In recent months, I have been working a fair bit on the photographs taken at the graveyards in and around Cullybackey.  The research has also taken in very old newspapers and photo archives.  This has thrown up some very interesting old stories and topics (more of those to come in future posts). 

It has also involved a fair bit of photoshop work, in trying to clean up old photos of the village.  One of the key people that always turns up quickly in any look at the history of Cullybackey, is the Reverend Buick.

Cuningham Memorial Church in Cullybackey – Reverend George Raphael Buick

The Reverend George Raphael Buick was born in 1841 at Rose Cottage in Glenhugh, Ahoghill. He was the eldest member of the family of the venerable Reverend Frederick Buick, of Second Ahoghill.  He was called after his maternal grandfather, Mister George Raphael of Galgorm. 

The young man attended Royal Belfast Academical Institution and later Queen’s College in Belfast. He subsequently trained for the ministry at Assembly’s College in Belfast.

Reverend Buick of Cuningham Presbyterian Church in Cullybackey

Reverend Buick, Cuningham Memorial Church

On the 1st February 1868, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Ballymena, as assistant and successor to the Reverend Hugh Hamilton, of Cuningham Memorial Church in Cullybackey.   His place of employment was ideal, allowing him to regularly go over to his father’s house in nearby Ahoghill.

He was in charge of the parish, when the congregration built the new church in 1880.  As the Reverend Aston Robinson, writing in the 1940s, recalled:

On the sabbath, 11th of April, 1880, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered for the last time in the old Meeting-house. The taking down the old house was proceeded with immediately. The present “Cuningham Memorial Church” was built by the manificence of two ladies, the Misses Cuningham, of Ardvernis, in memory of their mother.

The Reverend Buick was exceptionally intelligent, much-loved and highly respected far beyond his congregration. The preacher, who never married, ultimately rose to great heights (Moderator of the General Assembly, no less) in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  He was of a quiet, modest disposition.  Some have suggested that this negatively impacted his early career.  He was apparently known to be astute at finding the appropriate words in every situation. 

He would go on to preach at the Cullybackey church for 36 years, until his death on the 28th of April, 1904.  Dr Buick, who was only in his early 60s, succumbed to an attack of Bright’s disease (a kidney condition), while in Damascus, on church business.  His early and sudden death, in the middle east, stunned the community and left a large void. 

I was taken by his poetry – notably the following poem, Beside the River Maine.  For those who are unfamiliar with Cullybackey.  The River Maine runs through the village.  One one side of the river is the Old Methodist Church and on the other side, Cuningham Memorial Church.

Beside the River Maine

River Maine in Cullybackey

Beside the River Maine

“Oh! Green and gay the beeches be
Which grow beside the Maine;
And sweet the bloom of hawthorn tree
When May is on the wane.

The blue that lights the laughin eyes
Of speedwell through the Dreen
Might well provoke the longing sighs
Of Beauty’s peerless Queen.

And never yet was music made
From harp or reed or lute,
Might match the merry strathspeys played
Where Low Park shallows shoot.

But what to me is bloom, or tree
The floweret’s cobalt gleam
Or yet the merriest symphony
Beat out by gladsome stream!

They weary me! They dreary be!
They fill my heart with pain!
My love is dead! God pity me!
She sleeps beside the Maine.


Another Version of the Poem

I don’t know if a Mister A. Murdock from nearby Glarryford was, in the midst of the Second World War, inspired by the Reverend Buick’s old poem from the 1800s.   But in November 1941, he wrote a poem of the same name.  It’s also rather good.  Enjoy!

Beside The River Maine

The Scotsman he will tell you the beauties of the Clyde.
The Irishman will sing about the Shannon deep and wide.
The rippling Bann runs swiftly on to many a sweet refrain.
But there is none to dwell upon the beauties of the Maine.

That peaceful flowing river journeys to the sea.
Holds many a recollection and memory dear to me;
Yet my heart is filled with sadness I know I sigh in vain
For days I’ve spent on pleasure bent beside the River Maine.

In the silence of the evening when the sun was sinking low.
I’ve roved along those grassy banks in the days of long ago
No sound to break the stillness save the rustle of the grain,
Or the night birds softly calling as they floated o’er the Maine.

The years are slipping onward, yet I often long to be
Amongst familiar faces and the places dear to me.
Some seek for worldly treasure their mind on earthly gain.
But me, I pine for rod and line along the River Maine.

And when the journey’s ended and the sands of life are run.
This last request, God grant to me, I only ask the one.
Give me six feel of virgin soil, a tombstone I disdain.
And leave there set free from care beside the River Maine.

By A. Murdock, Carnbeg, Glarryford.
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, November 1941