Thursday, 18 August 2016

Wee Church

I know I've said it before, but if you ever find yourself walking around the Walls of Derry-Londonderry a must is a visit to St Augustine's church.  We were there a couple of weeks ago, with The Brother and his daughter.  Compared to St Columb's Cathedral just around the corner, St Augustine's is tiny - hence the local name, The Wee Church on the Walls - but is pretty special.  The site has been a religious place since St Columba (Colmcille) built his first monastery in 546AD - which has been generally accepted as the founding of the city.  Various buildings have come and gone over the years - the present one dates to 1872.

The graveyard at St Augustine's.  The oldest gravestone is that of Richard Carrec, an Elizabethan soldier who died around 1609, just at the start of the Ulster Plantation.  That's pretty old for a gravestone - most of the older ones around The Liberties date from the mid-to-late 18th century. A bit before that history tells us that in 1196 Muircertach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland was interred on this site.  McLaughlin remains one of the most common names in this part of Ireland today.  Doherty is another common name here - the O Dochartaigh Clan dating back hundreds of years.
The graveyard isn't typical for this region - there are a lot of horizontal slabs, as you can see.  And they're a lot closer together than usual.  Most of the horizontal slabs I've seen don't weather as well as the standing ones - a lot of them are very hard to read.  Presumably they need more frequent cleaning than the vertical ones, since more detritus must fall on them from the skies.  A couple of years ago we took a scrubbing brush and some cleaning fluid to one in a graveyard down the road from us, where some of our ancestors lie.

Apparently the cannonball containing the terms for surrender during the Seige of 1688/89 fell in the Church Graveyard.  It's fair to say there's a bit of history in this little spot.

The Irish name for the city, Doire, means Oak Grove.  Legend has it that Colmcille lit a fire on the site, in order to cleanse the land of the works of worldly men.  The fire spread and almost destroyed a grove of Oak Trees - only saved by the prayers of Colmcille.
It's a grand walk around the Walls of Derry/Londonderry - good for keeping you grounded, what with all that history and everything.


  1. Here in Indiana, 1850 is about as old as anything gets. Well, except for a couple roads known to have been built on ancient buffalo traces.

    1. My knowledge of Indiana is limited, Jim. We drove through the north of it (Gary) a few years back, en route from Chicago to South Haven, Michigan. It felt strange crossing a time zone - that doesn't happen in Ireland :)

      But yes, we have a bit of history in this country and lots of myths and legends to fill any gaps when the need arises.