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Scottish Burial & Commemoration Practices in 17th Century Ireland

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 23, 2007


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by Dr William Roulston

The Writings and Memorials of William Montgomery of Rosemount: 1633–1707

"On 6 September 1843 the wall that blocked the arch to form the east end of the former church at Greyabbey was demolished. When the workmen cleared away the debris a flagstone was discovered

which, when lifted, revealed a previously hidden vault. Inside a coffin was found, apparently in perfect condition, but which when touched fell to pieces. On closer inspection an inscribed tablet was spotted underneath the coffin and another stone was found leaning against the interior wall of the vault. The first two lines on the latter were cut into the slate, but the rest of the message had been written in white paint.

Both stones reveal that the vault had been built by William Montgomery of Rosemount, the latter memorial records that it had been constructed in April 1699. Together with two other memorials still visible in Greyabbey to Montgomery, a treatise written about 1700 and various other writings including his well-known ‘Memoirs’, we have a remarkable insight into the attitudes towards burial and commemoration of one late seventeenth century Irish landowner of Scottish descent.

This article considers Montgomery’s writings in the context of Scottish burial and commemorative practices in seventeenth century Ulster. This will be done by examining three of the preoccupations that Montgomery had with regard to these issues: the place of burial; the manner of burial; and, finally, the commemoration of the deceased."