Robert Nicholl was born at Cullybackey in 1832 and was for a long time closely identified with the public life of the village. In his early years he was an oatmeal miller in the old mill which stood just opposite the Miller’s Row, on the site which was for many years occupied by Maine Limited or known locally as the Maine Works.
Later he carried on an extensive grocery business at Cullybackey, in a house at the bridge, and at Hillmount before moving to Belfast where he entered the service of the City Corporation, until failing health forced him to resign.
He was of an age that could look back to the 1859 Revival. A man of high character and a devoted member of the Presbyterian Church. Ordained to the eldership in Cuningham Memorial congregation on 11th May 1882, he took an active part in the work of the Session, and of the Sabbath School, where he taught a large class of boys and girls.
On moving to Belfast in 1889 he joined the Albert Street Presbyterian Church where he continued his beloved work in the Sabbath School and was again installed as an elder in this church on 4th May 1905.
Mr Nicholl passed away at his residence Brookmount Street, Belfast, on 24th December 1917 aged eighty-five, and is laid to rest in the family burying ground at the Old Churchyard, Ahoghill.
Edmund McNeill passed away at the advanced age of ninety-four on the 28th September 1915 at Petworth, in the South of England the residence of his daughter Mrs Penrose, with whom he had been living for the last five years of his life.
Proportionately built and presenting a very stalwart and dignified figure he reached the height of six feet seven and a half inches tall and for more than half a century Mr McNeill was one of the best known men in his native County Antrim.
Edmund McNeill was born at Cushendun on 29th November 1821, his father also Edmund, was for many years senior magistrate for County Antrim. After attending the Royal School, Dungannon he went to Australia in 1839, where he was engaged in sheep farming in Victoria until 1847, when he returned to Ireland.
On his return to Ireland he married Mary Miller, eldest daughter of Mr Alexander Miller, of Ballycastle and took up a land agency business, which grew to be one of the most extensive agency businesses in Ulster. Few men in Ireland had a more thorough knowledge of land management, and there was hardly a district in County Antrim which Mr McNeill was not familiar.In 1866 he moved from Ballycastle to Craigdun, in the townland of Craigs, where he built a mansion on a property purchased from his cousin, Mr H. H. McNeile of Parkmount.
A staunch Conservative, he was always ready to support the Unionist party. During his latter years he was connected with the Orange Institution. When he retired from work in 1908 at the age of eighty-seven, he had been in uninterrupted management of a number of large estates for upwards of half a century.
Mr McNeill not only shone as a manger of estates, but also as a man of affairs generally. He sat on the old Grand Jury for County Antrim. In 1879 he acted as High Sheriff of County Antrim and was appointed to the magisterial bench, sitting at the courts of petty sessions in the neighbourhood. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for County Antrim and was an original member of the Ulster Club. For more than fifty years he was a director of the Northern Counties Railway, only retiring from the Board when the line was taken over by the Midland Company in 1904. In church matters he was a member of the first General Synod of the Church of Ireland, and was a keen supporter of Prayer-book revision.
A member of Craigs Parish Church, where he was church warden for many years the beautiful sanctuary with its apsidal ending was erected in 1888 in memory of six infant children of Mr and Mrs Edmund McNeill of Craigdun.
Sadly his wife passed away in 1909 and of his family only two of his family survived him. A daughter who married the Reverend John Penrose, rector of Petworth, Sussex and his son Ronald M. P. for the St. Augustine Division of Kent.
His remains were brought from England and a special train brought the funeral party from Belfast to Cullybackey Railway Station, where they were then taken to the Craigs Parish Church. After the funeral service Edmund McNeill was laid to rest in the quiet “God’s Acre” attached to the church.
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