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Carmavy Graveyard

Carmavy mausoleums


There are three mausoleums in Carmavy, two rectangular, one circular. The largest of those gives details of the Stewart family, the next the Shaws of Ballytweedy and the third (a smaller circular edifice) was erected by Samuel Ferguson of “Bellyhill”.


The Stewart family mausoleum is indeed the most prestigious monument in Carmavy graveyard. The large rectangular structure has a tablet set into the outside wall above the door, with four stone tablets on the interior wall, facing the door. A whole dynasty is commemorated here, but no less than three individuals bear the name “Thomas Ludford Stewart”, two of these designated “junior”. The names and dates constitute a genealogist’s nightmare, since at least one “junior” died before his senior. Newspaper intimations do nothing to solve the problem of who was related to whom and how. The only one mentioned in this source is, however, definitely the Thomas Ludford Stewart, Esq. who was Sovereign of Belfast for a brief spell. He died on eighteenth May 1845. The memorial tablet gives his age as 86, the newspaper as 84. This highlights another problem faced by those researching family history – can we believe everything we read on a headstone? Or, indeed, in a newspaper.


Thomas Ludford Stewart, who died in 1845, did so at the Castle, Belfast. Benn, in his History of Belfast indicates that the office of Sovereign was not much prized. It seems to have been that of a bailiff or sheriff or a person who exercised powers now belonging to these officers. The “Lord of the Castle” was chosen in June and took up office in September. Some incumbents resigned during their term of office. Nothing seems to have been written about Thomas Stewart’s time as Sovereign. In 1817, however, Thomas Ludford Stewart lived in Seapark House, Carrickfergus. A description of the house appears in C.E.B. Brett’s Buildings of County Antrim where it is noted that Thomas Stewart “had become rich as Lord Donegall’s agent”. It would be interesting to look even further into the lives of the Stewart family.

The mausoleum belonging to the Shaws of Ballytweedy House is “a little pledge of affection” from William Shaw’s mourning widow, grateful son and daughter. Sadly none of this loving trio is named. Buried in the mausoleum also is James Potter of Mount Potter, Esq. Co. Down. He died in 1779, four years after William Shaw. (Mrs. Shaw may have been a Potter). Neither gentleman reached a ripe old age, William Shaw being 52, James Potter only 36 – a salutary reminder of the somewhat shorter life-span our eighteenth century forefathers enjoyed.


The circular mausoleum was erected by Samuel Ferguson in memory of several generations of his family, from his grandfather (who died in 1775) to his mother, wife and daughter (died 1814, 1817, and 1815 respectively). The Fergusons are listed on one tablet on the mausoleum with several lines of Latin at the top and bottom. The inscription on the second tablet is most interesting. It refers to the naturalist Grace Elizabeth Drennan who died more than 150 years after the Fergusons, in 1974. The wording includes the phrase “her ashes are returned to the land she loved”. Grace Drennan was born in Belfast, however, and died in Killarney, so the appearance of her name on a tablet in Carmavy graveyard is intriguing. Her parents lived in Jordanstown, and her mother’s maiden name was Downey. If there is a Ferguson connection at all, it must be further back.


Grace Drennan’s passing was mourned by, amongst others, members of the Ulster Branch of the Irish Deer Society. In Pomeroy forest, Co. Tyrone, there is a Grace Drennan Memorial nature trail, so she has certainly not been forgotten.

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