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Register of Gravestone Inscriptions in Old Donagheady Burial Ground, Benowen, Donemana, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland

By David & Deirdre Todd
Compiled and Formatted by
Jim McKane, Ontario, Canada


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 as we are sure he would have wished.

Recently their daughter, Marjorie Sloan, found some Original Colour Photos in her late father's belongings.

Donagheady Front cover

Donagheady Hamilton Grave G3.15 Pg ii

Donagheady Old church seen from East Pg vi

Donagheady View from SW with woods grave on left Pg 40

Donagheady west wall from NE with F2.4 & F2.5 Pg 36


Click on image for larger version














PHOTOS c.1992




The authors are most grateful for help from the following:

Mrs Sandra Pollock, Administrative Officer, Strabane District Council, for permission to record and access to records.

Strabane District Council 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".

Rev. E. T. Dundas for permission to use information from his "History of Donagheady Parish".



The Scheme

This booklet is the third of a series of four, the first two having recorded the inscriptions of Old Glendermott and Old Leckpatrick Burial Grounds. It is planned to record Grange in 1992 and publish in 1993.

The Location

Old Donagheady is situated in the townland of Bunowen where the Ardcame Road meets the Castlewarren Road, immediately to the south of two identical cottages. Its Ordnance Survey reference on the Londonderry 1:50,000 map, First Series O.S. of N.I. is 04 05/45 46. The Altinaghree Burn flows past in the steep-sided valley to the south and into the River Dennett less than a mile downstream. There appear to be remains of an old mill to the south-west and beyond that a sand quarry has been worked right up to the road to the west. At the time of recording in 1991 it was being prepared for sowing out in grass. The graveyard itself is undoubtedly on glacial deposit which, one hopes, will, as consecrated ground, keep it safe from future exploitation.

The Background

The Donagheady Parish is fortunate in that its records,including Vestry minute books, confirmation, birth, marriage and death lists, exist from the mid-eighteenth century and are available on microfilm in the Public Records Office, Balmoral Avenue, Belfast. There are gaps in most of the lists but there is a wealth of information available.

In 1979, to mark the centenary of the consecration of the "new" church of St. James, the rector at the time, Rev. E. T. Dundas, produced a booklet on "The History of Donagheady Parish". We propose to borrow from it some information on the history of the Parish and some details of burial practices in the 1750s.

The Parish is reputed to have acquired its name from St. Cadinus, a companion of Columbanus. D0MNAH CAOIDE, the Irish name for the Parish, means "Church of St. Cadinus". In old maps it may be found spelt Donoghkiddy and until 1865 included also what is now the Parish of Dunalong. The original Parish boundaries are picturesquely described on page 365 of Volume III of The Civil Survey 1654-1659' by Robert C. Simington; we offer the following extract as a sample: "This Parish haveing nothing in it of Note, but two ruinouse Castles of Mountcastle belonging to Sr George Hamillton the younger, and Downeamannogh, belonging to Sr William Hamillton knt. demollished by the late warr, is bounded with the lands of the County of Londonderry one the north and with the lands of ye parrish of Bodony, one the east, and with the lands of the parish of Leckpatrick one the South and the river of Loghfoile one the west and distinguished and knowne from the adjacentt lands, by the metts and marks here ensueing vizt. by the brooke called by the natives Culloghoge, by the Brittish Maghereraesan, burne, the meare betweene the said parrish, and the countey of Londonderry, from which brooke it goeth streight to the topp of the Mountayne of Mullaghnegerry alias Dowletter, Mountayne, oute of which ariseth a brooke called Altnegare which meareth betweene this parrish & the Countey of Londonderry, untell if falleth into a glen named Burnegibbagh, through which it goeth streight to the end of an old stone ditch, alonge which ditch it goeth to the topp of the Mountaine of Cullen, and thence to the topp of the mountaine of Mulloghkerke, which mears devideth betweene this parrish and the Goldsmiths pporcor. in the parrish of Glendermont in the County of Londonderry, from Mulloghkerke by the topps of the Mountaines of Carnchamber, from thence to Mullencor, by a bogg from Mullencor Mountaine it falleth into the Brooke of Letrum, which goeth alonge to a valley named Stranea, and from Stranea by a stone ditch to the topp of the mountayne of Liscleene, from thence to the topp of Bellynearey from Bellyneary downe alonge by a bogg to the foord of Kenenogher, from which foorde if goeth alonge a greate bogg to another foorde in a bogg named Bellinacross, from thence by a brooke it goeth to Straghnegallwilly, which brooke runeth aboute the south side of Shraghnegallwilly, and carrieth the meare all alonge to Allenough glen, from which glenn of Altenogh it goeth upp straight to a heape of white stones called Kernaughkilly Uppon the side of the mountaine of Mulloghcorbittogh which meares from Mulloghkerke to Kernakally deviding this parrish from the Ladie Cookes land in the parrish of Cumber in the Countey of Londonderry". The landmarks remain largely recognisable to this day by the people who live locally.

In pre-Plantation times the centre of religious life in the Parish was an Augustinian abbey at Grange; presumably the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII had some effect on its prosperity for the Reformation Church moved to a district north of Donemana, probably where the present Donagheady Presbyterian Church is now situated. The history of this church is well documented in Rev. John Rutherford’s book: "Donagheady Presbyterian Church and Parish" (1953 M'Caw, Stevenson and Orer Lrs., The Linenhall Works, Belfast).

When the church in the graveyard at Bunowen was built is not known exactly, but the minutes record that the building was defaced during the 1641 Rebellion and the rector died from wounds inflicted during the uprising. 

Church records refer frequently to the continual problems of maintenance and in 1784 a decision was taken to build a new church, though the building, known as St. Micheal's, was not completed until 1788, also in the townland of Bunowen, or Benone, but closer to Donemana. This church was replaced by St. James's, two hundred metres to the south, in 1879.

The other immediately relevant theme we borrowed from Rev. Dundas's selected minutes on page 14 of his booklet. It relates to burial practices in the mid - 1750s. In 1753, when Rev. George Bracegirdle was rector, it is recorded that "James Walker*s funeral was the first at which the Rector officiated; who was greatly surprised and offended at the indecent behaviour of the people". One feels somewhat disappointed that examples are not cited. And further on; "All those entered, without date, were buried without giving the Clergyman notice to attend, and are here entered from the Sexton's list who thought it unnecessary to take notice of the month or day".

The records show five burials in 1754 with the following note: "The reason so few burials are entered, is, an indecent custom of interning without sending to the minister to attend - That the Papist should always, and the Presbyterians generally, omit it, is not to be wondered; but is astonishing that those, who are of the Established Church, should choose to bury their deceased Friends like Dogs." Burial records for 1756 continue in the same vein: there were 58 burials, 39 of whom were children and 19 adults; 12 of the 58 were from Cumber Parish and the comment suggests that the latter were buried in Donagheady "probably to cheat the Rector of the Parish of his Dues; for they pay nothing in Donaghkiddy, nor even ask leave to break the ground. A Trepass, which, if possible, must be punished and prevented, the Churchyard being much too small for the Parish. This year only Mr. John Hamilton had Christian Burial."

Apparently the Rector discovered that more than 58 burials had taken place and accounted for a further 25, the new figure of 83 being made up of 56 children and 27 adults: "The great Disproportion betwixt the numbers of children and Grown Persons was owing to the Rifeness and Mortality of the Small-pox." Another comment notes that "the Rector has received no account of Internments in the Burying ground at Grange: which may supposed to received about a Third of the Parish." One is often struck, in recording graveyard inscriptions, by the prevalence of infant mortality and a comparison of spates of child deaths would no doubt correlate closely with epidemics of killer diseases in the region.

The Burial Ground

In the graveyard the west gable wall of the old church is standing to the apex. The east wall, with small portions of the north and south, remains to a height of ten feet and is heavily ivy covered. A hawthorn tree is growing out of the north wall. The dimensions of the old church are 18x7.3 metres and the west wall is 12.7 metres from the gate. Several graves lie within the original church area.

All four boundary walls of the graveyard are largely intact and would certainly prevent animal entry. The area adjacent to the north wall is littered with small stones and rubble. The north-east corner especially would be overgrown with briar and blackthorn were it not well maintained by the Strabane District Council.

The layout of the graves does not fall easily into recognisable rows although in some places parallel patterns do exist mainly in a north-south alignment. The ground generally is very uneven and must have presented difficulties for pall-bearers.

The Bonds of Lackagh obviously had their own private burial area built of solid stone walls with sandstone coping stones and a small wrought iron gate which has rusted and been displaced. Some of the coping stones have fallfen from position and the enclosure is heavily overgrown with ivy, wild raspberry, briar and blackthorn. This enclosure is 3.5 metres square and is 26.6 metres to the east of the church.

In the east boundary wall are a few stones which must have at one time been part of grave or church decoration and judging from the style of the carving would appear to be seventeenth century work.

Procedure for Recording

The graveyard is roughly rectangular as may be seen from the Strabane District Council*s map on page vii. Starting at the north-east corner, grids ten metres square were marked, proceeding along the east wall and coded A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3 and so on. The grids coded 3 narrow slightly as they approach the west wall and are never the exact ten metres square; both north and south walls are 80 metres; the east is 32.5 and the west 27.

The spelling, punctuation, grammar and lines of inscription on the stones are recorded as they exist. Many inscriptions are incomplete or illegible through weathering or other damage, hence the number of incomplete lines and words.

Several slabs were found by prodding with a metal bar, some a few inches under the surface and often well perservedby the covering of earth, grass and moss. After recording sods were replaced.

The oldest grave with decipherable lettering was that of JAMES DUNN (H3.11 1696). There is another (F3.3) adjoining the east wall of the church which, judging by the style of the lettering and the death symbols cut at the west end of the stone, is almost certainly older but the inscription is unfortunately severly weathered and only a few letters and numbers are recognisable. It could, however, be 1680 or 1630.

The graveyard contains numerous graves marked by large horizontal stones, probably from local quarries and often without inscriptions. They vary in size but are usually about 1500mm long by 900mm wide. Rather than offer repetitive dimensions for these blank stones we have simply given them a grid number and indicated the type by the term *slab*.

There are also large rough local fieldstones throughout the graveyard, probably acting as head or foot stones for burials.

Strabane District Council Records

A series of letters in the Strabane District Council archives refers to the closing of the Grange and Old Donagheady Burial Grounds. These letters are between the Northern Ireland Ministry of Home Affairs and Strabane Rural District Council and begin on 23rd. June, 1934 with an observation from the Minister that no action was taken by the Council, at its meeting on 12th. June, on the report furnished by Dr. R. B. McLean, Medical Officer of Health, to the effect that the old graveyards at Grange and Donagheady were overcrowded and required to be closed against further burials. He went on to call the Council's attention to Section 162 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878 and to enquire if they proposed to apply to the Ministry for an order to close these graveyards.

Evidently the Council took the hint and applied for closure in July. A further letter from the Ministry in August informed the Council on the procedures: the Ministry proposed to hold a local Inquiry on the closures and advised the Council that, in the meantime, it should publish, by advertisement in the newspapers and by posters, notice of the Inquiry on a date to be intimated later and the notice should state that any persons desirous of claiming rights of burial should send to the Clerk of the Rural District Council before 15th. September, 1934, a statement of the grounds on which they make their claim, with information regarding the plot in which the right to burial was claimed.

Next, a letter dated 15th. September, 1934 from the Ministry informed the Council that it had instructed its Medical Inspector, Dr. F. J. Deane, to hold a Local Inquiry into the application for discontinuance of burials made by the Council. The date was fixed for Tuesday, 16th. October, 1934 at the Offices of the Rural District Council, Strabane. The Ministry also undertook to have a notice in connection with the Inquiry inserted in the next issue of the "Belfast Gazette" and requested the Council to have copies of a notice, enclosed with the letter, affixed to the doors of the church and chapel or in some other conspicuous places within the Parish (or Parishes) in which the burial grounds were situated three weeks before the date of the Inquiry, in accordance with the requirements of Section 163 of the Act. The notice read as follows:


Strabane Rural District.

Public Health (Ireland) Acts.

The Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland hereby gives notice that the Strabane Rural District Council have made application to the Ministry under Section 162 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, for an Order for the discontinuance of burials in the old Graveyards at Grange and Donagheady in the Rural District; and that the Ministry, in pursuance of Section 163 of the above-mentioned Act, has instructed its Medical Inspector, F. J. Deane, Esq., M. B., B.Ch., to hold a Local Inquiry into the matter of the said application at 11 o’clock a.m. on Tuesday the 16th day of October, 1934, at the Offices of the Rural District Council, Strabane, County Tyrone.

Any ratepayer in the said Rural District, or other person interested in the matter, may attend at the time and place aforesaid and give evidence on the subject of the said application.



Ministry of Home Affairs (N. I.)

15th day of September 1943


Then on 4th. October, 1934 the Ministry requested that copies of claims of rights of burial be furnished to the Ministry as soon as possible. There follows a gap of almost three years before correspondence resumes: a letter dated 4th. May, 1937 accompanies drafts of Orders proposed to be made by the Ministry closing the burial Grounds of Grange and Donagheady from 1st. January, 1938. It requested that a check be made on the names and addresses of the persons referred to in the Schedules to the Orders to whom the right of interment in the burial grounds in question was 'reserved. It was emphasised that before the Orders were made the spelling of the names of the persons and places mentioned in the Schedules should be accurately ascertained and that any persons since deceased should be deleted.

On 31st. August, 1937 the Ministry wrote to the Council, referring to previous correspondence and to the Council Meeting of 11th, May, and inquired if the Council was ready to return to the Ministry, duly checked, the drafts of the Orders proposed by the Ministry in the letter of 4th. May. And on 27th. September, a letter acknowledges receipt of the documents requested and promises a further communication in due course. This came in the form an Order which we reproduce in its entirety:


COPY/AG                                                                                                   Closing of the Burial Ground

P.H.1097.                                                                                                            at Donagheady         




WHEREAS in pursuance of the provisions of section 162 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, a representation has been made to the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland that, for the maintenance of public decency and to prevent a violation of the respect due to the remains of deceased persons, burials should be discontinued in the Burial Ground at Donagheady in the Rural District of Strabane.

AND WHEREAS in pursuance of the provisions of section 163 of the said Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, the said Ministry gave Notice in the Belfast Gazette on the 21st September, 1934, that the said Ministry had directed F. J. Deane, Esq., M.B., B.Ch., one of its Inspectors, to hold a Local Inquiry into the matter of the said representation on Tuesday the 16th day of October, 1934, at 11 o'clock a.m. at the office of the Rural District Council, Strabane, and copies of the said Notice were duly affixed on the places on which they are required to be affixed by the said section 163, three weeks at least before the date of the said Inquiry:

AND WHEREAS the said F. J. Deane duly held the said Inquiry at the time and place aforesaid:

AND WHEREAS the said Ministry has received the Report of the said F. J. Deane as to the result of the said Inquiry and of the evidence taken theron, and has taken the same into consideration accordingly:

NOW, THEREFORE, the Mlnlstry of Home Affalrs for Northenn Ireland ln exerclse of the powers vested in it by the sald Act, hereby orders that burlals shall be dlscontlnued, and they are hereby prohlblted  ln the Burial Ground at Donagheady from and after the first day of January, 1938, subject to the exceptlons followlng, that ls to say, there shall be reserved to the persons named in the schedule hereto the rlght of interment in  their famlly graves in the sald Burlal Ground subject to the limltatlons set out ln the thlrd column of the sald schedule:

Persons to whom the right of lnterment in
the Burlal Ground at Donagheady ls

Surname Firstname Address # of Interments Permitted
Love James Mountcastle, Donemana. 1
Robinson David Liscloon 2
Eaton, J. P. Samuel Ballyneanor, Strabane. 2
Chambers Matthew Liscloon, Donemana. 1
Walker Wm. J. Tyrconnelly, Donemana. 3
Cummings Samuel J. Donemana 4
McFadden John Donemana 1
Bond James Churchill, Donemana. 2
Reilly Mary Donemana 1
Black James Benowen, Donemana. 2
Galbraith Margaret Donemana 2
Baird Margaret Drain, Donemana. 1
McCarter Samuel Drain, Donemana. 2
Porter Thomas Lisnarrow 2
Campbell Andrew Fawney, Donemana. 3
Alexander Andrew Fawney, Donemana. 5
Arbuckle William Donemana 1
Hyland William Moyagh, Burndennett 3
Forbes Fred C. Lisnarrow 5
Lindsay Alexander Killenagh 2
Wallace John Donemana 3
Craig David Drain, Donemana 2
Lyons Robert Mountcastle, Donemana. 4
Jack Andrew Tyrkernaghan, Donemana. 5
Gamble Robert Benown, Donemana. 4
Colhoun William Gortmellon. 4
McGarrigle John Barron, Donemana 5
Jeffrey William Liscloon, Donemana. 4
Arbuckle Samuel Gortaleck, Donemana. 4
McMichael Samuel Gortaleck, Donemana. 1
Harper Joseph Gortmellon 2
Marshall Mrs. Castlemellon 1
Lowry Wm. D. Castlemellon 3
Robinson Rebecca Ballyneanor, Donemana. 1
Quinn Patrick Castlewarren, Donemana. 2
Fulton Rebecca Killyclooney, Burndennett. 2
Allen Robert Killyclooney, Burndennett. 3
Brown Robert J. Gortmellon 2
Craig Elizabeth Ardmore, Cullion. 1
Lowry Sarah Cloughcor, Ballymagorry. 1
Colhoun James Donemana. 2
Caldwell William Castlemellon. 1
Parkhill Robert Ballinaboy, Cullion. 1
Campbell John Mountcastle, Donemana. 2
Rodgers Samuel Gorticlare, Donemana. 3
Kennedy Isabella Benowen, Donemana. 4
McCartney Mary Aughtermoy, Donemana. 2
McCartney Wm. J. Aughtermoy, Donemana. 1
Henderson Campbell Lisnarrow. 1
Stevenson Wm. Lisnarrow. 1
Kerrigan James Windyhill, Donemana. 3
Faulkner Samuel Castlemellon, Donemana. 4
Buchanan James Ballinamallaght. 4
Allen Fred. H. Ballaghalair. 4
Allen Annie Ballyclooney, Burndennett. 3
Porter Caroline E. Brookview, Donemana. 2
Cochrane John Benowen, Donemana. 1
Huey John Aughafad, Donemana. 4
Donnell Robert Killenagh, Donemana. 1
Smyth Mrs. Joseph Liscleen, Donemana. 1

Sealed with the Official Seal of the Ministry
of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland this 8th
day of October, Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-
seven, in the presence of

(L.S.)                                   A. Robinson
                                           Assistant Secretary

Closlng of Burial Ground

at Donagheady

The original order made on the 8th October, 1937, has been varled by exemption orders giving the right of interment to the followlng persons in addition to those shown in the schedule of exceptions contained in the original order.

Name Address # of Interments Permitted Date of Order
Catherine Ellis Castlewarren, Dunamanagh 1 14.2.1939
Mrs. Julia Quinn Glenagoorland, Dunamanagh, Strabane 1 25.2.1944


The last two names were of people who had missed the closing date for submission of clalms and were the subject of several pleces of correspondence with the Ministry before they were added to the list in 1939.

Other correspondence in the Strabane Dlstrict Council Archives refers to negotiatlons for acquiring land at Mountcastle for a replacement burial ground for Donagheady and Grange. One page only remains of the Clerk's Evidence to an Inquiry by Vlce-Admiral N.E. Archdale C.B.E. on 27th. January, 1939 into Mountcastle Burial Ground Loan. It must have been in the early 1940s therefore that the Mountcastle Graveyard was brought into use.

St Mlchael's Graveyard

Reference has already been made to St. Michael's Church, built in 1788 on a slte approximately 200 metres to the east of St. James's. The narrow east gable of the church remains and the area around the church was consecrated as a graveyard in 1838. The gravestones had become so overgrown by scrub that the parishioners, under the leadership of Rev. Bill McNee, in 1985/86 improved access, planted trees along the drive, repaired the boundary walls and levelled and reseeded the unused area which is agaln belng used for Church of lreland burials.

There are several tombstones to the east of the gable with graves dating from the late nineteenth century, the most common family names belng Dunn, Baird, McKimmon and Douglas.