A Journey Into Our Church Heritage

Famous Graves

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Templecorran Graveyard

The most impressive monument in the churchyard is that to James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry, the best known of the weaver poets. Orr died in 1816 and his monument was erected in 1831 following a campaign by another Ballycarry poet James Russell English. He was able to gather support from a broad range of people, including many Freemasons. Richly decorated with Classical and Masonic motifs, it is one of the most important monuments of its kind anywhere in Ulster. Orr himself is described in the inscription on it as a poet, patriot and philanthropist.

St John’s Church, Islandmagee

An intriguing inscription from the churchyard commemorates Henry Dunbar, son of the Rev. James Dunbar, who died June 1783 aged 21. Referring to Dunbar senior the inscription states,

“who was interd. in the body of the adjoining church, formerly Presbyterian clergyman of Island Magee”

It is known that Mr Dunbar, a Scotsman, died on 26 April 1766, having been minister of the 1st Islandmagee since 1758. The fact that a Presbyterian minister was buried within the walls of a Church of Ireland church raises the issue of whether the church was actually in use at this time. If it was, then why would this have been allowed to happen, especially as Presbyterians generally eschewed intramural burial?

St Cedma’s Church, Inver

One of the most interesting features of the churchyard at St Cedma’s is the lych-gate, the purpose of which was to provide a dry place for a coffin to rest on the way to the church. The lych-gate, which was renewed in 1958, was the gift of H. H. Smiley of Drumalis. It bears the legend, ‘Teach me to number my days’. Close to the lych-gate there was once a lodge known as the ‘Pepper Pot’ which was the home of the church sexton.

Glynn Old Church and Graveyard

Interesting verses appear on a number of the gravestones at Glynn. The memorial to Ann Burgass, the wife of James Cook, who died in 1733 and eight of their children, includes the lines:

“The mother with the children lyes
Till Christ do call and bid them rise”

The inscription on the gravestone to Mary Berryhill, who died in 1821, reads:

“Here Mary Berryhill is laid
To rest among the sleeping dead”

St Patrick’s Church and Glenarm Friary

One inscription with a fascinating story behind it is that which commemorates John McGavock, son of Hugh McGavock of Scarryhill, ‘who was barbarously and inhumanly murdered without any known cause by a combined banditti near Bellisky chapel on his way from Cushendal’ in 1826.

St Patrick’s Church Cairncastle

One of the most interesting features of the churchyard at St Patrick’s is the presence of a Spanish chestnut tree. It is said that this stands on the spot where a shipwrecked Spanish sailor was buried in the sixteenth century. It is known that Spanish sailors carried chestnuts with them to ward off scurvy on their long voyages.

Ballykeel Graveyard

The earliest date of death inscribed on a headstone is 1697. This commemorates Robert Kinkiaid [sic] who died on 22 January 1697 [new style 1698], aged 66.

His small headstone is one of a number to feature a coat of arms, in this case on the reverse side to the inscription. The motto reads: ‘Who whilst alive will defend my life & honour to the end.’

Ardclinis Graveyard

The O’Neill stone is worthy of note in that it bears the O’Neill coat of arms and the motto ‘Lam dearg Erin’ – ‘the red hand of Ireland’. It commemorates Shane O’Neill of Discairt who died in 1792 aged 89, and his wife and two sons. There is a tradition that a family of O’Neills moved from County Tyrone to the Antrim Glens at around the time of the Flight of the Earls in 1607, and from this family the O’Neills of Discairt descended. What can be said is that there was a consciousness on the part of the Discairt O’Neills of a relationship to the ruling O’Neills of Tyrone that they were anxious to emphasise through the carving of the coat of arms on their tombstone.