The oldest memorial in a graveyard in west Ulster is that to John Maghee in the burial ground at Old Leckpatrick. The inscription running around the edge of the stone reads: ‘Here is the buriall place of John Maghee who deseased 26 February 1617 and his family’. Under the present system of dating 1617 should be 1618 (until 1752 the new year began on 25 March). In the centre of the gravestone is a heraldic shield topped by a hand holding a sword. Above this is a Celtic cross.
The Maghees or McGhees were an important family in the Strabane area in the seventeenth century. A David McGhee, probably John’s son, was agent to the Hamiltons, the principal landowners in Strabane, for over 50 years. He was a Roman catholic and in the Civil Survey of 1654-6 was described as a ‘Scottish Papist’. he leased the townland of Ballyburny in the parish of Leckpatrick from Sir George Hamilton of Greenlaw. On his death c.1678 this passed to his son George. In 1683 George sold this townland, also known as Hollyhill, to the Reverend John Sinclair, rector of the parishes of Camus-juxta-Mourne and Leckpatrick. For more about the Sinclairs see John Dooher’s case study on Old Leckpatrick graveyard.
John Macghee's memorial