William Shaw in his book “Cullybackey – the story of an Ulster village,” published in 1913 stated that, “no part of our island has produced, in proportion to the population, a greater number of persons gifted with poetic talent than the beautiful Valley of the Maine”. We have such poets as Rev George Raphael Buick, Mr James Loughridge, Mr W. J Paul, and Rev Jonathan Townsley. Mr John Given, at one time teacher in the village school who went on to become principal of the Ballymena Model School wrote many prose sketches and poems which were published in the book, “Voices from the Rostrum” in 1860.
Three brothers, whose work is still remembered today, are known as the Given brothers:-Patrick was born at Dunnygarron in 1837, and died in 1864, Samuel Fee Given was born at Markstown in 1845 and died in 1867 and Thomas Given was born in 1850 and died in 1917. Their collective works were published in 1900 in the book “Poems from College and Country” by Three Brothers.
Another great poet born in 1856 was Adam Lynn who showed by his work that genius is independent of social position or learning. His poems were written in the local dialect and are rich in rare words and quaint expressions, maybe difficult to understand if you were a stranger, but still appealed to the local people. At the request of his many admirers his poems were published in 1911 in the book, “Random Rhymes Frae Cullybackey”. Every clergyman that came to the district received a poetic welcome from Adam and to those that were called to other parts he bid them a kindly farewell – if he thought they deserved it. He died at Fenaghy aged 91 in 1965.
Sadly many of the works of our earlier poets were not published in book form and the manuscripts of many have been lost. We are therefore grateful for the many poems that were published in the local newspapers by a number of local poets, taking many everyday situations and happenings and turning them into verse.
If anyone has any poems that they would like to share with the society we would be very glad to hear from you.