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Cullybackey Main Street

Cullybackey or Cullybacky (from Irish Coill na Baice, meaning "wood of the river bend")[1] is a village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It lies 3 miles north of Ballymena, on the banks of the River Maine, and is part of Mid and East Antrim district. It is a predominantly Protestant area with most of the residents being of Scottish descent. It had a population of 2,569 people in the 2011 Census.[2]


Cullybackey was formed part of the ancient province of Dalaraida.

Evidence of ancient dwellers in the area have been found throughout the years, including the remains of Crannogs and Souterrains.[3]

Christian Missionary Mackevet erected a monastery in the area. It is said that when Mackevet first approached the Irish Chieftain MacAfee about this matter the two began to argue over it and Mackevet, who was a large man raised his fist into the chieftains face and said "I'm a man of peace, but smell that MacAfee". This won him the argument and the monastery was built, supplying the area with a place of learning for many centuries afterwards.[4]

In 1778 a corps was raised by John Dickey of Cullybackey House, They named themselves 'The Cullybackey Volunteers'.[5]

In 1847, the village contained 235 residents and contained about 50 houses.[6] Samuel Lewis noted at this time that

"The manufacture of Linen is extensively carried on, and a fair is held for its sale"[7]

Notable Cullybackey people[edit]

  • Matilda Cullen Knowles lichen expert, was born here in 1864.[8]
  • The family of Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States, emigrated in the 19th century. The ancestral home and interpretive centre is Arthur Cottage.[citation needed]
  • Jessica Kurten, Olympic horse rider and representative of Ireland.[citation needed]
  • Donny Robinson, Irish motorcycle champion. He was killed due to an accident during 1999 practise for the North West 200
  • Neil 'Smutty' Robinson, a well-known motorcycle racer and British 250cc Championship winner, who was killed, aged 24, in 1986.
  • Steven Davis - Southampton and Northern Ireland Footballer.
  • Billy Rock, one of Northern Ireland's best known horse trainers lived in Cullybackey and trained horses on the Dreen Road until his death in 2003. He is probably best known for helping to make Tony McCoy a champion jockey.
  • Andy Millar, MBE - Cullybackey Scout Leader. Born 17 August 1935. In 1943 Andy started as a member of 1st Cullybackey Cub Pack. Through the years he has progressed to Cub Scout Master and Assistant Scout Troop Leader in 1952; Group Scout Leader in 1971; Assistant District Commissioner in 1982 and has been Cullybackey Group Scout Leader from 1989 to present. He was awarded the MBE for his life-long contribution to Scouting in 2013.
  • Jenny Bristo - Ulster television chief
  • John Kennedy - traditional singer and musician.
  • Thomas Given, Ulster Scots poet and local JP. Thomas Given published a book of poetry by himself and two of his deceased brothers, Patrick Given and Samuel-Fee Given. Thomas's contribution to the book was in the Ulster Scots dialect and well known as an example of a this rare form of poetry.
  • The ancestral families surnamed Wiseman and Dunlap or Dunlop or Delap who were also present in the nearby Ballywatermoy Townland in the early to middle 19th century, perhaps most prominently at Ballywatermoy with the farmer and landowner Patrick Wiseman, who gave the land on which a Gospel Hall for the local Christian Brethren congregation was built. (See "Sandy's Story", a 1991 pamphlet published by the Ballymena Borough Council.)
  • Dr McKelvey played a formative role in the establishment of the first Cullybackey Village Improvement Committee in the 1950s and also spearheaded the development of the playing fields and tennis courts at Pottinger Street. Ballymena Borough Council awarded him the first ever Civic Community Recognition Award and unanimously decided to rename Cullybackey Community Centre in honour of him.

Places of interest[edit]

  • Arthur Cottage, the ancestral home of Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States, from 1881 to 1885, is close to the village, on the B62 road from Ballymena. It is a restored 18th-century farmhouse with open flax-straw thatched roof. Usually open to the public through the spring and summer months but currently closed until further notice due to extensive damage caused by fire in 2011.
  • The old Methodist church on the banks of the river was opened in 1839 as the Original Secession Church. It later became the United Free Church of Scotland. When the United Free clergy withdrew from Ireland in 1923, the congregation became Methodists.
  • The Cunningham Memorial Presbyterian Church
  • Craigs Church of Ireland, which was designed by celebrated 19th Century architect, Sir Charles Lanyon and built in 1840. Attached to the church is a very old graveyard which contains 'The strangers Plot' where the poor of the parish where buried, including those who lost their lives in the parish during the Great Famine (Ireland)
  • Cullybackey Millenium Riverwalk [9]
  • Galgorm Resort and Spa
  • Craigdun Castle, a 19th Century Scottish baronial Castle that is set a mile outside the village. Believed to have been designed by Charles Lanyon, it was left to the NHS as a home for Multiple Sclerosis suffers in the 1950s and continued in this role until the 1990s when it was sold by the NHS. The current owners have extensively renovated the property and gardens and in 2011 the house was a finalist in the BBC Northern Ireland House of the Year programme.


The first sod on the Belfast railway line was turned in 1845 and the line from Ballymena to Portrush was completed in 1855 [10]

The railway line is still well used by the population of Cullybackey today with trains stopping at the station almost hourly throughout the day.

On 24 March 2000, a woman died after a collision involving a passenger train and her car at a level crossing at Station Road, Cullybackey. None of the 88 passengers on board the train travelling from Belfast to Derry was hurt. See also Cullybackey railway station.[citation needed]

Ulsterbus Buses also run to, and through, the village on the 115 route from Monday to Saturday.


  • Cullybackey College is a secondary school in the village.
  • Buick Memorial Primary School is also located on Main Street.


Horse trainer Ian Ferguson works in Cullybackey

Societies and Groups[edit]

  • Cullybackey Development Agency
  • 1st Cullybackey Scout Group - this Scout group was established in 1936. Currently they have over 120 members who meet weekly in The Cunningham Memorial church hall.
  • 1st Cullybackey Girl Guides - members meet weekly in The Cunningham Memorial church hall.
  • Cullybackey Girls Brigade - established in 1958 by Miss Maureen Anderson (now Boreland) and Miss Emma Boreland (now Hemphill). They currently have over 70 members who meet in the Cullybackey Methodist Church Hall on Monday nights.[11]
  • Cullybackey Boys Brigade - members meet weekly in Cullybackey Methodist Church Hall.
  • Cullybackey Detachment, Army Cadet Force (ACF) youth organisation meet weekly in Cullybackey College.
  • Cullybackey and District Historical Society - the society was established in February 2012 and holds public meetings on the third Thursday of the month from September to May.[12]
  • Cullybackey Pipe Band - a multi-award winning Pipe Band, known for its talented drummers. They compete and perform all year round, both locally and further afield. It is divided into two bands, grade four and grade one and between the two has over 80 members.
  • Cullybackey Maine Defenders - a loyalist band which was re-established in 2008. The band is made up of drummers, Fluters, Bassdrummers and the Colour Party and attend many loyalist band parades during the Marching season.


2011 Census[edit]

It had a population of 2,569 people (1,088 households) in the 2011 Census.[2]

2001 Census[edit]

Cullybackey is classified as an intermediate settlement by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (i.e., with population between 2,250 and 4,500 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 2,405 people living in Cullybackey. Of these:

  • 19.5% were aged under 16 and 22.3% were aged 60 and over
  • 47.1% of the population were male and 52.9% were female
  • 1.2% were from a Catholic background and 97.0% were from a Protestant background
  • 3.3% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.

For more details see: NI Neighbourhood Information Service


In August 2005 the local Catholic church was attacked.[13] 17 February 2008 a house of a Polish family was attacked.[14] An upsurge in anti social behaviour and violence has been linked to paramilitary groups in the village.[15] However after an investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland a statement was issued by a local police inspector who denied that paramilitaries were involved.[16]


  1. ^ Placenames NI
  2. ^ a b "Cullybackey". Census 2011 Results. NI Statistics and Research Agency. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  3. ^ W. J., Knowles (April 1905). "Souterrains at Cullybackey, in the County of Antrim". Ulster Journal of Archaeology. Second 11: 51–54. JSTOR 20566211. 
  4. ^ Shaw, William (1912). Cullybackey and District. Ballymena Borough Council. p. 4. 
  5. ^ Lewis, Samuel (1837). A topographical dictionary of Ireland. S. Lewis, 1837. p. 443. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Samuel (1837). A topographical dictionary of Ireland. S. Lewis, 1837. p. 443. 
  7. ^ Lewis, Samuel (1837). A topographical dictionary of Ireland. S. Lewis, 1837. p. 443. 
  8. ^ "Ask About Ireland – Irish Scientists – Matilda Knowles". Ask About Ireland – Irish Scientists. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Cullybackey and District by William Shaw
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Sectarian onslaught continues in Antrim and North Belfast An Phoblacht
  14. ^ Koktajlem Molotowa w Polakow
  15. ^ Paramilitary link to street violence The Newsletter
  16. ^ No paramilitaries involved in Cullybackey Ballymena Times

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 54°53′N 6°21′W / 54.883°N 6.350°W / 54.883; -6.350