HISTORY OF HEADSTONES
By Cara Links
Looking for Epitaphs
It is not a platitude to say that the richest source of epitaphs is the burial ground for they seem to crop up in the most unlikely places in Ireland.
In the main the oldest graves, in the church yards, are to be found at the south side of the church, as people wished, to avoid the shadow of the church falling on their graves. This was considered very unlucky, and the north was associated with the devil-that is the main reason why suicides were buried to the North of a churchyard to act as first line of defence against the devil.
Superstition therefore may be cited, as the explanation why- churchyards are often on the south side - not the north, or higher than the road outside the church door sill; for it was the medieval custom to bury the dead on top of the others, and so the gradually the ground became elevated.
At Carrickmore there were separate cemeteries for suicides, children and slain soldiers.
Beside the church graveyards other likely places to look for epitaphs include castle cemeteries, and fort burials to name two that are worth a look at is Fethard Castle Co Tipperary and Duncannon Fort Co Wexford, the latter shows how gravestones were used for purposes other than marking the resting place of the dead, as they were often used in paths and lintels for fireplaces and wall repair..
A graveyard worthy of a visit for the wide chronology of epitaphs is Glendalough Co Wicklow, headstones there begin in the 11th century and follow on to the 19th century examples.
What we are seeking in an Epitaph, is of course the link to our ancestors but they tell you more than just he lived and he died
Sometimes they include the name of children, wife brother sister, what he worked at what his interests were.
Some epitaphs can also tell you of Ireland's disasters, and example take from St Dubhan's church tower, Hook Co Wexford
'Erected To The Memory Of Wm. Cobhead, Master Of The Barke Esther Of Liverpool Who With Some Of His Crew Were Lost On This Coast In The Fearful Gale On Sunday The 20th April 1822.'
The same can be said of the 19th century
And Another Relating To The Sea Can Be Found At Holy Trinity -Parish Of Castlemacadam Co Wicklow
Sacred To The Memory Of Captain James Thomas Belton, Ss City Of Dundee, By Whose Gallantry All The Passengers Were Saved When During A Fog The Vessel Was Run Into And Sank In The Bay Of Cardigan Early On The Morning Of 4th October 1908
"When Thou Passest Through The Waters I Will Be With Thee'
Two Of The Officers Both Irishmen Patrick Leban Second Officer Aged 45 Years And Thomas Burke Quatermaster Aged 47 Years, Shared The Same Glorious End Going Down With The Ship
The Story Is Written In Stone Side Three
The Remains Were Washed Ashore At Ennereilly And Here By Loving Hands Laid To Rest On Hallow Eve
His Name Is One Of The First Inscribed On The Carnegie Trust Roll Of Heroes, Born At Hull 20th Nov 1836
From The Parish Priest Register I Gleaned This Note:
Washed Ashore At Ennereilly. Vessel Sank In 15 Minutes S ( Salvage) Mission The Capt Saved All The Passengers But Lost His Own Life By So Doing
One Pound Fee Paid But Reduced.
A History Of Irish Headstones Part 3 by Cara Links
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