Gravestones in the churchyard
Outside the ruined church there are well over 100 headstones in the cemetery which contain the following (Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Lowland and English) surnames:
Anderson, Beattie, Black, Blake, Bradley, Brady, Brown, Byer, Cassidy, Christie, Christy, Clark, Connor, Cooke, Coyle, Coyles, Darling, Daragh, Dillon, Donovan, Douglas, Duffy, Duncan, Dunkin, Dunlop, Ferguson, Forster, Gage, Gallagher, Galaugher, Glass, Hamilton, Hill, Hughes, Hunter, Hyndman, Jolly, Kane, Keenan, Kelly, Ker, Laverty, Law, Lions [sic], McAlean, McAlister/McAllester, McAuley/MacGawley, McAtyre, McBride, McCambridge, McCarrey [possibly McCarney], McCaughan, McClarnan, McClarty, McCollu[-?], McCombs, McConaghy, McConnell, McCormick, McCurdy, McDonald, McDonnell, McDougall, McDuffee, McGildowny, McHenry, McIlreavy, McIntosh, McIntyre, McKay, McKey, McKillop, McKinery [?], McKinley, McKiney/McKinney, McKwon, McLain, McLean, McLister, McMichell [sic], McMullan, McNaghten, McNeale, McNeile, McNeill, McNeille, Millar, Mitchell, Morrison, Nicholl, O’Cally, O’Connor, O’Dougherty, O’Mullin, O’Scally, O’Sheils, Pedlow, Renie, Robinson, Scally, Scullion, Skally, Sharpe, Sinclair, Skalley, Stewart, Trener, Thompson, Walsh, Whiteford, Whyte, Wilkeson, Williamson and Willson.
Viewed from inside the church it can be seen that the present very uneven level of the cemetery has risen considerably above that of the church floor as a result of the large number of burials over the centuries. Most of the graves are situated in the area bounded by the old pre-1808 walls and the oldest headstones, as expected, are located to the south of the church.
Although not many of the headstones provide details of more than two generations, there is a wealth of genealogical information in the cemetery. Many of the names in the above list are found on two or more headstones but the most frequent surname is that of McCormick which occurs on six inscriptions.
There are seven headstones with either full heraldic bearings (Arthur Ker, 1738, Daniel McKay, 1736 and Alexander McDonnell 1764), semi heraldic devices (John Daragh, 1745, Mary McMichael, 1714, [?] McHenry, 18--) or crest (Roger McFarland, now illegible due to weathering). Alexander McDonnell was a skilled stonemason who ‘wrought this monument for his family, 1764’.
It is probable that John Gage, born 1775, died 1841, was a son of the Revd. Robert Gage, landowner and rector of Rathlin, who had a large family nine sons and daughters. Robert’s father, John Gage, born 1693 at Coleraine, had purchased Rathlin Island in 1746 from the 5th Earl of Antrim who was in some financial difficulty at that time.
Some of those buried were not natives of the area as they were coastguards or policemen, both of which organisations did not permit men to serve in their home areas. John Duffy, of Skerries, Co. Dublin, erected a tomb in memory of his wife, Mary, and their children, John Fanning and Jane Fanning, which gives a possible clue to the maiden name of their mother as well as his place of origin.
The McGildowny headstone, now much overgrown with briars, provides information about several members of the family from 1720 to 1887. The McGildowny family were descendents of a Catholic gentry family from the Glens. The family leased land from the Antrim estate in the early eighteenth century and between 1800 and 1832 Edmund McGildowny was the principal agent for the MacDonnells. In the nineteenth century the family lived at Clare Park, Ballycastle.
A simple headstone commemorates a much appreciated Ballycastle physician about whom nothing else appears to have survived. The inscription reads: ‘In memory of Dr James Beattie of Ballycastle who was adorned by every requisite to form the Physician and the genuine philanthropic, rare and distinguished abilities were chiefly employed in the cause of humanity to soften the afliction [sic] and to bind up its wounds, to be deprived of such talents and virtue is a public loss, tho [sic] snatched away in the prime of manhood, his character is indelibly marked as the friend of the poor. He died the 26th January 1814’.