The Silent Land

Belfast Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, January 1, 1907

VIII -- Carmavy Burial-Ground

According to James Boyle, "The old graveyard near the centre of the Grange of Carmavy" occupies about 57 by 54 yards. It is a short distance from the church of the same name, and has had recently a stout wall of blue granite and a substantial caretaker's residence erected. Once inside, however, the modernity passes away, and no matter in what direction one turns there are traces of the long ago. Near the centre is a peculiar vault of rough granite, with an iron gate, which one might well be pardoned for mistaking for an ancient watch-house. Some of the folk who live in the district can remember, when as children, being told that this vault was haunted, and how they used to pass the vicinity in fear and trembling. The mystery consisted of a rain-drop which occasionally leaked through the roof, and made ghostly sounds in a little pool on the floor.

Close by there is a massive mausoleum with the following inscription:-

William Shaw, Esq.
departed this life the 17th day of July 1775
aged 52 years.
This little (sic) pledge of affection
His mourning widow gracefull son and daughter
Dedicate to a worthy husband and Father.
Go paffenger
Think on the perifhing joys of human life
And endeavour by thy good actions to furvive
the tomb.

In the remembrance of posterity.


Here lyes the Body of James Potter of Mount
Potter, Esqr., County of Downe, who departed
this life on the 26th Day of October 1779
in the 36th year of his life
In him were happily united those noble virtues
which conftitues the polite fcholar
the Accomplished Gentleman the good Christian.
If heaven fuperior Bliffes can beftow
With fellow Angels he enjoys it now.

The peculiar use of the "f" form of "s" makes the text of the inscription puzzling and at the same time interesting. The erectors of the memorial are really too modest in describing it as a "little pledge of affection," as unless they had acquired a special cemetery it is difficult to see how they could have expressed their appreciation more substantially. A few yards away there is still another large vault, "erected by Thomas L. Stewart to the memory of his beloved son, Thomas Langford Stewart," and both this and that dedicated to Mr. Shaw have dark, underground cellars with fearsome iron gate which remind one of the pictures of the arenas in Ancient Rome, and the entrances for the lions which annihilated the martyrs.

The ancient stones crowd each other in the little enclosure, but beyond their age they have nothing worth recording except in a few instances, and these are specially interesting.

Tombstone at Carmavy
Tombstone at Carmavy

First of all, I would refer readers to the photograph published herewith, which depicts the stone marking the burial-place of some of the Montgomerys of Boltnaconnell. It will be noticed that in order to preserve the memorial it is built round with a protection of granite. The inscription runs:-

Sacred to the
memory of Susanna
Fielding wife of Henry
Montgomery of Boltnaconnell
who departed this life on
Sept. 11th 1799, etc.

In his "Life of Rev. Dr. Montgomery" the Rev. John A. Crozier records that they were "a branch of the great Ayrshire Clan," and they probably came over with the Covenanters who objected to the prelacy in Scotland. The armorial bearing which is carved on the stone is practically the same as that of the Mount Alexander Montgomerys of the Ardes, and the motto is "Garde Bien." Two of the eldest sons of Lieut. Montgomery -- William and John -- joined the United Irishmen. William joined the insurgents in the battle of Antrim on the 7th June, '98, while John watched the progress of the conflict from an adjoining height. Mr Crozier says that Mrs. Montgomery was anxious for her son's safety, and said to her husband -- "Go yourself, and don't send the wean!" thus illustrating an old localised Scotch proverb -- "My wean's my ain wean, but my man's anither woman's wean."

After the fight William returned a fugitive to his father's house, and remained concealed while the house was surrounded by the yeomanry. He afterwards escaped; but John was protected by a dog, which kept the soldiers at bay. He afterwards hid in the furrows of a wheatfield and then made his way to a distant part of the County Antrim, where he remained in safety for more than a month, while William fled to the house of a friend at Donegore, who betrayed him, and he was taken to Belfast gaol, only being released on his brother surrendering. However, by influence they were set free, but the yeomen who had been held at bay by the dog were so incensed that they set Boltnaconnell House ablaze. Another house was erected and occupies the same site as the original edifice. This is the family of "The Montgomery Manuscripts," so often quoted by historians.

Vault at Carmavy
Vault at Carmavy

In the graveyard there are many examples of the elaborate style of tombstone which was fashionable over a century ago. There is one on which is carved in relief a design showing a cherub and the sun, on which the following inscription appears:--

lieth ye Body of
James Suffrin
who depd. this
life June 23. 1782
aged 70 years.

The space has been given up to the ornamental work and the details are contained in the small central frame. The poet as usual has a hand in eulogising the departed:--

"What need of tears or monumental Praise
Blest Shade; thy actions or they name to raise
Behold this stone; with heavenly ardour mov'd
Act like its owner and like him be lov'd."

and a neighbouring stone bears something of the old-fashioned style:--

Lieth what was mortal
of Andrew Harper
of Donegal who Departed
this life the 22nd June
1800 aged 47 years.

And just as I am about to leave my attention is attracted to one of those curious notices which seem to crop up in most of these ancient cemeteries. On a piece of wood is written:--

Burying Place of
John Whiteside
The above is sold. Tully 1854

Doubtless the meaning is clear to those most nearly concerned, but to the passer-by the operation arises -- "What or who has been sold?" If it is the plot of ground, why not describe it was the "below" rather than the above?

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