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Bishop Montgomery: A Memoir

By M.M.

[London] The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1933.

Chapter I. Childhood

Henry Montgomery claimed that no Life was complete which did not record the history of ancestors and forefathers. He held it to be the duty of each generation to write down the memories of their early days and acknowledge the debt they owed to those who trained and inspired them. "Family histories create traditions," he would say, "and I hope traditions of honourable life."

The Montgomerys are an old Irish family. It was from his Irish forbears that Bishop Montgomery inherited that indescribable charm and humour that endeared him to so many. They came over to Ireland from Scotland early in the seventeenth century, and bought the lands of Killaghtee in the diocese of Raphoe. Through the Montgomerys of Eglinton the pedigree can be traced to Norman times and to Sir Roger de Montgomery, who was second in command of the army of his kinsman, William the Conqueror. He was created Earl of Shrewsbury and Montgomery and is buried in Shrewsbury Abbey.

Henry Montgomery's great-grandfather, Samuel, was merchant and chamberlain of Londonderry. It was he who built New Park in 1776 on the beautiful shores of Lough Foyle, and ever since then it has been the loved home of the Montgomery family. At the same time he bought the surrounding lands of Ballynally and the ground on which sprang up later the little fishing village of Moville, or, as it was first called, Bunnyfubble. Samuel Montgomery was much respected in Londonderry. On one occasion when the stores of Derry merchants were searched for illicit spirits, his store was specially exempted "because he was above suspicion." His son, Samuel Law, became later rector of Moville, and New Park was for a time the rectory. Henry's father, Sir Robert Montgomery, succeeded to the properties of Moville and Killaghtee in 1874. Sir Robert had been Chief Commissioner of Oudh and Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab. It was his action in disarming the troops of Meerut at the beginning of the Mutiny that saved the Punjab, and won him the thanks of both Houses of Parliament.

Henry had the greatest love and reverence for his father, his uncle Samuel, whose rectory of Ballynascreen was a second home to him, and his aunts Charlotte and Mary. What he owed to them he embodied in a book printed for private circulation only, called A Generation of Montgomerys, and written when he was Bishop of Tasmania. In its conclusion he writes thus: "You, my dear children, will find in your turn that we are generally helped heavenward by the silent influences of the good, by such prevailing unconscious influence as this that has been exercised upon myself and my generation by the four of whom I have been telling you. In my inmost heart I hope that your generation may produce characters as worthy and as great. . . . Thank God for the gift, better than any which money can buy, of men and women of your own flesh and blood, bearing the name you bear, who were the true servants of God. Carry on, my dearest children, the holy traditions of godliness and humility, steady labour and true piety, so that the name of Montgomery, as it has borne no stain in the past, may receive no injury when it is chiefly in your keeping."

And again: "You come of a family of 'gentlemen.' You know that word does not signify mere outward refinement. It tells of a refined and noble mind to which anything dishonourable or mean or impure is abhorrent and unworthy."

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