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Rashee Old Graveyard, County Antrim

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 23, 2007


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by Paul Richmond

"The inscriptions carved into the headstones at Rashee Old Graveyard, an ancient and well-hidden burial ground screened by mature trees just north of Ballyclare, span three centuries and tell of emigration, religion, revolution and attitudes to death. The surnames which appear on the stones, almost all of which are of Scottish origin, highlight County Antrim’s deep-rooted ties with the west coast of Scotland. The simple, but robust, stone corpse house (or ‘mort-house’) of 1831 which stands in the north western corner of the yard also acts as a reminder that, in the few years leading up to 1832, the threat of freshly-buried bodies being quietly disinterred and secreted out of the graveyard was all too real."

This article examines Rashee Old Graveyard in County Antrim. It is a particularly humbling one to visit, perhaps more so than other, later, nineteenth century cemeteries in Ulster, as elaborately carved headstones decorated with armorial bearings coexist side-by-side with eighteenth and nineteenth century graves simply marked by small boulders lifted from the surrounding fields.

It is also a veritable microcosm of County Antrim’s history, with every layer of the area’s eighteenth and nineteenth century social structure represented somewhere in the yard.