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Leckpatrick Old Graveyard

Eighteenth-century memorials


There are a number of memorial slabs of the early eighteenth century that can provide information on families that were then prominent in the area. Thus we learn that James Ross died in 1722 at the age of 24 while William Ross, presumably his brother and described as a former merchant, died in 1729 at the age of 29. The description of ‘former merchant’ is interesting, suggesting a period of inactivity before death and denoting either a business failure or a period of illness and incapacity. Another family that had long business association with Strabane was Weir and the flat sandstone memorial slab shows a family motif and a number of deaths ranging from 1740 to 1825. Long life was not uncommon even then, with a James Weir recorded as having died in 1801 at the age of 91. Further memorials to the Weir family show that the name James was present in a number of generations, one dying in 1841 at he age of 62 while his son, also named James, was recorded as having died in Canada in 1875 at the age of 49. Another son, Thomas, had also emigrated to Canada and his death was recorded as eighteenth Feb. 1874 at 50 years of age.


Many of the early memorial stones have partially indecipherable inscriptions and varied lettering styles and this article focuses mainly on those that are most legible. Adjoining graves for Polock (Pollock) families has a family crest on one of the memorials, suggesting a measure of importance for the family but the names and dates show that mortality was no respecter of age or rank. (illustation) Ann died in 1714 at the age of 3 while the next generation saw Mick dying in 1747 at the age of 4 while Jean died in 1751 aged 5 and Ann in 1755 aged 16. On the other hand Charles Pollock had lived 77 years by the time of his death in 1737 while his son Thomas, described as a merchant, had died in 1717 aged 20 years.


As seen in the case of Maghee (or Magee/McGee) the spelling of names could change within a relatively short period and one such case was the Boke/Boak family, with three memorials in close proximity. The flagstones were very susceptible to weathering and thus the earliest memorial is partially indecipherable, with some extrapolation suggesting deaths in 1744, 1755 and 1774, with the names of William and James being recognisable. An adjoining grave suggests that the person commemorated departed his earthly life in 1727 but the name is no longer legible. The other Boke memorial lists Robert as having died in 1745 at the age of 62 years, with his wife, Jean, surviving him by only two years. A further memorial to a James Boak, who died in 1823 aged 75, is in close proximity of the grave of Robert Boke and it is likely that James was a direct descendant of the other Boke families despite the changed name spelling.


Other eighteenth century family names recorded include James Thompson, who died in 1740 at the age of 21 and on the same memorial the names of Thomas and Robert Cox were included. At this distance it is difficult to trace the relationship but probably a marriage connection could explain the different surnames on the gravestone. Another gravestone records the death of Jane McArry(?) in 1739 at the age of 30 while interred in the same grave was James Brown, who died in 1747 at the age of 27. A memorial to William McClee stated that he had died in 1730 at the age of 60 while a Rebekah Hamilton, wife to William, was also named but without a year of death.


The economic position of families would have been important in the ability to erect a memorial and many of the graves in Leckpatrick, as in numerous other older graveyards, are marked only by rough uncarved fieldstones and it would be most revealing if these stones could speak. An examination of the names in the Griffiths valuation for the late 1850s show that large numbers of families are not recorded in the gravestone inscriptions and it would be likely that a search in nearby cemeteries at Grange, Cloughcor and Strabane would confirm that many families were interred without formal identification on grave markers.

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