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When it comes to recording local history everybody has his or her own starting point. In this little book titled Tombstone Inscriptions Of Creggan Parish I have chosen the parish cemeteries as my starting point. The study of local history is now the subject of considerable attention and enthusiasm with ever increasing number of students and locals wanting to know about their own environment and about those generations who left so many visible reminders of their lives. This book - the first of a series covering part of the South Armagh Area - is an attempt to record part of our history that is being eroded in recent years by the statutory bodies who want to know us all by "number" and not by name. It will be a valuable addition to the body of local historical literature. It is especially valuable in its attempt to record "Place-names / Town-land names, Surnames, Dates and Events." To the serious student it will help to bring back from oblivion the beautiful Place-names of an area, and help them to develop the skills necessary to study a wide variety of our historical past.
St. Patrick's cemetery Cullyhanna was first established when His Eminence Cardinal Logue consecrated the new cemetery on the 29th May1893. He, the same day, examined the children for Confirmation and the following day the 30th May confirmed 135 boys and 146 girls. Frs. Peter Kerley PP., Thos O'Neill CC., and Joseph P O'Neill CC. were in attendance. Two years earlier, on Whit Sunday 17th May 1891 the foundation - stone of St. Patrick's New Church was laid when High Mass was celebrated in the Old Tullinafruchog Chapel to mark the occasion. Another significant event took place around the same time. The bodies of five priests who were interred in the Old Chapel were exhumed and re-interred underneath the bell tower of the new St. Patrick's Church. There is a tradition that six priests were buried in the Old Chapel but only five were found, the sixth, Fr Corrigan parish priest of Lower Creggan 1801 -1803 is thought to have been murdered at Morrisses and buried under the floor there. (Tom Morris kept a public house and Carmen's Inn near Camly Barracks. The late Cardinal O Fiaich suggests that Father Corrigan was buried at Port, Co. Louth).
The names of the priests re-interred in St. Patrick's are Rev. Patrick Quinn 1795- 1801, Rev. John Donnelly 1803-1830 (Resigned 1830 died 1836), Rev Michael Carragher 1830-1846, Rev James McParland 1860-1871. Friar Paul McDonagh 1795-1819 is listed among the curates of the parish died in 1819 he acted as assisting priest and lived in Dorsey. Tradition recounts when in 1891 Father Kerley was having the remains exhumed, the body of Friar Paul McDonagh was instantly recognisable because his long silken hair had been untouched by decay. (For full list of Parish Priests see Appendix 1) Other historical notes appear after each section in the book.
St. Patrick's cemetery is basically divided into sections (Up to June 30th 2002 there are six sections in use) See Sketch for guidance! There are a number of Rows in each section and the Tombstones are numbered from top to bottom 1,2,3,etc. Obviously there are gaps between Tombstones and the numbering system will not stand the test of time as burials will continue to take place and new Tombstones erected. All in all, this book should make it easier for anyone to locate the position of a particular grave. It will also be a valuable source for the people who are looking for their long forgotten ancestors and the townland of their birth.
Cover photograph shows St. Patrick's Church and Cemetery. The new extension to the cemetery (foreground) was opened January 2002*. (Photograph by Michael McShane).
*The first burial to take place in the new extension (section 6) was that of Peter Vincent McCreesh, 79. Carrickrovaddy Road, Newtownhamilton who died on Saturday l2th and buried on Monday 14th January 2002.
I wish to thank sincerely the members of the Creggan Local History Society for their support and encouragement. 'Thanks also to Rev Kevin Cullen PP for allowing me access to parochial records. To my friend Kevin McMahon for reading and correcting the original manuscript, and suggesting some necessary changes, I am deeply indebted. Finally, to my wife Marie for her patience and understanding, to my sons Melvyn and Bryan for their inquisitiveness and witty remarks about my time spent in the cemetery.
Michael McShane (June 2002)