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Shankill Graveyard, Lurgan, Co Armagh

Replacing Ancient Superstition


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It is a peculiarity of the sites of ancient churchyards - particularly in England - that in a great number of cases they are on the north side of a village, and on the north side of the road that leads to them. There was also superstition that the north side of a churchyard itself is less sacred than the other three points of the consecrated ground. This belief that a body interred there was to be buried “out of sanctuary” such was the false notion that pervaded that this unhallowed ground was reserved for burial of criminals, suicides and the unbaptised. Such was the ill repute that an unexplained burial there would have been considered an implication of guilt, and a grave stone in Epworth, Linconshire, bears the inscription.

 

That I might longer undisturbed abide

I choos’d to be laid on this Northern side

 

There is Shankill graveyard an authentic record of this superstition, revealing that such a belief was firmly rooted in Lurgan, and a large section of parishioners shrank from the idea of allowing their departed friends to be interred in such a place of ill repute. At length the Rector of Shankill, Rev Arthur Forde, having during his cure of souls in Lurgan failed to eradicate the superstition, directed in his will that he should be interred in that part of the graveyard that the parishioners has so carefully shunned. His desire was accordingly carried into effect, and the following inscription was put on the tombstone and placed above his grave:

 

“The Rev Arthur Forde. late rector of this Parish, died the twenty-forth day of December one thousand seven hundred and sixty seven, in the sixty-six year of his age, and is interred here (on the northside of this churchyard) agreeably to the special appointement of his will, in order that, as he himself expresseth it, to remove that superstitious imagination which prevails among many that such is profane and unholy.”

 

Unfortunately the Forde tombstone, like many other some dating back over three hundred years, and of great of historical and architectural merit has been destroyed by vandalism in recent years.

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