TRIBUTES have been paid to the founder of a cross-community organisation that helped hundreds of West Belfast families during the height of the Troubles. Dr Ray Davey, founder of the Corrymeela Community, passed away on Monday at the age of 95.  Along with his late wife Kathleen, the Dunmurry man helped build bridges between the communities in the North since Corrymeela’s inception in 1965, supporting children and their families at its retreat centre near Ballycastle.

A World War II prisoner of war and former Presbyterian Chaplain of Queen’s University Belfast, Dr Davey retired from the Corrymeela Community in 1980.  Today the centre houses over 6,000 visitors each year for cross-community activities.

John Teggart, who lost his father Daniel in the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre, paid a warm tribute to Dr Davey.

“When my father died my mother was left with 13 children on her own. We were taken to Ballycastle High School in the aftermath and it was there we met Ray,” said John.

“Right up until 1977 he would have kept in touch with the family and asked how we were.  He would organise trips to the centre in Ballycastle for us to give my mother some respite in the summer months.  He really was one of the good guys.  It wasn’t just a matter of being taken away to Corrymeela to give some respite to our family, he actually cared about us and kept in contact, and I know it was the same for hundreds of other families in West Belfast.”

The head of Corrymeela, Dr Inderjit Bhogal, said Dr Davey was inspired to dedicate his life to peace building after witnessing the horrors of the bombing of Dresden in Germany at first hand.

“He was working there as a pastor and became a prisoner during the war, and what he saw guided him to the work he is famous for,” he explained. “He knew there had to be an alternative to violent conflict  and Ray decided to create a better place where people from different cultures and backgrounds could meet together.

“A huge inspiration to the peace process, he worked hard to build good relationships here and he will always be an icon of reconciliation,” added Dr Bhogal.