Ancestral home opened door to gospel

In his home high on the cliffs, Percy Williamson has a clear view of the North Irish Sea.

The 84-year-old retired bank manager returned to his family's ancestral home 22 years ago, a short time before a missionary couple, Elder James and Sister Catherine Applegate of Cedar City, Utah, knocked on his door. Although he knew little about the LDS Church, he invited the couple in and, while listening to them during their first visit, knew he was hearing the truth. Soon he was baptized, and he immediately dedicated his life and means to the service of the Church.For the past 22 years, he has been a guiding light to the gospel cause in Northern Ireland. He has held numerous leadership positions in the branch at nearby Coleraine, and, as an accomplished musician, gave long service as branch and stake organist, traveling extensively with the stake presidency to ward, branch and stake conferences to provide music for congregations in which there were no organists.

During his membership in the Church, he has seen the Coleraine Branch grow from 10 to more than 100.

Being single, he "adopted" the members in Northern Ireland as his family. Through his sponsorship, many young people have served missions in various parts of the world.

For many years, using his own vans, he provided rides to branch meetings for members in outlying areas who otherwise had no transportation, and also used his vans for excursions to the London Temple and to various meetings in Belfast.

Since the Coleraine Branch does not have a baptismal font, Brother Williamson volunteers his home for the services and his covered swimming pool – a rarity in Ireland – as a font. However, for most baptisms, a five-minute walk from his home takes the participants to the sea, and, as he says, "to the largest font in the world."

Not only has Percy Williamson given unselfish service to the Church, he also has been involved in community projects as well. He delights in taking senior citizen groups on tours and sponsoring barbecues and Christmas dinners for them. He is a founding member of a chapter of a prestigious business men's organization in which he has held leading positions and given lectures on his winter travels to Spain and Morocco.

He may be retired, but he is still very much on the go. He is a life member of the Castlerock Golf Club, and, between Church and community service, he has played tennis in France, golfed on most of the greens in Northern Ireland, skied in Switzerland, and, in his motor home, traveled to Spain and Morocco to escape the worst of the Irish winter chill. Members have often traveled with him on vacation.

Throughout his youth and working years, he often wondered about a statement made by his grandfather. "Percy," said the grandfather, "someday you will be a great force in the church."

His family was deeply rooted in a Protestant Church that is strong among the Scotch-Irish peoples. In fact, in his younger days, Percy Williamson saw weaknesses in organized religion and was not one who ardently attended church services. But after he joined the LDS Church, he then understood the meaning of what he now regards as his grandfather's prophetic utterance. "I know my grandfather is watching me," he said.

In several local newspapers articles about Brother Williamson, mention of his Church membership has been made. In those articles, he has attributed his long life to healthful living. Even before he joined the Church, he was living the principles of the Word of Wisdom. Of his still near-perfect eyesight, he said, "I can still see the golf ball all the way."

Even after 22 years in the Church, Brother Williamson is still deeply impressed with his fellow Latter-day Saints who, he said, "practice religion rather than just give lip service." He delights in his Church membership and wishes he had found the Church much sooner. He is doing all he can to make up for lost time.