that the association of the family with the present
Duke of Abercorn is perhaps tenuous.
A monument which has been built into a gable of the
open-topped building displays a coat of arms which
suggests that the family were closely related to
but there is no inscription to verify this.
Johnny, who has done a case study of the graveyard,
mentions a Reverend Andrew Hamilton who
was Rector in Donaheady for about 40 years up until
He says that this family would have been a “junior
branch” of the Abercorn family. A map from
1870 which he discovered recently shows this plot
as a Hamilton burial ground. This map is of great
interest to historians, including William Roulston.
Whereas many of the graves have no longer any markings,
in some of the gaps in the knowledge of who is actually
buried here and where.
One notable recent grave is that of Robert Nicholl.
Known colloquially as Bobby, he was quite a celebrity
in this area until his death in 1985. He was famous
for his astounding memory. Both Joan and Johnny remember
Bobby Nicholl. He was known as the ‘memory
man’. He had an unusual gift of powerful recall
and could remember any event in his lifetime and
could also put accurate dates on any of them. Johnny
says it was possible for someone to give the memory
man their date of birth and he could immediately
tell them what day of the week they were born and
what was going on in the world in that week!
Strabane District Council erected a plaque here to
his memory. “Robert Nicholl, 1907-1985
in remembrance of Bobby Nicholl, the memory man.
by his creator with the rare gift of total and instant
recall which was so often used for the edification
and enjoyment of many people from all walks of life.”
This visit to Leckpatrick is the last in the special
series and William Roulston, in summing it all up,
says that for anyone who is interested in the past
history of their own community, the most accessible
to start studying that history is their local graveyard.
"This graveyard has just taken us through 400 years
of history, involving many stories, personalities
and character of the past. This insight into our
history can be found in any part of Northern Ireland – it’s
written in stone."
If you enjoyed this article you may
like to read some of the others in this series, exploring
community history through headstones... click
Dr Jane Alexander - July '08
Hi, my mother Elizabeth McGinnis was born at Holyhill.
Her father's name was John and Dr George Sigerson
who was his great uncle was also born there.
Willie Miller - Feb '07
This location is in County Tyrone not Londonderry
Christopher Starrs - Nov '06
I think this is the graveyard to which I
was taken by Theresa Starrs of Fintona when I was
looking for my family roots. There are gravestones
there which show Starrs, Starr, Relan, O'Relan, all
variants of the english name which came to Tyrone
as a reward for sponsoring Cromwell (something the
family WILL NOT believe). But look at the list of
comwells sponsors, and the "plantation"
R. McGavigan - Nov '06
Bobby Nichol was a very real part of the
local folklore when I was growing up. I'm not sure
if this story is true, but it was typical of Bobby's
He was invited to take part in a radio( I believe)
show to demonstrate his remarkable power of recall.
At some point there was a question asked and it was
suggested that Bobby's memory was incorrect, that
he was off by one year, in his answer. However, it
somehow came to light that he was correct, but the
hosts of the show made light of it by saying, "Well,
we were only out by one year". Bobby's retort
to that was, "It would be a long time if you
were waiting for a bus!"
Heather Jones (Tennesse)- Sep '06
This story was interesting, I wish my country
had a long standing histroy so I could lookk up our
community past, but as far as it goes back is the
Sylvia Brain ( nee Snodgrass - Nelson )
I now live in England, but was born in Strabane
in 1949, and lived in Ballymagorry from 1949 till
I knew Bobby Nicholl well, and had many a conversation
over the garden hedge with Bobby and his two sisters,
as their house backed on to mine.
Regarding dates of events, Bobby had a fantastic recall
and was correct every time, he shared his knowledge
with me in the many conversations we had over the
He was a very honest, clever man that was sometimes
mistaken for a village idiot, but I can assure you
that is something he was not.
It was a very fitting tribute the Strabane Council
paid him on the plaque erected in his memory in 1989,
after Bobby died in 1985.
Sadie Gamble nee Dunn - Feb '06
I was interested in the article on Robert (Bobbie)
Nicholl the memory man. He was a frequent visitor
to our house near Ballymagorry,just beyond the "Black
Bridge"(Railway Bridge). He enjoyed my Mother's
Soda bread and tea. In 1952 he noticed my Autograph
Book and insisted in writing two items and a sketch
of "Sunset in Donegal". The following are
the items exactly as he wrote them: Politican accusing
me of being a Milk and Water Protestant
I was a long time a passenger on a ship called Bigotry
but a wave of ignorance washed me overboard onto a
small craft of education that brought me to the shore
Written and composed by Bobbie Nicholl. Leckpatrick
Poverty is no disgrace when its foundation is built
Robert Nicholl , Leckpatrick
Some relevant weblinks:
History from Headstones: http://www.historyfromheadstones.com/