In the 1980s, the Late David Todd, who lived all his life in Greerstown, Co. Londonderry researched his family history and produced a booklet for family members. When doing this he realised that a useful source of information was gravestones, and the condition of many of these was fast deteriorating, which would lead to the loss of useful information. In the late 1980s / early 1990s, he produced four booklets transcribing the inscriptions in graveyards in Co. Londonderry and Co. Tyrone as follows: Old Glendermott, with his daughter, Marjorie; Leckpatrick, with his wife, Sheelagh; Old Donagheady, with his daughter, Deirdre and the Grange Burial Ground, with his wife, Sheelagh.
These were very successful. The family are therefore delighted to share them with interested parties through CoTyroneIreland.com as we are sure he would have wished.
Recently their daughter, Marjorie Sloan, found some Original Colour Photos in her late father's belongings.
REGISTER OF GRAVESTONES
LECKPATRICK OLD BURIAL GROUND
RECORDED AND COMPILED by
SHEELAGH and DAVID TODD
Mrs Sandra Pollock, Administrative Officer, Strabane District Council, for permission to record.
Strabane R. D. C. Cultural Committee for Sponsorship.
Mr Ian Henderson for the photographs.
Mrs Ruth McCaul for front cover design.
Mrs Margaret Rogers for typing.
Mr Sandy Jack for help "in the field".
Mr James BRADLEY, Mrs Mary BRITTON, Mr John DEVINE, Mr William SPENCE and Mr Hamilton THOMPSON for information used in the Foreword.
This booklet is the second of a series on four old graveyards to be recorded in the Londonderry / Strabane area. The first, Old Glendermott Burial Ground, recorded by David Todd and his daughter, Marjorie, was published in 1988 and the reception was such that he and his wife, Sheelagh, are encouraged to keep a similar format as they tackle Leckpatrick and later Grange and Donagheady.
The Ordnance Survey references for Leckpatrick from the Londonderry 1:50,000 map, First Series OS for Northern Ireland is 02 03 / 37 38. In descriptive terms it is to be found one kilometre from Ballymagorry Post Office to the north of the village on the main Strabane/Londonderry road in the townland of Leckpatrick and is bounded on the south by the Ballyheather Road. The Ordnance Survey map includes townlands and we have provided a place name index as an aid to identification of families.
The boundary of the Parish of Leckpatrick has, like other Irish parish boundaries, varied little since pre-plantation times. It meets that of Camus in Strabane, Ardstraw for a short distance to the south, Donagheady on the east and north and it is bounded by the River Foyle on the west. The townland of Leckpatrick lies between Pollocks town in the east and the Foyle in the west, Ballydonaghy in the north and the Glenmornan Burn at Ballymagorry in the south.
Local legend, with some substantiation from "The Tripartite Life", claims that St. Patrick, who made Armagh his headquarters sometime after 450 A.D., travelled through Barnesmore Gap on one of his missions and founded a church at Donaghmore. He is also reported, continuing north, to have crossed the Foyle at the Island Ford, or Farset Mor, and to have founded Leckpatrick, which means "the flat stone of Patrick". Access from the Foyle to the fertile land of the gentle slopes of the eastern part of Leckpatrick must have been difficult; the marsh which still stretches practically from the main road at Farmhill to the river gives one an indication of what this landscape may have looked like 1500 years ago.
Rev. Frank M. Hay, former minister of Leckpatrick Presbyterian Church refers on page 22 of his booklet, "Leckpatrick Presbyterian Church", published in 1981, to a group of three large stones in the corner of a field near the site of the old Glebe School and, close by, on the other side of the road, to a large flat stone with a circular hollow which locals claim to be either an old baptismal font or a receptacle for holy water. There is a local claim that in pre-reformation times there was a monastery on the site of the school and that the old Malleson Bridge at Artigarvan was built with stones from the ruins. By clambering down under the bridge one can see a stone with a Latin inscription built into the arch. Rev. Hay also refers to another legend that St. Patrick knelt for prayer on a large flat stone at Farmhill, just north of the graveyard. Perhaps more solid evidence of the antiquity of an ecclesiastical foundation are two stones in the porch of Mrs. Mary Britton's farmhouse, across the main road from the Burial Ground; one resembles a font and the other, which is circular and may have been adapted as a quernstone, contains early Celtic church motifs.
These were unearthed by a ploughman in the field between the Burial Ground and Leckpatrick Parish Church shortly after the Brittons came to the farm. We emphasise that we are not claiming anything for these stones other than that they are there and that legends exist about some of them.
The shape of the graveyard itself, which slopes gently towards the Foyle from east to west, can be seen from the map on page iv,which gives the area as 1983 square metres. In the spring of 1990, to accommodate a road improvement scheme, the projection towards the main road at the north-west corner was cut off by extending the main west wall to the north wall and in doing so the Department of the Environment preserved the original metal railing and gates. One can also discern at the south-west corner the position of what used to be a sexton’s cottage; an aerial photograph of about 1960 of the Britton farmyard, which hangs in Mrs. Britton’s house, also shows the cottage with its outshot, a projection at the back of the living room which would house a settle bed and was a feature of many Tyrone Cottages. The last sexton to occupy the cottage before its demolition was Willie Kelly.
It is also noteworthy that the map classifies the graveyard as being "disused". There must be very few families remaining with a right to burial in Leckpatrick but the last recorded by Strabane District Council was of Letitia Stewart of 2 Dergalt Road who died on 27th. April, 1987. The earliest was of John Mag(h)ee, 1617.
The burial ground is surrounded by a roughly mortared stone wall except for a few metres on the north and west sides where, the old walls having collapsed, they have been replaced by concrete blocks. There are two entrances, one at the south-west corner from the main road and the other by a tall gate that looks like the sturdy piece of work of a local blacksmith. The latter has an interesting shield cut on a stone inset into the west pillar two metres from ground level:
Within the graveyard, as can be seen from the map on page iv, are the remains on the south of an old schoolhouse; the side walls have fallen inwards and the gables are heavily ivy-covered. Between this and the west wall is a small roofless building, probably the sexton’s toolshed.
The grid we devised for recording works as follows: starting at the south-east corner and moving along the east wall we worked out areas ten metres square and called them A1, B1 and Cl; A areas run alongside the south wall and Ballyheather Road. As the graveyard is not square the D areas are allowed to extend from C to the north wall and at the west end A7, B7 and C7 are also larger than ten metres square. The measurements of the monuments are shown in millimetres unless otherwise indicated. The entire inscription is recorded for each stone in the spelling and lines of the original with a brief description of the type of monument. A few photographs have been included.
Graves, except close to the eastern and western walls, where they are in rows, tend to de-align themselves as we approach the centre and there are open spaces where only large, rough field stones or uneven flat slabs, many buried under the sod of the years, mark places of burial. Indeed, many of the best preserved old inscriptions were found on 18th. and early 19th. century sandstone slabs which lay between ten and twenty centimetres under grass. In these cases we did, of course, replace the sod after recording.
An interesting feature on a significant number of gravestones, is the symbol IHS at the head of the stone. For the following explanations we are grateful to Canon F. W. Fawcett of Camus Juxta Mourne, Strabane: it derives from the Greek word ICHTHUS, meaning fish, which, for approximately the first three hundred years A.D., was used as a Christian symbol. Its full significance, in Roman lettering, is:
I = Iesu
CH = Christos
TH = Theos, god
U = Uoios, son
S = Sator, saviour
Hence we arrive at Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. It has, apparently, been more popularly translated by sexton gravediggers as "I Have Suffered".
After the gravestone inscriptions we have included a list of burials since 1962 as recorded by Strabane District Council; a few of these are marked by headstones.
A final word on two well known families, but first, an individual. Bobby Nicholl, The Memory Man, is buried at the west wall; the inscription sums up how those who knew him will remember him. The Hamiltons of Mountcastle and Castle Street, Strabane until Baronscourt was built in the 1770's have a small burial chapel near the north-east corner which is in a dilapidated state. On the east gable wall there is inset an elaborate coat of arms. The roof has collapsed and forms a hard core which may conceal flat inscribed slabs.
The other family is the Sinclairs. A section of the graveyard at the north west corner, walled off from the rest and obviously still being used for burials, contains only modern gravestones and is used solely for Sinclair families as is an older section, also separated from the rest by walls which lie adjacent to it.
The first Sinclairs have high Scottish origin as earls of Orkney and Caithness and the first to arrive in the Strabane baroney was Rev. John Sinclair who became rector of the Leckpatrick parish in 1665 and of the united parishes of Leckpatrick and Camus Juxta Mourne two years later. Sir John Hamilton, described as a "Scottish Papist", had acquired Holyhill around 1600, sold it to Captain Magee in the early seventeenth century and it was Captain Magee's widow who sold the property to Rev. Sinclair in 1683. This Rev. Sinclair fled to Derry when James II appeared threatening on the local scene, and he stayed there for the duration of the seige.
It is related that part of James's retreating army fled via the east bank of the Foyle, burned Leckpatrick parish church which was situated in the graveyard and were about to burn Holyhill also when a messenger arrived with a message from the commander of the Jacobite troops countermanding the order. It is surmised that the reason for this action may have been that Rev. Sinclair's first wife had been Isabella Hamilton, a relation of Sir John Hamilton, and that connection may have saved Holyhill. The church was refurbished and used until the present parish church was built in 1815-16, consecrated in 1821 and enlarged in 1834. It is recorded that the original pre-Reformation church was constructed in 1407 and a list of incumbents from that date to the present is extant.
The last of the Sinclair male line was William H. Montgomery Sinclair, a connection of Field Marshall Montgomery, who died in 1930. He was a barrister and later His Britannic Majesty's Consul at Brindisi, Boston and Philadelphia. Bonnyglen, near Inver, Co. Donegal was also a Sinclair property; it was burned down by the IRA in 1922 and the land was later appropriated by the Irish Land Commision[sic]. The new Sinclair corner was formerly part of the neighbouring field but was bought by the Sinclairs and incorporated into the graveyard; they reserved the area to the left of the path, entering from the main road, for themselves and the section to the right for workers on the estate, some of whom, it will be remarked, were also called Sinclair. There are some graves of Sinclairs, Scottish Sinclairs, at Holyrood House in Edinburgh,a privilege granted because they were hunters to the king.
The present owner of Holyhill is Mr. Hamilton Thompson, a local man, who acquired the property in 1983 and who is an authority on the Sinclair history. The last Sinclair occupant was Miss Elizabeth (Bessie) Elliot Sinclair from whom it passed to Major General Sir Alan Adair, Bart., M.C., a distant relative through the Strode family. She died in 1957. There are memorial tablets in Leckpatrick parish church to Isabella and Rev. John Sinclair.
It is hoped that local people will find material of interest in this booklet. Not everyone has the time or the inclination to stop and browse in graveyards but here we have tried to present information in a form from which personal interests may be easily followed up. Genealogists may also find pointers which could lead to further research in local church records, wills in the Public Record Office, Belfast and Griffith's Valuation.