphasized that this was a project to honour everyone who had fought at the Somme, both Unionist and Nationalist, Roman Catholic and Protestant.
When he and Rev David McIlveen went on missionary work to the Cameroons, I gave them their Yellow Fever vaccinations. Dr Paisley became very ill on one occasion and I diagnosed him as having West Nile Fever. For the Christmas of 1987 he therefore gave to me his two volume edition of Rev J. A. Wylie’s The History of Protestantism, inscribed by him To Dr Ian, with best thanks for injecting me, medicine and history !!! Following this, in 1992, he made representations to the government to help me set up the Ullans or Ulster-Scots Academy which was predicated on the preservation of Ullans, Ulidian or Ulster Gaelic, and Ulster English, including Belfast English, as well as the history of Dalriada, Dalaradia, Dal Fiatach, Galloway and Carrick, much of which you will read in this book.
But it was the history of early Christianity in the British Isles which became the focus of his work with the Ullans Academy. Dr Paisley and Eileen, now Baroness Paisley, were our principal guests at the St Patrick’s Breakfast and Feast of Columbanus events we held regularly, his speeches demonstrating the incomparable grasp he had of a subject he held so dearly in his heart. A second Columbanus himself, his long and fruitful life had as its guiding principle his abiding love and worship of his Master Jesus. All his activities were subordinate to this one ideal and through it he worked out his Salvation by the wondrous pathway that he knew. He was a politician only by circumstance, a theologian by vocation, a contemplative man driven to action by the evils of this world, a Pilgrim on the Road to Paradise. He has arrived home at last. Christ loved Ian Paisley…Well too, did he, the Lord.
The second book was “This is my friend, The Personal Reminiscences of Rev. David McIlveen on his Friendship with Ian, Lord Bannside“, who writes ” Having had the experience of being with him in some of the most remote areas of Africa, and dining with him in the company of the world’s poorest, as well as with the world’s richest, I have observed a man whose life was characterised in contentment and whose interest in others was remarkably unique. Of his Saviour he could say, This is my beloved, and this is my friend”