On Friday 10th December 2004 the Freedom of the Borough of Ballymena was conferred upon Dr. Paisley, "for his contribution to the welfare of the citizens of Ballymena and of Northern Ireland as a whole".
The Mayor's Speech
His Worship the Mayor of Ballymena, Councillor H Nicholl, said in his introductory address that "Ian Paisley's is a household name throughout Northern Ireland and much further afield. He is known as a faithful preacher of the Gospel and a tireless political representative, having long served his constituents at Stormont, in the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster since 1970, and in Europe from 1979 until 2004. Indeed one commentator said of Dr Paisley: 'He has been a colossus on the political stage in the Province since his first intervention in the mid 1960s.'
"Since he first arrived in our town in 1928, Dr Paisley has always been proud of his local roots. It is therefore fitting that this Council has decided to express its appreciation to this remarkable advocate of 'the welfare of the citizens of Ballymena and of Northern Ireland as a whole'.
"It has been my personal joy to be associated with Dr Paisley for many years and it is therefore indeed a special privilege as Mayor to preside over this historic occasion".
After the official glittering civic ceremony at Galgorm Manor, Ballymena, the 200 invited guests took part in a 'Civic Banquet' in honour of Dr Paisley. After the Banquet the guests listened to Mr M O'Neill the editor of Ballymena's local paper as he spoke warmly of Dr Paisley's contribution to the town and Province. Many letters of congratulations were read to the assembly including from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Dr Paisley then addressed the company on the seven guiding lights of his life.
SPEECH BY DR IAN PAISLEY MP MLA
Ruskin lit the seven lamps of architecture to direct the steps of those who sought to practice that art.
Tonight I want to direct the attention of you all to the light of seven lamps which have guided me in my journey of life. I would, however, ask you to keep in mind that all of these lamps must ever shine, fuelled by the great precept and definition of Him who was Wisdom incarnate in the flesh, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His governing precept was and is, 'A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth'. Luke's Gospel 12:15.
I. THE FIRST IS THE LAMP OF COMMENCEMENT
An eloquent orator described the commencement of life thus: 'Born of love and hope, of ecstasy and pain, of agony and fear, of tears and joy, dowered with the wealth of two united hearts, held in happy arms, with lips upon life's drafted font, blue veined and fair, where perfect peace finds perfect form, rocked by willing feet and wooed to shadowy shores of sleep by siren mother, singing soft and low'.
And so I commenced my life in Armagh on 6th April 1926. Life is a mystery and its commencement is best summed up in the words of David the King: 'We are fearfully and wonderfully made.'
II. THE SECOND IS THE LAMP OF DEVELOPMENT
I developed by looking with wonder's startled eyes at the common things of life 'Looking with wonder's wide and startled eyes at common things of life and day, taught by want and wish and contact with the things that touch the dimpled flesh of babes, lured by light and flame, and charmed by colour's wondrous things, learning the use of hands and feet, and by the love of mimicry beguiled to utter speech.'
Life's development is a learning process. In that development I became aware of things which continued and were always there. Two persons dominated my consciousness, one of whom seemed mostly to appear towards the end of each day. I learned eventually that they were my father and mother. Another figure seemed to always be about. He was much smaller than the other two. I learned that he was my brother, and so my development continued. I have often been asked what incidents of early childhood I first remembered.
Fear is a common experience in this fallen world of ours. The experience of fear is with us all, through life's pilgrimage. I think that is why this incident at the age of two was so deeply engraved on my mind and gripped so tenaciously by the vice of my memory. It illustrates the fact that there is 'a release of imprisoned thoughts as spots on fallen soiled and tattered leaves,' and so through years of alternating day and night, one develops the recognition of the chains, the walls and limitations of life.
My father, when pastor of Armagh Baptist Church, was called to become the pastor of Ballymena Baptist Church in 1928. In those days he drove a combination motor cycle and sidecar. On the road we had to negotiate what was called 'the Devil's elbow', a most dangerous traffic black spot. I remember clearly when going over the road which spanned the railway, peering down below, and I shook with fear. I have been fighting the real devil ever since, elbow and all.
Another incident was my first day at school. The old Baptist manse was situated in Mount Street. Not far away was Ballymena Model School. My brother Harold was already attending that school. Aged four, I had a longing to go to school with him, and each day I insisted that I must go, and it became such a bone of contention that my father spoke to Mr William Holmes, the famous Headmaster of the school, and he gave permission for me to go to school ….
I pay tribute to the schools I attended, the Model and the Technical High School and the teachers who introduced me to the world of books with which I fell deeply in love. My library, which contains thousands of books, is an irrefutable witness to that fact.
III. THE THIRD IS THE LAMP OF COMMITMENT
Early in life I learned the truth that I had a conscience. I soon discovered that the conscience either accused me or excused me. I saw early in life that man, of all creatures on earth, had this register of accountability ingrained within him. The fish, the fowls and the beasts of the field have no such responsibility, but I had, and that responsibility made me answerable to the God who put it there.
In family worship, in listening to my father's preaching, in attending my mother's children's services, in my personal reading of the scriptures which I read from the time, I learned to read, I came to understand the meaning of the summary of all the scripture 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.'
On 29th May 1932 I received Christ as my Saviour and that is when in committing my life to His forgiveness and salvation I received the power that has enabled me to do what I have done in my life.
The Queen Mother, with whom I was on amiable terms, told how when as a young girl she was being received into the Church, she chose the hymn 'I'm not ashamed to own my Lord' and I would also say the same.
When I spoke to President Bush in the White House, he remarked that he liked the little badge I always wear 'Jesus is Lord', and said that he too could say the same.
This third lamp is the most important lamp of all. As the famous Puritan said, 'If Christ stands with us, who can withstand us?'
IV. THE FOURTH IS THE LAMP OF EMPLOYMENT
It is the labourer, not the loafer, who is worthy of his hire. If we cannot do what we ought, we ought to do what we can. It's always more profitable to abound in work than superabound in wealth.
Politically, I have one great guiding star in my political career to preserve the Union. I am unapologetically a traditional unionist. I mean to defend and maintain the Union. The enemies of the Union are my enemies, and the friends of the Union are my friends. In good days and bad, in glad days and sad, when you write up the register of those totally commited to the Union, count me. Whatever the price, whatever the cost, whatever the labour, whatever the sacrifice, I have no intention of surrendering the Union.
This is not the time to discuss the intricacies of the present situation, but those who hold on to weapons of whatever political colour or creed, for the mass destruction of the Union and the unionists, know that I am their enemy. Let the enemies of the Union hear this. We are as determined as our fathers were, not to submit ourselves to Dublin rule.
Let me repeat what I said to President Bush when we spoke together on the telephone a few days ago: I am determined to see that in Northern Ireland, whether they be Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or anything else, that all will be freed from the scourge of terrorism. It is to that objective I am working and negotiating.
All my political life I have not, through good report and ill report, in any way swerved from that objective.
I am very humbled that so many electors have enabled me to be where I am today, the leader of the Unionists of Ulster, and the leader of the largest political party, now with seven members in the House of Commons. With the help of God, I will not be unworthy of your trust.
To the North Antrim people I will ever be indebted, and I want always to seek that they will be indebted to me. I pray Almighty God that every arm that is raised against the Union may be withered before it can strike the blow.
V. THE FIFTH IS THE LAMP OF ATTAINMENT
Alas! Alas! the Iscariots in our Province have cost us dearly. We have seen the most precious endowments bought for us by the blood of the brave, bartered on the altar of political expediency and personal aggrandisement. However, the tide is turning, and the labour and sacrifice have not been in vain. Slowly, steadily and surely, redress has been operating. Traditional unionists have at long last regained their confidence. The most encouraging happening recently was when the Unionists knocked out Sinn Fein from a seat in West Belfast, and my colleague Diane Dodds won the victory. It was our turn to say 'We haven't gone away, you know'.
The comeback of traditional unionism is increasing momentum. The British Prime Minister, who did not speak to me for two years, is eager to speak to me now. During the weeks of the talks, on one day I was in and out of Downing Street seven times and more. Even the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic wants to talk with me, and the last on the long list, even the bearded leader of IRA/Sinn Fein, wants to talk to me!
In the next few days there will be announcements on matters of supreme importance which will show that besides these vitally important matters we have also been pushing the other needs of our people.
We go to Downing Street as the servants of the Ulster people, always working for the better good of them all.
Rest assured, we fight for a fair deal for all.
VI. THE SIXTH IS THE LAMP OF ENJOYMENT
There is a happiness in obeying God, and in being zealous in doing right. Do right though the stars fall. I have often been asked what things I have found immensely humorous and enjoyable in my work. Permit me to mention just three …
Here is a more recent incident. Two weeks ago I had important meetings in London, commencing early in the morning, then the Prime Minister of the Irish republic wanted to see me. I told him it would have to be very early and I would meet him at his Embassy and that I would require breakfast. I ordered two boiled eggs and toast. When I got there the eggs and toast were on the table. He said 'Why did you want boiled eggs?' I said, 'Because it would be hard for you to poison them'. He laughed heartily. Then I said, 'I always pray before I eat', so I prayed, and he crossed himself. I said to myself, 'those crossed eggs could become a hen, but they didn't'!
VII. THE SEVENTH IS THE LAMP OF CONTENTMENT
I am often asked 'Are you not frustrated?' Long ago I learned that such frustration was useless and fruitless. Contentment is a winner ….
The Apostle Paul in prison could say, 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.
From the seat lit up by the lamp of contentment all is well.