Sunday, 29 May 2016

Cemetery Day

Across from Sharkey's Bar was the Catholic church (the only kind I was interested in this trip) named St Mary's Star of the Sea. Lovely name, eh? I was told it had been built in the early 1900s and that the older church was at Kincasslagh.

St. Mary's Star

So one day that is where we headed. We found a small graveyard with some conveniently placed boards on the front listing who all was buried there. Actually, it probably only listed those whose burials were in the records and/or had a marker. Funny how we take things at face value and don't question the details. There was no one on the board with the name I wanted. A nice lady there asked who I was looking for, then explained that this was the new Kincasslagh cemetery and directed us to the older cemetery at Kincasslagh, on the other side of the old church up the road.

'New' Kincasslagh cemetery

While we were there, Bill said he saw a truck driving across the wide sands that connected the sides of the bay. 
'Old' Kincasslagh cemetery

Later, I saw someone walking across. I discovered that the vast stretch of sand that separated land from sea was called a 'strand' (not a term commonly used in land-locked Oklahoma). I remembered the stories that long ago people used to walk across the River Tyne at low tide, between North Shields and Sound Shields, near where we live in England. I found plenty of names on stones and on the board for this cemetery. There were also a number of stubs or wooden crosses which couldn't be read. 

There were loads of people around doing various things related or not to the cemetery. A couple of men came up and asked whose graves we were seeking. One man, named Logue, recounted the Ballymanus mine incident  - about which I'll write later - and said he'd attended the recent memorial service. 

Another man, Gillespie, seemed to think we were 'chasing straws' - true enough - but then he thought the census began only in 1901, which is wrong. 

He talked a bit about Rannyhual as having originally been communal cattle grazing in the hills outside Annagry. Some of his family were from Rannyhual as were some of the people whose names interested me. He said it was where people moved for cheap housing after all the seaside land was taken. 

He also told us there was yet an older cemetery on Cruit (pronounced something like critch or crutch) Island, so we went there, driving over a small bridge beside which children and dogs were playing in the beautiful blue-green water. The cemetery there was called St. Bridget's (Cill Bhride). 

St. Bridget's cemetery on Cruit Island

Bill pointed out the large bare area at the front of the cemetery, with no markers in sight. We guessed that this area may have been where the famine victims were buried. If you can't afford to buy food, it seems unlikely you can afford an engraved stone marker. The board listed a few burials as old as 1830 so the time frame seemed right for this cemetery. 

After examining the board by the gate we walked over the field towards the sea. 

It looked like green grass, but it was spongy, like moss and wonderful underfoot. 

There had been a runner on the worn paths earlier and I envied him his route. We were passed by a man driving a car with a trailer that Bill thought looked full of sand, probably not a legal enterprise.

Errigal Mountain in the background!

One thing I noticed in several of the cemeteries was mention of family members in Australia, America or Scotland. In fact a number of head stones were placed by people from those places.

And then, since we were passing anyhow, we went ahead and visited St. Mary's Star of the Sea cemetery to collect names there. The graves were all so close together, it was hard to navigate. I have a feeling they'll be needing yet another cemetery soon!

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