Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Till its Gone

Last Monday, Christine and I did a bit of a gadabout which included the Creggan graveyard. Back in 1839, it was described as: the last resting-place of all creeds and classes, as well as many bitterly opposed in life, sharing it with princes, poets, pastors and paupers. It is also the last resting place of many of my ancestors, who were probably none of the above.

Ever since this most recent visit though, I can’t get that line from a Joni Mitchell song out of my head:

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone

In this case, I know what is gone – at least one gravestone is missing – but, unlike Joni, I haven’t a clue what I might have had, that is, if it hadn’t gone.

I do know that in 1795 arrangements were made by David Jackson’s family for 16 feet square for a grave lot adjoining Mr. Johnston and that both lots had been granted with liberty to enclose same. The Jackson’s lot still has a solid iron fence anchored in a concrete curb, although the gate has been torn off and left there, and the Johnston’s has a tall masonry wall. So far, so good.

You would think then that since the Jacksons had ample offspring, that there would be a fair number of stones and inscriptions here, but actually there are only two. One for an infant, and one for a number of family members. Both of them were transcribed in 1972 when Kevin McMahon published Inscriptions in Creggan Graveyard. The puzzling thing is that our family also has a transcription of a third headstone done by Mary Skuce sometime before she died in 1958 - but there is nothing there today except an expanse of grass where it might have been.

If Mary Skuce’s transcription had been a perfect fit with the facts as we know them, then the absence of this stone wouldn’t really matter, but unfortunately it raises as many questions as it answers. The inscription was probably badly eroded, so it is no surprise that there are some errors in her transcription. I’d like to walk through it slowly since it is easier to work through it in pieces than in one great gulp:

To the memory of George Jackson

late of Creggan who departed this

life Sept 3rd 1782 aged 64 years

also to the memory of Margaret Jackson

wife of the above named.

Creggan Charter School records agree with this death date. We also have George’s will dated July 1782. His given age at death, however, means that he would have been born about 1718 which means he would have been only 19 years old when he was hired to run the school. That’s a little on the young side. Also, he was the first schoolmaster when it opened in 1737, and schoolmasters were supposed to be married, so he may have had a first wife who died for whom we have no record. Again, he’s a bit on the young side for that. The wife that we know about was at Creggan at least by 1744, because the Creggan Church records note: Mrs Jackson to be payed for working ye surpus & the linen for the communion table and keeping ye vessels clean.

When did George’s wife, Margaret, die? We had her death as December 7th, 1797, but this seems to have been a clear misreading of the transcription. That death date actually belongs to a second George Jackson included in this next bit, but who was this other George Jackson?

George Jackson who departed this

life the 7th day of Decr 1797 in the

75th year of his age

If the age at death is accurate, he would have been born in 1722, which makes him too old to be a son of the first George. Given that the stone was probably hard to read, perhaps the pertinent text should have been: 45th year of his age not 75th. If he was age 45, then he could have been a son of the first George since the date of birth would now be about 1752.

Perhaps this second George fits with either Richard JACKSON (1778-1848) of Liscalgot or John JACKSON (1804-1840) of Tullyvallen. Liscalgot is a townland adjacent to Urker, and was the site of the Charter School where the first known George and his family lived before moving one townland over. Tullyvallen is just to the north.

The townland of Tullyvallen is one of those niggling clues that resists interpretation. In 1688, about 249 acres of Tullyvallen, Parish of Creggan were granted to Thomas BALL to the use of Daniel & Sarah JACKSON. In another source, Thomas BALL of Creggan was also listed in Ferguson Certificates as having 5,253 acres as an assignee of Edward Richardson, Ellinor Blackiston, Dan Jackson, Sarah Jackson, Elisabeth Hepburne and Katherine Jones.

So, who the heck were these JACKSONs and why were they part of the Cromwellian confiscations in the Barony of Upper Fews, Country Louth? Just to complicate things further, Tullyvallen was also known as Tollyvallen.

Are you following me, or have your eyes glazed over?

So far, I do not know where these Tullyvallen JACKSONs fit in, let alone where they came from, but there a few possibilities: Daniel JACKSON in the Coleraine JACKSON tree and Rev Daniel JACKSON of Santry who died in 1707. Also, about a hundred years after the appearance of Daniel and Sarah at Tullyvallen, the 1766 Religious Census noted that a protestant Richard JACKSON lived at Tullyvallen.

Part of why I want to pin these JACKSONs down is that in 1739, turf & cows were purchased from an unnamed Mr. JACKSON – father of George JACKSON - for the use of the Charter School. Tullyvallen is close enough to trot a few cows over, along with a few wagons of turf.

Anyway, this is enough for one day. The rest of the inscription, along with my suggested changes indicated in red, reads as follows:

and also

To the memory of their son David

Jackson late of Liscalgat-- he died

suddenly on the 13th day of Febry 1796

in the 8th year of his age

also the body of Mary (Cullinar +?) Gillmor

daughter of the above George who

departed this life 28th of Sept 1790 aged 70

No comments:

Post a Comment