06 December 2012

A visit to Stormont and Dundonald

The long avenue leading up to Stormont (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Dundonald, Co Down, earlier today l in Saint Elizabeth’s, a 1960s-style Church of Ireland parish church in suburban East Belfast, standing in the grounds of an earlier church built in the late 18th or early 19th century.

Until the 1960s, Dundonald was a small village, but Dundonald and neighbouring Ballybeen now include many new housing estates. However, the area has a long history and Dundonald takes its name from Dún Dónaill, a 12th century Norman fort.

The remains of the fort on which the motte or moat of Dundonald once stood, seen from Saint Elizabeth’s Churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The man-built hill on which the fort stood is still clearly visible from the graveyard at Saint Elizabeth’s. The mound is known locally as “The Moat” but the structure is a “motte” or defensive structure built in the style of a motte and bailey.

Close to the Moat, the other prominent site of interest in Dundonald is the Cleland Mausoleum in Saint Elizabeth’s Churchyard.

The Cleland Mausoleum in Saint Elizabeth’s Churchyard, Dundonald (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The Cleland Mausoleum is built of blue granite, with columns and canopy. One side has this inscription:

“This Mausoleum was erected by Eliza Cleland in memory of her husband Samuel Cleland of Stormont Esqr who died the 25th May 1842 aged 34 years. His earthly remains with those of his parents and several of his progenitors are here entombed.”

In his History of County Down, Dr Alex Knox said Samuel Cleland was accidentally crushed by a falling wall. The Clelands, who lived at Stormont Castle, were the patrons of Dundonald Parish until Disestablishment.

The original Saint Elizabeth’s stands forlorn in the churchyard in Dundonald (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

During my short visit today I was unable to find a flat stone near the centre of the graveyard that is said to be inscribed:

There lies interred beneath this stone
The Commodore who oftimes shone
In cracking jokes with many a guest
And chanting songs in merry taste
Punctual and just in all his dealings
Yet said himself he had his failings
Bad qualities if he had any
Were very few, his good ones many
His heart and hand were always ready
To serve the poor and help the needy,
Had gratitude in high perfection
And died in hopes of Resurrection
. 20 May 1776. Aged 48 years.

Surprisingly, the name of the Commodore is omitted from his tombstone. Who was he?

Another broken slab in the graveyard is said to include unfortunate examples of punctuation and spelling. It is said to be inscribed in part:

Lieut. Colonel Robert McLeroth late of the 57th regt. He entered His Majesty’s service in 1769, his promotion – his merit; alone he served in the American War, was a brave and popular officer a benevolent and kind brother uncle and friend to all his relatives he died 26th March 1805 in the sixty-fifth year of his age regretted by all his acquaintances and Freinds.

The semicolon after “merit” should have been inserted after “alone” – making it “merit alone.” Would any gallant soldier claim credit for having served “alone” in the American War? Could any man be “a kind brother, uncle, and friend to all his relatives”? And, what about the misspelling of the word “friends” the second time?

There are memorials too to the Revd James Caldwell of Dundonald Presbyterian Church, who is described as “an Israelite in whom there was no guile”; to the Revd Robert Vance, Rector of Saint Catherine’s, Dublin, for 33 years, with the scriptural quotation, “Let him alone. Let no man move his bones” (II Kings 23: 18); and to the Revd Roger Moore Dillon, who died in 1851 – although there is no description of this Roger Moore as “The Saint.”

On our way back from Dundonald, three of us stopped at Stormont to view the impressive parliamentary buildings, standing in the grounds of the former Cleland family home.


Anonymous said...

Can you tell me where you found the information regarding Lieutenant McElroth? I am doing some family history research may have connections.
Thank you in anticipation.

Patrick Comerford said...

Try Belfast Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, February 12, 1907, cited on http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~econnolly/books/silentland/silentland11.html