It was on this day 95 years ago, 31st August 1921, that the Presbyterian Meeting House on the Main Street of Letterkenny was destroyed by fire.

Presbyterianism in Letterkenny goes back to 1640 (as noted by the date stone on the side of the building today) with Rev. Andrew Semple appointed Presbyterian minister for Letterkenny in 1642. By 1675, there was a regular Meeting House in the town, which would have been a large thatched barn with an earthen floor and no fixed furnishings. People brought their own benches and stools and sat in areas according to what part of the district they came from. A new meetinghouse was erected on the Main Street around 1763 as the roof of the old building had collapsed immediately following a meeting.

In 1820, there was a split with the Seceders establishing a congregation on the Port Road at Barkhall and becoming known as ‘Second’ Letterkenny, with the original congregation now known as ‘First’ Letterkenny (another group, the Covenanters, had already established a ministry at Gortlee from 1785)

A further split occurred within ‘First’ Letterkenny in 1840 and a new Meeting House was built in 1841 next to Conwal Parish Church. This congregation were initially known as ‘Third’ Letterkenny. Following the dissolution of Second Letterkenny on the Port Road in 1858 (with the building becoming a school) this ‘Third’ congregation at first adopted the name of ‘Second Letterkenny’ but rather than being confused with the previous church at Barkhall, and also because they didn’t want to be seen as ‘second’ to anybody else, they changed their name to ‘Trinity Church’.

On the Main Street, in 1870, the Meeting-house was nearly burned down due to an accidental fire and full renovations of the church interior took place five years later. In 1898, a visitor remarked on the Meetinghouse, describing it as:

“..a quaint old building, situated in the Main Street, built in the form of a letter T, with galleries over the main transepts, and capable of seating 800. Only the walls are intact from the former building; but the pulpit is more than a century old, of Irish white oak, stained (and backing directly on the Main Street)

In 1909, the Meeting House on the Main Street was completely rebuilt but on 31st August 1921 it was burned down as it was believed to be a possible arms dump for the Ulster Volunteer Force, although no evidence of this was ever found. As this was over a month after the truce, claims that it was burned down as part of the War of Independence appear unfounded. Immediately after this fire, the meeting hall of Trinity Church was used to shelter this homeless congregation, bringing the two separate groups closer together and paving the way for a complete union four years later.

By 1925, the union of First, Trinity and Gortlee Reformed Presbyterian congregations formally took place under the united name of Trinity Church with its newly refurbished Meetinghouse on the Main Street from 1927.