Ray Davey - inspirational peace builder - passes away

ONE of the most inspirational peace builders in Northern Ireland, Ray Davey, has died peacefully in Dunmurry at the age of 97.

Rev Davey established Corrymeela in 1965 to promote Christian reconciliation and peace-building and led the community until his retirement in 1980.

But the whole life of the 97-year-old, who was born in Dunmurry, was remarkable. He played for the Ulster rugby team and would almost certainly have been capped by his country if it hadn’t been for the Second World War.

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Educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Queen’s University, Union Theological College and New College, Edinburgh, in 1940 he was ordained for field work with the YMCA War Service in North Africa and helped to establish a centre in Tobruk for use by all faiths to care for the social, physical and spiritual needs of those engaged in desert warfare.

In 1942 he was taken captive and held as a prisoner of war near Dresden, where he witnessed the allied bombing of the city, in which huge numbers of civilians died, and was imprisoned in France and Germany.

To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2005, Ray released The War Diaries, his account of events during the war, written as they happened, to give a unique view of life during the war and in particular, life as a prisoner of war in a German camp.

Ray had left behind his family and his sweetheart Kathleen and it wasn’t until after VE Day that his camp was liberated.

Kathleen was working in Edinburgh and when he was eventually released met her at Waverley Station. They were married the following year and had three children - Rob, Ian and Alison.

He returned to Northern Ireland where he was appointed in 1946 as the first Presbyterian Chaplain and Dean of Residences at Queen’s University.

As part of that work, he established a Community Centre and it was from those beginnings that the Corrymeela Community was eventually born in 1965 when a building in the north coast near Ballycastle was purchased.

The new centre was formally opened that same year by one of Ray’s greatest inspirations, Pastor Tullio Vinay, founder of the Agape Community.

Ray served at first as the elected leader in a part-time capacity, then became full-time leader of the Community in 1974 and continued in that position until his retirement in 1980.

A service of thanksgiving and celebration will be held at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast on Friday at noon.