Significant find in historic Clogher graveyard


AN eighteenth century tombstone has just been uncovered in Clogher Cathedral cemetery.

This graveyard had over 500 of its memorials recorded almost 50 years ago (1972) when Jack Johnston published his book on the graveyard though at that time this one was completely hidden from view.

In Mr Johnston’s transcription then more than 200 of the stones dated from the eighteenth century if not earlier. In fact 28 of the stones stretch back to the 1600s making it one of the most significant cemeteries in Ulster. Clogher cemetery has more inscribed seventeenth century memorials than any cemetery in Ulster This new discovery adds an important extra inscription to the eighteenth century record.

This stone with an attractive coat of arms is a memorial to Thomas and Mary Clingan who were the children of James Clingan of Ralessy. They died in 1763 and 1765. It was under about 5 inches of green sod and was the middle one of three stones to the same family. It was uncovered recently when path laying was going on close to the West door.

This Clingan family, who were Presbyterians died out about 150 years ago. They made their way to Ontario where the placename ‘Ralessy’ is to be found in Dufferin County. Fleming Clingan the younger son of George Clingan of Ralessy emigrated around 1850. He married a next door neighbour, Mary Anne Cumberland from Slatmore and they set up home in Mono township. Here Fleming became a Canadian JP and the town’s first postmaster.

Fleming’s son, Col George Clingan (1868-1944) was a physician and surgeon as well as a distinguished public representative. He became mayor of Vidren, Manitoba and was elected to the Manitoba legislature. William Clingan, a brother of the James Clingan listed on the newly discovered stone had earlier emigrated in Pennsylvania. In the 1790s he secured a tract of 400 acres in an uncharted wilderness. The early history of the district records how William carried bundles of poles on his back to build his first log cabin miles from his nearest neighbour.

The memorials at Clogher include the graves of soldiers, surgeons, clergy, attornies, merchants and many of the local landowning families as well as those erected by emigrants to their kith and kin back home.

The cemetery has the graves of clergy from all traditions. They include the Rev Andrew Miller who was the Presbyterian moderator in 1799, a number of parish priests and a recent Clogher bishop lived to be 100. The greatest longevity recorded in the cemetery is however attributed to James Conner of Derrynascobe who died in 1746 at the age of 112.

Six pre Reformation bishops of Clogher are buried in the graveyard as are seven priests from the time of the Penal laws. Father Philip McMahon who endowed the building of two of the parish’s earliest chapels was buried here in 1795. It is also the last resting place of Father Edward McArdle the friend of the young William Carleton. Fr McArdle was a victim of the typhus epidemic of 1818.

Clogher Cathedral graveyard is one of the most historic cemeteries in Ulster and contains the graves of soldiers who fought at the siege of Derry, at the battle of the Boyne, in the Peninsular war, in the Crimea and in the Boer war.

Two Gledstanes brothers were at the siege of Derry while a Lieutenant James Lucy was at the Boyne. Sgt David Bloomfield who served in the 32nd Foot under the Duke of wellington even lists all the battles he took part in on his tombstone. He was at Rolera and Vimiero (1808) Talavera (1809) Salamanca (1812) as well as Pyrenees and Nivella (1813), surviving the campaign to die at the age of 100. Bloomfield raised the stone in memory of his wife but in doing so made sure he recited the details of his own career – some 12 years before his own death! He was leaving nothing to chance.

Among the other soldiers buried here are Capt William Cairnes who was one of the original 13 Apprentice Boys in 1688, Sgt Major Francis Graham killed during the First World War, Major William Stewart of Daisyhill who won the MC and Col William Garnett of Corick who won the DSO. The cemetery also has a communal grave (said to be near the back wall) for men from the district who fell at the battle of Newtownbutler

The cemetery contains the graves of Carleton’s father and mother as well as many of the real life characters who figure in his narrative. These include ‘dacent’ Andy Morrow, Jack Stuart, Ned McKeown, Hugh Roe McCaughey and Cormick McElroy.

Many of the families buried at Clogher have links with the Irish diaspora in far flung places and names like Boston, Iowa, Johannesbourg, Greymouth, New York and Minnamurra feature on the headstones. Dr John Mitcheltree who was a neighbour of and related to the Clingans of Ralessy was the first physician in Mercer County, Pennsylvania in the 1790s.

The cathedral graveyard is a place where the bones of men and women of all traditions mingle and where the history of the town and district is recorded for posterity in stone, iron and granite. These ‘new’ Clingans can now take their place beside them.

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