by THE DIGGER
I HAD reason to visit Belfast City Cemetery recently in order to locate several burial plots. The staff there were most helpful and checked registers and I was given a map of the graveyard to assist in locating the graves. Section K1 is located at the Falls Park side of the cemetery and amongst the headstones in this section I found one simply inscribed "Mitchell". The sides of the grave had been taken over by ivy. On closer inspection several other inscriptions dedicated to individual members of the Mitchell family were revealed under the ivy. I had found the grave I had been looking for.
'James Russell Mitchell drowned in River Faughan, 3rd September, 1902 aged 18 years.'
David Sloane Corkey would not have required the same assistance in locating this grave. During the early stages of his career he had reason to visit the City Cemetery, and undoubtedly would have visited the Mitchell grave when in the vicinity. At the age of 19, David Sloane Corkey was the last person to see Russell Mitchell alive. David had risked his own life in an attempt to save his companion on a fateful day in 1902.
Queen's College student Russell Mitchell, the son of Presbyterian Minister the Rev. Deane Knox Mitchell, had been on a visit to the Presbyterian Manse at Glendermott near Londonderry.
The Corkey family were in residence there. David Sloane Corkey, one of 11 children, had inherited his middle name from his mother Isabella Sloane. She had married the Rev. Joseph Corkey in 1866.
It was reported that David and Russell had been to bathe in the Faughan river close to the Corkey residence. Russell had got into difficulty due to "an exceptionally strong flood in the river". David, who had left the water at this stage, returned to help his friend. He was also swept away in his attempts and was fortunate to have been caught by the branch of a tree down river.
Russell's body was found two days later and recovered from the water some three miles away. It was reported that Sergeant Mills, representing the constabulary at the inquest, "said it was evident Mr. Corkey had almost lost his own life in attempting to rescue Mr. Mitchell."
John Corkey, a brother of David married their cousin Ethel Reader. In an unpublished book written by her she mentions the drowning incident and her remarks about David at that time give us some idea of the trauma he must have experienced in the aftermath. "I remember he looked very ill and went away for a change..."
Throughout his short life David Sloane Corkey was no stranger to tragedy when assisting his fellow man during other adversities, including war.
It was inevitable that David Corkey would follow the path both his father and seven older brothers had taken. They were all ministers. His sister Mary Elizabeth would later marry the Rev. Thomas J.K. Rankin in 1913. He was the Presbyterian minister at Legacurry.
David's other sisters Annie and Isabella were also involved in missionary work in Egypt and India respectively during their lifetime.
In his early life David had attended Faughan Bridge National School, Foyle College and Magee College. He later attended theological classes which he completed in 1906 at Edinburgh.
He began working for the Shankill Road Mission where he remained for four years prior to his calling from the Dundrod congregation. Over 160 names from the Dundrod congregation signed the calling papers, dated 5th January 1911. He was ordained there on the 20th February 1911.
There could be nothing more touching than to have two of the families in the parish name their children after the minister who would baptise them - David Corkey Lowry born in 1911 and David Corkey Thompson born in 1912.
In a letter to his sister Mary, David makes reference to one of these baptisms. -
"You will be interested to know that Mrs George Thompson has had a little boy and have baptised him with the name David Corkey Thompson. I hope he will be none the worse of it."
David married Ina McConnell on 10th December 1912. She was the daughter of Dr. Andrew McConnell who had passed away on 16th November, 1909.
David had experienced a way of life much different than that of his own upbringing during his time on the Shankill Road. Some of those experiences are recalled in a book written by his sister-in-law Ethel Corkey titled "David Corkey - A Life Story of work in slums, in a country parish and on the battlefield." He had made many friends during his time in Belfast, but in 1911 he faced a new challenge when he commenced his ministry at Dundrod.
David had very quickly to acquire a knowledge of the area and the families he would be ministering. To assist him he kept a series of notes in what could be described today as a "filofax." These notes include basic details on local families, their place of residence and some occupation details including those who were soldiers during the 1st World War. Also revealed in the notes are the names of those from the congregation who emigrated to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are details of several men who travelled to Canada to assist in the harvests there.
Thanks to the granddaughters of the Rev. Corkey for their assistance in preparing this article and permitting access to family documents we know the notes made by the Rev Corkey during his ministry at Dundrod detail over 250 households in the.
These details, with the permission of the family, have been made available to the public for the purpose of family history research and are proving to be an excellent supplement to the 1911 census.
The Rev. Corkey's notes include some family details, including maiden name of the wife of the household and ages of the children. These notes and details contained in other interesting documents are freely accessible at www.glenavyhistory.com
A copy has been given to Thomas McCullough who has been instrumental in the setting up of a room at Dundrod Presbyterian Church. Thomas would welcome anyone with any historical artefacts, documents or associated material relating to the church to get in touch.
The Digger can be contacted at email@example.com or by contacting the Ulster Star Office. Next: David Corkey and the First World War.