Irish Baptist Historical Society Lecture Report on the Life of Hugh Orr

Monday, 17th April 2023
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Irish Baptist Historical Society Lecture Report on the Life of Hugh Orr

By Nigel Younge

Rudyard Kipling is credited as having said that ‘if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten’. So, what better way to spend a Thursday evening in March than listening to the life story of Hugh Henry Orr, told by Leslie Hutchinson and suitably illustrated with superb anecdotes. All that was missing was a cosy turf fire in the corner and a cup of tea in our hand (although we got the tea at the end of the talk).

Hugh Orr (1904-1973) was born near Magherafelt, he was the son of a modest farmer, and he died in Belfast after a busy life, spending 35 years as a full-time evangelist or pastor. At his first pastorate in Kilrea Baptist Church (1935-1944) the evening service was often disrupted with youths throwing stones on the roof. While serving in Great Victoria Street Church (1957-1966) the premises had to be enlarged to seat 780. As well as a regular preaching ministry in Great Vic, he had a Friday night Bible School with 200 attending.

Leslie’s family and the Orrs shared a house for a while on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, when Hugh and his wife May moved to Belfast in 1944. Leslie reminisced ‘I, myself, can remember having tea at the manse with my uncle Hugh and auntie May after which we would play games and uncle Hugh would make up stories about us.’ Apparently, Leslie was Leslie the Lion and his two sisters had suitable plays on their names.

As I sat intrigued, while Leslie moved from his prepared script to personal reminiscences and also to exchanging memories with members of the extended Orr family who were in the audience, Hebrews 12 and that ’great cloud of witnesses’ came to my mind. As the author John White reminds us ‘the writer’s point is to bring witnesses before us who will testify that faith is worth it’. In listening to the story of Hugh Orr, I thought here was another who could be added to that list.

In summing up Hugh Orr’s life Leslie began by saying ‘He had only the most basic formal education. But as a young man he committed himself to serving his Lord and Saviour with his whole heart.’ I found his life story inspiring and I now have Tuesday 9th May in my diary for the next IBHS talk – see you there?

P.S. Leslie has produced a booklet on Pastor Orr’s life and if you contact the College they’ll pass your request on to him. The full lecture can be heard here.

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