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16 October 2014
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History from Headstones, Leckpatrick
Page 3

Paul Moore visits the graveyard at Leckpatrick near Strabane.

Leckpatrick Graveyard near Strabane, Co.Tyrone

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Page 3

William feels 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 the Abercorn’s 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 the 1820s. 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, the map helps to fill in some of the gaps in the knowledge of who is actually buried here and where.

Audio Clip 5: Unique burial monument without a roof



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!

In 1989 Strabane District Council erected a plaque here to his memory. “Robert Nicholl, 1907-1985 in remembrance of Bobby Nicholl, the memory man. Uniquely endowed 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 place 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."

Audio Clip 6: Bobby Nicholl, the 'memory man'



View of Leckpatrick Graveyard near Strabane, Co.Tyrone


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



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" records!

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 quick wit:
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 Civil War.

Sylvia Brain ( nee Snodgrass - Nelson )
I now live in England, but was born in Strabane in 1949, and lived in Ballymagorry from 1949 till 1975.
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 years.
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
My Answer
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 of commonsense.
Written and composed by Bobbie Nicholl. Leckpatrick
Poverty is no disgrace when its foundation is built on honesty
Robert Nicholl , Leckpatrick

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History from Headstones:


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