GORESTOWN CHURCH AND GRAVEYARD
(note: Gorestown was replaced by St. John's in Moy, Parish of Clonfeacle
SURVIVING INSCRIPTIONS By CHARLES DILLON.
The only vestige that remains of Doctor Madden’s Church in the townland of Gorestown is a portion of east gable which is about eighteen inches thick and seems to have been solidly constructed of limestone and lime mortar. The side-walls and other gable remain only as ridges of rubble overgrown with grass and bramble. The internal dimensions of the ruin are approximately 22 feet by 15 feet – surprisingly small even for 1750 when it was built.
By 1834 when the first Ordnance Survey was complete, the church at Gorestown had become obsolete, having been replaced in 1833 by St. John’s in Moy. As can be seen from the accompanying map (O.S. 1834), the “new line” had not been constructed when Gorestown church was in use and so it may be difficult for the modern reader to visualise the church and adjacent graveyard in relation to their surroundings. A small tributary of the Blackwater still skirts their northern side but, in those days, the road from Moy via Curran’s Brae crossed this stream by a stone bridge a few yards to the east of the church, widened a little to form, as it were, a “street” or yard and continued towards Benburb via what is today known as “Gorestown Lane”. Access to the church was past the east gable to the entrance which appears to have been in the western end of the side-wall facing the graveyard which was retained along the length of the church by a wall some thirty feet long, the ruin of which is still clearly visible. A passage of about eighteen feet wide separated this wall from the church and gave access to the graveyard at the western end.
Early in the present century C.J. Hobson wrote that – after the removal of the church to Moy and opening of a new burial-ground attached hereto, Gorestown fell into disuse, and is only used at present as a place of interment for suicides and stillborn children.
Nothing of this type of interment survives in folk memory although it is known that Catholics who were suspected of belonging to secret societies were buried there. One such as THOMAS McGRATH reputed to be a defender of Clonoe chapel and hero of the ‘Battle of the Black Bridge’ in 1829.
In 1970 Jim Byrne and Pat O’Neill of Moy recorded the inscription on the six headstones then standing and it is with the kind permission of these gentlemen that the inscriptions are given below. The stones are not in a straight line but follow a progression from east to west and the inscriptions are given in that order.
IHS/ Here lyeth the body of MARY GRIMES who
Departed this life June 23 1804 aged 66 years.
IHS/Here lieth the body of MARY MALLEN who
Departed this life August 17 1799 aged 17 years.
IHS/ Here lieth the body of MARY McCOY who
Departed this life the 22nd of September 1806 aged 57 years.
IHS/ God be merciful to the soul of LAWRENCE CASEY
Who depd this life 3d Sepr. 1817 aged 38.
IHS/The Lord have mercy on the soul of SARAH FINIGAN
Who died February 17 1814 aged 64 years.
IHS/ God be merciful to the soul of JAMES HAGAN
Who departed this life March 14th 1811 aged 24 years.
Since 1970 the headstone of LAWRENCE CASEY (no. 4 above) has fallen on its face due to the atrocious condition of the ground which is extremely waterlogged due mainly to an open sheugh on the south and west sides having become completely choked. The problem is aggravated by free access of farm animals to the site. The headstone of MARY MALLAN (no.2 above) has a very severe lean but, as it is situated in drier ground, may survive a little longer.
In 1903 C.J.Hobson wrote that he found “eight headstones, seven of which are inscribed”. The seventh inscribed stone seems to have been situated somewhere between nos. 3 and 4 above and was inscribed as follows:-
IHS/Here lieth the body of MURTAGH CAVANAGH
Who departed this life on the 1st day of Dec A.D. 1800
Aged 67 years. Requiescant in Pace. Amen.
No trace can be found today of either the CAVANAGH stone or the uninscribed one noticed by Hobson. The CASEY stone, slowly sinking into the mire, will soon be overgrown; the remainder seem destined for the same fate and Gorestown graveyard will disappear from memory unless the appropriate authority takes immediate steps to rectify this sacrilegious decay. A team of voluntary workers, members of the church of St. John in Moy, are known to have tidied it in the mid 40’s, and another such team attempted similar work in 1980 but were prevented from gaining entry because, during road improvements by Tyrone County Council in the mid 60’s, a section of the stream adjacent to the graveyard had been re-aligned and a high wire fence erected, thereby cutting off the proper approach across the little bridge at the foot of Curran’s Brae. The only access now is across privately-owned farmland.
It is a sad reflection on our society that a sacred and consecrated burial ground, such as Gorestown, continues to be so profaned because of materialistic disinterest.
Gorestown is a townland contiguous with, and south-west of, Moy. (O.S. sheets 61 and 62)
Dillon, Handing on the Faith in Clonfeacle, p.8.
The bridge was destroyed by an explosion in the early 70’s. The masonry of it is still visible.
In penal times Roman Catholic churches did not open towards the public road. The entrance to St. Jarlath’s, Clonfeacle, was similarly placed.
Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead, Ireland, Vol. 5, no.3, Pt.2, 1903, p.471 (Memorials).
Dillon, op.cit. p.14.
Memorials, op. Cit. P.472