Michael McShane, William Roulston & Kevin
McMahon inspecing the headstones at
One person who
has been very active in spreading the word
about this graveyard is Kevin McMahon of the
Creggan Historical Society. Kevin has a passionate
interest in this graveyard and in the '70s
he and Cardinal O'Fee undertook a labour of
love and made copies of every inscription within
The Cardinal was
an expert in Gaelic poetry and this being the
burial place of Art McCooey added a special
interest for him. during the project Kevin
realised just how diverse and interesting the
character were who are now buried here. He
says that the history of a Parish is a slice
of the history of the land. "If you understand
the history of the Parish you'll understand
the history of your country."
is the chair of the Creggan Historical Society. Her
paternal and maternal ancestors are buried here in
Creggan. She feels that this old graveyard has a
true sense of peace about it. The old headstones
along with the aged Yew trees lends a real sense
of the ancient to it. She comments that many of the
visitors who come here mention the feeling of peace.
history of emigration and the widespread diaspora
ensures that this area, like so many others, has
connections abroad and right here on the headstones
there are clear links to the USA to be found. One
example of this is seen on two headstones side by
side. One says "Erected by Margaret Lenaghan
of New York" and the other "Erected by
Rev Peter Lenehan of Beantown USA". Quite clearly
this is the result of families parted by emmigration.
There is a curious little stone
buiilding which is in fact the Eastwood vault.
The Eastwoods were a family who owned much
land areound thes parts and were closely associated
with the church here.
Going inside the vault
reveals some interesting features. It is
barrel shaped and even today you can see evidence
that during its building it was formed around
bent Willow branches.
The other fascinating
thing is the small splayed window. One theory
put forward to explain this was that this window
might have been deliberately positioned
to allow the winter
solstice sun light
to shine into the vault...
So, some years back
the measurements of the vault and the window were
sent to the Armagh
Planetarium for examination. It turned out that the
window was indeed in a position to capture the winter
solstice light and this would happen on the 10th
and 11th of February. Further calculations revealed
that this would have happened in the fifth century.
This tends to suggest that this building was in fact
a very early Christian Church but William Roulston
says that while converting churches into mausoleums
wasn't as uncommon practice, there's no conclusive
evidence that this was the case here.
Inside the church at Creggan there is a stained
glass window which is dedicated to Sir Thomas Jackson.
The Jacksons came to the area around 1740. Sir
Thomas was a great benefactor to the area and was
responsible for putting the town clock in Crossmaglen.
Before he did there had been an artificial clock
there which had hands painted on it...
thinking had been that the local people wouldn't
know the difference! It was known locally as the
The other thing that made Sir Thomas a notable
character was that he was the founder of the 'Hong
Kong and Shanghai Bank'... yes, it's true.
In summing up the Creggan graveyard, William Roulston
says that it is a unique place that will never
fail to hold a fascination for locals and visitors
Creggan Church & Graveyard - exudes a true
asense of peace.
If you enjoyed this article you may like
to read some of the others in this series, exploring community
history through headstones... click
History from Headstones: http://www.historyfromheadstones.com/
Ranald Alasdair MacDonald
of Keppoch -
Nothing "flowery" about the story you have
related on your web site about the O'Neill tomb. They
were the progenitors of the Gael Kings of Irish and Scottish
Dalriata and descended from my own earlier ancestors
who ruled at Tara. Conn Ceud Cathach was one of them
as was his grandson Cormac Mac Art. Interestly, he was
a Christain by AD254 long before Patrick set foot on
Isle of Destiny!
A beautiful peaceful looking graveyard and one that
must be preserved for posterity and retaining family
connections throughout the diaspora.
You have my full hearted support as Chief of the Honourable
Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac Mhic Raonuill. Ireland and
Scotland are inseparable but ignorance of both Irish
and Scottish history abounds even in today's enlightened
society with all the technical paraphernalia at their
disposal . Love of family is the key to understanding
the Gaelic tradition. That is what real clanship is all
Much enjoyed your informative site. I'm American
journalist based in Washington DC. But, as my grandmother
was born and raised in Creggan (just a few meters down
the road from the church, in an old slate roofed house
which was only knocked down in the late summer of 2002)
I've visited the church and the graveyard twice over the
years. My grandmother's maiden name was Margaret Hearty,
and she was one of about 12 children of which about 10
moved to the USA before 1920. She married a Michael McShane.
When visiting the graveyard I noticed that there were
lots of McShanes resting there, as well as several Hearty's.
It was also of interest to me to read about the Sir Thomas
Jackson and his link to Hong Kong, because I was based
there for many years as a foreign correspondent! A small
world, as they say!
Ciara - Nov '06
A few years ago I visited this graveyard as part of a
local school project and have never forgotten the O'neill
vault. Since then I have found that some of the stories
relating to this place are fascinating. I think this interesting
to all ages and I hope that the website is a success!
Annette, Australia - April
It was a few years ago in February when I visited Urchill
an Chreagain and walked among this ancient history. I
still remember the feeling of awe as I looked at the O'Neill
tomb and the other reminders of yesterday. This feeling
was greatly enhanced when, as we left, I felt this light
patter on my head and, looking up, there it was, a kiss
of snow farewelling us.
A bit flowery---sure----but that is Ireland and that
is the emotion that Ireland invokes.
Eamonn - Jan '06
Years ago I visited the graveyard and saw Art Mc Cooers
grave. I hope it is looked after. I never saw the O' Neill
stone. Very nice and interesting website, good luck.