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Patrick Given

A biographical notice, taken from Poems, from College and Country, by "three brothers".

Patrick Given was born at Dunnygarron, Cullybackey, Co. Antrim, on the 13th April, 1837. By both sides of the house he was descended from an ancient and honourable Scotch family, owners of the estate of Drumochrein, in Ayrshire. Towards the end of the eighteenth century his great-grandfather, William Mark, claimed the estate as nearest of kin to the recently deceased laird. His grandfather, by his mother's side, Patrick M'Kee, after whom he was named, having been educated for a lawyer, took up the case, and carried it through the law courts with such success, that an arrangement was finally come to by which William Mark received something like twelve thousand pounds as his share accruing from the sale of the property, which, in the meantime, had been disposed of to a neighbouring landed proprietor, Captain Kennedy. This William Mark was always known afterwards in the district as Laird Mark. He had no son, but five daughters survived him, one of whom married John Given, grandfather to the subject of this notice. Their son, James Given, married Jane M'Kee, daughter of the afore-mentioned Patrick M'Kee, a woman of great force of character, and many other notable and estimable qualities.

Patrick was the fifth child, and inherited not a little of his mother's talent and amiability. As a lad he was noticeably bright, intelligent and persevering. At the village school, where he received the rudiments of his education, he was generally at the top of his class. He could not be content with any other position. The spirit thus shown he carried with him all through life. In the winters of 1856 and 1857, two series of public lectures on chemistry and physics were delivered in Ballymena, the neighbouring market town, under the auspices of the Department of Science and Art. These lectures attracted a very considerable amount of attention, partly because of their novelty, and partly because the professors who delivered them were men of high reputation. At the close of each series an examination was held, open to all who had attended the lectures provided they had not taken notes of any kind during their delivery. The medal both years was won by Patrick Given.

About this time he went as pupil teacher to the Ballymena Model School, and shortly afterwards was put in charge of the Bridge End National School as principal. From this he passed to the Training Institution, Dublin, where he stayed the usual period required by the rules of the Commissioners of National Education. On his return from Dublin he resumed his duties as principal of the Bridge End School - a school within about two miles from his own home - but after a few months' work he resigned, and entered himself as a student of the Queen's College, Belfast. There he carried off the Sullivan Scholarship, specially provided for those who had been teachers under the Board of National Education. For the next four years he prosecuted his studies with ardour and success, taking not a few prizes in English literature and history, in Greek and Latin, logic, and chemistry. In the class of English literature, under Professor Geo. Lillie Craik, he was specially distinguished for his metrical exercises. Some of these are still to the fore just as they were handed in, and bear not a few evidences in Professor Craik's own handwriting of that able critic's approval.

In the spring of 1864, when the Shakespeare Tercentenary was about to be celebrated,the proprietors of the "Weekly Northern Whig" offered some valuable prizes for the best original poems appropriate to the occasion. From a vast number of competitors ninety-seven were thought worthy of a place in the work then published. The judges were Professor Craik, the Rev. John Scott Porter, President of the Belfast Literary Society, and Mr. Hill, Editor of the "Northern Whig." These gentlemen awarded the first prize to Mr. Patrick Given, Cullybackey. The poem thus honoured fitly introduces the reader of this volume (Poems, from College and Country)to a selection of poetical efforts culled from the manuscripts still in the possession of the Given family.

A brilliant future now seemed opening up before him. He had won for himself an acknowledged position in the literary world, and his many collegiate and other friends anticipated for him a career of distinction, to be crowned with not a few further tokens of deserved success. Alas! it is the unexpected that happens. Towards the middle of August, in the year 1864, he suddenly became unwell - up till then he had been strong and healthy - and on the 15th of that month he died, to the great sorrow of all who knew him. Nor is this to be wondered at. In private life he was amiable, quick-witted, considerate, self-denying, with large stores of information on a wide range of subjects which always seemed orderly and accessible, and an enthusiasm in the expression of his opinions which was at once exhilarating and impressive. His favourite authors among the moderns were Carlyle, Emerson, Tennyson, and Whittier. From these he learned much, and his own views in regard to poetry and the life work of the poet may be appropriately summed up in the words of one of them - "It is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that makes a poem - a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior. The poet has a new thought; he has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune."