The Silent Land

Belfast Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, April 9, 1907

XIII -- Muckamore Burial-Ground.

The district of Muckamore simply bristles with historic associations. On the site now occupied by Muckamore House and gardens was once located one of the most celebrated monasteries in Ireland, founded by St. Colmanellus, who flourished about the middle of the sixth century. And the existence of "standing stones" and "raths" and "cairns" would suggest that the neighbourhood has always been associated with activity in social and religious undertakings. Even within comparatively recent years - the '98 rebellion for instance -- it was the scene of the meeting of the insurgents to make final preparations for that historic battle of Antrim which practically decided the fate of their cause. We find that the formation of the first society of United Irishmen in Belfast was soon followed by one at Muckamore, and that this corps had arranged to take part in the review of 14th September, 1793, which was frustrated by the appearance of the Fermanagh Militia.

All warlike evidences have now disappeared. The little village hides itself away in a hollow to the left of the main road to Antrim, and about a mile from that town, as if it were ashamed of its connection with the past. The swords have been replaced by ploughshares, and the turmoil of battle has changed to the noises associated with a prosperous peace. Instead of warlike camp we have a huge factory, where linens are prepared for the markets of the world.

Close by the mill is the burying ground -- one of the quaintest little cemeteries you can find. The little entrance gate is almost covered with bright green creepers, and there is a feeling of rest and peace within the walls that is exceedingly impressive. Immediately one has climbed the short flight of stone steps there is presented an array of tall iron railings as a reminder of days when the bodies of the dead were treated with scant respect. The cemetery is situated on the face of a little hill, and right at the top I can see a freshly-made grave on which the flowers are fragrant yet. Here and there peeping through the thick foliage and undergrowth are samples of ancient stones, but in most cases the records have been eaten away or covered with lichen. One, which I photographed on account of its specially good condition, was of thick slate, and seemed to have been hammered rather than carved into shape. The inscription, which is elaborate, looks as thought it had been cut by a needle or knife point. Above a coat of arms is the motto "Industria Ditat." And below --

"Here lyeth ye body of Nathan
iel Waugh died Jany. 13
1751. aged 19 years."

The Waugh Stone
The Waugh Stone

There are many who lived during those troublous times of '98, but few who were prominently identified with either side. I was disappointed in this until I halted before a rather pretentious little monument and gazed with interest upon the inscription which it bore. I copied it.

The Burying Ground
The Storeys of Island Lodge
This monument
has been erected to their memory
by the directions of the late
James Storey (the last survivor)
whose remains with those of the other
members of the family lie here.

This is followed by a list of names, in the middle of which I came upon the following:-

John Storey who for his country died 1798.

What a tragedy is hidden in the simple description! Although historians have not much to say for him, it is evident that he must have been a prominent member of the United Irishmen. In the Battle of Antrim he commanded corps which refused to face the firing in the main street, and the "Belfast News-Letter" of July 3rd, 1798, tersely puts his case thus --

About two o'clock the Court (martial) proceeded on the trial of John Storey, printer, of Belfast, who was charged with being a rebel leader at the battle of Antrim. The prisoner, being found guilty, was hanged at the Market-house, and the head, being severed from the body, was placed on a spike on the top of the Market-house.

In Mr. Young's Chronological List of the Events of the Rebellion, August 17 is given as the date on which "the heads of Dickey, Byers, and Storey were taken down from Market-house." James Hope mentioned the incident in his song, "M'Cracken's Ghost."

"While Storey lay martyred and Dickey lay dead,
And the hands of oppressors on spikes placed their heads,
Their spirits in glory triumphed to the skies,
And proclaimed through the air that the Croppies would rise."

And here in this quiet little cemetery lies the hero without even the honour of a special epitaph.

Let us turn to a lighter shade.

The Memory of
William and
Rebecca D_____
Also 10 of their children
Eliza D_____
Died 18 Mar. 1886
Aged 84 years
Alexander D_____
Aged 85 years

The capitals used for the last line are probably intended to direct special attention to the violent contrast between the two families.

It is so seldom that faithful service is rewarded that I think the following worthy of record. A small grave on the top of the hill is enclosed by a railway, and is almost hidden by low trees. It was with difficulty I burrowed a way through. The top of the stone is broken away, but I was able to glean the following:--

William Chaine & his wife
The nurse of their children
by all of whom she was beloved
She died at her master's house
in old age affectionately
attended to and regretted
by all the family
3rd November 1837.

The name is completely wiped out, but if we could write such epitaphs to-day the Domestic Servants Accidents Act would never have been put to the Statute Book.

The little enclosure seems overburdened with heavy memorials, notably the Kelly's, who have been "Captains All" or almost -- one dying in New Orleans, and another lost in a hurricane off Mauritius. There is the grave of the philanthropic Bruce family, who were deeply interested in Millrow Church, Antrim, where can be seen the Bruce Memorial Schools. Also the progenitors of the Cunningham family, so well known and respected in Belfast. A very fine granite obelisk marks the burial-ground of Barber Cunningham, grandfather to the present generation of the family.

Almost every corner holds something of interest, and I felt that my visit had not been in vain.

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