We were saddened by the passing of our former Secretary, Mr Seamus Milligan, on 30 January. Seamus was 92 and died peacefully in a nursing home, thus ending a life well lived and a race well run. The following is the Obituary which appeared in the News Letter on 13 February.
“A LEADING LIGHT IN THE EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT SOCIETY”
Seamus Milligan, who died in his 93rd year, was a former director and secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society in the province.
He was born in Bloomfield Road, East Belfast, on July 31, 1927, and grew up as Roman Catholic but converted to Protestantism when he was 16 years old.
He started work in a boot and shoe making business on the Ravenhill Road and was to go into business with the owner, “Pop” Lowry, who became his mentor and also discussed the Protestant faith at length with him.
As a convert he became an ardent evangelical Protestant and the Evangelical Protestant Society paid tribute to him as “a lover of the Gospel and a lover of souls, and a defender of the faith”.
Rev. Dr William Malcolmson, who conducted the Thanksgiving Service for his life, reflected on many times when he had accompanied Seamus throughout the province to mission halls and Orange halls as part of EPS gospel mission work.
Rev. Malcolmson – who is also the President of the Evangelical Protestant Society – told the service in Orangefield Baptist Church (with which Seamus had been associated for many years and where he had been baptised in 1948), that Mr. Milligan had been “strong in the word and spirit, with a strong Calvinist theology and a good sense of humour“.
The East Belfast man had, he added, been a good sound preacher, a good theologian and a good Christian journalist, producing the Ulster Bulwark magazine of the Evangelical Protestant Society regularly.
The EPS was established in the early 1950s as an umbrella organisation for evangelicals in the various Protestant denominations and organisations in Ulster and was the successor to the National Union of Protestants, a branch of which had been formed in Northern Ireland in 1946.
In 1953, Rev. Norman Porter, who had been a leading light in the NUP, became secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society and Seamus later became his assistant from 1964.
In earlier days, the EPS was based at Howard Buildings in Howard Street, sharing the address with the Spanish Gospel Mission and the Un-evangelised Field Mission.
When Porter – who also served as an Independent Unionist MP at Stormont between 1953 and 1958 – left to take up an appointment in a church in Australia in 1971, his assistant took on the role of EPS secretary. It was a position which Seamus was to hold until 1997, an overall total of 33 years.
During that time, he travelled across Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles to take meetings and used to joke that he was going to change his name on his driving licence to James because he felt the name Seamus was resulting in his being detained too much at checkpoints.
As part of his role as secretary, he was editor of the Ulster Bulwark magazine and he was also the author of “The Charismatic Controversy” (1970) and “The Charismatic Challenge” (1987) published by the Society.
Paying tribute on behalf of the EPS at the Thanksgiving Service in Orangefield Baptist Church, secretary Wallace Thompson said that although he had not known Seamus well, he had heard his name down the years, had met with him a few times and heard him preach on a few occasions.
However, since taking over as secretary of the EPS in 2001, he said he had lost count of the number of times Seamus’s name was mentioned to him.
At virtually every meeting his name was recalled was fondness by people for whom he preached and who had enjoyed fellowship with him, the congregation was told.
“The name of Seamus Milligan was – and still is – synonymous with that of EPS“, he said, adding that he had built firm foundations for the Evangelical Protestant Society, which it sought to continue to build on.
Nelson McCausland, another leading figure within the EPS, paid a tribute on social media, saying that he had known Seamus Milligan well in the 1980s, as well as his predecessor, Norman Porter, and they would usually meet for coffee several times a week.
“Wesley Pentland was a regular, and other periodic participants included Norman Porter, John Fullerton, Jack McIlvenna and Rev Bertie Johnston from Lack in Fermanagh”, he said
Seamus Milligan was married to Norma Titterington at East End Baptist Church in April 1952.
The couple were married 58 years when Norma passed away in May 2010.
He formally lived in Lisburn and passed away at Oakridge Nursing Home in Ballynahinch on January 30.
Following the service in Orangefield Baptist Church, interment took place in Dundonald Cemetery.
Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to Orchard Orangeville Baptist Church, c/o Ronnie Thompson Funeral Directors, 20 Ballinderry Road, Lisburn, BT28 1UE.