Mr John Hemphill Getty
The first of February 1886, was a cold wintry day, and the boys of the school were amusing themselves in the usual way, for it was not yet ten o’clock and the snow lay thick on the ground. Snowballs were flying thick and fast, mostly missing their mark but one, possibly directed at a well-dressed stranger, who had apparently just come off the morning train, caught him fair on the nape of the neck, just below the brim of the well-brushed hat. This seemed rather a “hit” in the morning’s play, till the well-dressed, and doubtless by this time exasperated stranger, turned up the little hill and entered the school. It was the new master.
On him, when school assembled, every eye was fixed, and when he turned his gaze on one particular boy, he who flung the fateful snowball, and administered to him the due reward of his deed, it was realised that here was a man with his eyes open, and with whom it would not pay to trifle.
This man was John H. Getty, who was brought up in the Cloughmills district and first taught for fourteen months in Conaneese, near Dungannon, before coming to Cullybackey. Mr Getty remained in charge of the Cullybackey School until October 1890, when he left to be principal of Crossroads National School, near Londonderry and to prepare for his theological course in Magee College, with a view to entering the ministry of the Irish Presbyterian Church.
Mr Getty proved himself a capable teacher, and under his care both the ordinary day school and the evening science classes continued to flourish. These evening classes were very popular, no less than sixty students on one occasion entering for the May examinations.
On first coming to Cullybackey Mr Getty lived in the United Free manse, and from this convenient centre threw himself vigorously into the various church and other activities of the village. He, as others before him, was superintendent of the Congregational Sabbath School, and was a member of the Church Committee, acting as secretary, from April 5th 1886 until April 23rd 1890. These two dates may be taken as roughly marking the boundaries of his stay on the banks of the Maine.
He was also appointed secretary of the Sunday School Teacher’s Union on 6th April 1886 and acted in that capacity until the union was discontinued on 3rd July 1888. He was mainly instrumental in starting the Y.M.C.A., in Cullybackey, drawing the plans and overseeing the conversion of the old dwelling-house into the new hall. He reorganised the cricket club and was captain for five years, making the game a popular one in the village. He taught science classes in Galgorm and Portglenone as well as in Cullybackey.
On completing his course at Magee College, where he won the Gailey prize for an essay on John Calvin, he went as an assistant to Great George’s Street Church in Belfast. However, circumstances, reverted his attention back to his old profession and he was principal teacher in Crumlin. When the late Rev. R. J. Patterson, started his Catch-my-Pal movement in July 1909, Mr Getty, three months later, organised a branch in Crumlin, which eventually reached membership of nine-hundred. He was on the executive committee of the society and addressed meetings in its interest all over the country.
Coming to live in Belfast in 1912, Mr Getty attached himself to the Agnes Street congregation. Here, as elsewhere, he was no sleeping partner, his Bible class alone numbering one-hundred-and-twenty members. In 1914 he was elected to the church committee, in 1918 ordained to the eldership and in 1919 was duly licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Belfast.
From this time he gave himself more and more to the work of the ministry and his services were much availed of by the supply office, as one who was both able and willing to undertake occasional Sunday duty, so that when the opportunity arose, as it did in 1929, he was ready voluntarily to resign from the profession of teaching in order to realise his lifelong ambition to be an ordained clergyman of the Irish Presbyterian Church.
John Hemphill Getty was ordained on the 22nd April 1930, at a time in life when most other men were looking forward to retirement, in Carland Presbyterian Church,Dungannon, where he remained until 1947.
Mr Getty’s university distinctions comprise a second class honours degree in Arts, Royal University of Ireland and the certificate in Arts of Magee College. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Science, Ireland but never acted.
He married a Miss Mantell and they had three sons and two daughters.