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One of the most historic sites in Belfast is the old graveyard at Clifton Street. The following is its history. Please feel free to use any of the stories in any project. Please feel free to use any of the stories in any project. All that we ask is that the Glenravel Project, Belfast, be acknowledged and if used in printed matter and copy of the publication article is sent to us
THE BELFAST CHARITABLE SOCIETY
On the 20th of August 1752 a meeting was held in Belfast by the leading inhabitants of the town and adjoining countryside to consider the question of building a poor-house, hospital and church. It was at this meeting that the Belfast Charitable Society was born. The necessity for a poor-house is shown by the following resolution passed at a subsequent meeting:
Resolved-that, whereas a poor-house and hospital are greatly wanted in Belfast for the support of vast numbers of real objects of charity in this parish, for the employment of idle beggars who crowd to it from all parts of the North, and for the reception of infirm and diseased poor; and, whereas the church of Belfast is old and ruinous, and not large enough to accommodate the parishioners, and to rebuild and accommodate the parishioners, and to rebuild and enlarge the same would be an expense grievous and insupportable by the ordinary method of public cesses: Now, in order to raise a sum of money to carry those good works into execution, the following scheme has been approved of by the principle inhabitants of the said town and gentlemen of fortune in the neighbourhood who are friends to promote so laudable undertaking.
The scheme was a lottery by which they were to raise a sum of money, the tickets of which were sold in the large cities and towns throughout the British Empire. But as the scheme did not receive much encouragement in London, and the tickets were cried down, the committee of the Belfast Charitable Society sent over two members, Mr Gregg and Mr Getty, with the power of attorney to promote the project.
Notwithstanding the scheme was still decried, and legal proceedings had to be taken to compel the purchasers to pay for their tickets.
At last, a sum of money having been obtained, a memorial was presented to Lord Donegall asking him to grant a piece of ground for the erection of buildings. The land the Belfast Charitable Society had in mind was in the countryside at the North of the town which today makes up part of the New Lodge area.
Lord Donegall granted the land to the Society, and later advertisements were issued inviting plans for the building of a poor-house and hospital, the cost to be 3000, and the stone, sand, lime and water to be supplied by the inhabitants of the town and district.
The plans of a Mr Cooley, of Dublin, for a poor-house to accommodate 36 inmates and a hospital to contain 24 beds were approved, and on the 7th of August, 1771, the foundation stone was laid, and placed within it were five guineas and a copper tablet with the following inscription:
THIS FOUNDATION STONE OF A POOR-HOUSE AND INFIRMARY FOR THE TOWN AND PARISH OF BELFAST WAS LAID ON THE FIRST DAY OF AUGUST, A.D. M,DCC,LXXI, AND IN THE XI. YEAR OF THE REIGN OF MAJESTY GEORGE III THE RIGHT HONOURABLE ARTHUR EARL OF DONEGALL AND THE PRINCIPAL INHABITANTS OF BELFAST FOUNDED THIS CHARITY; AND HIS LORDSHIP GRANTED TO IT IN PERPETUITY EIGHT ACRES OF LAND ON PART OF WHICH THIS BUILDING IS ERECTED.
In addition to the hospital and poor-house the building contained assembly rooms for the use of the townspeople and profit of the charity.
On the 17th of September, 1774, the hospital was opened for the admission of the sick. In this hospital were made the first trials of inoculation and vaccination in the north of Ireland, because, the minutes show that on the 4th of May, 1782, the thanks of the committee were given to Dr W. Drennan (the United Irishman) for his introduction of the plan of inoculation, and on the 29th of March, 1800, a resolution was passed permitting Dr Haliday to try the experiment of vaccination on a few children in the poor-house, provided the consent of their parents was obtained.
An extern department was afterwards established and wards were also allotted for the treatment of lunatics, and it can be found from an entry in the committee book that a lunatic at one time had to be chained down and handcuffed. It also appears that there was a lock hospital as well as a reformatory in connection with the building.
For a number of years the Belfast Charitable Society remained the only charity in the town of Belfast, but gradually other institutions became established which relieved its expenditure, and with the erection of a dispensary in 1792 and a hospital for infectious diseases in 1799 the Society was then able to close its extern department .
In August 1817 the hospital was moved to Frederick Street where it was named the 'Royal Hospital', and it was here that the hospital remained until the early part of the present century when it was moved to the Falls Road and renamed the 'Royal Victoria Hospital'.
Since coming under the operation of the Irish Poor Law Act the Society has been, in its practical operation, limited to the class of decayed citizens. Reduced tradesmen, artisans and servants, under this act, were seen to be fit and sent to the work-house on the Lisburn Road
In 1867 an additional wing at the back of the poor-house was erected at a cost
of 2.500 which was paid by John Charters (a mill owner),and in 1873 two
additions, at each side of the building, were erected by Edward Benn at a cost
John Charters and Edward Benn also gave donations to the poor-house along with a large number of others, but donations were not enough to run the poor-house and the Society had to find other ways of raising money, and in 1795 a new idea for making money was presented to the committee.
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THE NEW BURYING GROUND.
Poor-House 27th October 1795
Present The Rev. W. Bristow, vice-President; Thomas Whinnery, William Tennant, J. Monear, William Clarke, Samuel Gibson, Samuel Neilson, James Kennedy.
Resolved. That it is recommended to the next general board to consider appropriating
one of the fields up the lane for the purpose of a burying ground, and also
whether some new regulations ought not to take place relative to the house in
front of the Poor-House, in consequence of the erection of the New Barracks.
(SD) William Bristow . vice-president.
That was the resolution passed in the board room of the poor-house which marked the beginning of what is now known as Clifton Street Cemetery.
At present it is unknown just who came up with the idea of building a graveyard, but without doubt, it must have been one of the gentlemen present at the above meeting.
There were two reasons why the Society wanted to build a graveyard; the first was for somewhere to bury the poor who had died in the house and the second was to simply raise money.
On the 3rd of November,1795, a meeting of the general board was held in the poor-house, at this meeting it was resolved:
That the field, number 5, lately in the possession of the Rev. W. Bristow, be enclosed with a wall and appropriated for a burying ground, and the committee are hereby empowered to lay it out and dispose of it in such a manner as may appear most advantageous to the society, and at the same time ornamented.
From this resolution it can be seen that field number 5 of the poor-house grounds was to become the new graveyard. Field no. 5 was at the top of what was then known as 'Buttle's Loney'.
This was a lane which ran along the south and west sides of the poor-house, then continued up to the grounds of Vicinage, the home of Thomas McCabe, which is now the grounds of St Malachy's College.
In December,1795, plans were made as to how the graveyard was to be laid out. Soon afterwards work began on the walls and gate. In just over a year the graveyard was ready for the selling of lots.
It was at this time that the graveyard was named the 'New Burying Ground' to
distinguish it from the 'Old Burying Ground' which at that time stood next to
St George's Church in High Street.
Poor-House, March 1797
The public are now informed that the Burying Ground near the Poorhouse is now ready, and that Messers. Robert Stevenson, William Clarke, and John Caldwell are appointed to agree with such persons as wish to take lots.
This was the notice which informed the public that the Burying Ground was now
At present it is unknown who bought the first lot, but what is known is that the lots were being bought very quickly .
Two years later a meeting of the General Board was held in the Exchange Rooms at the bottom of Donegall Street.
Exchange Rooms April 16th 1799
At a meeting of the General Board. Present. The Rev. W. Bristow, Vice President, in the Chair; Rev. Mr. Vance, F. Turnley, W. Clarke, R. Bradshaw, T. Stewart, R. Hyndman, S. Hewitt, J. McCleery, R. Stevenson, S. Gibson, T. McDonnell, T. Winnery
Proceedings of last meeting read and confirmed.
Resolved. That a portion of the Poor-House burial ground be laid apart for interring such poor persons as may die, not having funds to pay for their interment in the same or some other burying ground, the same to be regulated by the committee for the time being.
(SD) William Bristow
The ground laid aside for the poor was a large stretch of land at the top end
of the Burying Ground, and it was this ground that was to become a 'mass grave'
during the various fever and cholera outbreaks.
One of the reasons the Board gave this ground for the burial of the poor was that they could save money on burying the paupers in the Shankill or Friar's Bush graveyards.
Another section of the Burying Ground was also laid aside for the burial of paupers, and due to large sections of the Burying Ground being used ,it was not long before the lots being sold were almost gone.
The Burying Ground over the next two decades was now almost full, and in 1819 a report was read at the Charitable Society's annual meeting, part of the report was a follows:
The Burial Ground is already so full as to call for the particular attention of the subscribers. The wall lots, in particular, are all disposed of, and, consequently, the graveyard must cease to be a source of accommodation to the public, and of emolument to the charity, without considerable enlargement. It appears to your committee that in the first place, the enclosure should be completed on the south east side, so as to afford room for some additional wall lots, which are the most profitable; and that as soon as may be, the Charitable Corporation should get possession of the adjoining field, now in the occupation of Mr. W. McClure. By the alteration to the burial ground, a simple, but signal improvement has been made, partly a the expense of the Corporation, under the superintendence of certain members of the committee.....
As this report shows, the poor-house Committee would have to enlarge the Burying Ground if they wished to make any more money on it, and at a meeting held in the poor-house on the 24th of March, 1827, it was agreed:
That field number 6 be enclosed with a proper wall for the purpose of extending
the Burying Ground; and that Messrs. Munford, Sinclair, Suffern, McTeir and
Mackay be a committee to carry into effect the enclosing and draining of the
Field no. 6 was below the present Burying Ground. In April,1827, work
began on the walls which were erected as funds would permit.
The old gate, which stood where St Enoch's church now stands, was bricked up and the new gate was erected on what was then called 'Hill Hamiltons Avenue' (now Henry Place), and at the same time a gate lodge was built for the Burying Ground's caretaker.
By 1828 the new section of the Burying Ground was ready, and people began to buy lots almost as soon as it had opened; and three years later the Committee decided to keep a registry of all the burials taking place.
Before this new part was opened, a new problem was now facing the Committee
of the Burying Ground, and of all the burying grounds throughout the British
Isles. The problem was 'Bodysnatching'.
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In the late 1700s and early 1800s the medical profession was very much in its infancy, and the doctors of the time needed dead bodies on which to carry out experiments so that they could try to fully understand the workings of the human body.
The legal supply of these bodies was useless to the doctors because the bodies of those hanged were the only bodies they could obtain as subjects for anatomical dissection.
Not only were the bodies of hanged criminals scarce, but the anatomists were
not free from the vengeance of the families and friends of the hanged criminals.
So, where there were those engaged in medical research there was the need for dead bodies. It was this need that gave rise to a new crime, 'bodysnatching'.
This was not the start of bodysnatching. In fact the first official notice of bodysnatching is recorded in the minutes of the Edinburgh College of Surgeons on May 20th, 1711. It reads as follows:
Of late there has been a visitation of
sepulchers in the Greyfriars churchyard
by some who, most un-christianly, have
been, stealing, or at least attempting to
carry away, the bodies of the dead out of
It is unknown what reason was behind that particular case of bodysnatching,
but up to the demand of the early 1800s, incidents of bodysnatching were few
and far between.
In the late 1700s bodysnatching was carried out by gravediggers and anatomy students, but as high prices began to be paid for corpses, others became involved. These people were variously known as
'Resurrectionists', 'Crunchers' and 'Burkers'.
The latter was a direct allusion to the infamous Burke and Hare who, in 1827, extended their conception of the activity to murder.
William Hare ran a tramps, lodging house in Tanner's Close, Edinburgh. In Christmas 1827, an old man died in this house owing Hare the sum of 4 for rent. Everything was made ready for the funeral, and it was then that Hare had the idea to make up for his rent loss.
He told his friend, William Burke, that there was no prospect of him ever getting his 4 from the old man's relations, so he proposed to take the body out of the coffin and sell it to one of the schools of anatomy in the city.
The pair returned at once to Tanner's Close unscrewed the lid of the coffin, removed the body of the old man and replaced it with bark and stones. They refastened the lid of the coffin, and after concealing the corpse in a bed they then accompanied the bark and stones to the cemetery and saw it decently buried.
Burke and Hare later took the body to a Dr. Knox and sold it for 7.10s; Hare receiving his 4, and Burke taking the balance. This was a 'sell' which went on to lead to nine murders.
Burke and Hare went on selling the bodies of those they had murdered in Hare's lodging house, but unknown to them their last murder was to be a big mistake for the pair, due to the fact that the victim was very well known in Edinburgh.
'Daft' Jamie (as she was known) was recognised by Dr. Knox's door- keeper and also by several of his students.The police soon received a 'tip off' and they raided 10 Surgeon's Square which was Dr. Knox's school. Inside they found the murdered body of a woman named Mary Docherty, and soon after Burke and Hare were arrested.
At their trial in 1828 Hare turned King's Evidence and Burke was sentenced to death, with the order that his body should be handed over for public anatomy.
In Belfast the bodysnatchers stole from all the graveyards; Shankill, Friar's Bush and Clifton Street. It is unknown just how many bodies were stolen, because of the way in which the work was carried out.
The bodysnatchers would come into the graveyard in the middle of the night, look for a fresh grave and dig it up. They then removed the body from the coffin and refilled the grave. The body was then placed in a barrel and later sold.
Due to the fact that there was no local demand for bodies, the bodysnatcher then had the added problem of shipping the bodies to where the demand was, either in Edinburgh, London or Dublin.
Numerous corpses had been discovered in transit to the medical schools.
They were shipped in brine as bacon, and most of those discovered coming from Belfast were from the Burying Ground at Clifton Street. For example, in 1828 the body of a man named John Fairclough was found in Warrington, England. It was proved that the body was originally stolen from Clifton Street graveyard.
Four years before this, the bodysnatchers dug up the wrong grave in Clifton Street. The following appeared in the Belfast Newsletter on the 20th of January, 1824:
A REWARD OF FIFTY POUNDS
Is offered by the COMMITTEE of the BELFAST CHARITABLE SOCIETY, to any person who shall, within Six Weeks, give information to the STEWARD against, and prosecute to conviction, the Person or Persons guilty of the atrocions offence of entering the Burying ground behind the Poor-House, on Monday Night, 12th inst. and raising an Infants Coffin, several years interred. It remained unopened on the ground.
Signed, by order,
WM. ST. JOHN SMYTH,
CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEE.
Jan 17, 1824
There are many incidents of bodysnatching recorded in the files of the Belfast Northern Whig. One such case was of particular interest, due to the manner in which the accused were arrested. The report told of the appearance in court of James Stewart, James Pemblico and Robert Wright who were all charged with the offence of attempting to steal away bodies from the New Burying Ground (Clifton Street) on the night of the 24th of November, 1827.
The report continues;
Between five o'clock and six o'clock on Monday morning, the watchman at the
cemetery was accosted by one of the prisoners who asked him did he ever ' rise
a body ' as it was a proceeding which gave him such delight.
The watchman surprised at the question,
immediately entered the graveyard but found all right and on his return he was told that if he would consent to join in the work, money and drink should be given him in abundance.
Determined to detect the persons who attempted to bribe him from his duty, he manifested an inclination to come to terms and subsequently made an appointment to meet his unknown friends at a public house in Park Lane at 10 o'clock. He met the three prisoners there, who treated him with ale, entered fully on the subject, discussed the pleasures of bodysnatching, and promised to give him two sovereigns for allowing them to enter the churchyard in the night. This he agreed to and received a sovereign on account. He informed Mr Kilshaw, his employer, of the matter and in the course of the day five constables were placed to watch.
Needless to say, the bodysnatchers were apprehended 'red handed' and the watchman commended for his action. Unfortunately, this prosecution did not discourage other bodysnatchers from invading the burying ground as many reports in the Belfast Northern Whig covering the years 1824 to 1832 show.
The families of those buried in Clifton Street used many different devices to prevent raids on their loved one's graves.
A lot of the families kept watch on the graves at night until the bodies were in a state of decomposition. Other families hired watchmen to do this for them, and it was not uncommon for these watchmen to enter the burying ground armed.
Until 1831 the Burying Ground committee would not allow watchmen into the graveyard if they had guns, but after a meeting held in that year the committee decided to supply their own watchmen with firearms. However on the 27th of February, 1833, there was cause for an investigation:
Poor-house 27th February, 1833
At a special meeting of the committee held for the purpose of enquiring into
the circumstances connected with firing shots in the graveyard on the night
of Monday last, one of which struck the barrack, and entered through one of
the windows of the room inwhich the soldiers were sleeping.
Two soldiers of the 80th regiment deposed that at about half past twelve on Monday night, the 25th inst., a shot was fired from the rear of the barracks, which entered through the centre pane of one of the windows, and that about two o'clock, four o'clock and six o'clock the shots were repeated but they do not think that any of them struck the barracks. On the whole they are sure that about six shots were fired.
After having heard the statement of the men who were on watch on Monday night, the 25th inst.-viz, John McIlwain and James McFarlane fired several shots on Monday evening unnecessarily, thereby causing both alarm and danger, thereby acting contrary to their orders, and in consequence thereof the
committee be summoned for Saturday to take into considerationthe propriety of not allowing firearms to the watchmen in future.
(SD) A. C. Macartney. Chairman
The two watchmen were 'sacked' for firing shots to pass the time. Before the new watchmen had started, a decision was taken that they should have only blank ammunition for their guns, and that a report was to be made each morning.
NORTHERN WHIG MONDAY 6TH FEBURARY 1832.
POOR-HOUSE BURYING GROUND.-We have been requested to state, that, in consequence of those persons lately interred in the Poor-House Burying Ground, having been in the habit of firing guns, charged with slugs and bullets, which sometimes alarmed the neighbourhood and passengers, and also injured the tombs and head-stones in the grounds; the Poor-House Committee lately came to a resolution, that they would employ two responsible persons, for whose faithfulness they required considerable security, and for whose correct conduct they feel themselves accontable, to watch the graves of all persons buried in these grounds; and who will require but a trifling remuneration. They will be well armed; and will have watch-dogs constantly with them. This arrangement, if faithfully adhered to, will give general satis faction, and relieve the minds of many families.
Eventually, though, the Society became completely frustrated with the system of watchmen guarding the Burying Ground. This led to the withdrawal of watchmen for good. The watchmen, it seemed, could not be trusted to keep or protect the Burying Ground satisfactorily. So disgusted were one family with the entire situation that they made there own 'coffin guard'. This was an apparatus (used quite successfully) to prevent the removal of a dead body from its coffin, being a cage like framework in which the coffin was placed. Bars were then placed across the top, bolted, and the coffin was then buried. One of these was found in the graveyard in the latter part of the last century, and is now on show in the Ulster Museum.
Other ways to prevent bodysnatching included the building of large vaults for burial, and the placing of stone slabs on top of the graves all these can be seen today in Clifton Street graveyard.
Bodysnatching ended as suddenly as it had began. In the early part of the 1830s a bill was passed legalising and regulating the conduct of schools of anatomy and surgery. Almost at a stroke the operations of the bodysnatchers were over.
It is easy to see that bodysnatching was an unnecessary evil and one that thrived on the anomalous nature of the law.
One authority on the subject has written of the whole episode:
There was little choice in the matter. It was either a violation of graveyards
so that the profession of medicine might rest on the sure ground of a knowledge
of human anatomy, or that ignorance should prevail and medicine fall to the
level of quacks and charlatans.
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FEVER AND CHOLERA
On the 7th of April, 1846, 33-year- old Margaret Owen, who lived in 34 Henry
Street, was buried in the poor section of the New Burying Ground. Her cause
of death was recorded as fever.
Nothing much was thought of by this death. After all, people were dying of fever at a rate of around one hundred per year. What was remarkable about this death, was the fact that it was one of the first in a new epidemic.
Belfast had been hit by a fever epidemic in 1836-1837. At that time the fever was accompanied by outbreaks of Influenza and Erysipelas, which was a skin disease caused by a bacterial infection. Together these caused a very high death rate in the town.
The fever which struck Belfast in the 1840s was in fact two different fevers. Typhus and Relapsing, both of which were carried by body lice, fleas and ticks.
Both fevers first caused pain in the joints and muscles, extreme headache,
continuous vomiting, widespread rash, and later a slow and painful death for
its unfortunate victim.
At the same time as the fever outbreak, Ireland was facing another, more serious problem, the potato blight, otherwise known as the 'Great Famine'.
The famine had a less disastrous effect on the north of Ireland, than on many other parts of the country. One reason for this was due to the fact that the people in the northern counties were not completely dependent on the potato for survival, since oatmeal was traditionally an additional article of their diet.
Nevertheless the North was severely affected, and many people left their homes in search of food and work in the towns.The fever epidemic which followed was attributed to the introduction of infection by the ten thousand refugees who had crowded into the poorer areas of Belfast.
Andrew Malcolm, who was a doctor in the General Hospital in Frederick Street, at the time of the outbreak wrote:
We will remember the aspect of the hordes of poor who thronged into the town
from all parts. Famine depicted in the look, in the hue, in the voice and gait.
The food of a nation had been cut off; the physical strength of a whole people was reduced; and this condition, highly favourable to the impression of the plague-greath, resulted in the most terrible epidemic that this island has ever experienced.
What was happening was simple; the poor from all over Ireland were coming into the already overcrowded poor areas of Belfast in search of food and work, and with them they brought the fever.
In 1847 the People's Magazine printed a series of articles written by Dr Andrew
Malcolm entitled 'Sanitary Inspections of Belfast' and in one of these he presented
a map of the New Lodge district, back-to-back houses were shown along with pumps,
open sewers and other problems. He examined in detail the various 'rows' and
'courts' and the few streets which then existed. In these he found gross overcrowding
with most two up-two-down houses with sometimes upwards of five families in
Other poor areas such as Carrick Hill and the Pound Loney were worse again. Indeed, all the poorer districts of Belfast with their appalling conditions proved no hindrance to the spread of this new fever epidemic.
It was not long before large numbers of people began to die. Bodies were being found in the streets and others were being left outside graveyards for burial by their families or friends. At the New Burying Ground, sometimes up to four bodies were being found outside on Henry Place. On the 27th of February, 1847, the body of an unknown two-year-old child was found on the doorstep of the graveyard gatehouse, it was the first of many.
By now the number of people dying was rising at an alarming rate. With sometimes upwards of one hundred people being buried in the New Burying Ground every week.When the fever had reached its height, Belfast was struck with outbreaks of dysentery and small-pox. By now, preventing the fever and other diseases was seen as an impossible task.
More worrying, was the new outbreak of dysentery. This disease attacked the bowels and abdomen before leading to a very painful death.
The first person to die of dysentery and to be buried in the New Burying Ground was 26-year-old Alexander McMurry. He was an inmate of the poor-house. The day after his death, another seven people died from the same disease, all of them inside the poor-house.
To cope, the Board of Health, which had just been set up, had to enlarge the Union Infirmary and move poor-house inmates (thought to carry the disease) into it. The Board also had built a large shed in the grounds of the General Hospital which was facing the poor-house in Frederick Street.
Two unused hospitals, the College Hospital, which was in the old Barracks, and the Cholera Hospital were once again opened. Later tents were erected in the grounds of the Workhouse to accommodate 700 convalescent patients.
Back in the burying grounds of Belfast, burial space was running out, and at the New Burying Ground, bodies were arriving faster than the gravediggers could accomadate them.
On the 9th of July, 1847, the Belfast Newsletter described the scene in the New Burying Ground:
In the course of the present week
we saw no fewer than twenty coffins,
containing the corpses of persons who
had died of fever in the various
hospitals in town during the proceeding
twenty four hours lying for interment
in that portion of the New Burying Ground
appropriated for that purpose; while cart
loads would arrive before the common
grave was ready for their reception:
A sight so melancholy was never before
witnessed in Belfast.
Some of the coffins contained more than one body in each, as the registry books of the Burying Ground show, and sometimes up to five bodies were placed in one coffin (which were really large boxes). Soon after, coffins were not used at all. When the poor ground was full, the cholera ground, which was last used in the epidemic of the 1830s, was once again opened. Even the gap between the Antrim Road wall, and the graveyard wall was used.
In the Belfast Newsletter of the 16th of July, 1847, it was reported that the parish ground was full. The congestion at Friar's Bush was as serious as at the New Burying Ground. At the same time the Revd Richard Oulton described how he was shocked by the sights to be seen in the New Burying Ground, where coffin was heaped upon coffin until the last was not more than two inches below the surface.
The problem now was burial space: more would have to be found or the fever epidemic would have to be stoped quickly. At this time it was fully realised that to control the epidemic, it was first necessary to control vagrancy, and thus prevent more paupers coming into the town.
To do this a meeting was held by the poor-house Committee on the 20th of July, 1847. It was at this meeting that it was agreed that all beggars were to be 'placed' in the House of Correction (prison) and that this was to begin on August 3rd.
The following is the first report on the beggars first convicted:
August 3rd, House of Correction.
Present. Dr Denvir, J.Getty, Dr C. Purdon, A.J. McCrory, J. Knox, Rev R. Oulton, Rev W. Bruce in the Chair.
Samuel Burns aged 16 from parish of Kilmore near Crossgar convicted of begging on Carrick Hill to be confined for one fortnight from yesterday.
James McDonnell aged 25 from Drumane, Tullamore West, latterly from Glasgow sent by the town found begging in Hercules Place to be confined for one fortnight from yesterday.
Biddy Flinn who had with her a 10 year old son and a child about 2 years old living in Queery's Entry, North Street, was found begging in College Square North to be confined for one fortnight from yesterday with the liberty to have the children with her.
As the days went on the lists became longer at each session as more and more beggars were being arrested and confined to the House of Correction.
If the idea of doing this was to prevent begging in the streets by people who had come to Belfast for that purpose and to scare away others, then it had worked. The poor-house minutes for the work done in the House of Correction continue until February 5th, 1848, which was when the last of the vagrants were disposed of either by dismissal or transfer to the Police Office.
From August there was a gradual decline in the fever. By November the General Hospital ceased to admit any further fever cases, and the following month the Barrack Hospital was closed as the new Workhouse Hospital provided sufficient beds for any remaining cases.
At the end of 1847 Dr Andrew Malcolm was warning people through the pages of the Peoples Magazine, that cholera was spreading at an alarming rate towards Europe, and at the same time the Board of Health, which had been set up to combat the fever epidemic, was being disbanded, even though Belfast was still suffering a high death rate. According to the census of 1841, the mortality rate per 1,000 in Belfast was 28% the average age of death was nine years, and one half of the population was under the age of 20 years.
Dr Malcolm, having demonstrated that Belfast suffered to an unusual extent from preventable disease, went on to examine the sanitary state of the town in detail. He dealt first of all, with housing and reported the following:
The great majority of the poorer houses in this town consist of four rooms
varying in size from 7 feet to 10 feet square in two stories. They are generally
occupied by two families... We have known as many as eighteen of twenty persons
sleeping within such limited apartments;... Poor lodging-house
keepers have been known to cram three beds into one apartment and three persons into each bed.
The first case of cholera occurred in the Lunatic Asylum on the 1st of November,
1847, and for upwards of a month was the only case.
This was Asiatic cholera which had last appeared in the town in 1832 and affected almost 3,000 people, killing over 500, most of whom are buried in the poor ground of Clifton Street.
Soon this disease began to appear in various localities in the town. A cholera hospital was opened in Howard Street, and the General Hospital in Frederick Street was enlarged to treat cases from the North Queen Street and 'Sailortown' areas, the Union Hospital dealing with the rest of the town.
In the poor-house, great care was taken to prevent the entry of infection.
During the new cholera threat, no inmate was allowed out and no one was allowed
to come in. Only on Sundays did the inmates get out, and this was only to go
to their places of worship under strict supervision.
During this epidemic the poor-house escaped infection, entirely due to these measures being taken. The poor who had died of cholera outside the house were causing the committee in charge of the burying ground a major problem of where to bury them.
Wednesday 9th July 1847
Present. Dr Stevelly, Dr Denvir, Dr Cooke, J Getty, J Knox, R Magee, R Simms.
Rev W Bruce in the Chair.
This meeting was summoned in consequence of the very great difficulty of finding
burial ground for the poor in the present crisis.
At the suggestion of the board of health, a certificate as to the safety from infection in opening the graves of bodies buried in the time of cholera in 1832 and 1833, was signed by many of the most respectable medical practitioners.
And so, after this meeting the order was given that the mass grave of the earlier cholera victims was to be reopened.
However, the cholera outbreak did not last as long as had been expected and
was claiming fewer victims. Soon the scare was over, and when it was, the mass
grave at the burying ground was filled in for the last time.
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THE FINAL RESTING PLACE.
Clifton Street burying ground is the final resting place of many of Belfast's forefathers, as well as some of its wayward sons. Everyone from millowners, shipbuilders, paupers,thieves; and from politicians to rebels, all rest within its walls.
The following is a list of some of the people buried here. Not all are famous or well known, but all show the diversity of the people buried here.
Using the map on the facing page it can be seen just where in the Burying Ground these people are buried.
Using the number ( I.e. LWL 1 ) is the grave number, and this is added for the use of historical or genealogical researchers.
to the memory of
Merchant of Belfast
Died 16th April 1852
Aged 56 years
Hugh Haliday was a flour merchant who had stores in Waring Street and Thomas Street.He lived in Thomas Street itself next to his stores. Born in Belfast in 1792 he died in April 1852.
The Rev Andrew Arrott came to Belfast with his wife from Wicken in Scotland. They settled at 32 Waring Street where their son Isaac was born in 1786. As the tombstone shows, Andrew Arrott was minister of Newton Caithness, which he remained until his death in December, 1831. His wife, dying less than three months later, was buried next to him in February, 1832. After the death of his parents Isaac, who was a provision merchant, turned the family home into his shop. Isaac died in his home at 2 Wellington Place in September, 1862, and was buried alongside his parents.
to the memory of
Rev Dr Hanna
who died April 1862
The Revd Samuel Hanna DD came to Belfast from Kells. In Belfast, he became Professor of Divinity at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and also minister of the Third Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street. He lived in College Square North, and in April, 1852, he went to Derry where he died. Although his tombstone records his death in April, 1862, he is recorded in the registry books as having died on the 30th of April, 1852.
This grave is the burial place of Belfast's most famous millowning families, the Ewarts.
William Ewart, who was born in Belfast in 1789, was the man who built up the family fortune to make the Ewarts one of the most wealthy families in Belfast, if not Ireland. He started as a muslin manufacturer in Rosemary Street in the early 1820s, and by 1840 he had set up a firm manufacturing linen and cotton. He had offices in Donegall Street, and by 1850 the famous mills on the Crumlin Road were built. On the 21st of September, 1873, William Ewart died at the age of 84, and his firm, William Ewart & Sons, continued until the early part of the 1960s.
This is the grave of James Crawford. He came to Belfast from Co. Down and became one of Belfast's leading wine merchants, his business being in Calender Street. He lived at 26 Donegall Place, and after his death in 1860 his widow became one of the last people to live in Donegall Place, their home later being demolished to clear the way for the building of Robinson & Cleaver's store.
This grave is the resting place of the Clendinning family. Buried here is the remains of 16-year-old Robert Clendinning who died on the 18th of September, 1843. His cause of death is recorded in the registry books as 'after bathing'.
James Thompson LLD
Professor of Mathematics
in memory of
Margaret His wife who died
May 8th 1830 aged 40 years
James and Margaret Thompson were the parents of the famous William Thompson,
otherwise known as Lord Kelvin.
He was born in Belfast on the 26th of June, 1824, and he became the inventor of the mirror galvanometer and siphon recorder in connection with submarine telegraphy.
Lord Kelvin died on the 17th of December, 1907, and a statue of him can be seen today at the entrance of the Botanic Gardens, Belfast.
A curious tombstone. The Young, whose remains are interred in this vault are those of John Young, MA, LLD, who was Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Belfast Academical Institution from 1815 to 1829. The inscription is apparently copied from that on the tombstone of John Philpot Curran, the famous Irish legal orator, 'Curran moulders here'.
to the memory of
James McCleery Surgeon
who died 9th July 1847 aged 53 years
and of Jane his wife
who died 19th April 1855 aged 59 years
and of Robert their son
who died 2nd May 1860 aged 38 years
Although the above inscription shows the name of James McCleery, he is, in fact, not buried in this grave, but elsewhere in the burying ground, (see No. 33 / C14). His son, Robert, who is buried here, was a Belfast solicitor who lived at 43 York Street. Born in Belfast in 1822 he died in May, 1860, at the age of 38 years.
Sacred to the memory
Thomas Sinclair, J.P. of Hopefield.
who died 2 January 1867
aged 56 years
Thomas Sinclair was part owner of the company T.&J. Sinclair which was
a provision merchants and shipowning company in Tomb Street. He lived at Hopefield
House on the Antrim Road. As his tombstone inscription shows, he was a Justice
of the Peace for the town of Belfast.
He died in January 1867. The following is an extract from the Belfast Directory of 1868.
The family burying place of
When William Ritchie, the famous Belfast shipbuilder, retired in 1828, part
of his yard was taken over by Charles Connell who had come to Belfast from Scotland.
Charles Connell continued to run this yard until the early part of the 1840s
which was when it closed down. Charles, who lived at 10 Great George's Street,
died on the 27th of July, 1844, at the age of 72 years. Also buried in this
grave is his brother William. Like Charles, William was also a shipbuilder,
and he lived at 14 Pilot Street. He died there on the 21st of June, 1854.
The following is an extract from the Belfast Directory of 1843.
This grave is the resting place of the Gibb and Chew families. Interred here are the remains of two boys who drowned while ice- skating near the Queen's Island. One of the boys, twelve-year-old James Chew, was the son of William Chew, a quarter-master in the Antrim Rifles based in the Belfast Military Barracks, (later Victoria Barracks). The other boy, John Beggs (16), was a bandmaster in the Antrim Rifles. The story of how they met their deaths can be read in the following newspaper report which is taken from the Belfast Newsletter 27th of February 1864.
TWO BOYS DROWNED WHILE SKATING
Yesterday, two boys- James Chew, twelve years of age, and son of Quartermaster Chew, of the Antrim Rifles, and John Beggs, aged sixteen, who belonged to the band of the same regiment- where drowned while skating on the old channel of the river, immediately behind the earthworks which join the Queen's Island and Quay. The accident occurred about half past four o'clock in the evening. It could not have arisen from any rashness on the part of the unfortunate youths, for some fifty men had previously passed over the same place on their way to the Island. The two boys were going side by side, the ice gave way, and they sank. Beggs came up again, and managed to scramble unto the surface of the ice, and was quite safe. The crowd, however, shouted to him, was he going to leave the little boy to drown? Urged by their cries, he plunged into the water to save his companion's life; but by this heroic act he lost his own, for in a short time both sank to rise no more. They, as afterwards was found out, had floated under the solid ice. A young man who was skating after the others narrowly escaped their fate by quickly turning in another direction. Seeing their perilous situation, he tried to approach them, but had to retreat, as the ice was continually breaking under his feet. The bodies were recovered in half-an-hour. They were quite dead. Dr. James Murray, of Ballymacarrett, was in prompt attendance, but his assistance was useless. The bodies were removed by the police to Mr. McMillan's gin palace, where an inquest was shortly after held by John A. Ward, Esq., the coroner. The jury returned the verdict of accidental drowning.
This grave is the burying place of James Lewis who was a ballast master in Belfast, with offices in Chichester Quay.
Born in Belfast in 1767, he died in August 1837 at the age of 70 years.
Francis Dalzell Finlay
( The founder of the Northern Whig )
Born 12th July 1793
Died 10th Sep 1857
aged 64 years
Samuel Smith Thompson
of Belfast MD son of James Thompson
of Coleraine who died the 30th
April 1849 aged 71 years.
Samuel Thompson was a well known Belfast doctor who had come to the town with his father. Born in Coleraine in 1778, he died of 'flu in 1849 at his home in the Bank Buildings, Castle Place.
In this grave are buried the remains of Alexander Mitchell. He was born in South America in 1826. Coming to Belfast, he settled at 2 Alfred Street. He worked as a civil engineer and afterwards as a master mariner, and it was during this time as captain of a merchant ship, that he caught cholera, which he died of on the 17th of July, 1849.
died August 13th 1874
aged 78 years
John Charters was born in Antrim in 1796.
Coming to Belfast he founded the Falls Flax Spinning Company which was a large mill which stood on the corner of the Falls Road and Conway Street. He settled in Ardmoulin House which was also on the Falls Road, and later in life he moved to 'Craigavad'. John Charters had close connections with the Belfast Charitable Society, and in 1868 he paid for the building of the 'Charters Wing' which still remains at the rear of the present Clifton House.
James Reid was born in Belfast in 1826. He began a warehouse company along with William Browne; their large warehouse being at 3 Waring Street. He lived in a large house at 'Cliftonville' a row of large houses which remain today at the bottom of the Cliftonville Road, a road which got its name from these houses. He died in March 1872 at the age of 46 years. His son Arthur, who is also listed on the above inscription, died in a shooting accident in July 1866.
died 19th September 1890
aged 85 years
William Gilbert was born in Belfast in 1805. He became the proprietor of William Gilbert & Son, which later became a large firm of jewellers and watchmakers with shops at 15 High Street and 3 Donegall Square South. William Gilbert died in his home on Windsor Park Avenue in September 1890.
In this grave rest the remains of James Dickey who was Postmaster for the town of Belfast . He lived at No. 67 Donegall Street, and ran his post office next door. Born in Holywood in 1790, he died on the 11th of March, 1847.
This is the burial place of Robert Thompson who, along with William Ross, became a proprietor of the Clonard Mill. He died on the 24th of April, 1862, at the age of 53 years and his cause of death was recorded in the registry books as overflow of blood.
John Monteith, Surgeon, MA
Departed this life 23rd April 1837
aged 49 years
John Monteith was a well-known Belfast surgeon who lived in Bruce Street. During a fever outbreak which struck Belfast in the mid 1830s, John Monteith became one of its many victims.
In memory of
Henry Thompson esq
late captain of the 66th Regiment
he died at Belfast
where he held the post of Barrack Master
on the 9th day of November 1842
Henry Thompson was born in White Park, Co. Fermanagh, in 1783. Joining the army, he moved to Dublin, and later, to Belfast, and as his tombstone illustrates, it was in Belfast that he held the post of Barrack Master in the Belfast Garrison (later Victoria Barracks) until his death in November, 1842.
Townsend Street Belfast
to the memory of
who for upwards of sixteen years
proved himself amongst them
a kind friend a consistent Christian an efficient elder
he died on the 20th Sept 1854
aged 62 years
From the inscription it can be seen that Thomas Edmondson was an elder in the Townsend Street Presbyterian Church. He was also headmaster of the Brown Street Lancastrian School. Born in Stranorlor, Co. Donegal, in 1792, he died in Belfast in 1854.
No. 25 / A 34
This grave is the burying place of Thomas Wilson who was a Belfast surgeon. Born in Ballynahinch in 1801, he died in Belfast on the 6th of April, 1852.
by John Craig
in memory of his brother
Abraham Walker Craig
the Falls Factory Belfast
who died 29th September 1854
aged 41 years
As the inscription on his tombstone shows, Abraham Walker Craig was the proprietor of the Falls Road Factory, which was a flax spinning company, and it was this factory which was the first in Belfast to weave linen by power. Born in County Armagh in 1813, he died in Belfast of Cholera in Sept. 1854.
Clady Print Works
In memory of the
Rev James Radcliffe
a faithful and devoted
minister of the gospel
in Londonderry, Manchester
and Wigan who was suddenly
removed from this life by his
heavenly master whilst
walking in the street in Belfast
on the 17th November 1848
aged 56 years
The Revd James Radcliffe was a Presbyterian minister in Wigan, Lancashire. At the time of his death he had been visiting his friend, John Hartely, who lived at 7 Botanic Road. James Radcliffe died of a heart attack whilst, as his tombstone shows, 'walking the street in Belfast'.
John Crossley Anderson
died 22nd September 1888
John C. Anderson was the proprietor of the Belfast Commercial Chronicle. Born in 1806, he died of old age in September 1888.
In memory of
Robert Wilson D.D.
Professor of Biblical Criticism
in Assembly College Belfast
and for eleven years previously
Minister of the congregation of Linenhall Street
who died October 11th 1859 aged 52 years
Robert Wilson was born in Ballylintagh in 1807. He became the first minister of the Presbyterian meeting house in Linen Hall Street, and at that time he lived at 6 Albion Place, and soon after he became a professor in the Assembly College.
Also buried in this grave is the Belfast veterinary surgeon, William McKenna. Born in Belfast in 1807, McKenna became proprietor of a large horse bazaar and veterinary establishment at 16 May Street. He lived at 42 Gloucester Street, and it was there he died on the 3rd of May, 1865, aged 58 years.
This is the grave of William Elliott who was the manager of the Belfast Flour and Bread Co. (public bakery), which stood at Rosemary Street, and later Church Street. Born in Moira, Co Down, in 1808, he died at his home at 28 Church Street on the 3rd of November, 1871.
a few of his numerous friends
in memory of
Doctor of Medicine
died 27th April 1852
aged 38 years
William Moffat was a surgeon who lived at 20 Wellington Place. Born in Moira in 1814, he died, in Belfast in 1852.
This is the burying ground of James McCleery. He was a Belfast surgeon and apothelary (pharmaceutical chemist) at 14 North Street. Born in Portaferry in 1794, he and his family came to and settled in Belfast. He died of fever on the 10th of July, 1847, at the peak of the fever outbreak.
John Smith, a Belfast pawnbroker of the mid-nineteenth century is buried in this grave. Born in Belfast in 1814, he went on to set up a pawnbroker's shop at 45 Great Patrick Street, which later moved to 71 York Street. He died on the 8th of December 1876.
In loving memory
John Gowan, Master Mariner
who died 24th May 1852
aged 56 years
James Gowan, Master Mariner
who died 18th May 1845
aged 64 years
John Gowan was a habour master, as well as a ship's captain, who lived in Corporation Street. Born in Portaferry in 1796, he died in Belfast in May, 1852. His brother James, also a ship captain, died in his home at 45 Waring Street in May, 1845.
This is the burying ground of James Stewart who was the librarian in the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge (Linen hall Library). He lived at 16 Carlisle Street, and died on the 9th of July, 1868, at the age of 69 years.
died October 1855
aged 56 years
William Vance was born in Belfast in 1799. He became the owner of a corn mill which stood at 111 Carrick Hill. He lived at 15 Great George's Street, and it was there that he died in October, 1855.
In memory of
the Rev Thomas Toye
who was born at Clonakilty on the 6th October 1801
and died at Belfast on the 15th May 1870
after a faithful ministry of 34 years in which
much people was added into the Lord
he left for his own epitaph
" A sinner saved by grace "
As the tombstone inscription shows, the Revd Thomas Toye was born in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, on the 6th October, 1801. He came to Belfast and settled at 13 Great George's Street,which was next to the church he founded in 1842, and it was there he died in May, 1870.
The following report is taken from the Belfast Newsletter , May 19th, 1870.
THE LATE REV. THOMAS TOYE-
A correspondent sends us the following further account of the funeral of Mr. Toye:-"The funeral of the Rev. Thomas Toye took place on Tuesday, at three o'clock in the afternoon. The coffin was first carried into the church , where the deceased pastor had ministered so long and so faithfully. The building was crowded to excess by an audience drawn from all classes of the community, many of them very poor people; and some of them, to all appearance, outcasts from society, who felt that they had lost a true friend. The Rev. Dr. Morgan delivered a brief but impressive address, in which he recalled to the minds of the audience some of the leading trails in the character of the departed servant of God. The speaker's observations were received with manifestations of feeling which are very seldom witnessed. Many a strong man wept bitterly unrestrained by the presence of the onlookers. During life Mr. Toye had frequently expressed a wish that his funeral should be of the plainest description, without hearse, carriages, or any of the usual external tokens of mourning. He wished it might be said of him when he was gone, as it had been of the martyr Stephen, that 'devout men carried him to his burial.' The funeral was conducted strictly in accordance with these wishes, the members of the congregation bearing the remains of their beloved pastor to the grave. A large ( ) of people followed the procession to the New Burying Ground, where the Rev. John Macnaughtan delivered a second address amid renewed manifestations of feeling. When the remains had been committed to their last resting place with prayer, the multitude dispersed, feeling one and all that they had seen the last of one whose loss should not soon be repaired."
In this grave lie the remains of Archibald Roberts, who was born in Belfast in 1811. He became a boat builder in Prince's Dock, which was also where he lived. He died on the 17th of October, 1874, at the age of 63 years.
This is the family grave of the Hind family who were the owners of the Durham Street Flax Spinning Mill. This mill was founded by John Hind who came to Belfast from England, and settled at 'Cliftonville'. He died on the 3rd of January, 1854, and after his death the mill was taken over by his son James who was also a merchant. He died on the 6th of December, 1885, at the age of 68 years.
the remains of
Thomas W. Gilpin
of Philadelphia who died
at Belfast Consul of
United States of America
4th January 1848
aged 42 years
Thomas Gilpin was born in Philadelphia in 1806. He came to Belfast as Consul of the United States of America, and lived in Arthur Street. He died of convulsions in January, 1848.
In memory of
Mark Sheridan esq
late of 13th P.A.L.I.
who died on the 2nd March 1849 aged 69
Bt Major James Henry Fenwick
who died on the 14th July 1849 aged 39
Both these soldiers of the Light Infantry lived at Antrim Place, which was a row of large houses on the lower Antrim Road. Mark Sheridan, who was born in Co. Wexford in 1780, was later to have a Belfast street named after him. Sheridan Street, which was built behind his house in the New Lodge area, was named in memory of him.
This is the burying place of John Willis who was a professor of music at 4 College Street South. He was also organist in St Anne's church which stood in Donegall Street at the site of the present cathedral. He died on the 14th of March, 1865, at the age of 64 years.
Buried here are the remains of Daniel McEwing who was a Belfast shipbuilder in the early 1800s. Born in Scotland in 1789, he came to Belfast and settled at 69 Ship Street. It was there that he died on the 6th January, 1854.
The remains of the late
the historian of Armagh
are deposited in this burial ground
a memorial to his memory
has been erected in Christ Church
As the tombstone inscription on the tombstone shows, a memorial is erected within the Christ Church, Belfast, to Dr Stuart's memory.
The main part of the memorial reads as follows:
In the Belfast Cemetery Antrim Road
repose the remains of James Stuart esq LL.D
Historian, Polemic and Poet, author of
History of Armagh, Protestant Layman, Poems etc.
He died September 28 1840.
In this grave rest the remains of Alexander Neill. He was a gunmaker, along with his father John, at 78 High Street. Born in Belfast in 1818, he died on the 30th of March, 1845.
In loving memory of
William James Dalton
died 2nd January 1972 aged 86 years
His beloved wife Elizabeth Madeline
died 9th June 1984 aged 90 years
William and his wife Elizabeth were the last people to be buried in this cemetery.
Two young brothers who died within 24 hours of each other lie buried in this grave. Richard Woolfender (2) and his brother Thomas (7) were the children of James Woolfender who lived on the Ormeau Road. Both died of Scarlet Fever in August, 1844.
This is the grave of Sir John Savage who was a millowner of the mid- nineteenth century. He had a large flax spinning mill on Flax Street in the Ardoyne area, with offices in Victoria Street. Born in Co. Antrim in 1814, he died at 'Ardilea House' on the 15th of June, 1883, his death being recorded in the registry books as 'Suicide from temporary derangement of the mind'
The following newspaper report on his death is taken from the Belfast Newsletter June 16th, 1883.
MELANCHOLY DEATH OF ALDERMAN SIR JOHN SAVAGE J.P.
Occurring as it did under circumstances of a peculiarly melancholy nature, we record with feelings of pain and regret the death of Sir John Savage, which took place yesterday morning at the residence of the worthy Alderman Ardilea, near Greenisland. Sir John, while in a state of unsound mind, died by his own hand. Recently he was noticed by his friends to be moody and despondent; and, although on the previous day he attended his place of bisiness, Prospect Spinning Mill, Crumlin Road, it was evident to those who knew him well that the wonted vigour of his mind was no longer what it used to be. On Wednesday he came up to Belfast by the quarter to nine train. He spent the greater part of the day at his desk in Prospect Mill, and left town by the train which would reach the Whiteabby station at half-past five in the afternoon. This was later that his usual time. His habit was to travel home by the half-past four train, and to proceed to his residence from Whiteabby in a pony phaeton, which Lady Savage usually drove to meet him at the station. Missing the phaeton on this occasion, he rode homeward in the railway bus. He had some fellow passengers-two ladies with whom he was acquainted-but, contrary to his ordinary custom, he did not enter into conversation. He hung his head and remained silent all the time. When he entered his own house about six o'clock, Lady Savage and her companion, Miss Kinnear, observed that the symptoms of the previous days had become intensified. Sir John was fidgety and restless, and betrayed an aversion to speaking on any subject which his wife or Miss Kinnear might suggest. He made use of the observation to Lady Savage-"It will soon be over with me. I can't stand this much longer; worry is killing me." The ladies were rather anxious about him and did not loss sight of him until he went to his bedroom, shortly after nine o'clock. A little later Lady Savage retired to her own sleeping apartment, a small room immediately adjoining that in which her husband slept. Between this hour and four o'clock in the morning nothing is known of what took place. Sir John rose very early as a rule, and visited his bathroom; and in anticipation of his rising Lady Savage listened from four o'clock until five o'clock, but heard no sound in her husband's room. She then rose, and on visting Sir John's chamber found the bed unoccupied. She called through the house, and her anxiety grew as she could find no trace of her husband in any of the rooms. Finally she went to the bathroom door, and found that it was fastened on the inside. For the first time her suspicions were aroused. She rushed to the bedroom, and missing the razor from its place on the dressing table began to realise the terrible event which was afterwards revealed. The assistance of the housemaid was called, and with the aid of a chisel the door was forced. On looking in the women were so terrified with the sight which met their eyes that they turned away in a fainting condition. Sir John, attired only in a night dress, lay at full length, surrounded by a pool of blood. There were two longitudinal cuts on the calf of the right leg, and a frightful gash severed the principal arteries in the right side of the throat. An open razor, the blade covered with blood, lay on the wash-stand in a position which indicated that deceased had been standing at the time the rash act was committed, and that the weapon fell from his hand as the body sank to the floor. The presumption is that the first suicidal attempt was made on the leg, where two varicose veins were opened, and that a fatal result appearing still to be remote, the more surly and suddenly fatal wound was made. The alarm of the housemaid roused the other servants , and the coachman, James Saunderson, and the gardener, William Heron, on going into the bathroom found the body warm, but life exinct. Saunderson was at once despatched for Dr. Wilson, the family physician. He also apprised the Whiteabby police of the occurrence, as well as Mr. John Savage, Belfast, the youngest son of the deceased. The body was freed from blood, and removed to the sleeping chamber, where the wound on his neck was stiched by Dr. Wilson, and the remains laid out in preparation for the inquest which was held at four o'clock. The principal witness was Lady Savage. She was so deeply affected that her evidence was in a large measure incoherent. The testimony recorded in the breakfast-room with such dim light as was admitted by the closed blinds, was a recitation of the circumstances already narrated, together with some unimportant matters of detail. There was a concurrence of evidence that the mind of deceased had been affected for some weeks prior to the unhappy end, and there was more reason that there usually is in such cases for returning a verdict to the effect that suicide had been committed during a period of mental derangement. Though he looked much younger, Sir John Savage was in the seventieth year of his age. His career as a business man in Belfast was a striking example of what may be achieved by merit, combined with sound intellectual parts.
Born in the village of Glenavy, in the County Antrim, he came to Belfast as a lad, and was apprenticed to the grocery trade in the establishment of Mr. John Moore Johnston, J.P. He subsequently accepted an appointment in a spinning mill in Ligoneil, and afterwards became connected at Lisburn with the spinning concern of Mr. Robert Stewart & Sons.
After some years Mr. Savage again removed to Belfast, where he embarked in the flax trade. The success which attended his enterprise is too well known in the North to need any notice here. He erected Prospect Mill during the progress of the American was, and was so far fortunate in this speculation that he raised himself to a position amongst the leading merchants of our town. He was for a long series of years a member of the Belfast Town Council, having been first elected to a seat in that body for St. Anne's Ward, in December, 1855. After retaining office for five years he was defeated by a small majority at the close of 1860, but in the following year he was again elected to a vacancy, this time in St. George's Ward. In 1872 he was unanimously called to the Chief Magistrate's chair. In the course of the same year, on the occasion of the opening by Earl Spencer, then Lord Lieutenant, of the basin called after his name, Mr. Savage, in conjunction with the late Sir James Hamilton, received the honour of knighthood.
He was soon afterwards elected to the aldermanship of St Anne's Ward, as the representative of which on the Municipal Board he did good service for his constituents and for the town up to the time of his death. As chairman of the gas committee he displayed at the Council meetings a grasp of figures and an aptitude for work to which he had never been trained that excited the surprise and the admiration of his fellow members in the Corporation. His portrait, a striking and artistically executed likeness, occupies a place on the Council Chamber walls amongst those of the other ex-Mayors of the town. A Methodist in his earlier years, Sir John Savage in later life joined the Presbyterian Church. He was a man of generous heart and philanthropic spirit, and under his honest straightforward manner many a worthy action was concealed. In politics he was a Conservative, but he never took any very prominent share in the political contests of the day. His public life was almost wholly confined to municipal affairs, and the results of his labours, more especially on the gas committee, may be said to have been in due proportion with the concentration of his abilities in this particular sphere.
who departed this life
9 March 1853
aged 60 years
As the inscription shows, John Quinn was a Belfast surgeon of the last century. Born in Armagh in 1793, he died at his home in Bank Lane in March, 1853.
aged 24 years
lost at sea 1869
to the memory of
William John Moore
who departed this life
27th November 1841
aged 45 years
William Moore was a linen draper who lived in York Street. Born in Ardmore, Co. Antrim, in 1796, he committed suicide at his home in November, 1841.
died on the 9th of March 1860
aged 59 years
Robert Lyons was a publican at 1 Bradbury Place in the Shaftesbury Square area. Born in Ballywalter in 1801, he died in Belfast in March, 1860.
In memory of
Peter Stark Lieut R.N.
died 11th May 1852 aged 59 years
Peter Stark, apart from being a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was, in Belfast, a government emigration agent who lived at Holywood. Born in Scotland in 1793, he died in May 1852.
a native of Banif, Scotland
"The Barque Helen" of Belfast
who departed this life
on the 7th day of January 1847
aged 34 years
This is the burying place of Robert McClenaghan who was the captain of a Belfast tug boat. Born in Dundalk in 1809, he died in Belfast on the 8th of May, 1854.
This is the burying place of Robert Brown. He was a sea captain who lived in Shipbuoy Street. Born near Larne in 1791, he drowned on the 12th of February, 1861.
This is the grave of W. D. Henderson. He died in London on the 13th of March, 1882, at the age of 45 years.
The following article appeared in the Belfast Newsletter in March the 14th, 1882.
DEATH OF MR. W. D. HENDERSON
We have this morning to announce the death of Mr. W. D. Henderson, a prominent
and successful merchant of Belfast, and a gentleman who took an active part
in the political life of the province of Ulster. The illness which has eventuated
in Mr Henderson's death was somewhat sudden. He went to London a short time
ago, and yesterday morning he was seized with the attack, from which he expired
at a few minutes to twelve last night. A comparatively young man, he, not unreasonably,
might have looked forward to many years of activity. He had not reached the
fiftieth year of his age, when with the suddenness more than usually startling,
his life closed amid the sincere regret of men of all shades of political opinion
and the adherents of every religious system. Mr. Henderson was the son of Mr.
W. D. Henderson, a well known merchant of the town. He received his early education
at the Royal Academical Institution, and afterwards attended the lectures in
the Queen's College, without, however, taking his degree. He possessed mental
powers of more than average order, and was a fair
mathematical and classical scholar. He was for some time in the Ulster Bank, and was connected with its branchs in Ballymena and Cookstown. He was afterwards connected with a banking establishment in London, from which we belive he went to Montreal. In the old Canadian city he took great intrest in the politics of the time, and there more clearly indicated his taste and capacity for political matters. He frequently contributed to the papers, his articles being vigorous and carefully written. Owing to the failing health of his father he returned to Belfast, and took the direction of the affairs of the firm. He was identified with the Liberal Party, and in local circles his advice on policical matters had much influence. When the agitation in connection with the land question commenced Mr. Henderson was selected as one of the vice-presidents of the Ulster Tenant-right Association, and for the last fifteen years few men more frequently advocated the principles of the association than he. When the Irish Church Bill was before Parliament he wrote an article which appeared in one of the magazines and this led to interviews with several of the leaders of the Liberal Party. He was very frequently in London, and while there was to be found very often in the strangers' gallery. A few years ago Mr. Henderson's sight began to fail and his friends found that his constitution was breaking up. Fair and even vigorous health removed in some degree there apprehensions. He continued energetic and studious, busy with his pen, and occasionally appearing on the platform orator. His mind was to analyical for that.
William Jones Anderson was
born 9 November 1858 died 8 July 1879
having lost his life in a storm on
Lough Allen in the west of Ireland
when on a canoeing expedition with
his friend Kenneth S. Reed
To the memory of
James Maxwell Sanders MD
born at Greenhead Glasgow
the 24th April 1814
died at Shurbhill Belfast
the 26th July 1846.
This is the burying ground of the Skillen and Grant families.
Buried here is William Skillen who was the Deputy Governor of the Belfast Jail. Born in Belfast in 1825, he died on the 24th of August, 1865.
Also buried here is William Grant who was a baker at 221 York Street. Born in 1831, he was accidently drowned in Belfast Lough on the 15th of July, 1868.
In memory of
John Harrison Lamont
who died 2nd Feb 1844 aged 56 years
John Lamount was a watchmaker at No. 15 Castle Place. Born in Beersbridge, Co. Down, in 1788, he died in Belfast in February, 1844.
This is the burying place of John Grogan who was a Belfast veterinary surgeon in the mid- 1800s. Born in Belfast in 1803, he died at his home in Castle Lane on the 17th of August,1852.
Buried here are the remains of the Revd John Campbell. He was a Wesleyan minister who lived at 6 Adelaide Place. Born in Belfast in 1786, he died in the Belfast Lunatic Asylum on the 5th of March, 1851.
Frederick Fletcher, a professor of music in Belfast, is Buried in this grave as is his sister Isabella, who was also a professor of music. Both lived in, and worked from, 8 Sussex Place in the North Queen Street area. Frederick Fletcher was born in Dublin in 1800, and died on the 13th of May, 1858.
On the graveyard map this grave is recorded as the 'Theatre Plot' and in the purchase records the owners are recorded as the 'Theatrical performers, Belfast Theatre, which stood in Arthur Street.
The following is a list of those recorded as being buried here, although there may have been others buried here before 1831 which was when the registry books started to be kept.
Joshua Fielding: a theatrical performer who came to Belfast from London with her two children, and settled in Long Lane. Born in 1795, she died on the 29th of June, 1842.
Charles Campbell: born in Dublin in 1789, Charles Campbell came to Belfast and settled at No. 44 Great Patrick Street. He died on the 5th of October, 1848.
Sophia Cook: an actress who was born in London in 1813. She came to Belfast and lived in the theatre where she worked and died on the 24th of November, 1857.
in memory of
Captian Hugh Coffey
of this port
who died at sea
29th March 1840
aged 27 years
Also his brother
Robert Coffey MD.
5th January 1847
As the inscription on the tombstone shows, Captian Hugh Coffey was killed at sea in March, 1840. His body had never been recovered.
Robert Coffey MD was professor of surgery in the Belfast Academical Institution. He lived at 59 Donegall Street, and just before his death he moved to Botanic Road where he died in January, 1847.
the memory of
James Ramsey Garrett
of Belfast, Solicitor
born 10th Dec 1817 died 10th April 1855
Peter Echlin was the owner of the Commercial Hotel which stood in Bridge Street. Born in Belfast in 1824, he died on the 18th of July, 1863.
Robert Arnold was the captain of a ship who lived at 61 Nelson Street. Born in Belfast in 1814, he died on the 9th of March, 1846.
Buried in this grave are the remains of George McConkey. He was a coach builder of the mid-nineteenth century who lived in Chichester Street. He died of cholera in July, 1849.
Thomas McKelvey, a Belfast brewer of the last century, is buried here. Born in Downpatrick in 1786, he came to Belfast and settled at 55 Cromac Street. He died on the 15th of May, 1847.
Thomas Frazer was the owner of the Shakespere Hotel which stood in Castle Lane. Born in Scotland in 1815, he came to Belfast and settled in Donegall Place. He died on the 28th of February, 1849.
to the memory of
relict of the late Captain
James Reid who departed
this life Feb. 1831 aged 41 years
also the above named Captain James Reid
who perished in a gale with 19 of his crew 1847
aged 33 years
William Bathurst was the owner of large coach factories which stood in Police Place (Victoria Street) and Chichester Street. Born in Carrickfergus in 1799, he died in Consbrook House, Sydenham, on the 23rd November, 1867.
to the memory of
Revd. Edwd. Alexander
who died 12th Nov 1832
Aged 58 years
Here lie the remains of Major Henry Kean
late H.M. 97th Reg OB 15 February 1859
John Grattan founded Grattan & Co., which was a medical hall in Cornmarket and which closed down in 1981. John Grattan died on the 24th of April, 1871, aged 70 years.
Samuel Hawkett, a Belfast artist of the last century, is buried in this grave. Born in Cookstown in 1801, he came to Belfast and stayed in a boarding house owned by Emily Bridge at 25 College Street. He died on the 9th of February, 1859.
Thomas Maclurean was a doctor in Belfast who lived at 1 Donegall Square North. Born in Ballymena in 1800, he died in Belfast of influenza in December,1846.
in memory of her beloved husband
John Ferdisand Thiel
of Bransberg Prussia
who died at Belfast 2nd Oct 1837
John Ferdisand Thiel owned a flax and linen yarn merchants which stood at 19 Gordon Street. Born in Prussia in 1803, he came to Belfast and settled in York Street. It was there that he died, of 'dropsy' in October, 1837.
to the memory of
master of the brig "Tyne" of Cardiff
who died in Belfast Lough
on the 6th November 1852
aged 63 years
No. 83 / K 54.
In this grave are buried the remains of Mr and Mrs Marshall, both of whom worked in the poor-house.
Isabella Marshall, who was matron, was born in Co. Cavan in 1806. She died in the poor-house on the 16th of August, 1856. James Marshall was steward. In 1849 he had to ask the poor-house committee permission to marry his wife Isabella, who at that time was housekeeper; to which they approved. He died less than a year later after his wife's death in March, 1857.
Brigade Surgeon A.M.D. formly of 69 Regt
died 23rd Dec 1891 aged 59 years.
Thomas Clark was born in Belfast in 1832. By profession he was an army doctor with the 69th regiment in the Belfast Barracks. He died in December, 1891.
Rev David Hamilton
for 10 years the faithful minister of
for 20 years the beloved Pastor
of the York Street Presbyterian Church
who died on the 13th Jan 1860
aged 54 years
The Revd David Hamilton was born in Ballynahinch, Co. Down, in 1806.
As his tombstone inscription shows, he was first the minister of Connor, and later the Pastor of York Street Church. He died in January, 1860, of typhoid fever.
back to top of page
THE UPPER GROUND.
wife of William Taylor
cabinet maker was laid here
6th May 1811 aged 36
Sacred to the memory of
Thomas Garrett of Belfast Solicitor
born 25th August 1774 died 5th March 1837
Thomas Garrett was an attorney who lived at Cromac. He was a partner in the firm Garrett & Crawford, which was a solicitor's office in York Street. His sons, who were also solicitors, ran a firm known as H. J. & T. Garrett, with offices in Donegall Square and Dublin.
Mr Valentine Jones
of the town of Belfast, Merchant
who lived respected and died lamented
by numerous descendents and friends
on the 22nd dat of March 1805 aged 94 years
Valentine Jones was one of the early builders of the town of Belfast. He was engaged in commerce with the West Indies in partnership with a Mr Bateson, and later went on to run an extensive wine trade, his premises occupying almost one side of Wineseller Entry. Valentine Jones was involved in almost every public venture of importance in Belfast, particulary the founding and establishing of the Belfast Charitable Society, and he contributed to the building of their poor-house. He was responsible for the building of fine houses which stood on the east side of Donegall Place, and it was in one of these houses, next to the Imperal Hotel, that he spent his latter years.
Robert Stevenson was a surgeon in the Belfast Charitable Society's poor-house. For many years he served this Society, both on its committee and in his professional capacity. Born in 1736, he died in December, 1808.
to the memory of
wife of Alexander Mackay
many years a proprietor and publisher
the Belfast Newsletter
she died 10th September 1826
aged 61 years. Three sons, James, John,
and Alexander repose beside their mother
On the 7th November 1844 the above mentioned
departed this life
aged 81 years
In 1795, Henry Joy (junior) sold the Belfast Newsletter to a consortium of five Edinburgh men consisting of Robert Allen, George Gordon, Ebenezer Black, James Blair and Alexander Mackay. Robert Allen, who was a banker,would appear to have negotiated the purchase and raised the necessary capital. Soon after George Gordon, became the editor and publisher and he was later joined, in 1796, by Alexander Mackay who took over the management. After the death of Ebenezer Black in 1804, Alexander Mackay 'bought out' his associates and became the sole proprietor of the newspaper. He remained the proprietor of the Belfast Newsletter until his death in November, 1844.
The newspaper remained within his family up until 1989, when it was sold by
O. Henderson who was the great, great, great-grandson of Alexander Mackay.
to the memory of
John Gregg ESQ of Belfast
who departed this life on 26th Nov 1825
aged 72 years
John Gregg was of a very old Belfast family, and he himself was the last assistant clerk to the Irish House of Lords. He was involved in a number of the public bodies of the town and was one of the founders of the Linen Hall Library. The family were partners in Gregg & Boyds Vitriol Works which stood near the present Albert Bridge. John Gregg was a very wealthy merchant and he is reputed to have contributed 1,000 at a charity sermon in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church in 1820.
In this vault are buried the remains of Dr Alexander Haliday and his nephew, Dr William Haliday.
Dr Alexander Haliday was the most distinguished physician in the north of Ireland for much of the latter part of the eighteenth century. He was the first president of the Linen Hall Library and was also closely connected with the Belfast Charitable Society. In 1770 he played a key role in bringing peace when the 'Hearts of Steel' attacked the Belfast Barracks after one of their members had been arrested and taken there.
His nephew, Dr William Haliday, was also connected with the Belfast Charitable Society and was an early president of the Belfast Medical Society.
William Byrtt was surgeon to the 24th regiment based in the Belfast Barracks. Born in Belfast in 1786, he died in his Queen Street home on the 13th of October, 1845.
This vault is the resting place of the Luke famBuriedhere is the body of Samuel Luke, a merchant who lived at 4 Antrim Place (lower Antrim Road). Born in Belfast in 1791, he died in June, 1844.
Also buried here is James Luke who, along with John Thompson, became partners of the Belfast Commercial Bank in 1821. This bank went on to become the Belfast Banking Company; and James Luke became a director. He died in London in October, 1862, at the age of 79 years.
Hugh Ritchie shipbuilder who died
1st January 1808 aged 41 years
William Ritchie shipbuilder brother to the former who
died 18th January 1834 aged 79 years
Henry Joy was born in October 1754. He was son to Robert Joy and grandson to Francis Joy, who was the founder of the Belfast Newsletter. He was the proprietor of this newspaper until 1795, and was the owner of the Cromac Paper Mills which stood near the present Ormeau Avenue.
He was also an active member of the committee of the Belfast Charitable Society, a Society which his father helped to begin.
His aunt was Ann Joy, who married Captian John McCracken, and among their children were Henry Joy and Mary Ann McCracken.
Henry Joy lived in a large stately home, which stood near the top of the present Cliftonville Road, named 'The Lodge'. It was from this house that the New Lodge got its name, after the road which was built to lead to it. He later moved from 'The Lodge' to a large house in Donegall Place, and it was here that he died on the 15th of April, 1835.
Underneath are deposited the remains of
the Revd Samuel John McClean AM
fellow of Trinity College Dublin
he departed this life in that university
on the 27th November 1835 aged 33 years
This grave is the burying ground of Marcus Ward and his family.
The Ward family were the owners of a business in Belfast which went on to become one of the largest printing firms in the British Isles, which was called Marcus Ward & Co., and which had offices in London and New York. Apart from printing, the company also manufactured artistic books, pictures, leather goods, colour printing and various sorts of stationary.
Andrew Marshall MD
born 24th Dec 1779 died 5 March 1868
Dr Andrew Marshall began his medical career as a navel surgeon. In 1805 he came to Belfast and entered into partnership with James Drummond as an apothecary in High Street. He was the first secretary and treasurer of the Belfast Medical Society which was founded in 1806, and soon after he became surgeon to the Fever Hospital and later the Poor-house.
Andrew Marshall also took an active part in the founding of the General Hospital in Frederick Street, and was its first consulting surgeon.
(Sovereign of Belfast)
died at Ardmoulin 24th
aged 43 years
to the memory of
Mr William Radcliff
who departed this life
the 11th day of December 1817
aged 47 years
daughter and only child of
captain John Russell
formley of [ ]
bt Mary Neill his first wife
she departed this life of [ ]
the 23rd August 1821 in her [ ] year
and desired that in the inscription
on her tombstone
she should simply be designated as
"an honest woman"
Thomas Mulholland and his son Andrew started business as manufacturers of calico and muslin at the beginning of the 1800s. They later purchased a cotton mill which stood in Winetavern Street and soon after bought 'McCracken's Mill' which stood in Francis Street. By the 1820's Andrew had build a cotton mill in York Street which, after being burnt down in 1828, was rebuilt as a linen factory.
This factory went on to become the world famous York Street Flax Spinning Company Ltd, which remained the property of the Mulholland family until it was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe, during a bombing raid in 1941.
Revd James Hodgens
who was for eight years pastor of the
Independent Church, Donegall St Belfast
died 13th May 1851 aged 42 years
Buried here are the remains of Thomas How. He was a muslin and cotton manufaturer whose offices where in Long Lane with mills near Carrickfergus. Born in Greencastle in 1782, he died in his home in Church Street on the 22nd of June, 1838.
Also buried here is the remains of his brother Robert who had taken over the running of the mills after Thomas's death. Robert died on the 11th of September, 1851, after an accident caused by flooring giving way at a lecture he was attending on electro biology.
This vault is the burying place of the Dunville family.
The firm Dunville & Co. Ltd was a leading whiskey distillery in Belfast for much of the last century and part of the present century.
It was all started by John Dunville who began his career by being apprenticed to William Napier, who owned a distillery in Bank Lane. John Dunville later became a partner with Napier in 1808, and in 1825 the firm became Dunville & Co. The firm was also a leading tea merchants in Ireland, but this was given up in the 1860s as more space was needed for whiskey. John Dunville died on the 21st of March, 1851, at the age of 65 years.
the memory of
James Heron J.P. banker
who died 1st November 1868
aged 52 years
The Herons were West India Merchants in the Albert Square area and also commission merchants.
John Heron was a co-founder of the Ulster bank in 1836 and his son James (inscription above) was a director.
John Ritchie Shipbuilder
who died 4th April 1828
aged 77 years
John Ritchie came to Belfast in January, 1807, to carry on the shipyard which had been started in the town by his younger brother, Hugh, and which stood on the south side of Pilot Street. It appears that John Ritchie did not enter into any of the public movements, and on his death a short announcement appeared in the local press.
His brother Hugh is also buried in this graveyard (see No. 10 / UWL 37). He is buried along with his brother William who, it is said, brought shipbuilding to the town of Belfast around the year 1792. He died in 1834.
(CHOLERA GROUND )
This is a large strech of ground at the lower part of the Upper Ground. It was used for the burial of paupers, strangers and epidemic victims. It is unknown how many people are buried in this ground, but given the fact that it was used as a 'mass grave' twice in the mid- nineteenth century, the numbers are, without doubt, very high.
The following are just a few of the many hundreds who are buried here.
Joseph Macauly: born in Portglenone in 1795, he came to Belfast where he became a musician. He lived, with his family, in Long Lane, and died of cholera on the 26th of February, 1849.
the Officers non Com Officers
[ ] of the Queens Royal
Rifles to the memory of
M. James Collins
late band master
of the Royal Artillery
died at Belfast 3rd Jany 1865
aged 46 years
James Collins came to Belfast, from England, and joined the Queen's Royal Rifles who were based in the Belfast Garrison on North Queen Street. He lived at 4 Montgomery Street, and died in the General Hospital on Frederick Street in January, 1865.
Joseph Gilliland: born in Belfast in 1857, he became a reporter for the Belfast Newsletter. Living at 2 Vicinage Park, he died on the 28th December, 1878, his cause of death being typhoid fever.
Platform 1-Lot 49.
by Thomas B White of Belfast
in memory of his mother
Hanna White who died
June 10th 1814 aged 48 years
also Sarah daughter of the
above named Thomas B White
who met with her death by poison
through the mistake of a servant on 3rd
May 1830 aged 2 years & 3 months
Platform 2-Lot 2.
This grave is the burying place of Jane and Mary McClement, both of whom died as a result of suffocation by gas in their home in June, 1878.
The following newspaper report is from the Belfast Newsletter of July 1st 1878.
DEATH OF TWO SISTERS FROM SUFFOCATION.
Dr. Dill, Borough Coroner, held an inquest on Saturday evening, in Mr. McIlheaney's
public-house, Old Lodge Road, on the bodies of Jane and Mary McClement, aged
respectively 82 and 77.
The deceased persons were unmarried, and resided at 100, Crumlin Place, Crumlin Road, the only other occupant of the house being a serant girl.
They slept together in the attic of the house for some days previous to this occurrence, and on Friday night went to bed at the usual time. About four o'clock the following morning the servant, who slept in an adjoining apartment, heardone of the deceased moaning. She went to the bedroom door and asked what was wrong, and the younger sister replied, "Jane won't speak to me." She then attempted to open the door, but was unable to do so, it being locked according to the habit of the ladies. She again retired to bed, and at six o'clock got up to admit some workmen who were painting and papering the premises. About half an hour afterwards she went to the deceaseds' room to awaken Miss Mary, who usually arose at seven o'clock. The other sister was in the habit of sleeping till eleven o'clock. The servant knocked at the door for some time, and failing to get admission of any answer, she endeavoured again to force the door, but her efforts were fruitless. Fearing that something was wrong, she at once went to the Landscape Terrace Police Barracks, and there gave information to the matter. Sub Constable O'Brien proceeded to the house, and on forcing an entrance into the deceaseds' bed-room found them both dead. They were lying together in the bed, one body was cold and the other quite warm, as if death had taken place within a few minutes. It was also given in evidence that a gaslight in the front room had been removed a day of two previous by one of the workmen, and on putting it up again the pipe had not been properly connected, thus allowing a considerable escape. Dr. John Moore deposed that he had examined the bodies of the deceased. He belived that they had suffocated bt an escape of gas, accelrated by a want of ventilation and the closeness of the atmosphere in the bedroom. The jury returned a verdict to that effect. The deceased ladies were old inhabitants of Belfast, and were greatly respected and esteemed.
Platform 3-Lot 34.
William Ewing, a well known Belfast medical doctor of the early part of the 1800s, is buried in this grave. He died at his home in Donegall Street on the 25th of May, 1847.
Platform 3-Lot 43.
To the memory of
late of Cornmarket Belfast
who departed this life April 15th 1837
aged 41 years
The following extract listing William Aiken is taken from the Belfast Directory of 1831. As his tombstone shows, he died in April, 1837, his cause of death being fever.
Platform 3-Lot 47.
In memory of John Vint MD who died 3rd Oct 1881
John Vint was a doctor who lived in the 'Sailortown' area of Belfast. Born in Belfast in 1854, he died at his Nelson Street home in October, 1881.
Platform 3-Lot 51.
In memory of
Capt Robert Buchanan of
who departed this life at
the 5th of September 1811
aged 44 years
Platform 4-Lot 6.
This is the burying place of Thomas Coleman. He was a Belfast tidemaster. Born in Ballyclare in 1783, he came to Belfast from Carrickfergus, and settled on the Antrim Road. He died on the 19th of August, 1843.
Platform 4-Lot 30.
Samuel Arrott was a Belfast surgeon who lived at No. 2 Lower Chichester Street. Born at Market Hill in 1777, he first moved to Comber before coming to, and settling in, Belfast. He died on the 10th of January, 1844.
Platform 4-Lot 43.
to the memory of Robert Orr
Barrister at Law who departed this
life Sept 7th 1817 aged 47 years
Platform 5-Lot 13.
Buried here are the remains of Captain Henry Curran. He was born in Portaferry in 1782. He came to Belfast where he set up a seamans clothing establishment, and later he became a habour master. He lived at No. 144 High Street, and on the 23rd of June, 1844, he died.
Two other sea captians are buried in this grave; John Faloon, who was also born in Portaferry in 1795. He was a habour master and also owned a ship bread bakery at 38 James Street. He died in his Great George's Street home on the 29th September, 1849. Captian Thomas Bell was born in 1761, and died in March, 1821.
Platfrom 6-Lot 29.
Edward D. Gribbin, a Belfast doctor, is buried in this grave. Born in Belfast in 1818, he later settled at No. 25 Great Edward Street. He died on the 24th of May, 1888.
Platform 7-Lot 31.
are interred the mortal remains
of Micheal Andrews, Ardoyne,
OB 20th December 1870 aged 82 years
Micheal Andrews began business in 1810 as a linen manufacturer in York Street.
As he prospered he secured land in the townland of Edenderry, and later he built
a large mill on the site with houses for those who worked in it. Soon after
he bought a large house from Edward Smith, in the same area which he named 'Ardoyne',
in remembrance of a townland near his native Comber, and it was from this house
that the area around his mill got its name. After his death the mill was taken
over by his son, Thomas. Thomas died in 1875, and his brother George then took
over the running of the mill.
The mill continued work until around 1923, and in 1934 the mill and the buildings around it were demolished to make room for the building of a new housing estate which today is known as 'Ardoyne'.
Platform 7-Lot 35.
Richard Aiken was a 44-year-old builder who lived at 67 Cromac Street. In the graveyard registry books his cause of death is recorded as 'From the effects of fighting'.
Platform 7-Lot 42.
Two children, who died on the same day, lie buried in this grave. Elizabeth Stirling (7) and her brother James (9) were both the children of Robert Stirling who lived on the New Lodge Road. Both died on the 28th of July, 1842. The cause of death of Elizabeth is recorded as 'Water in the head', and of James it is recorded that he died of 'Consumption'.
Platform 7-Lot 47.
of Belfast-May 1812
Names of members interred in
Coopers Burying Ground.
William J Kennedy Died Sep 19th 1838
Thomas Campbell Died June 4th 1847
James Campbell Died Dec 23rd 1849
George Matthews Died June 8th 1855
Hugh Mullan Died March 9th 1857
James Cummings Died Jan 7th 1859
John Rodgers Died May 12th 1872
William J Dickson Died Feb 7th 1873
Thomas Dickson Died March 6th 1874
James Mallon Died Aug 2nd 1875
John Martin Died Sep 12th 1877.
some sort of club or union, maybe set up by those listed on the above inscription. All were coopers (barrel makers) and going by the meaning of the word journeymen, it would appear that they worked for someone else instead of for themselves.
Platform 7-Lot 51.
by the shipwrights of [ ]
In memory of
Robert Morrison, shipwright
who was assasinated by a Portuguise sailor
22nd of April 1810 in the 23rd year of his age
The name of the sailor who murdered Robert Morrison was Antonio De Silva, who
was later hanged for his crime. The following report on his hanging is taken
from George Benn's History of Belfast which was published in 1880:
"A trail, followed by a conviction for murder, caused much commotion in Belfast in 1810. A ship carpenter called Morrison had a dispute with a Portuguese sailor, one of the crew of an American ship in the habour. The Portuguese, whose name was Antonio de Silva, stabbed him to the heart with a dagger near Prince's Street. He was tried and condemned for the crime at the Summer Assizes. He was conveyed to the place of execution, which was at that period about a mile from Carrickfergus, attended by an immense concourse of spectators. So great was the crowd, as was the custom of the time, that though the distance was so short, it required an hour to reach it. The apparatus then consisted of three tall columns, with a cross beam to which the rope was attached. They stood on the bare sea-shore, and were familiary known by the name of the Three Sisters. The criminal was dressed in a white surplice, by his own particular desire, and accompanied by two Roman Catholic priests. Through Mr. Redfern, of Belfast, who spoke his language, and who had been interpreter for him at his trial, he denied his guilt."
Platform 9-Lot 18.
The remains of James Heather, a Belfast watchmaker, lie buried in this grave. Born in Belfast in 1799, he died in his home at 26 Durham Street on the 14th of July, 1860.
Platform 9-Lot 18.
In loving memory of
Captian George McMann, Master of
the "Thomas Hughes"
who died at sea February 1840 aged
Platform 9-Lot 37.
James McFerran was a sea captain and coal merchant who lived at 140 York Street. Born in Carrickfergus in 1804, he committed suicide on the 27th of May, 1859.
Platform 9-Lot 52.
William Courtney was born in Belfast in 1809. He later left Ireland and settled in America, where he became a leading merchant in New Orleans. He died in England on the 1st of November, 1848, and the following is recorded in the registry book on his cause of death: 'Came from America to England for the benefit of his health and died there'.
Platform 11-Lot 11.
Micheal Boyle was a cabinetmaker who lived in Micheal Street, which was in the Great George's Street area. He died on the 12th of August, 1858, at the age of 31 years after having one of his legs amputated.
Platform 11-Lot 40
to the memory of
John McGeah of Cookstown
superior talents and aquirements
distingushed his academical course
and faith in the Son of God
supported him under his last illness
he died in hope of enternal life
18th March 1817
aged 17 years
Platform 11-Lot 45.
the memory of
my beloved husband
Richard Allen C.E.
who was drowned in Belfast Lough
on 27th May 1865 AE 34 years
Platform 12-Lot 18.
In this grave lie the remains of Isabella Douglas. She lived, with her family, above a grocer shop at 59 New Lodge Road. Born in Lisburn in 1804, she became a scripture reader, and died on the 1st of December,1872.
Platform 12-Lot 31.
Sacred to the memory
died 5th Feby 1860
ageed 68 years
John Gray was born in Milltown, Co. Down, in 1792. Moving to Belfast, he became a watch and clockmaker at 18 Castle Place.
Platform 12-Lot 35.
This grave is the family burying ground of Archibald Cunningham who was a publican in Henry Street. One of those buried here is his 14-year-old son Horatio. He was drowned on the 17th of June, 1843.
Platform 13-Lot 13.
third son of John Benn
formerly of Belfast
afterwards of Glenravel
in the County of Antrim
is here interred
he died 3rd August 1874
aged 76 years
Edward Benn lived in 'Glenravel House' which stood in Glenravel, in the Glens of Antrim. Over the years he had developed an iron ore workings as well as a brewing business. In Belfast he was responsible for a lot of charitable work which included the building of two extensions to the poor-house (which remain to this day at Clifton House) as well as the building of the Samaritan Hospital on the Lisburn Road, the ear, eye and throat hospital on Clifton Street and the skin hospital on Glenravel Street ( a street named after his home). Born in Co Armagh in 1798, he died at Glenravel on the 3rd of August, 1874.
His brother, George Benn (1801-1882), was a well-known Belfast historian who wrote a number of books on Belfast history; books which are still being used to this day.
The following report on the funeral of Edward Benn is taken from the Belfast
Newsletter 0f August 8th, 1874:
FUNERAL OF THE LATE EDWARD BENN, ESQ.
The remains of this much-respected and deeply lamanted gentleman were conveyed from his late residence; Glenravel House, Ballymena, and interred in the New Burying Ground, Clifton Street, yesterday morning. At about half past ten o'clock, the coffin, which was of very fine French-polished oak, with massive brass enrichments, bearing the following inscription:-
Died 3rd August 1874,
Aged 76 years.
arrived at the Northern Counties Railway Terminus, York Road, and was conveyed to a hearse in waiting. Shortly after eleven o'clock the funeral cortege started from the station for the place of interment. The hearse,which was drawn by four horses, was followed by a large number of mourning coaches and private carriages. In the foremost of the former sat the chief mourners, George Benn, Esq, brother of the deceased, John F. Hodges, Esq, M.D. brother-in-law of the deceased; and Frederick Hodges, Esq. The attendance was very large and highly influential, and represented the committees of the several charities to which the deceased had so generously contributed-namely, the Committee of the Ulster Eye and Ear Hospital, which was built entirely at his expense; the Committee of the Hospital for the Treatment of Skin Diseases, at present being built at his expense; the Committee of the Charitable Institution, to which has been added two new wings, the cost of one of which was defrayed by Mr. Benn; the Committee of the Belfast General Hospital, to which he bequeathed 1,000; the Committee of the Samaritan Hospital for Women and Children, now being erected on the Lisburn Road at his sole expense; and the Committee of the Royal Academical Institution, to which he left a collection of antiquities said to be the best private collection in the North of Ireland, together with 1,000 to erect a suitable building for their reception. Other charities which had shared his benevolence in the same uncatentatious but truly practical manner showed their appreciation of the more than ordinary ( ) they had sustained in the person of Mr. Benn by following his remains to their last resting place. The town and Corporation were represented by the Mayor (James Alexander Henderson, Esq, J.P.) and several members of the Council. Sir James Hamilton represented the Har bour Board. There was also present a large number of the leading merchants and clergymen of the town to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of the departed gentleman. The funeral cortege passed through York Street, Donegall Street, and Clifton Street. On arriving at the burying ground the coffin was borne to the grave. The remains of the departed gentleman having been consigned to their last resting place.
Platform 13-Lot 17.
the memory of the late
hardware merchant 35 Castle Street
who departed this life on the 11th April
1846 aged 59 years
Platform 13-Lot 25.
This burying ground 8 feet by 7 is the
property of James Kearney of Belfast
Here lieth the body of his daughter Ann
Kearney who departed this life the 25th of Sept
1801 aged 5 years and two months
Platform 13-Lot 28.
Thomas Price was an architect who lived at 1 North Queen Street. Born in Templepatrick in 1773, he died on the 14th of December, 1843.
Platform 13-Lot 52.
In this grave are buried the children of William Anderson, a tailor, who lived at 32 North Thomas Street.
The first child buried here was Margaret Anderson. She died in November, 1847, at the age of two years. Her brother James was buried with her in February 1854. His cause of death was recorded as 'poisoned'. Less than a year later the grave was opened again, this time to take the body of two-year- old Maragart Ann, who died of a lung disease in March, 1855. The last child buried here was eight year-old Mary, she died in September 1869.
Platform 14-Lot 14.
In memory of
Major Andrew Patterson
late of His Majestys 29th reg
born at Leith, Anno 1778
died here, Anno 1821
Platform 15-Lot 4.
to the memory of
James Prichard Clarke (son to
Lieut James Clarke of the Royal
Artillery) who departed this life on
the 22nd June 1804 aged 3 months
Platform 15-Lot 53.
In memory of
William Thomas Waterson
of Belfast Solicitor
who departed this life
4th Sept 1864
aged 54 years
Thomas Waterson was, as his tombstone shows, a Belfast solicitor who had offices at 106 Ann Street
and also in Dublin. He lived at 'Serville Lodge', Sydenham, and it was there that he died in September, 1864.
Platform 16-Lot 1.
the memory of
Catherine the beloved wife of
Thos McClenaman Or Mr HP
2nd Gn Bn who departed this life
24th Jany 1859 aged 70 years.
Platform 16-Lot 7.
In memory of
on Sunday the third day of October 1847
in the 25 year of his age
of Malighant Fever
contracted in the discharge of his duties as
Platform 16-Lot 45.
In memory of
late of Belfast, bookseller
who died 11th Decr 1818 aged 69 years
Platform 16-Lot 34.
the body of Nicholas Bourdot
of Chaumont in Bossegne in
Champagne who departed this life
on the 12th December 1816 aged
Nicholas Bourdot was captured during Thurot's attack made on Carrickfergus castle in 1760, and interned with fellow French prisoners in the Barracks in Belfast. Following his release in 1773, he remained in Belfast where he became a barber.
Platform 16-Lot 52.
Capt Wood of the Waterford Regt. Three beloved children
died of the hooping cough in Belfast Jany 1804
Henertta 6 years old, Eward 3, Mary Ann 9.
"Each opening sweet of early bloom
shall blush upon this infant tomb
where three lovely babbies lye
who can refuse a tear and sigh.
The redbreast aft at evening hours
shall scather moss and sweetest flowers
to deck the ground where they are laid.
The parents feel afflictions deepest Lord
the Christians yeild their children up to God
secure to meet again in bliss above
and join their angles in the realmes of love.
(The words 'hooping', 'lye' and 'angles', are spelt this way on the tombstone inscription)
Platform 17-Lot 41.
Beneath this stone are shrouded the
remains of Dorothy wife of James Greer
who died the 30th day of October 1823
aged 54 years
Platform 18-Lot 15.
teacher of english in the Belfast Academy
to the memory of an affectionate wife
and other dear relations
Platform 18-Lot 22.
This burying ground belongs
to John Luke of Belfast, Merchant
Here lieth the remains of his son
Hugh Luke who died the 18th
December 1804 aged 12 years 7 months.
No. 70 / POOR-HOUSE DIVISION.
This is a large stretch of ground at the top section of the Upper Ground. As
the name suggests, this ground was used for the burial of paupers who had died
within the poor-house as well as the poor who had died elsewhere, which would
have included hospitals, the work-house and jails. Like the Strangers Ground,
at the other end of the Upper Ground, it was also used for the burial of those
who had died in the various epidemics which struck Belfast during the last century
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THE UNITED IRISHMEN.
Without doubt the most famous person buried in the New Burying Ground is the United Irishman,Henry Joy McCracken.
Henry Joy McCracken was born in High Street Belfast, on the 31st of August, 1767. His father was John McCracken, who was captain, and part owner of a vessel which traded between Belfast and the West Indies. His mother was Ann Joy, daughter of Francis Joy who had established the Belfast Newsletter in September, 1737. The Joy's had, in all probability, fled to England from religious persecution in France, coming to Ireland with the armies of James I.
The McCrackens, generations earlier, had settled at Hillhall near Lisburn, having been driven from Scotland during the persecution of the Covenanters by Claverhouse.
After John McCracken and Ann Joy married they set up home in High Street next to Ann's brother, Henry Joy, and it was there that most of their children were born.
Henry Joy McCracken had four brothers, William, Robert (who died in infancy), Francis and John. He also had two sisters, Margaret and Mary Ann.
Later in life Henry Joy McCracken became acquainted with Thomas Russell, both of whom were associated with William Drennan and Theobald Wolfe Tone and a number of others, the most prominent of whom was Samuel Neilson, the son of the Presbyterian minister of Ballyroney. At this time the idea was born among them of uniting their fellow countrymen, Protestant and Catholic, into one grand confederacy of 'United Irishmen'.
Soon after the "Society of United Irishmen" was born. McCracken laboured with the energy of his enthusiastic nature to promote the interests of the Movement, but at no time did he come forward as a leader or seek to obtain any position of honour in the Society, which he was instrumental in establishing. The main aims of the Society were to break the connection with England and win independence for Ireland. However, once these aims became clear it was outlawed by the authorities and many of its members were taken prisoner and held in various prisions throughout Ireland.
Henry Joy McCracken was arrested and taken to Kilmainham jail in Dublin where his brother William was already incarcerated. Both were the first 'Unitedmen' to be held in this jail. Henry Joy McCracken spent almost a year in this prison, but had to be released in 1797 because of his failing health.
After his release he returned to Belfast, and almost immediately set about organising the North for a planned rising. Soon after he was appointed Adjutant-General for Antrim, then Commander-in-Chief of the 'Northern United Irish Army'.
During this period there existed another Society called 'The Defenders'. They were mainly Roman Catholic, and their object was to defend the rights of their class and creed when attacked. When the plans were being made for the United Irishmen's rebellion the Defenders joined with them.
The plan of the rebellion was to attack a large number of towns throughout Ireland; and Henry Joy McCracken was determined to make his chief attack on the town of Antrim. In command of around 3,000 men, from both the United Irishmen and The Defenders, he set out to attack the town on Thursday the 7th of June, 1798.
When they arrived within sight of the town they saw that a number of homes and other buildings had been set on fire by the retreating troops. McCracken had planned to attack the town from four different directions with four columns three of which were to arrive at 2.30pm and the fourth, from Randalstown, to enter by Bow Lane soon afterwards. Unknown to McCracken, the royal troops had received reinforcements from Blair's Camp. What followed was a long and bloody battle in which the Royal Troops defeated the 'United Men', but at the great expense of many killed and wounded. Henry Joy McCracken ordered his men to retreat, and he himself escaped to the Cavehill where he stayed in the home of a follower named David Bodel. Bodel got in touch with McCracken's friends informing them of his whereabouts.
Later a pass was obtained under a false name for McCracken to flee in a foreign vessel which was tied up in Larne. When all was ready he proceeded towards Larne accompainied by John Quiery and Gavin Watt, but when they crossed the commons at Carrickfergus they met four yeomen, one of whom, a man named Niblock, knew McCracken. All three were arrested at once and taken to Carrickfergus, then soon after to the old Artillery Barracks in Belfast.
On the 17th of July, 1798, McCracken was taken for trial to the exchange at the bottom of Donegall Street, his trial being under the presidency of Colonel Montgomery. Just before the trial began, McCracken's father was approached by the crown prosecutor who told him that there was enough evidence to convict his son, but that his life would be spared if he would inform on his friends, in particular Robert Simms. His father replied that he would rather his son die, than to do such a dishonorable action. He was soon found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
At five o'clock Henry Joy McCracken was taken to the place of execution: the old market house, which stood at the corner of High Street and Cornmarket, which had been given to the town by his great grandfather. His sister, Mary Ann, was by his side right up to the gallows, and once there McCracken tried to address the people who had gathered, but his speech was muffled by the soldiers who had began to shout and stamp their horses' feet.
In a few minutes all was over. His body was then given to family and friends. His body was taken to the family home in Rosemary Street, and soon after his was buried in the Episcopal church in High Street.
A number of years later this graveyard was cleared away, and in 1902, what are belived to be his bones were unearthed and placed in a coffin, and then kept in the home of Francis Joseph Bigger for seven years. On the 12th of May, 1909, the remains of Henry Joy McCracken were buried in the grave of his sister Mary Ann in the Clifton Street burying ground.
Before his coffin was buried, a sealed phial (glass bottle) was placed inside it. The phial contained a parchment and written on this were the following;
These bones were dug up in
the old graveyard in High
Street in 1902, and from
several circumstances are
belived to be those of Henry
They were reverently treated
and were placed here by Robert
May of Belfast, 12 May 1909,
when the monument was
placed to his beloved sister.
There are in fact two monuments erected on this grave, one, erected by Francis Joseph Bigger, is to the memory of Henry Joy McCracken, and the other (mentioned above) is erected to the memory of Mary Ann McCracken on which appears the following inscription;
Mary Ann McCracken
the beloved sister of
Henry Joy McCracken
born 8th July 1770
wept by her brothers scaffold
17 July 1798
died 26th July 1866
DILEAS GO h-EAG
(Faithful until death)
When the Society of United Irishmen was founded, Mary Ann McCracken along with her sister-in-law Rose McCracken were sworn into the Movement.
After the Societies defeat at Antrim, Mary Ann helped her brother up until he was captured and later hanged. Just as Mary Ann had seen her brother make the supreme sacrifice, she also witnessed the execution of the man who had won her heart. Five years later Thomas Russell was hanged, outside Downpatrick jail, in 1803. After the exection of Russell, Mary Ann withdrew from politics and began to work for the poor of Belfast, especially those within the poor-house on North Queen Street. Here she began a number of projects which included weaving for the women and teaching for the children.
She later joined with the English prison reformer Elizabeth Fry to form a 'Ladies Committee' in the poor-house. Together they won many improvements in conditions inside the poor-house and also in the work-house on the Lisburn Road. Mary Ann was also a member of the committee which was set up in Belfast to abolish the use of 'climbing boys', who were chimney sweep helpers, and also campaigned for better conditions for children working in factories. Mary Ann McCracken's work for the poor women and children continued until her death in July, 1866.
The grave number of Henry Joy and Mary Ann McCracken's grave is UWL 35.
Along the same wall where the grave of Henry Joy McCracken is situated, is the grave of another famous United Irishman, William Drennan.
Drennan was born in Belfast on the 23rd of May, 1754. He was the son of Thomas Drennan,who was minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Belfast, and of his wife Anne Lennox.
William Drennan obtained his early education in Belfast, and later he entered Glasgow university at the age of fifteen, and recived the MA degree in 1771. He then went to Edinburgh in 1773 to study medicine, and recived the MD degree of that university in 1778. He went to Newry in 1783 where he practised as a doctor until 1791 when he moved to Dublin.
Almost at once he became associated with the founders of the United Irishmen, and later he became the author of the Society's celebrated test. He also became the first Secretary, and went on to become President of the Movement.
In 1794 William Drennan was arrested and tried for publishing a 'wicked and seditious libel' which was addressed to the Irish Volunteers, but he was acquitted of this charge. This experience seems to have given him a distaste for the more extreme views in politics, and while still a keen observer and supporter of the United Irishmen, he seems to have taken no part in its projects.
Perhaps the most important legacy are his letters published as a collection by the Public Record Office in 1931, which were called The Drennan Letters. These were a pile of letters found in an old tin box in the home of John Swanwick Drennan (fourth son of William Drennan). The letters were correspondence between William Drennan in Dublin, and Martha McTeir in Belfast. Covering the period between 1791-1794, the letters give an almost daily account of the proceedings of the United Irishmen, and also tell about the members of the Society, from Wolfe Tone to Lord Edward Fitzgearld. A lot of what is known about William Drennan today is due to these letters, along with important information about other members of the United Irishmen.
In 1800 William Drennan married an English woman named Sarah Swanwick, and in 1807 he inherited the property of his cousin Martha Young. Being now relieved from the necessity of practising his profession, he moved from Dublin to Belfast where he settled at Cabin
Hill in the Upper Newtonards Road. Later he founded the Belfast Magazine, and he began to take a keen intrest in history and poetry, some of which can still be read. He died on the 5th of February, 1820, and on his tombstone is recorded the poem in which he was the first to call Ireland the 'Emerald Isle'.
William Drennan M.D.
born May 23rd 1754 died February 5th 1820
"Pure, just, benign thus filial
love would trace, the virtues
hallowing this narrow space,
the emerald isle may grant a
wider claim and link the
patriot with his country's name".
The number of William Drennan's grave is UWL 48.
Other United Irishmen buried here include Robert and William Simms who were the owners of the Ballyclare paper mill, and who were at McArt's Fort on the Cavehill with leading members of the United Irishmen including McCracken and Wolfe Tone, when they all swore allegiance to the Movement. The Simms brothers, along with Samuel Neilson, also set up the newspaper of the Movement in January 1792 which was called the Northern Star, and which was destroyed by the military in 1796.
Robert Simms was the man the authorities wanted Henry Joy McCracken to inform on at his trail in 1798. He refused, embraced his father and said 'farewell then'. He was later found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Robert and William Simms remained in Belfast after the defeat of the United Irishmen, and settled at The Grove.
Another "United Man" buried here is William Steele Dickson. He was born in the townland of Ballycraigy in the parish of Carnmoney, Co. Antrim, on the 10th of November, 1744. Little is known of his early life and in his narrative he wrote, 'my boyish years were spent in the usual, and I'm sorry to add, useless routine of Irish country schools.'
At first his thoughts turned towards law and politics, but after his return from college he was persuaded by his friend, R. White, to become a candidate for the office of a Preacher of the Gospel. He was later appointed minister of Glastry, Ballyhalbert, on the 6th of March, 1771. Afterwards, he became a Doctor of Divinity at Glasgow University.
William Steele Dickson was still minister of Glastry when the Volunteer Movement began. He joined and became Chaplin and later Captian of the 'Echlinville Volunteers' which were raised by Charles Echlin and numbered, according to the roll of September, 1779, eighty armed and uniformed men. In 1791, Dickson expressed his approval of the United Irishmen, a Society which he later joined.
On the 22nd of May, 1779, at an Inn known as the Whitecross in Pottinger's Entry, Belfast, William Steele Dickson was elected the chief of the Insurgent Army in Co. Down. At a meeting the next night, in the same place, soldiers of the Royal Irish Artillery, led by Major General Barber, raided the Inn, searching for documents telling who the leaders of the United Irishmen were. No documents were found as all the leaders were elected the night before. From this it can be seen that the Major's informer had got the wrong night!
On the 5th of June, 1797, Dickson was arrested and taken to Lisburn under a military escort. He was forced to walk the whole way under a scorching sun, amid clouds of dust kicked up by the horses' feet. The reason for this action was to force him to tell them the names of the United Irishmen's leadership. He refused. After being held in Lisburn he was later taken to the 'Black Hole' in Belfast, and in July, 1797, he was again moved, this time to the Artillery Barracks where he was held for over a year.
On the 12th of August, 1798, he was taken to a prison ship which was anchored in Belfast Lough, and soon after, imprisioned in Fort George, Scotland. On the 13th of January, 1802 he was released after spending over six years in prison.
On March 4th, 1803, William Steele Dickson became minister of a newly formed congregation in Keady, Co. Armagh, his pay being 50 per year. The Lord Lieutenant, upon being asked, refused to grant the 'Royal Bounty', to what he called, 'this Rebel Pastor' whose 'crimes' had never been proven.
In 1817, William Steele Dickson retired from Keady and went to live in Belfast on the charity of a few friends. He died two days after Christmas in 1824 and was buried in the poor ground of Clifton Street, his entire funeral procession being made up by his close friend Dr H. Montgomery and eight others.
So ended the life of one who had endeavoured to neutralize the poison of prejudice and bigotry, fostered the seeds of religious liberty and sought to promote union and harmony among his fellow countrymen of all religious persuasions; a man who was buried among the people he cared for most: the poor.
The site of his grave was left unmarked for 85 years, until, in 1909, Francis Joseph Bigger erected a tombstone to his memory with the following inscription:
William Steele Dickson
born at Carnmoney 1744
died at Belfast 27th December 1824
DO CUM ONORA NO HEIREANN
(For the honour of Ireland)
The number of William Steele Dickson's grave is platform 2-lot 48.
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THE REGISTRY BOOKS.
One of the most historically intresting facets of any burying ground are, without doubt, its registry books. Although the New Burying Ground was opened in 1797, it was not until 1831 that the Belfast Charitable Society began to keep a registry of all interments. It is unknown why they did not keep a registry from the begining, but one reason may be that they were more intrested in making money to finance the poor-house through the selling of the graves, than to worry about recording who was being buried in them.
However at a meeting held in the poor-house on the 18th of December 1830 it was:
Resolved -that a registry of all the interments in the Burying Ground of the
Charitable Society be kept from the commencement of the next year, and that
the Rev. Messrs Macartney and Hicks be requested to have a suitable book prepared
The first burial recorded was on the 4th of January, 1831. However, the exact number of people buried in the burying ground before that will never be known. At a rough estimate it could be guessed that around 3,600 burials could have taken place before 1831. That is if up to 100 people had been buried per year, which was below the average amount of burials taking place throughout the 1830s. The figures shown in the three volumes of the registry books are approximately:
Volume one 1831-1841, 2,640
Volume two 1841-1864, 5,489
Volume three 1865-1984, 3,109
Add on the pre-1831 figures and the number of those buried in the New Burying Ground could be as high as 14,000.
The information contained in these books is, to any historian or genealogical researcher, a historical goldmine, and to the curious, a fantastic insight to the life of Belfast over the past 160 years.
The books themselves are lined up into eight different sections which are:
1 Date of burial.
2 Name of deceased.
6 Grave number
7 Place of birth.
8 Cost to open grave.
As could be expected, there are many intresting and odd entries recorded in these books, and the following are just a few:
Ann McGain who was buried on the 2nd of March, 1831. She was buried in the poor ground, and her age is recorded as 109, an amazing feat in the 1830s, especially for a pauper.
William Brown was buried on the 17th of November, 1831. His death is recorded in the normal way, but his entry adds that, 'his wife and children are in slavery in America'. How William Brown escaped from that life and became a labourer in Belfast is, without doubt, a story in itself.
Three-year-old William McKee was buried from the poor-house on the 4th of January, 1832. He died while his mother and father were locked in their cells at Armagh Gaol.
Another interesting point in the registry books is the recording of the causes of death. One such case is that of Andrew Maguire who was buried on the 12th of September, 1832. His cause of death is recorded as 'sore leg'. Others are recorded as 'sore arm', 'sore head' and one is even recorded as 'the bite of a cat'.
On the 12th of August, 1833, the first recorded murder victim was buried in the New Burying Ground. He was a 24-year-old coach helper who lived in Black's Court of Hercules Street (now Royal Avenue). However this murder must have been of no interest as none of the local newspapers carried a report on the tragedy.
The same can be said of 17-year-old Jane Gageby who was buried on the 20th of August, 1833. She worked as a servant, and lived in Mill Street. Her death is recorded as 'died from a gunshot wound recived 12 days ago'. How she got this wound, whether through an accident or in a more sinister way, appears to have been overlooked by the press of the time.
A burial which took place on the 12th of January 1837 was a death which, without doubt, occured in sinister circumstances. A man named John Dalton who was a 69 year old tailor in the poor house. His death is recorded as 'harsh treatment in the House of Correction', this being the Belfast jail before the prison was built on the Crumlin Road.
On the 14th of February, 1837, the first 'unknowns' were buried in the Poor Ground. On the above date two unknown children were found dead on a Belfast Street. The amount of unknown people buried after this date was rising at an alarming rate, reaching its peak during the cholera and fever epidemics when the bodies of the victims were found in various parts of Belfast. Soon after, children's bodies were often found at the graveyard gate, left there by poor parents for burial.
On the 12th of April, 1837, Matilda Moreton was buried. She is recorded as being a widow and a beggar,aged nineteen.
Catherine Orr, aged 66, was buried on the 8th of December, 1842. The registry records her profession as 'carried a basket'.
Sarah McNally was buried on the 27th of December, 1842, after being found drowned, her profession is recorded as 'prostitute'.
On the 22nd and 23rd of August, 1842, two people who committed suicide were buried in the poor ground of the graveyard. The first was a Bangor school, teacher named John Huston. He died after taking laudnum (Tincture of Opium), and died a short time later. The second was 19-year-old Private Thompson who killed himself in the Belfast Garrison. The registry books list a large number of other people who committed suicide in various ways, some of whom are mentioned elsewhere in this book.
One of the most intresting entries recorded in the registry is that of the 17th of October, 1847, when 60-year-old Mary Gumming was buried. She lived in May's lane (North Queen Street) and her profession is recorded as 'mistress of a house of ill fame'.
Without doubt, a look at these books will interest any reader. In them they will find sadness and humour and at times frightening accounts of how people were in fact buried; such as those buried during the fever outbreaks of the 1830's and 1840s, when four, five and sometimes up to six people were buried in one coffin, and of others who were buried with no coffin at all.
The original copies of the registry books are kept in Clifton House (which was the old poor-house). Access to these books is limited to academic researchers only however, mircrofilm copies are kept in the Public Record Office at 66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast.
THE GATE LODGE.
After the enlargement of the burying ground in the early part of the last century, a new gate was erected on what was known as Hill Hamilton's Avenue (now Henry Place) With this new gate there was also built the burying ground's first gate lodge.
Not much is known about the first gate lodge other that the fact that it was used by the guards who were hired to prevent the 'body snatchers' up to the early 1830s. This lodge was demolished in the 1840s to clear the way for a new gate lodge, and like the former, not much is known about it other that the fact that the burying ground caretaker, a man named John Nelson, lived in it.
A third gate lodge was built during the 1870s and this house had all the requirements of a modern house of the time: two bedrooms, inside bathroom, living room, kitchen and a parlour. It also had a large rear yard with a gateway leading into the burying ground, this was used to store the various tools used for the upkeep of the ground. The following is a list of the burying ground caretakers who lived in this house:
Alexander Johnston 1871-1894.
William Brown 1895-1902.
James Martin 1902-1939.
David Megrath 1940-1967.
From 1967 onwards, the lodge was occupied by Mrs Margaret Growney, who was
one of the catering staff in Clifton House. She stayed here until 1977 when
she moved into Clifton House itself.
After Mrs Growney left, the house was blocked up and soon after it was vandalised. It lay in a state of disrepair for a number of years until it was demolished in February 1991 to clear way for a building project in the grounds of St Enoch's Church.
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THE DECLINE AND RESTORATION OF THE NEW BURYING GROUND.
At the begining of the present century the number of burials taking place at the burying ground were falling dramatically. Because of this the Belfast Charitable Society was no longer making enough profit to uphold its duties within the graveyard. The family plots (which belonged to the famlies and not the Society) were no longer being maintained by relatives, and began to fall into a state of decline despite numerous appeals made by the Charitable Society for assistance in various renovation projects.
In 1907 a 'tidy up' scheme began on the burying ground and much of the overgrowth was cut back. At the same time a full record of the tombstone inscriptions was taken. But once all the work was completed maintenance was impossible for the one caretaker. Within a few years the place was completly overgrowen again, and this growth was to continue for the next sixty years despite numerous attempts to prevent it.
In 1969, with the outbreak of the present 'troubles' the British Army moved into the nearby Glenravel Street barracks and secured the area around it. This included the Burying Ground, and here they took over the holding of the keys and placed within the ground hundreds of meters of barbed wire and built a number of observation posts to prevent any attack.
In the early part of the 1970s the Glenravel Street barracks moved to a new site on North Queen Street, and soon after the keys were handed back to the Charitable Society. From this point onwards maintenance of the burying ground was a bigger problem that it was at any other time in the graveyard's history.
Apart from the ivy, weeds and bramble all being overgrown, the amount of barbed wire made the use of machinery impossible, so any work being done had to be carried out entirely with the use of hand tools; and there was also the added problem of vandalism occuring mainly between the years 1972-1975.
In 1975 the Charitable Society employed Messrs Duff Ltd, to clear the ground at a cost of of 1,750. This was followed by help from Enterprise Ulster. Unfortunately, the overgrowth was growing back almost as soon as it was being cut. Preservation was going to be a major undertaking, one for which the Charitable Society funds were not available.
On the 21st of July, 1978, the Society wrote a letter to the Belfast City Council asking them to consider taking over the burying ground. The letter was passed to the Parks Department, and they agreed. In 1979 a full-time caretaker was placed there to try and keep the ground in order.
In 1985 the Parks Department, with the aid of a Belfast Action Team grant of 100,000, began a major scheme to restore the burying ground. This scheme was simple, though expensive. The idea was to clear out the whole ground, except the tombstones, and to landscape it. At the same time all the tomestones were cleaned and the surrounding walls restored. All was completed by 1990.
The burying ground is now open to the public during weekdays between 8.00am
and 4.30pm. It is closed during the weekends. The Parks Department will be placing
benches within it for the use of people who wish to come in and stay a while,
in what was once called 'The New Burying Ground'.
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