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16 October 2014
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History from Headstones

As part of a series of special features, Caroline Nolan visits the Churchyard in Donaghadee

Gravestone in Donaghadee Churchyard

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For at least two centuries the small coastal town of Donaghadee served as the Irish terminus of the sea passage with Scotland. This was mainly because it was a 'safe haven' only twenty miles from the Scottish shore. It was also visible from Scotland.

At the end of the 16th century, there was great discontent among the crofters and farmers in the Scottish lowlands and southern uplands. In 1606, when Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton, two Scots who had secured huge land grants in north Down from King James I and VI, started spreading the news that they might make a new life of liberty in the sparsely populated lands of Ulster, thousands of these Scots gradually became attracted by the prospect.

So, even before the official Plantation began in 1610, there was already a steady influx of farmers and artisans from Ayrshire, Kirkcudbright, Galloway and the north of England taking passage to Donaghadee to begin new lives. More settlers followed these pioneers during the rest of that century. Many migrants passed through the small port, some going to the small settlements of Newtownards, Comber and Killyleagh, and some to other counties of Ulster. Some of those arriving just stopped where they disembarked in Donaghadee.

The people of Donaghadee thus had a great affinity with the sea. Many of them depended on it for their livelihoods. We find merchants, fishermen and even deep-sea divers in the churchyard there.

It is known for certain that a church existed on the site here at Donaghadee in 1622. Although it is highly likely that the site also had a mediaeval church going back several hundred years before, the date of the first church isn't known. The earliest dated gravestones to be found are from 1660 - two of them in fact.

Headstone of William Scott, dated 1660
" Here lieth William Scott, Mariner who died December 20, 1660 "

William Roulston (Ulster Historical Foundation) and Harry Allen, who's been attached to this churchyard for many years, discuss its history here with Caroline Nolan. Click below to listen to their conversation.

Audio Clip 1: William Roulston / Harry Allen



It becomes clear, even after a brief study of the graveyard here that many of its occupants were seafarers, largely Merchant Navy and fishermen. The graveyard itself gives a feeling of being unplanned with no obvious structure to the layout. The only sense of order is that mainly the older headstones are found nearer to the church.

Gravestone of Jean Mackgwear, "who lived well and died well"One curious inscription reads: "Here underlyeth the body of Jean Mackgwear, wife to Alixander Milling of Downodie. Who lived well and died well, January 28 1660".

War heroes have their place in Donaghadee too. There are two headstones too recent to be mentioned in the Gravestone Inscriptions book. Ten feet from Jean Mackgwear’s gravestone near the east wall of the church there stands a solitary War Commission grave, dedicated to the memory of Gunner J. C. B. Harris, a soldier in the Royal Artillery who fell in 1940 aged 27 years.

Around the corner, on the south side of the churchyard is the grave of 21-year-old Lt. William Kenny who joined the Garhwal Rifles and saw action on India's North West Frontier in WWI. He was killed in action and was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Inside the church is a memorial to the fallen in the Great War which is perhaps unique. In order to accommodate Lt. Kenny’s glorious death at Kot Kai in Afghanistan in a known war, it uniquely dates the First World War as lasting from 1914 until 1920!

Other inscriptions around the graveyard include: "This stone claims three plots north". This is peculiar to this area, perhaps throughout all Ireland.

At the rear door of the church is found the grave of James Tedford, famous for his dockside chandlery in Belfast. Tedford actually began his business as a sea Captain in Donaghadee in the 1830s, expanding in 1851 into the Belfast premises.

Harry has a favourite headstone, the one owned by the Saul family. Francis Saul was the owner of Donaghadee’s Rope Walk on the stretch of foreshore immediately south of Shore Street Church in the early years of the nineteenth century. We must assume that it was he who composed this wonderfully nautical poem as a tribute to his father:

Beneath this stone lies Daniel Saul
Who round the world’s terraqueous ball
Has sailed to every land was known
Now under hatches lies at home.
Anchor’d among his kindred mould
Dreads neither storms nor seas that roll
Brought to by death’s correcting rod
Sets sail again to meet his God.

Audio Clip 2: Harry Allen talks about the names around the churchyard


Betty Henry, née Lindsay, loves Donaghadee and says she wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world. Betty has two sets of grandparents buried in the churchyard. Her grandfather Lindsay spent 50 years at sea on the 'Headline Boats'. Her own father sailed along with him from the age of only 16. The couple were torpedoed on two separate occasions. She recalls how her other grandfather (Davidson) used to sell fish door-to-door out of a whicker basket.

Talking to William, Henry and Caroline, Betty explained that only a few days before this interview she discovered that her grandfather's headstone had been smashed by vandals...

Audio Clip 3: Betty Henry talks about her family



Walking through the churchyard in Donaghadee, some of the prominent names of business or well-to-do are not in great evidence. That is because they are generally all buried in their own tombs beneath the church itself, indeed many of the pews in the church sit directly above the bodies of the well-heeled.

Willie Roberts has lived in Donaghadee all of his life and recalls how one day he ended up locked in a tomb beside an open coffin...

Audio Clip 4: Willie Roberts - more about the tombs



Angelique Day is a descendant of the De Lacherois family, well known in these parts. She explains how a French name ended up here in Donaghadee and also talks about the family home and why it was built.

Audio Clip 5: Angelique Day - the De Lacherois family



Grace Neill's pub claims to the oldest in Ireland. Grace's is therefore possibly one of the best known names around the area. She was born in 1817 during the reign of George III. Grace Neill owned and ran this small pub herself, which was probably highly unusual in those days, possibly unique in Ireland. With Donaghadee being such an important busy port, it is also likely that the business was rather lucrative. Her husband John was one of the last captains of the Donaghadee-Portpatrick mail-packet steamers.

Grace was the great great grandmother of Tom Neill, who curious shares the same birthday, albeit 130 years apart! Tom explains some family connections and how there were deep-sea divers amongst them. He adds that although he would very much like to be buried in the churchyard alongside his ancestors he can't - because the graveyard is full!

Tom also shares a glass of Grace Neill's secret recipe herbal tonic with the company...

Audio Clip 6: Tom Neill - about Grace Neill and the family



From left to right: Caroline Nolan, Tom Neill, William Roulston and Gwen, the owner of Grace Neill's pub.

From left to right: Caroline Nolan, Tom Neill, William Roulston and Gwen, the owner of Grace Neill's pub.


Relevant weblink:

"History from Headstones" - Donaghadee Churchyard



Adele - Aug '08
To Aunty Joan (McPeake)

It's Adele here (Brians daughter)

How are you? It would good to hear from you by separate/normal email.

Joan Johnson nee McPeake - July '08
Lovely to read your article. Our family lived in William Street, Donaghadee. My father was Frank McPeake the postman!
I can relate to Helen Frazer and Jackie Somers, I now live in Melbourne, Australia but always think of d/ dee.
M y husband John and I would love to hear from anybody from or did live in d/dee
regards Joan Johnson

25 07 08
ps sister Sadie
brothers Jack, Bing and Brian

Nella Fanning - Mar '08
I have just stumbled onto your wonderful site in my search for ancesters of my G. Grandfather (John Patton). It seems his Father's name was "William", who lived in Belfast in 1854. Our John Patton's birth was about 1839. I noticed two insertions here on the Patton Family: One from Christine Frewen-June 06. and from Leonie Bingham-April 06.

I understand that you may be able to contact both these Ladies so that we could compare notes on this Family, hoping it is the same Family group as ours.

You have our permission to use our email address to both of these folk. Thanking you for any help you may be able to offer me.

Audrey Paddy Keith- February '08

Freda Williamson(Lendrum) - Jan '08
I have loved reading all the information given above. I find Harry Allen really interesting.
I am a Cub Scout Leader with Donaghadee Sea Scouts and have arranged many a tour with Harry which I highly reccommend.
My family are also from The Dee - Herrons and Cleggs being the most popular.
Herron's fish shop which was beside the old chapel would have been my great grandfather's.

Harry Burton - Apr '07
Re-Lahtl, you might try the Donaghadee Parish Church website for information through thier guestbook or link to headstones.
Harry Burton

Jane Leslie - Apr '07
I have discovered that my husband's great-grandfather, Henry Leslie, was born in Donaghadee in August 1834 and joined the Royal Artillery
Regiment, Lisburn in 1852. On his enlistment papers he said he was by trade a servant and that he held a second class school certificate.
I wonder if anyone can suggest where I might find out further information about his parents and family.

Vanessa Lahti - Mar '07
I am trying to trace my family history. I have information that leads me to Robert Tedford born in Belfast, Ireland in 1719. If there is anyone who could help me please do so. Thank you.

Anne - Feb '07
Re: Hunter in Donaghadee. The Hunter family which is my family connection are buried in Whitechurch graveyard Ballywalter and also in the old Greyabbey graveyard. I am not sure if there are Hunter headstones in Donaghadee.

Emma Monard - Feb '07
My grandfather lived in Donaghadee his name was Stanley Hopkirk Monard, his wife Kathleen. Does anyone remember them I know nothing about my grandparents, and would like to know alot more.
Can any one help!

Paul Cooper - Nov '06
My father served in the same regiment as Lt Kenny, VC. In February 1921 the regiment was awarded the prefix "Royal...", and it remained the Royal Garhwal Rifles until the Partition of India in 1947, when, naturally, the Royal disappeared never to return! The Garhwal Rifles remains one of the finest regiments in the Indian Army.

Nancy Herron Schrag - Oct '06
Was excited to see a comment from William Clegg. My great-great grandparents, Robert Herron and Elizabeth Clegg came over to the U.S. from Donaghadee in 1855. Robert's father, James, was a farmer in the townland of Ballywilliam. I look forward to the day when I will be able to visit my ancestors homeland and learn more about my roots. Thanks for the great website.

Carol Tubbs - Sep '06
Hello everyone. I'm a Donaghadee girl myself so found this site interesting. My maternal grandparents are buried in the churchyard. I was born there way back in 1942. I left for England aged 7 and have lived in various countries since. Currently I live in Melbourne, Australia. Next year whilst on holiday I hope to visit D'dee with my sister. She now lives in Wales. Neither of us have been back for many years although my son visited last year for the first time and it sounds like it hasn't changed a bit! Love to hear from anyone living there now. My e-mail addy is: ctubbs @ optusnet .

Kelley Nelson - Sept '06
Hello, I'm just sitting here pondering my fathers side of the family and its history and found out that his grandfather (Samuel Banks Nelson) is from Donaghadee and decided to try to trace it. I love this little site!
I'm wondering if *Dorothea Brown/nee Nelson - Mar 06* is possibly from my family?
From what I know about Samuel is that he moved to Philly to become a minister at a Presbyterian Church. Other than that, then moved to Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) to Knox Presbyterian church.
If anyone knows anything about this man or anyone who might be related... please feel free to e-mail me at kasn2fred @ Hope this site brings some families together! :)

William Clegg - Aug '06
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

Being a ' Donaghadee man ' born and breed, now living in England, I found this article extremely interesting and it brought back fond memories of my life in Donaghadee in the fifties and sixties.

Thank you again, William Clegg

Hugh Macartney - July '06
In the 1940's and '50's I belonged to the Cultra Yacht Club near Holywood and Billy Tedford was the man in charge of looking after launching and painting the boats. He was one of the Belfast tedfors. I used to walk to university every morning past Tedford's sail loft and chandelry which was at the south end of the Queen's Bridge. Likely Billy is buried in Holywood cemetery.

Gene D. Lamont, Bloomfield, Michigan, USA - July '06
My connection with Donagahee dates back to 1844-45, when my great-great grandparents, John Anderson and Elizabeth McCutcheon, brought their family to Canada. John was the son of Alexander Anderson of Ballywilliam Townland. I came to this website to learn something of the history of the Donaghadee area and to see if I could gather further information about my Anderson and McCutcheon ancestors. If anyone could help me with any information along these lines, it would be much appreciated.

Christine Frewen - June '06
Leonie this is Christine Frewen [eckhold] your cousin, I hope you get this message this computer stuff is all new to me. I have done a Patton family tree and have a lot of uncle Willies stuff from his childhood. Also an updated family tree sent to me from Ireland; well I hope you get this message. please keep in touch.

Leonie Bingham (Patton) - April '06
A wonderful site. Came across it while trying to find out about my grandparents Patton, who in 1901 lived in Church Lane.

We do have family in the cemetery in Donaghadee and probably living relatives..

Unfortunately I have not had much luck tracing my family but now understand why my grandfather, who had emigrated to New Zealand, had often said if he could have saved the return fare he would have returned to Donaghadee . From looking at sites like yours and others I can see why my grandfather loved his homeland.

Keep up the good work, it is a real credit to you.


F. O. - April '06
My Hunter ancestors were from Donaghadee in the early 1800's. I was wondering if the Hunter name shows up in the early cemeteries of that Co. Down area? I live in the USA. Love your site and would love to visit someday!

Dorothea Brown/nee Nelson - Mar 06
I am a daughter of the late Alexander Nelson who lived in East Street, Donaghadee until he died, aged 82, 11th. March,2006. I attended Donaghadee Primary School and then Donaghadee High School. The High School was then an intermediate school. It was with avid interest I read the articles from some people whom I remember. Helen Frazer was an aunt to a friend of mine, Mary Livingstone, and that brought back some memories. I remamber Helen coming home from Canada on holiday. I recall herfather playing his piano on the quay during the days of the pierrots. Harry Allen was a teacher at school when I was a pupil. Undoubtedly, he will recall me as a somewhat disruptive girl, nevertheless I now enjoy reading his work about Donaghadee. This paticular graveyard has always drawn me to it and many days have I spent lookingg aroung the old headstones. A wonderful way to look at the past.

Des Walker - Mar 06
I think it's really exciting to see and hear that more seniors are communicating their family history.I was born in Donaghadee in 1936, and connected with an old school pal Jim mcNarry, who came to Canada in 1956,and who is now living in St catherines, Ont, canada. If anyone reads this and has Donaghadee connections I would be happy to hear from them.
My E-Mail address is: Please identify yourself as "Donaghadee".

Happy St Patricks'Day!2006

James Tedford - Feb '06
"At the rear door of the church is found the grave of James Tedford, famous for his dockside chandlery in Belfast. Tedford actually began his business as a sea Captain in Donaghadee in the 1830s, expanding in 1851 into the Belfast premises." Please any Tedfords in Ireland that may have information dealing with the family line forward from this person as well as before, I would like to have. James is the brother of My G-G-G-G-G-Grandfather please email me via YP&M, thank you James Tedford (for real).

William Neill - November '05
Hi my name is William Gary Neill. Cousin of Tom Neill. Born in East Street Donaghadee. My grandmother Elizabeth Neill resided in East Street. Grace Neill is also my great great grandmother. My grandmother told me about Grace, when she was living at the time. I enjoyed Toms article on the Neill family.

Susan Tedford - October '05
Great article. Trying to get info on the James Tedford family.

Judith Williams and Sue Smith - October '05
The governess Miss Slipper mentioned by John Walker was the great aunt of a friend of mine (Sue) for whom I'm doing some family history research. My friend recently obtained a copy of her will which she drew up whilst living at The Mount in the 1930s.

If anyone has any memories of this lady we would be very pleased if they could get in touch.

Email us at *sandgrounder13749* REMOVE THE ASTERISKS!

David Hawley - Sept '05
My grandfather, Robert Hodgson, was the organist of Donaghadee Parish Church in the 'fifties'. The Rector, as I recall was the Rev. Martin. I lived at Killaughey Road and, remember the night the Princess Victoria sank. My aunt had a very old radio and, in fact heard the SOS. She went down to the police station, on the Millisle Road, to inform them but, they doubted what she was saying. It was a short time after that when the 'maroon' went off to call the lifeboat crew. The picture of the crew, that terrible night, used to hang in 'The Cabin' at the bottom of New Street.
As a boy, I attended the 'Admiral Leslie' school, on the Millisle Road, at the bottom of Killaughey Road, and then later Donaghadee Primary and latterly the Intermediate. Although living in Kent, I sometimes venture over to Ballymoney, where my Mother lives and, more likely than not, I venture off to Donaghadee - a place I will always have an affilliation with.

H.E. (Bud) Doyle - April '05
Note to John Walker.
I am a distant cousin of Gina Stone (de Lacherois), who was married to Johan Stone. I visited them in the Manor House in Donaghadee in 1962, but have lost track. I worked with Hugh Fulton who came from Donaghadee and was acquainted with the family. I may have some more genealogical information tucked away. Please email me at *bmjdoyle* the stars from the address).

John Walker - February '05
My family lived in Donaghadee, my father worked for the De Lacherois family. At the time George was the Squire and he had two daughters Jaqueline and Jeana, Miss Slipper was their governess and Mrs Leslie was the Squires sister. They all lived in the Manor House on High St. The Mount Alexander and Admiral Leslie School which I attended was named after the Squires brother in law. I moved to Canada in 1950. Would Angelique Day be a daughter or grand daughter of Jaqueline who married Captain Stone? I would like to know more about the Manor House and the De Lacherois family's earlier history. Would anyone be interested in sharing this information with me?

Harold T Lennon - February '05
Hi Tom, enjoyed listening to you on tape. Great! Just got this site. Jack and Joyce Somers sent it to me. Must get to know you better. Want to get back to Ireland, north that is. See you soon.

Helen Fraser - December '04
What a wonderful wonderful article about Donaghadee and reading about Betty Lindsay and other long lost friends.
This letter is from Helen Fraser, Bert Fraser's daughter. We lived in Meadowbank ave. All the members of my family have all been taken home and are all buried in the new grave yard on Millisle road except my grannie Lizzie and my grandpa Jimmy Fitsimmons who are burried just as you walk in on the path at the back of the church. How many memories came back into my mind when I looked at all the grave stones in the grave yard. I came to Canada almost 50 years ago and am the only one of the Frasers that still survive. I now live on Vancouver Island just outside Victoria.
After living in Donaghadee by the sea I had to live by the ocean so I found a little village and am now living once again by the ocean. Jack and Joyce Somers sent me the article and as I said it is wonderful. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard to put this article together.

Mary Delargy - December '04
This was a really interesting way of finding out about the history of a particular area. Gravestones have a great fascination for so many of us because so much is contained in so few words. It would be great to see many other areas of Northern Ireland being covered in the same way.

If you enjoyed this article you may like to read some of the others in this series, exploring community history through headstones... click here


Relevant weblink:

History from Headstones:

valerie emery - Feb 08
have just discovered that my paternal grandmother,Annie Blanche Tomlins was born in donaghadee in the 1800's (mid to late). would be really interested to hear if there are still Tomlins living in the area



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