Belfast Telegraph

Memorial plan for 'forgotten paupers' buried in Derry mass graves

By Donna Deeney

Five mass graves where hundreds of Londonderry's paupers are buried and mostly forgotten could soon have a permanent memorial recognising their final resting place.

The large mounds in the council-owned Derry City Cemetery are easily overlooked by visitors, who could be forgiven for thinking they are just areas of greenery.

Many people taking the History from Headstones tour of the cemetery find the paupers' graves very poignant, according to Seamus Breslin who runs the tours.

"So many people are shocked when they find out these five green areas are actually pauper's graves - three for the Catholic community and two for the Protestant community," he said.

"You can see the expression on their faces change when they ponder the many people buried there in unmarked graves forgotten.

"The cemetery has so many stories to tell but this is surely one of the most poignant because any family from Derry - whether Catholic or Protestant - could have a relative buried in one of these plots and not know about it.

"Bishop Donal McKeown is going to dedicate a special prayer during the Blessings of the Graves next month for the people whose final resting place is in these plots but it would be lovely to have a marker making people aware of them."

The incoming Mayor of Derry and Strabane, SDLP councillor John Boyle, said he intends to raise the matter with the council.

Mr Boyle said: "I think it would be very appropriate for the council to explore how the paupers' graves could be marked so that people would be aware that there are hundreds of people buried there in unmarked graves.

"It is a sad fact of our history that so many people suffered and died and did not have the means for a grave and now there is no marker to say that they were ever here."

First Derry Presbyterian minister David Latimer said it would be fitting to have a marker for those who died and were forgotten.

He said: "I would be very much in favour of some kind of recognition being given to those whose final resting place is in these graves.

"We are all part of the human family and therefore deserve not to be forgotten even in death as these unfortunate people have been.

"If they weren't recognised in life, wouldn't it be lovely to do something to recognise them in death."

Last month, Jeanette Warke, whose group Women Into Irish History visited the cemetery recently, told the Belfast Telegraph they intend to raise funds in order to have the graves marked.

Other groups in Londonderry have also expressed an interest in ensuring those buried in the graves are not forgotten.

Belfast Telegraph

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