Rev. Dr. William Desmond Bailie

THE death has occurred of the Rev. Dr. William Desmond Bailie, a former minister of Kilmore Presbyterian Church who was widely respected and admired. He was 92.

Dr. Bailie, who passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 9, was born in Belfast in 1920 and grew up within the congregation of McQuiston Memorial Presbyterian Church where he taught in the Sunday School and was an officer in the Boys’ Brigade company.

He worked in the family construction business before deciding upon becoming a Christian minister. He enrolled in Magee University College and graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, Dublin. He then attended the Presbyterian Assembly’s College where he won many prizes and scholarships, and graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Divinity.

He was licensed as a probationer for the ministry in 1949 and was assigned to Cooke Centenary Church as assistant to the Rev. John Barkley, who respected and encouraged his research in Church history. He later earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Queen’s University.

Over the years Dr. Bailie continued his meticulous historical research and published a steady stream of articles. He undertook a detailed investigation of the 1798 rebellion in which Ulster Presbyterians had a pivotal role, and he published biographies of leading Presbyterian United Irishmen. In the vicinity of Kilmore he researched and published historical articles relating to Ballynahinch and Crossgar, and to the congregations of Ardglass, Strangford and Edengrove.

He served as secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society and on various Presbyterian Assembly committees. In 1977 the Presbyterian Theological Faculty recognised his scholarship and ministerial service with its honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. In 1981 he became a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

However, his interest in history was secondary to his calling to be a minister and pastor in his church. After his assistantship in Cooke, he was ordained and installed in Eglish congregation in 1952. Ten years later, he was called to Kilmore where he ministered until his retirement in 1986. He was secretary of the Down Clerical Club for many years and constantly supported and encouraged his fellow ministers.

Dr. Bailie and his late wife, Eleanor, were married in 1953 and were blessed with a daughter, Rosemary. The couple had much in common and Mrs. Bailie was a great support. However, tragedy struck when Mrs. Bailie died in 1985 after a painful illness. Just five days later, Dr. Bailie conducted his daughter’s marriage service.

Following his retirement he moved to Saintfield to be close to his daughter and her family. He continued his interest in historical research and enjoyed spending time with his beloved grandsons.

Addressing mourners at Monday’s funeral service in Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Will Patterson, minister of Kilmore Presbyterian Church, said many people greatly appreciated and benefited through Dr. Bailie’s “dignified conduct of public worship, his carefully prepared preaching and teaching, and his kind and generous pastoral attention.”

“Many people in Eglish and Kilmore are eternally grateful to God for the Christian faith God has given them and nourished for them through the labours of his servant, Dr. Bailie,” Mr. Patterson said.

“That ministry was kindly acknowledged a year past when a deputation from Eglish presented Desmond with a gift to mark the 60th anniversary of his ordination in their church, and when a deputation from Kilmore presented their gift to mark 50 years since his installation there.

“Many, many people are very thankful to Desmond for the service he has given in the church, and for his personal kindness, support and encouragement. We will remember him with gratitude and with warm affection.”

Following Monday’s service, Dr. Bailie was laid to rest in Dundonald Cemetery.

He is survived by his daughter, Rosemary, son-in-law Daryl and grandsons Nicholas and Graeme.